Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Tips for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks  

• The elevation ranges from 1,500 to 14,500 feet. This extreme gradient creates a great diversity in habitats, including U-shaped canyons from glacial gouging, V-shaped water canyons, sequoia groves, meadows, lakes, waterfalls, chaparral scrubland, and mountain landscapes.

• The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are essentially two parks, but they are often classified together owing to factors like common geographical features, proximity, ranger monitoring, maintenance, park funding, etc.

• Most people travel to both parks when they visit. You can enter Kings Canyon via CA 180, or Sequoia by CA 198.

• You can drive between the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks through the scenic Generals Highway, and enjoy the panoramic views as the road climbs the stream-cut walls of the Kaweah Canyon.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

• There are entrance fees for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. If you are like me and visit a couple of national parks every year, I would recommend the America The Beautiful Annual Pass for $80 (as opposed to paying entrance fees every time you visit a national park).

• There are no gas stations in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Fuel up before visiting the parks.

• Roads are narrow, winding and steep in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. They are also subject to closure during winter, so remember to check on weather conditions.

• Sequoias don’t die from old age, and are resistant to fire and insect damage. They die from toppling over, owing to a shallow root system with no tap root. Hence, be wary while hiking, as strong winds, soil moisture or weak roots can cause trees to fall over.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Kings Canyon Scenic Byway

We started off our day trip into Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks by getting on to CA 180. Highway 180 is the only vehicle route into Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America (8,200 feet to be precise).

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Beginning at the Hume Lake Ranger Station, the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway weaves its way from the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada toward the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. Be prepared for 50 miles of exhilarating and unadulterated views of pristine wilderness!

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Take advantage of the many roadside pullouts to not only stretch your legs from all that driving, but to also fill your lungs with pure oxygen. Unfortunately the vast majority of us will never breath clean air for the major part of our lives. I recommend filling your lungs with natural goodness whenever you have the chance!

The pullouts also provide great vantage points to observe the Kings River, as well as small waterfalls such as the Grizzly Falls and the Roaring River Falls. This drive is a popular auto touring option for visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, so be prepared to encounter people at such road pullouts.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

General Grant Tree Trail

In volume of total wood, the giant sequoia is the planet’s largest living tree. And the General Grant Tree (pictured below) is a Goliath amongst the giants. One of the world’s largest living trees, the General Grant Tree was designated as America’s Christmas Tree by President Coolidge in 1926. It is located in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

The Grant Grove is an outstanding celebration of the giant sequoias in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The 0.5 kilometer paved trail is a leisurely stroll for visitors wishing to acquaint themselves with these gorgeous trees.

The enormous proportions of their height are mind-boggling. I kept looking up at their magnificent crowns, and almost always kept running into people. It is truly astounding to witness first-hand how really tall the sequoias are, and how incredibly small you feel in front of them. For example, did you know that the General Grant Tree is nearly 270 feet tall?

*Vault toilets are available at trailhead.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Giant Forest Museum

If you are looking to know more about the trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, this museum offers some pretty interesting information. Unlike some visitor centers or museums which I find to be somewhat prosaic and “repetitive”, the Giant Forest Museum has great illustrations, displays, and hands-on activities for visitors. I definitely recommend spending at least 15 minutes here. There is just so much to learn!

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National ParksTop 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

General Sherman Tree Trail

The General Sherman Tree is one of the most famous points of interests in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Situated in the Giant Forest, the General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest tree by volume. It is 275 feet tall, weighs around 1,385 tons, and the circumference of its base is 103 feet. Every year, it grows enough wood to produce a 60-foot-tall tree of usual size.

The main trail for the General Sherman Tree can be reached by following the signs around the Lodgepole Visitor Center. Parking is located off the Wolverton Road. The paved trail is half a mile long, and runs downhill into a stunning grove of sequoias.

Note: The walk back will be uphill, and I was a wee-bit out of breath.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

As you walk through the grove, there will be exhibits along the trail detailing the natural wonder of the giant sequoias. While the highlight of this trail is the 2,200-year-old General Sherman Tree, don’t forget to admire the unique characteristics of surrounding sequoias. Every tree is striking in its whorl rings, fire scars and trunk thickness.

The majesty of the General Sherman Tree can be summarized in the words of Kahlil Gibran, “Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky.” A real beauty amongst the flora of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

*Vault toilets are available at trailhead.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Tunnel Log

A small but extremely popular thrill for visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is the Tunnel Log located along the Crescent Meadow Road. In 1937 when a giant sequoia fell across the road from natural causes, a tunnel was cut through for attracting tourists.

Today, driving through the Tunnel Log in the Giant Forest has become almost like a rite of passage. But there will be a line of cars ahead of you, including over-enthusiastic individuals desperate for that perfect Instagram picture (that travel has been reduced to “likes” is tragic in my opinion). So be patient!

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Moro Rock Trail

The Sierra Nevada is marked by many dome-shaped granite formations. One such structure in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is Moro Rock. Located 1.5 miles from the Giant Forest Museum, Moro Rock rises 6,725 feet above sea level. It offers astounding views of the surrounding wilderness, and has been described vividly by hikers, scientists, writers, poets and nature enthusiasts.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National ParksTop 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

But like they say, you have to work for anything and everything desirable. To reach the summit of Moro Rock, hikers have to climb 400 steps with a 300 foot elevation. The trail is very steep and strenuous, and I had to pause at least 2 times before reaching the top. In addition, the path is narrow with hair-raising bends, and at some points, only one-way traffic is possible. This trail is definitely not for those with a fear of heights and the faint-hearted!

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National ParksTop 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Once I did get to the top, I did get my reward. With the rays of the evening sun bursting through the approaching night clouds, the whole experience can be described as the depraved soul embarking on its ascent toward heaven. Spiritual. Mesmerizing. Satisfying. What better way to conclude my trip to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks?

*Vault toilets are available at trailhead.

Top 6 Things to Do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Hitting up all the National Parks in California ranks near the top of our bucket list. Your pictures and stories from your hikes have definitely refuelled that spark to get out west. The scenery looks spectacular!

    Like

    1. Thank you so much! The national parks in California are incredibly diverse and uniquely spectacular. You’ll need to bring clothes in layers for the diverse terrain. I’ll be posting my entire California road trip itinerary by the end of this week. I hope it can be of help to you! #neverstoptraveling

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesome!! Looking forward to it 🙂

        Like

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