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. This Yosemite vs Sequoia 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.
However, the decision of Sequoia National Park vs Yosemite National Park should not be based solely on name recognition. Yosemite may be great, but they both have a lot to offer. Below are some considerations to help you better understand what to expect if planning a trip to Yosemite and to help you make your choice between Yosemite vs Sequoia.
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.
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.
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 when it comes to Yosemite vs Sequoia, Yosemite is going to win.
Where to Stay near Yosemite
If you’ve determined that Yosemite is the park for you, you’re going to need to find a place to stay while visiting. There are lots of places to choose from near the park, these are just a few suggestions:
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 a number of lovely rooms available and there is also a buffet breakfast that is available each morning. Click here to see their availability
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. Click here to see their availability
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. Click here to browse Yosemite private rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Yosemite hotels!
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 Sequoia National Park vs 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 the striking formations such as Half Dome and El Capitan, but Sequoia National Park still boasts a ton of amazing views, hikes, and adventures. Check out the pros and cons below that might impact your Yosemite vs Sequoia decision.
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.
This is where Sequoia comes ahead in the Sequoia vs Yosemite question. 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.
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 vs Yosemite 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.
Where to Stay near Sequoia
If Sequoia has won your heart in this great debate, then you’re going to need to find yourself a good place to rest your head within easy reach of the national park. There are plenty of places to choose from, including these top suggestions:
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. Click here to check availability
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 should you want to have a barbecue! It is also pet friendly! Click here to check availability
Private Rental – There are a range of private rentals to choose from near Sequoia National Park such as this romantic riverfront studio that can be a great option if you want to self-cater primarily during your trip. Click here to browse other private rentals
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options near Sequoia National Park!
Yosemite vs Sequoia: Which is Better to Visit
At the end of the day, there’s no one park that’s better than the other. Yosemite National Park vs Sequoia National Park is not an easy comparison; they are both stunning destinations with tons to offer.
What the Sequoia vs Yosemite decision really comes down to is personal preference. 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.
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!