What is Wilderness?
Wilderness is untrammeled.
The Wilderness Act defines wilderness as those lands where "...the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." A trammel is a shackle, or net, used to restrain and restrict movement. Land that is untrammeled, as described by the act, is unhindered, free from the manipulation of humankind.
Wilderness is natural.
Wilderness lands retain their "...primeval character and influence...[and are] protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions," according to the act. From the oak woodlands of the foothills to the stark granite environment of the Sierra Crest, the park wilderness is managed to maintain its natural ecology. The vast glacial canyons you see today are much the same as they were hundreds of years ago.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks conduct some projects in wilderness to restore the natural environment in areas where it has been negatively affected by human activities. Currently, the parks are involved in projects that work to eradicate invasive plant species, restore the endangered yellow-legged frog, and preserve the population of the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, among others.
Wilderness is undeveloped.
Wilderness is further defined as "...an area of undeveloped Federal land...without permanent improvements or human habitation." In the wilderness of these parks you will find large tracts of land where even rudimentary trails are nonexistent and the only evidence of humans is the occasional boot print or arrowhead.
However, some developments are necessary for park operations, visitor enjoyment, and safety. Hike along the John Muir Trail and you will find well-established trails, signs, and bridges. You might come across one of our ranger stations, which house our wilderness rangers during the busy summer season.
Wilderness offers outstanding opportunities for solitude.
Wilderness "...has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation." There are many ways to experience the parks' wilderness. Some visitors enjoy the social aspects of a more populated trail like the High Sierrra Trail or the Rae Lakes Loop, while others seek a more solitary experience, one where they don't see or hear another person for days at a time.
The Wilderness Act did more than establish protected lands. In what was perhaps the act's most vital accomplishment, it articulates a philosophy of wilderness that emphasizes not only a responsibility for environmental preservation, but also the importance of wilderness to the well-being of our nation's citizens.