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The park service's dual mission of conserving the parks and opening them up for the public to enjoy have been at odds for over a century, and the issues in Yosemite and Sequoia & Kings Canyon are in many ways exemplary of the issues that affect the system as a whole. Many fear these special places in the Sierra Nevada are being literally "loved to death" as millions of visitors amass here each summer. But this is a lucky phenomenon for the traveler willing to wander on foot: The crowds stick to the roads, and there is always a trail less taken. Wherever you might go, this section will at least give you some background on those issues facing the parks, their history, and how to enjoy them responsibly.

A Question of Size

Until recently, the National Park Service has claimed that the General Sherman Tree is the largest living thing on earth. Technically, however, this may not be quite true, and now the claim is that it's the largest living tree, still quite a distinction. The reason for the change? Park officials say it has been discovered that some underground fungi may actually be bigger than the General Sherman Tree. In addition, there are groves of aspen trees in the Rockies that share a common root system and may be considered one living thing, thereby exceeding the General in overall size.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.