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Things to Do in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Things to Do in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

See the biggest tree in the world, climb to spectacular views, and go caving as you discover the best of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

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Giant trees, deep canyons, and towering mountains: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks encompass some of the most majestic sights not just in California, but anywhere in the world. Ranging a remarkable 13,100 feet in elevation, these adjoining parks are where you’ll find the largest tree on the planet and 14,494-foot Mount Whitney—the highest peak in the Lower 48.

What Is Kings Canyon vs Sequoia?

What do each of these parks offer, and which one should you visit? Ideally both—they are adjoining and a ticket—$35 for a vehicle pass, and $20 for an individual on foot or bicycle—is good for entrance to both. But the two parks are different in that Sequoia has more numerous groves of its namesake trees, while Kings Canyon has more canyons, valleys, waterfalls, and peaks.

See the Sierra Nevada From a Lofty Overlook

In the park’s northwest corner, drive along a narrow road from Grant Grove to a commanding perspective of the Sierra Nevada atop 7,520-foot Panoramic Point. A short, paved trail leads to this overlook, which lives up to its name with sweeping views of Kings Canyon and Hume Lake. For a longer trek, hike along a 2.5-mile trail from the point to the still-operational Park Ridge Fire Lookout.

Take a Drive Through a Fallen Giant

Back in the day, tunnels were cut into living giant sequoias and their cousins, coast redwoods, to create popular tourist attractions. These tunnels, however, weren’t good for the trees, and the practice eventually fell out of favor. But in Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest, you can still drive through an opening in the Tunnel Log, the remains of a giant, 275-foot tree that tumbled down in 1937.

Sleep Under the Stars at the Lodgepole Campground

Nothing beats camping in a mountain forest, especially when you pitch your tent at Sequoia National Park’s 214-site Lodgepole Campground. Not only is this campground at 6,700 feet beautiful, it’s convenient too—just two miles from the Giant Forest. Keep it car-free by taking a free summer shuttle that stops in the campground. And learn more about the park during ranger programs at Lodgepole’s amphitheater.

Behold the Largest Tree in the World

Yes, there are taller trees. But when measured by volume, the General Sherman Tree is the biggest on the planet: 275 feet tall and with a stout, 36-foot-diameter base. You truly have to see it to believe it, and the General Sherman is easily reached via a short, paved trail in Giant Forest. To view more nearby giants, try the two-mile Congress Trail, which leads to the stately President Tree.

Go Deep Inside the Sierra Nevada at Crystal Cave

An amazing underworld awaits park visitors at Crystal Cave. You wouldn’t think much could compare to the giant trees and spectacular mountain views. But on tours with the Sequoia Parks Conservancy, you’ll enter subterranean chambers where delicate stalactites hang from the ceiling like stone icicles. For the ultimate adventure, crawl through narrow passages as you venture deep into the cavern on the Wild Cave Tour.

Ride a Horse Through the Sequoias

Take in the giant trees, the rushing Kings River, and lush meadows at a different pace—and from a different perspective—while on a guided horseback ride. Grant Grove Stables offer one- and two-hour trips that pass by the General Grant Tree, the North Grove, and the Dead Giant Loop, while Cedar Grove Pack Station leads rides along the Kings River, for one hour, two hours, or half- or full-day lengths.

Climb to the Top of a Granite Dome

The majestic granite dome Moro Rock is Sequoia National Park’s counterpart to Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome. But while Half Dome demands a daunting 16-mile round trip, a more manageable 350-step stairway leads to Moro Rock’s 6,725-foot apex. Once you’ve made it, savor amazing views that stretch from the San Joaquin Valley to the snowcapped peaks of the Great Western Divide.

To extend your trip to two more of California’s iconic national parks, consider doing the Majestic Mountain Loop. This non-stop photo op itinerary is perfect if you’ve got limited days to spend in the High Sierra but want to see as much as possible. It’s all laid out for you: On day one and two, take in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and on day three, Yosemite. The trip includes five recommended points of interest at each park, so you can spend more time talking in the scenery and less deciding where to go next.

Hotels in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

There are a variety of places to choose from if you’d like to stay within the parks. Wuksachi Lodge is Sequoia National Park’s signature hotel, a classic stone-and-timber mountain lodge that is located in the park’s Giant Forest, a short walk from the General Sherman tree and the famous views from Moro Rock. Also in Sequoia is Montecito Sequoia Lodge, where guests get exclusive lake use, located about midway between the General Sherman and the General Grant trees, and the rustic, 11-room Stony Creek Lodge. For a glamping experience, book one of the platform-canvas tents at Bearpaw High Sierra Camp; traditional campers can pitch a tent at Lodgepole and Dorst Creek campgrounds, both located in the Giant Forest. There are numerous campgrounds elsewhere in the parks. (Ed. note: Due to fire recovery and the water infrastructure, Bearpaw is closed for the 2022 and 2023 seasons).

In Kings Canyon, the options include the John Muir Lodge and Grant Grove Cabins in the Grant Grove area of the park, and the Cedar Grove Lodge. For experienced backcountry skiers and snowshoers, from December to April groups of up to 10 can book the remote Pear Lake Winter Hut as a cozy home base while exploring the area. (Ed. note: Due to recovery from the KNP Complex Wildfire, Bearpaw will remain closed for the 2022–2023 season).

More Things to Do Near Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks=

Within a few hours of all this remote natural beauty you’ll find the town of Visalia, where a historic downtown offers boutiques, coffee shops, and a Downtown Visalia Beer Tour of the Microbrewery District. Or, head out to Fresno, the Central Valley’s largest city, for diverse cuisine, the Forestiere Underground Gardens, the bustling downtown Tower District, and the Fresno County Blossom Trail. Find more things to do at 5 Amazing Things to Do in Fresno.=

For additional inside knowledge and inspiration on what to do in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, visit Know Before You Go: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, Guided Adventures at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, Getting to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, and Park Ranger Tips: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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