Giant Forest Restoration Overview

Awe-inspiring giant sequoia trees are among the largest living things on earth, but the opportunity to experience them is rare. Approximately 75 groves exist, and only along the southern Sierra's western slope on moist sites between about 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation. Giant Forest, one of the largest groves, was saved from logging by the establishment of Sequoia National Park in 1890. However, national park status did not fully protect the big trees. The road that brought visitors to Giant Forest also brought camping, cabins, commercial development, and congestion. The impacts of this development, both to the giant sequoia ecosystem and to the quality of visitor experience, conflicted with the National Park Service mandate to conserve park resources and values and leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of present and future generations. An early park superintendent, Colonel John Roberts White, recognized these problems over 70 years ago and vigorously toiled to protect natural values. While largely unsuccessful in clearing structures from Giant Forest, he did prevent additional development and set the stage for the eventual restoration of Giant Forest.

In the late 1990s, years of planning, design, and construction converged into the realization of Colonel White's vision. All commercial activity has been removed from Giant Forest. Overnight accommodations have been relocated outside the grove to Wuksachi Village. Demolition of 282 buildings and ecological restoration of 231 acres in Giant Forest is complete. Visitor facilities in Giant Forest have been converted from overnight to day-use.

The goal of the Giant Forest restoration project was to restore the ecological health of the Giant Forest sequoia grove, home of the world's largest trees, and create opportunities for outstanding national park experiences. Specific objectives included:
  1. Protect Natural and Cultural Resources
    • Remove inappropriate development from the sequoia grove
    • Mitigate historic damage to the sequoia forest
    • Limit future impacts through facility design
    • Preserve key historic buildings
  2. Provide for Visitor Enjoyment
    • Improve parking and transportation system
    • Improve self-guiding trail system
    • Develop interpretive museum
    • Ensure accessibility to key features
    • Maintain national park character
  3. Improve efficiency of Park operations
    • Remove/replace deteriorated utilities
    • Stabilize historic buildings
    • Simplify snow removal
  4. Provide cost effective, environmentally responsible and otherwise beneficial development for the National Park Service. Establish precedent for removing development from key national park landscapes.

A key goal of the Giant Forest restoration was to provide visitors with opportunities to experience giant sequoias on foot rather than from vehicles. A crucial component of this goal is a shuttle, enabling visitors to park their vehicles once during the day and experience Giant Forest's key features by foot, avoiding the prolonged parking congestion that was prevalent at many sites in the grove before restoration.

In May 2007, the Sequoia Shuttle began operating in Giant Forest. A cooperative effort with the City of Visalia, the shuttle provides service from Visalia and Three Rivers to Giant Forest in addition to transportation within Giant Forest.

Details about the Project

On these pages you will witness the dramatic transformation of the Giant Forest from city to forest. You will learn why and how the Park Service is carrying out this transformation. You will realize that a similar transformation in the Park Service's commitment to correcting mistakes of the past was necessary before Colonel White's dream of restoration could be pursued in earnest.

Before and After Photos
History of Giant Forest Development
The Impact of Development
Demolition of Giant Forest Development
Ecological Restoration Overview
The Sequoia Ecosystem
Mature Sequoias
Restoring Landform & Soils
Restoring Vegetation
Ecological Restoration Links
The Visitor Experience

Today's restored Giant Forest results from the efforts of many dedicated personnel, from biologists to heavy equipment operators. But the monumental accomplishments of this project stem from the unwavering ideals of managers and planners beginning with Colonel White. Truly we could not have achieved what we have without standing on the shoulders of giants.

Last updated: February 15, 2017

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