Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are home to natural giants and some of the most beautiful scenery America has to offer. These two parks are connected to each other, which makes it easy to see two National Parks on one trip. The parks have deep canyons, lush valleys, snow-capped peaks, caves, waterfalls, forests and lakes, and is home to bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and deer. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are popular vacation destinations and attracts over a million visitors each year. Here, we collected the things to do, route options, best time and travel tips to help you prepare your road trip better!
The parks are located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, about 200 miles north of Los Angeles. It takes approximately 3.5 hours. The most scenic way to get to Sequoia (and the shortest route from LA) is to take CA Highway 198 through Visalia and Three Rivers until you reach the Ash Mountain entrance. That's about an hour's drive from U.S. Highway 99. However, the twisting road is not suitable for vehicles more than 22 feet long.
There’s one gas station in Sequoia, located in front of the Stony Creek Lodge in the middle of the park.
Admission is $35 per vehicle and valid for 7 days. (The fee includes both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.)
Where to Stay
There are several lodging options in the park ranging from camp grounds, basic hotels, cabins, and one high-end hotel.
A restaurant, a library, and barbecue grills are available at this cabin. Free WiFi in public areas and free self parking are also provided. Other amenities include a picnic area. Cabins offer sofa beds and free toiletries.
Along with a restaurant, this smoke-free lodge has a garden and a picnic area. Free continental breakfast, free WiFi in public areas, and free self parking are also provided. Additionally, a lobby fireplace, gift shops/newsstands, and ATM/banking services are onsite.
Located in Three Rivers, Meet the Farm Animals at Double Gum Tree Farm! is in the city center. Lemon Hill Marina and Lake Kaweah are worth checking out if an activity is on the agenda, while those wishing to experience the area's natural beauty can explore Sequoia National Parks Ash Mountain Entrance and Hospital Rock.
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Driving along Highway 180 from Grant Grove down into the canyon is an epic drive. The mountain views are out of this world. Happily, there are many pull-outs where you can stop and savor the views. And, if you’re the one driving, you’ll need those as you’ll not want to take your eyes off the road.
Sequoia National Park is a phenomenal place to hit the trails. And, it’s the only way to see the diversity of the park. If you think that Sequoia National Park is just about seeing some sequoias, then you’re in for a surprising treat. Beyond sequoia groves, there’s lush meadows, entry into the high Sierras, waterfalls, and vistas to appreciate.
Moro Rock: Moro rock is a must see, must do activity when visiting Sequioa National Park! It is a breathtaking view all the way up the rock. Be prepared to climb this mountain of stone. It is a challenging climb up of 400 steps made more rugged with the thin air. The view is worth the effort. Travel light and bring water.
General Grant Tree Trail: One of the world's largest living trees. President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation's Christmas tree in 1926. Visit the historic Gamlin Cabin and the Fallen Monarch along this 1/3 mile (.5 km) paved trail. North and west of the Kings Canyon Visitor Center 1 mile (1.6 km).
Congress Trail: This is a part of the Trail to see the General. After you see the General (who is the biggest tree in volume in the world) then you need to do this trail. It is a paved trail that wants through a Sequoia Forest. You will see Sequoia trees up close and first personal in their natural environment. This is a quiet 2 mi trial. It is rather easy even though you were in the high altitudes. Coming from an altitude of a little over 900 to in the thousands but quite doable. This trail is not crowded and authentic experience of what it's like to stand in a sequoia forest.
Tokopah Falls: The trail to Tokopah Falls starts just beyond the Marble Fork Bridge in Lodgepole Campground. It is an easy 1.7 mile (2.7 km) one-way walk along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River to the impressive granite cliffs and cascading waterfall of Tokopah Canyon. Tokopah Falls is 1,200 feet (365.8 meters) high, and is most impressive in early summer, but be careful around the water!
The Big Trees Trail: This 0.75 mile (1 km) trail circles Round Meadow. Colorful trailside panels describe sequoia ecology. Start at Giant Forest Museum and follow the paved, accessible trail from there. Parking for people with disability placards is available at the trailhead. Allow 1 hour round trip.
Ski and snowshoe trails offer a way to travel through Giant Forest and Grant Grove in winter. You'd better bring snowshoes, warm layered clothing, waterproof boots, gloves, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, water, and a snack. The walks are moderately strenuous. Children who participate in ranger-led snowshoe walks must be 10 years and up (due to the size of the snowshoes and the moderately strenuous conditions). Waterproof shoes are required (no tennis shoes please).
Look for picnic areas throughout the parks. Black bears may sometimes approach picnic areas. When eating or preparing food, always keep food within arm's reach. Store food, trash, and any items with an odor in metal food-storage boxes if they are available.
Picnic Areas of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park: Grant Grove, Cedar Grove, Lodgepole and Giant Forest, Foothills, and Mineral King. All picnic areas have restrooms, and some have water and barbecue grills. Barbecue grills may not be available when fire restrictions are in place.
You will need a wilderness permit for overnight backpacking. There is a limited number of permits available during the busy season, but from October to late May there's no limit.
Whether you bring your own stock or use one of the pack stations in these parks, a trip on horseback is a great way to see the parks. Guided Horseback Ride Rates: $50 for a one-hour ride, or $90 for a 2-hour ride. Reservations are recommended.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon are parks for all seasons.
Summer: July through mid-September is the most popular time (but even so, the park doesn’t get as crowded as the other big Sierra Nevada park, Yosemite). All campgrounds and attractions are usually open; the park offers many ranger-led hikes and other activities. Expect warm weather but pleasantly cool hiking beneath the redwoods.
Fall: Mid-September and October are choice times to visit, with fewer crowds but good weather—warm days, cool nights.
Winter: Portions of the parks are closed November until mid-April, but there are great winter activities—including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing—at Grant Grove and Wuksachi Lodge.
Spring: April through June brings fine wildflower displays in the lower elevations of the parks and waterfalls at their peak.
1. Get an early start when visiting the parks. There can be long lines at the entrance stations in summer and weekends. There’s something about hearing how alive the forest is when there’s no one else around.
2. If you’re on a budget, bring your own food as park food is expensive. However, make sure you have the proper containers to store it as bears have a highly perceptive sense of smell. There are several places throughout the park where you can refill water.
3. Always take precautions to protect your food and supplies from bears, especially when in the backcountry, but at campgrounds as well.
4. Don't bring pets—they aren't allowed on any trails in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
5. There are 14 campsites at the park, three open year-round. You can make reservations up to 6 months in advance, and it’s first-come, first-served.
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