Things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks
Located a four-hour drive from San Francisco, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks perfectly illustrate the natural wealth of the Sierra Nevada. While they are mainly known for their majestic trees and Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the United States), these two parks have many other treasures to offer. Whether you spend a few hours or several days there, you won’t have time to get bored.
Your sneakers, you will put on.
While it is very tempting to stay in your car and appreciate the beauty of the landscapes to the rhythm of the music, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have different paths suitable for hiking. Must-sees include Sherman Tree, Moro Rock, and Big Stump Trail.
Sherman Tree Trail: This is THE hike (0.8 miles) to do when going to Sequoia National Park. Why? Quite simply because it contains the famous General Sherman Tree, the giant tree globally. Eighty-three meters high and 11 meters wide in diameter at the base is the reserve’s most popular attraction. Moro Rock: For the more adventurous and athletic, Moro Rock (6 miles round trip) offers stunning views of the Great Western Divide and part of Sequoia Park. To get to the long-awaited summit, you’ll first have to climb a few hundred steps – 400 to be exact. Big Stump Trail
Located in the heart of Kings Canyon National Park, this 2-mile course is undoubtedly the least known on our list. However, its gigantic stocks are surprising, dating from a distant time when logging was still authorized. Many visitors pose in front of the lens halfway through their hike as the size of these ancient trunks is impressive. Observation: we feel tiny and not very strong.
A cowboy, you will become!
If you are not too keen on hiking, you can always visit the parks on horseback. There are several trails dedicated to horse riding. Departures are from Grant Grove Stables and Cedar Grove Pack Station
Count around $ 40 for one hour and $ 75 for two hours. It is strongly recommended to book a few days in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises. Equestrian centers open from May to October.
The Cellars You Will Visit
Among the hidden wonders of Sequoia Park are some 270 marble cellars, the most famous being Crystal Cave. It is also the only one accessible to the public by reservation from May to September. The visit is done with a guide for about 40 minutes for $ 25. You are strongly advised to bring warm clothes, as the temperature does not exceed 10 degrees.
Go fishing, and you will start.
It is possible to fish in Sequoia Park as long as you have a fishing license. There are many spots throughout the reserve, all subject to checks by specialist guides. Different packages exist. Their price ranges from $ 325 for a few hours to $ 450 for the entire day. For more information, see the official website.
THINGS TO DO IN SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS
See the giant tree in the world, climb for spectacular views, and visit caverns as you discover the best of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Giant trees, deep canyons, and breathtaking mountains: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks encompass some of the most majestic views not only in California but in the entire world. These adjoining parks reach a remarkable elevation of 3992 meters, and in them, you will find the giant tree on the planet and Mount Whitney, at 4417 meters, the highest peak in the entire country.
See the Sierra Nevada from a high viewpoint.
At the northwestern end of the park, drive along a narrow path from Grant Grove to a commanding view of the Sierra Nevada at Panoramic Point, at 2,292 meters above sea level. A short, paved trail leads to this lookout, which lives up to its name with stunning views of Kings Canyon and Hume Lake. Hike a 4-kilometer trail from there to the still-operational Park Ridge Fire lookout for a longer hike.
Drive through a fallen giant
Tunnels once passed between living giant redwoods and their cousins, the redwoods, to create popular tourist attractions. However, these tunnels weren’t suitable for trees, so the practice fell into disuse. In the giant sequoia forest of Sequoia National Park, you can still drive through an opening in the Tunnel Log, the remains of an 83-meter big tree that fell in 1937.
Sleep under the stars at Lodgepole Campground
Nothing beats camping in a mountainous forest, especially when you pitch your tent at the 214-space Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park. Not only is this a beautiful campground at 2042 meters, but it is also conveniently located, just 2 miles from the giant redwood forest. Keep it car-free by taking a free summer bus that stops at camp. And learn more about the park during ranger programs at the Lodgepole Amphitheater.
Admire the giant tree in the world
Yes, there are taller trees. When measured by volume, the General Sherman Tree is the largest on the planet: 84 meters tall with a sturdy base 11 meters in diameter. You have to see it to believe it, and General Sherman is easily reached via a short paved trail in the Giant Redwood Forest. To see more nearby giants, try the 2-kilometer Congress Trail, which leads to the stately President Tree.
Go deep into the Sierra Nevada at Crystal Cave.
A wonderful underground world awaits visitors in Crystal Cave. You probably think that there is not much that could compare to the giant trees and the spectacular views of the mountains. On tours with the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, you will enter underground chambers where delicate stalactites hang from the ceiling like icicles of rock. For a supreme adventure, pass through narrow passages deep into the cavern on the Wild Cave Tour.
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Climb to the top of a granite dome
The majestic Moro Rock granite dome is the Sequoia National Park equivalent of Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome. While the Half Dome requires an overwhelming 25.7-kilometer round trip, a more manageable 350-step staircase leads to the summit of Moro Rock, at 2,050 meters above sea level. Once you do, take in amazing views from the San Joaquin Valley to the snow-filled peaks of the Great Western Divide.
Famous for its giant redwoods, towering mountains, deep canyons, and roaring rivers, this tandem of parks has a lot to see, despite being less known than Yosemite, some 75 miles / 120 kilometers further north. Within the limits of Sequoia / Kings Canyon are Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental states of the country at the height of 14,494 feet / 4,417 meters, and the Kings River Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the Americas.
North. Still, these parks – like the adjacent Giant Sequoia National Monument and national forest lands – are most revered for their giant redwoods. Thanks to the General Sherman Tree, the world’s most significant living thing, and its colossal neighbors, the most popular activity here is admiring large trees with your mouth open.
GENERAL SHERMAN TREE
In how many ways can you say, “Wow, it’s so big”? Probably not enough to faithfully express his reaction when you see this monster of all monsters, a giant living tree in the world. Other trees are taller or more expansive, but none have the combination of weight and width that this leviathan possesses. The General Sherman tree measures 103/31 meters in diameter, rises 275 feet / 84 meters into the blue sky of the sierra and continues to grow.
Each year add enough wood to form another 60 foot / 18-meter tall tree. Still can’t get used to the idea of size? A single branch of General Sherman is so large – almost 7 feet / 2 meters in diameter – that it exceeds the size of most trees that grow east of the Mississippi River. Considering the giant sequoia’s size, you might think that it is the oldest tree in the world, but it is not.
Admittedly, General Sherman doesn’t boil over at about 2,200 years old (no one knows for sure). But the giant sequoias are the second oldest living trees globally – Bristlecone pines are the oldest and are found in the White Mountains to the east.
Things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks
“The General Sherman tree measures 103/31 meters in diameter and rises to 275 feet / 84 meters into the blue sky of the sierra … and continues to grow.”
Not surprisingly, General Sherman draws a crowd, which is why the park runs free shuttle buses in the summer between two separate stops, one above and one below this incredible tree. Many tourists get off at the top stop, walk down the one-way hill to the bottom stop, and visit General Sherman along the way. It is acceptable for a quick trip, but there is so much more to do here.
Get an even bigger dose of Sequoia grandeur by riding the Congress Trail, an adjacent 2-mile / 3-kilometer circular path that winds through dozens of redwood trees the size of your living room in diameter. The groves of House and Senate, two more groups of redwoods near the End of the trail, are the most impressive but another prominent tree in Washington, long considered the second largest tree in the world. It used to be about 20 feet shorter than General Sherman,
An excellent camping area and home to the National Christmas Tree
Many tourists get to know the parks for the first time in this iconic grove. If you are arriving from Fresno on Highway 180, the park’s northwest entrance is only a couple of miles/kilometers from the great Grant Grove Visitor Services Area.
Which includes cabins, a shelter, a restaurant, a gift shop / a grocery store, a post office, and several camping areas. Almost everything you could need or want for your visit to the park is available here, including maps and guides, plus the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, where you can also chat with friendly rangers. Several hiking trails start near Grant Grove and include the hike to Panoramic Point,
The busiest trails are near the General Grant Tree, also known as “the National Christmas Tree,” named President Calvin Coolidge. Since 1926, the park has celebrated Yuletide every year around the tree’s base. And there is plenty of room to celebrate: the goliath measurement, which is 107 feet / 33 meters in circumference.
If the numbers are complex for you to understand, imagine this: If the General Grant tree were transplanted into the middle of a highway, its immense circumference would block more than three lanes. A 0.3 mile / 0.5 km paved loop trail stretches around the tree and other giant neighbors, including a hollow, fallen redwood – Fallen Monarch. Because of its immense girth, it was often used as a stable for US cavalry horses.
FOREST OF THE GIANTS
The Giant Sequoia Motto: Get Big or Go Home
The Forest of the Giants, named for naturalist John Muir in 1875, features the most impressive collection of giant sequoia trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Among the 8,000 giant sequoias, General Sherman is the most significant living thing on the planet by volume and host to less famous but equally impressive trees.
To fully appreciate their architectural majesty, walk among them. But first, orient yourself to the Giant Forest Museum, designed by the same architect behind the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. (formerly known as Ahwahnee) in Yosemite Valley. From here, walk on comfortable trails (suitable for wheelchairs), including the Big Trees Trail and the General Sherman Tree Trail. Ask for directions to Moro Rock and charming Crescent Meadow, where you’ll find Tharp’s Log, rancher Hale Tharp’s summer abode.
It is believed that he was the first white man to enter the Forest of the Giants and built his home within a hollow redwood log, scarred by fire and that he lived in it for many summers. On the way to Crescent Meadow, another famous photo spot is Tunnel Log, a hollow, fallen redwood tree that cars can pass through.
A portal into the earth that reveals polished marble and shiny stalactites
Behind the spider web at the entrance to Crystal Cave lies the secret underworld of Sequoia National Park, a landscape of gleaming mineralogical features. It is one of the more than 200 marble caverns found within the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The parks contain:
- Half of the caves in California.
- Stretching over 1 mile / 1.6 kilometers.
- The largest cave in the state.
Most caves have limited access for investigative purposes only or require expertise and equipment. But not Crystal Cave; it is open to guided hikes from mid-May to November. (Note: not suitable for strollers or wheelchairs).
Things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks
Crystal Cave was discovered in 1918, and it is not at all secret: thousands of people explore it every year, and the underground route has paved paths and solar electric light. The standard 50-minute tour is an excellent choice for families with mildly curious children, but it doesn’t rank high on the adventure ladder. For a more exciting experience, sign up for the summer night “Explorer’s Lantern Tour,” where the lights go out, and visitors carry lanterns with candles.
The most exciting excursion, “Adventure Tour,” runs on Saturdays only and is a 4-6 hour exploration hike where you will crawl on the rocks. Headlights, knee, and elbow pads are provided, and participants must be prepared to get dirty as they move on foot or crawl and climb through passageways outside the circuit. Only in caves like this one can you experience the mystery of absolute darkness, of not being able to see your hand in front of your face.
The cave is located at the End of a winding 7 mile / 11 km road that leaves the General’s Highway near the Forest of the Giants. For all excursions, planning is necessary. Buy tickets at Lodgepole or the Foothills resorts (tickets are not sold in the cave). Getting to the cave by car from any tourist center takes about an hour, plus it takes more time to walk up the steep half-mile / 0.8 km to the cave entrance. And don’t forget to bring a coat: It is around 50 ° F / 10 ° C inside the cave, regardless of the temperature outside.
KINGS CANYON SCENIC BYWAY
Explore one of the deepest canyons in North America
There is an undeniable charm in a place called Road’s End. That seductive nickname designates the eastern limit of Highway 180, the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, generally open from late spring through October. The winding pavement ends 6 miles / 10 kilometers beyond Cedar Grove Village, where the wilderness begins. If you want to continue past Kings Canyon, you must hike.
“Junction View and other freeway rest areas offer views of Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America, reaching 8,200 feet / 499 meters deep.”
The drive to reach Road’s End is only half the fun: From Grant Grove, the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway zigzags east, 30-mile / 48-kilometer along the banks of the Kings River, particularly active during the late spring thaw. Junction View and other freeway rest areas offer views of Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America, reaching 8,200 feet / 499 meters deep. Stop at the Boyden Cavern (45-minute guided hikes) and, in spring and summer, at the 80-foot / 23-meter Grizzly Falls.
Cedar Grove Village is modest – some camping areas, a small lodge, the ranger station, and a small cafe (open late May through early October), but hiking trails abound. Road’s End highlights the 1.5 mile / 2.4 km loop trail that leads to lush Zumwalt Meadows, framed by dramatic granite cliffs sculpted by glaciers.
WINTER AT MAMMOTH LAKES
Glide into summer in snow-capped mountains
During the winter, Mother Nature is kind to Mammoth Lakes. Very, very good. The town’s signature peak, Mammoth Mountain, receives (on average) more than 30 feet / 9 meters of snow, and lifts and cabins continue to soar through the sky over the mountain longer than at any resort in the state. The impressive thing is that, even in winter, you will still need to use sunscreen. Mammoth prides itself on nearly 300 days of sunshine a year, so the after-ski chairs located in the sundeck at this resort are busy in the middle of Mammoth Mountain. There is also a lot of activity in the town at the foot of the mountain, with shops, restaurants, and nightlife.
Change the air by spending a day on the slopes of June Mountain, a nearby place that is among the favorites for its tranquility and the friendliness of its people. Even if you are not a skier, you can take advantage of the Mammoth Mountain gondolas, which you can access. Hike through the snow that will take your breath away. Even if you are not staying at the Tamarack Lodge hotel, you can spend a pleasant time in the great room with a cup of mulled wine by the fireplace. Then you can stay for dinner (you can do it in ski clothes) at Lakefront Restaurant, The most welcoming restaurant.
Winter pleasures abound – choose from Snowcat motorized tours or guided snow hikes in the moonlight. Have fun tubing with the kids. Glide through the forest on a dogsled. After skiing, get a massage at area resorts such as Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa or Snowcreek Athletic Club. Or enjoy the most incredible pleasure – free time – and watch the sunset cast a reddish hue to the mountains.
ACCOMMODATION AND CAMPS
Choose from cozy basic accommodations, stylish seaside hotels, and seaside campgrounds.
Are you looking for an ultra-romantic place? Enjoy beautiful places to stay overnight in or near Mendocino. Victorian cottages and mansions, which today house a host of elegant accommodations, offer great amenities with a personal touch and a homey feel. (At Headlands Inn, snuggle under hand-sewn blankets, followed by toast and coffee for breakfast.) There are also resort-style options, including Little River Inn.
There you will find luxurious oceanfront rooms with fireplaces and private decks, golf, tennis, fine dining, and refined gardens. For something unique to Mendocino, you can choose the treehouse-style Brewery Gulch Inn, where you can start your day with great breakfasts of organic eggs and locally grown mushrooms.
And, at the posh Stanford Inn, The high-quality, eco-friendly experience is evident in every corner, from organic gardens with orchards to provide The Ravens, which is the accommodation’s award-winning restaurant, to excellent bicycles and canoes available to guests. Get massages at the Mendocino Center for Living Well, which offers classes in collecting, yoga, cooking, and gardening.
And, for those who want to get back to nature or who have a different concept of “a room with a good view,” it is possible to pitch a tent in the private campsites that surround the coast or reserve a place just to the south. from the city in Van Damme State Park, along the Little River.
Climb a granite cliff with a mind-expanding view
At least once in your life, you have to, even if you never become a fan of the activity. Climb the Moro Rock. Unlike most once-in-a-lifetime adventures, this one isn’t overrated. The 6,725-foot / 2,050-meter precipice, a bare granite dome jutting out of a wooded ridge, is accessed by a series of ramps and stairs.
“At least once in his life, he has to, even if he never becomes a fan of the activity.”
The ride isn’t very long – just 300 feet / 91 meters to the top – but it does have 400 steps that will lead even the most demanding hikers with their tongues out.
To catch your breath:
- Stop to admire the view of the deep gorge above the Kaweah River or the zigzagging curves of the General’s Highway on its way south to Three Rivers.
- Once you have reached the flat top of Moro Rock, take in the view of the Great Western Divide. This mountainous landscape of alpine cirques and peaks sculpted by glaciers scratching the sky at over 13,000 feet / 4,000 meters will blow your mind.
- Hike on a summer morning and more relaxed days in fall and spring for the best view.
GIANT SEQUOIA NATIONAL MONUMENT
Visit the “other” lands of Kings Canyon and Sequoia.
National parks aren’t the only places to find giant sequoias; more than 30 lesser-known forests are protected areas within the lands surrounding the Giant Sequoia National Monument. Administered by the United States Forest Service, rather than the National Park Service, the rules are slightly different, as you can hike with your dog in these locations (which is not allowed in parks). Camping has fewer restrictions, too, so you can pitch your tent anywhere (as long as it’s away from water sources), but you’ll need to pack everything you need and leave no trace of your step when you leave.
Two areas of the Giant Sequoia National Monument offer fascinating attractions: the northeast lands of Grant Grove and the Big Meadow / Jennie Lakes area. As you head east from Grant Grove over the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, pass the Converse Basin Grove, once considered the largest redwood forest in the range.
Hike the 2.5 mile / 4 km Boole Tree Loop trail through the remains of the grove – a maze of massive logs amid a second growth of mixed forest and the lone Boolean tree, named for the sawmill foreman who cut down the other redwood trees in this forest. Nearby is the Chicago Stump Trail, which is a wheelchair-accessible trail. A 20 foot / 6-meter trunk is all that remains of a sequoia called the General Nobel tree, which is 1897, was sawn into many sections, transported, and reassembled for the Chicago World’s Fair.
Further south, after a short drive down the General’s Highway, climb the 172-step steel staircase to visit Buck Rock Lookout, a fire lookout tower perched atop a bare granite dome. Several nearby Forest Service camping areas and hiking trails lead to the 10,500 acres / 4,249 hectares of the Jennie Lakes Wilderness.
HOW TO GET
Public transportation makes it easy to get to the parks.
Part of the beauty of this natural park is its isolation. But this does not have to involve a long journey. Public ferries run daily, Memorial Day through Labor Day (note that the schedule can change due to dangerous road conditions, so check ahead).
For a reasonable price, the Redwoods Shuttle Bus picks up passengers in Visalia (35 miles / 56 kilometers west) who make a 45-minute trip to the park, past Three Rivers hamlet, and then to the Museum Giant Forest. From there, you can take a free park bus, which stops at key destinations such as the General Sherman Tree and Moro Rock.
If you want to go further with public transportation, consider using Amtrak. Trains stop in the Central Valley town of Hanford, and Amtrak buses continue 35 miles / 56 kilometers east to Visalia, where you can take the Redwoods shuttle bus to get to the park.
Things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks