Jutting out from the top of Sequoia National Park is a granite dome called Moro Rock, named for the roan-colored mustang of one “Mr. Swanson” from nearby Three Rivers, who, in the 1860s inadvertently gave the startling rock formation its name.
Mr. Swanson, so it’s told, had a little mustang named Moro, which in the Western parlance of the time meant a bluish-colored horse. His little Moro was known to scramble up, around and under the rock ledges of the great dome, and so it became known as Moro’s Rock – Moro Rock today.
Offering 360-degree views of Sequoia National Park from the top, you have to take a few steps to get there – 400 steps in fact. That’s 797 feet of stairs, or about a 30-story building. Taking that quarter-mile stair-hike is a testament not only to the beauty of the landscape, but also to the legacy of the National Park Service – though it has often been wrongly attributed to the Civilian Conservation Corps – which built those stairs during the great expansion of the National Park Service systems in the 1930s. There had been a wooden stair case up the side of the Rock, built in 1917, but they were rickety at best and dangerous at worst for the growing number of National Park visitors. A more permanent – and less vertigo-inducing – solution was needed, and the back-breaking labor to cut, carve, pour and secure a permanent set of stairs came in the form of workers from the National Park Service.
Designed to follow the natural crags and crevices of the granite, the Moro Rock stairs provide a way to the top that protects the Rock itself (its rock faces being vulnerable to exfoliation, so most climbing is prohibited), and also preserves the nesting areas of the local Peregrine falcon population. So keep to the stairs – the rock and the falcons need each other.