Gazing up, up, and up at giant trees is only the beginning of what you can do at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, a dramatic and varied pair of sister parks located about 85 miles east of Fresno. Design your own tour with a personal naturalist guide, available through the Sequoia Field Institute, with expert naturalists shedding light on the region’s remarkable ecology. The institute also offers 50-minute, all-ages standard guided tours of fascinating Crystal Cave, in Sequoia National Park. For a real treat, try spelunking on the Wild Cave Tour—which lasts 4–6 hours and is available to fit visitors age 10 and up—or the Family Caver Tour, a shorter version of the same experience. Whichever you choose, you can expect to get dirty.
To get off the grid and get far beyond the parks’ more popular destinations, consider booking a multi-day pack trip. Horses or mules carry the gear and guides prepare meals—a pretty awesome way to explore the backcountry and a great choice for families.
Try your hand at catch-and-release fly-fishing in the region’s trout-filled creeks and rivers; local outfitters like Sierra Fly Fisher provide gear and expert instruction for all levels; ask about special family lessons and trips. (People 16 years and older are required to have a California fishing license, which are available at the Grant Grove visitors center.)
While road access through the park is limited in winter due to snow, that same white stuff makes for a whole new way to explore—by snowshoe. Rangers lead guided snowshoe tromps through the Giant Forest and Grant Groves, where giant sequoia trees loom like ancient sentries standing in a snowbound wilderness.