Giant Forest Restoration Overview

A rustic wooden structure with a green roof sits between to very tall trees. A rustic wooden structure with a green roof sits between to very tall trees.

Left image
A long history of development had impacted the Giant Forest.
Credit: NPS Photo

Right image
Demolition of structures and revegetation efforts have restored the Giant Forest to a natural state.
Credit: NPS Photo


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. Between 1997 and 2005, all commercial activity was removed from Giant Forest. Overnight accommodations were relocated outside the grove to Wuksachi Village. Demolition of 282 buildings and ecological restoration of 231 acres in Giant Forest was completed. Visitor facilities in Giant Forest were 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 the 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

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.

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

A color image of the same location one featuring a structure and one with the structure removed.
Before and After Photos

Restoration reveals the natural landscape that was obscured by buildings

A black and white historical image of old cars all in a row.
Giant Forest Development History

Learn about the long history of human use and development of the Giant Forest.

A black and white historical photos of a train on tracks coming through a forest and mountains.
Impact of Development

Gain an understanding of how development has impacted the Giant Forest.

A yellow tractor moves toward a brown rustic structure.
Demolishing Development

Check out how contractors demolished buildings without causing new damage to vegetation.

A person in a harness scales a tall tree and is backlight by the sun.
Ecological Restoration Overview

Explore how the park assists in the recovery and management of ecological integrity.

A color image of brown soil and a variety of trees.
Restoring Landforms and Soils

Discover how ecologists restored the landscape of the Giant Forest.

A slope has been returned to its natural state with dirt and trees.
Restoring Vegetation

Learn about the regeneration of vegetation throughout the Giant Forest.

A black bear stands at the base of a tall tree in a forest.
The Sequoia Ecosystem

Discover the importance of sequoias to the ecosystem.

A person stands at the base of a tall tree a wooden sign says, "Clara Barton Tree.""
Mature Sequoias

Learn about the survival and growth rate of mature sequoias.

A group of people sit at the base of a tree while a ranger in uniform talks to them.
The Visitor Experience

Explore these ancient life forms and their role in the ecosystem.


Last updated: September 21, 2023

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47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271


559 565-3341

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