Yosemite vs Sequoia: Which National Park to Visit?

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by Sarah Dittmore

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With fewer than 100 miles between Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park (99 to be exact), these two parks both highlight what makes the Sierra Nevada such a spectacular region of California. Whether visiting Yosemite or Sequoia, you’re guaranteed to see towering redwoods, seasonal waterfalls, and sunset views that will take your breath away.

It’s no question that both parks deserve a visit. However, few of us have the unlimited time needed for back-to-back park hopping. If you don’t live in California, visiting both National Parks might just not be possible. So, if you have to pick just one, where do you start?

Neither is necessarily better than the other, but they both offer unique pros and cons that may appeal to different types of travellers.

In general, choose Yosemite if you prefer a larger park with plenty of famous hikes. Choose Sequoia if you prefer a quieter national park and are more budget-conscious.

However, there is a lot more to this debate and this overview will help you determine which park is right for you based on what you’re looking to get from your Sierra Nevada vacation.

Yosemite National Park

When debating Yosemite vs Sequoia, most people choose Yosemite based on the sheer fact that it’s the better-known of the two. In fact, Yosemite National Park is the fifth most popular National Park, with 4.2 million visitors a year.

In contrast, Sequoia National Park receives about 2 million visitors per year. Yosemite is famous for its incredible rock formations, towering evergreens, and near 750,000 acres of activities. And for good reason—it’s an incredible spot.

Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park
Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park


As one of the most popular National Parks in the country, Yosemite is well-equipped for most types of travellers.

With cross-park buses and shuttles, it’s easy to access most of the popular Yosemite destinations without a car (though a car will be necessary for some of the more off-the-beaten-track stops) and there are plenty of all-level and wheelchair-accessible paths that bring you to some incredible views, including the famous Lower Yosemite Falls trail.

A car is also necessary if you want to take advantage of some of the great stops on the road trip from San Francisco to Yosemite or even Los Angeles to Yosemite.

If you need to rent a car for visiting, you can browse Rentalcars.com or alternatively, have a look at Outdoorsy if you prefer a campervan or RV.

While the infrastructure at Yosemite is great, it can be challenging from a population perspective. Yosemite gets so crowded during peak season that you have to make reservations months in advance just to enter the park.

If you’ve rented a car, parking can be near-impossible and in-park camping, lodges, and other accommodations often sell out up to a year in advance.

Lower Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park, California, USA
Lower Yosemite Falls


While the entrance fees for Yosemite and Sequoia are the same ($35 per vehicle), everything else about Yosemite is more expensive. If price is a major consideration in your Sequoia vs Yosemite decision, keep this in mind.

Because of the high demand, accommodations for Yosemite can get out of hand. Unless you’re lucky enough to grab one of the free or low-cost campsites, the lodges within Yosemite are often between $200-400 per night.

Often, sites within the park book up months (if not a full year) in advance, so you’ll end up booking a spot just outside of the park. These can get exorbitant thanks to the high and constant demand, especially if you’re visiting during peak season.

The same goes for dining and activities, so while there may be a free shuttle to get around the park, don’t expect to get through a Yosemite vacation without putting a dent in your bank account.

El Capitan in Yosemite
El Capitan in Yosemite

Things to do in Yosemite

The big draw of Yosemite is the seemingly infinite number of things to do. From hiking the famous Half Dome to riding horses through the Yosemite Valley, there’s no end to ways to fill your time.

What’s particularly wonderful about Yosemite is the ability to curate your trip depending on your interests. The die-hard outdoorsy types will find some of the best rock climbing in the country, incredible mountain biking trails, and hiking trails that will challenge even the most experienced of trekkers.

The more casual visitors will enjoy the more relaxed walking paths, star gazing trips, sunset views, the chance to get up-close and personal with some giant sequoias.

In addition, because of the size and popularity of Yosemite, there are a lot more organized tours and activities, such as Yosemite Valley bike rides, the Historic Ahwahnee Tour, rock climbing lessons, and more.

If you’re looking for a park that can fill as many days as you’re willing to give it, then Yosemite is going to win.

The Ahwahnee Hotel
The Ahwahnee Hotel

Where to Stay Near Yosemite

Little Valley Inn – Situated in the town of Mariposa close to the park entrance, this lovely inn is the perfect place to base yourself when exploring Yosemite. They have lovely rooms available and there is also a buffet breakfast that is available each morning.

Mariposa Lodge – Another fantastic option located in Mariposa, this lodge makes for an excellent base for exploring the national park. They have a range of clean and comfortable rooms on offer, they are pet-friendly and even have an on-site swimming pool.

Private Rental – Finding a private vacation rental is another fantastic accommodation option in Yosemite. There are a myriad of fantastic options available – like this cosy hilltop cabin – you’re sure to find something that suits your travel style and needs.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Yosemite hotels!

Upper Yosemite Falls
Upper Yosemite Falls

Sequoia National Park

While not as massive or heavily trafficked as Yosemite, Sequoia National Park is nothing to turn your nose at.

With 404,000 acres of stunning, untainted natural beauty, it’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime destination. When it comes to choosing between Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park, people often pick Yosemite by default because of the name recognition.

But the truth is, being the most popular can sometimes serve to Yosemite’s detriment. Because it has half the number of annual visitors, Sequoia National Park is a much quieter destination with less development compared to Yosemite. This makes you feel further away from civilization and more like you’re stepping straight into the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

While both parks are home to giant sequoia trees, the sheer quantity and incredible age of the trees are what give this park its name.

It may not have striking formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan, but Sequoia National Park still boasts a ton of amazing views, hikes, and adventures.

Trees in Sequoia National Park
Beautiful Sequoia National Park


As far as transportation goes, Sequoia is nearly as good as Yosemite.

Much like Yosemite, there are free shuttles in Sequoia National Park that run every 8-30 minutes, depending on the route. However, they only run from late May to early September and do not reach some of the more distant destinations within the park, such as the northern end of Generals Highway or Three Rivers.

It’s by no means necessary to rent a car in Sequoia, but unlike Yosemite, having a car definitely adds to the experience as you’ll be able to see much more of the park. Plus, unlike Yosemite, you won’t be boring yourself in stop-and-go traffic or fighting for parking spots thanks to the fact that Sequoia is exponentially less crowded than Yosemite.

When it comes to wheelchair accessibility, Yosemite definitely wins out. Yosemite has several accessible trails, a deaf assistance program, and even rents out wheelchairs and electric mobility scooters. Sequoia, in contrast, only really has the Giant Tree Trail and a few manual wheelchairs that can be borrowed free-of-charge.

Congress Trail in Sequoia National Park
Congress Trail in Sequoia


This is where Sequoia comes ahead in the Sequoia vs Yosemite debate. It’s not only much easier to find accommodations, but much cheaper. Where it’s hard to find a room for less than $200 a night at Yosemite, most hotels and lodges around Sequoia are under $150 per night.

As for campsites, whereas they sell out a year in advance in Yosemite, you can’t make a campsite reservation at Sequoia any more than 30 days in advance. These campsites average around $22 per night and are available throughout the park.

Food and activities are also much more affordable at Sequoia and all the shuttles are free, so if you’re looking for the more budget-friendly vacation, Sequoia is the way to go.

Tunnel Rock, Sequoia National Park
Tunnel Rock in Sequoia

Things to do in Sequoia

Sequoia National Park is both smaller and less developed, but don’t let that throw you. There’s still plenty to do in Sequoia and you won’t have to fight crowds for everything you want to do.

The biggest draw of Sequoia are the trees. While Yosemite does have giant sequoias in a few spots, Sequoia National Park is so jam-packed with these giants, it’s named after them.

Not only are there tons, but there are some of the most famous trees in the world here, including the General Sherman Tree—the largest tree in the world, which stands at 275 feet tall and 36 feet wide.

While the rock formations and waterfalls at Sequoia aren’t as grand as the ones in Yosemite, they are still stunning. Sequoia also offers the unique draw of Crystal Cove—a marble cavern full of jaw-dropping stalagmites and stalactites.

In addition, Sequoia National Park shares a border with Kings Canyon National Park. The entrance fee gets you into both, so it’s a great way to check off two parks for the price of one. Kings Canyon National Park includes a gorgeous lake, another incredible marble cavern, and a drive through one of the deepest canyons in North America.

Crystal Cave in Sequoia NP
Crystal Cave

Where to Stay near Sequoia

Plantation Bed & Breakfast – If you’re looking for something cute and cosy, then this lovely bed and breakfast offers a range of comfortable rooms within very easy driving distance of the park entrance. There is also a seasonal pool and hot tub for guests to enjoy.

Sequoia Resort – For those looking for something slightly different, then this resort offers a range of houses that can accommodate different group sizes including larger families. Each house has fully-furnished self-catering facilities and even some outdoor dining options. It is also pet friendly!

Private Rental – There are a range of private rentals to choose from near Sequoia National Park such as this riverfront cabin that can be a great option if you want to self-cater primarily during your trip.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options near Sequoia National Park!

Sequoia National Park entrance sign
Sequoia National Park entrance sign

Yosemite or Sequoia: Which is Better to Visit

Deciding between Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks is not an easy comparison; they are both stunning destinations with tons to offer.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly vacation, Sequoia is the way to go. However, if cost isn’t a concern and you’re craving some epic rock-climbing or waterfall hikes, you’ll want to pick Yosemite.

Sequoia is better for a quieter, more laid-back vacation. It’s perfect for those who want to see some of the world’s oldest and largest trees or explore undergrown marble caverns.

In contrast, Yosemite has a ton of famous hikes, organized activities, and postcard-worthy vistas. It’s also great for those looking to check off a true bucket-list destination.

Yosemite's Famous Rock Formations
Yosemite’s Famous Rock Formations

Both Yosemite and Sequoia showcase the beauty of the Sierra Nevada and offer some of the country’s most incredible natural scenery, so no matter which park you choose, you’re going to have an incredible time.

Are wondering whether to visit Sequoia or Yosemite National Park? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

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Sarah is a writer for The World Was Here First. A California native, she loves travelling around her home state as well as visiting places further afield. She has spent over a decade travelling the world and writing stories inspired by the people and places she encounters along the way.


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