Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks aren’t the only places to find giant sequoias—more than 30 lesser known groves are protected within the neighboring lands of Giant Sequoia National Monument. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, rather than the National Park Service, rules are slightly different here—it’s okay to hike with your dog, for one thing (it’s not okay in the parks). Camping is also less restricted, so you can pitch your tent just about anywhere (as long as it is set back from any water sources), but you’ll need to pack in everything you need, and leave no trace behind. Entrance fees are charged per vehicle ($30 per passenger car/van, $25 per motorcycle) and are good for seven days.
Two areas of Giant Sequoia National Monument offer some fascinating highlights—the lands northeast of Grant Grove and the Big Meadows/Jennie Lakes area. As you drive east from Grant Grove on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, you pass the Converse Basin Grove, once reputed to be the largest sequoia grove in the Sierra. Walk the 2.5-mile Boole Tree Loop through the grove’s sad remains—a maze of immense stumps amid a second-growth mixed forest and the solitary Boole Tree, which was named for the lumber foreman who cut down all the other sequoia trees in this grove. Nearby is the wheelchair-accessible Chicago Stump Trail. A 20-foot stump is all that remains of a sequoia named the General Noble Tree, which, in 1897, was sawed into numbered sections, then transported and reassembled for the Chicago World’s Fair.
Farther south and a short drive off Generals Highway, climb the 172-step steel stairway to visit Buck Rock Lookout, a fire lookout tower perched on top of a bald granite dome. Also in this vicinity are several Forest Service campgrounds, plus hiking trails that lead into the 10,500-acre Jennie Lakes Wilderness.