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.
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.
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 opp 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.