Visiting Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, CA


Latest visit: October 2020

Tips for visiting Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks:

  • WARNING 1: Check air quality and fire warnings before going to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. The National Parks Service website has a lot of valuable information about conditions.
  • WARNING 2: Watch out for bears!! We saw one on the River Trail and we met people that saw a different one close to Roaring Falls!
  • WARNING 3: Be aware that you will be hiking in high altitude which means you could experience shortness of breath and just feel heavier than usual. Take your time with the ascents.
  • What to bring:
    • Obviously you need to bring your hiking gear. You should be ready for any type of weather: it ranged from 39 F to 69 F while we drove around in Sequoia & Kings Canyon! Good windbreakers, layers, hats and socks will be good for spring and fall weather. Hiking poles will also be necessary if you go on the longer, more abrupt hikes.
    • You’ll want to bring a lot of water. Staying Hydrated is Key.
    • Trash bags and reusable containers will also be needed. You can only trash items in designated wilderness proof containers which means you will need to hold on to your trash throughout your hikes.
    • Mosquito/fly repellent: we had issues with them on the Copper Creek trail.
  • Getting there:
    • Make sure you check your gas tank level BEFORE entering the park as I believe there is only one station in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. (it’s one of the oldest !)
    • Driving from Los Angeles can take anywhere from 3 hours to 6 depending on traffic. Once you get off the freeway/Highway, you’ll be on country roads which can get very windy and dark at night. The drive itself is quite beautiful, especially once you get to Lake Kaweah (before Three Rivers and prior to entering the park). Make sure to see it in daylight!
  • Three Rivers is a little town right before Sequoia & Kings Canyon National parks. We drove through it very early in the morning and then in the late afternoon on our way back so I didn’t get to explore it, but here are some places I spotted for next time:
  • Where to stay :
    • Outside the park, in Three Rivers:
    • In the Park:
      • John Muir Lodge: We stayed in the lodge, but they also have cabins** and a campground. It reminded me of an old ski lodge, the log cabin type, with its carpets, fireplace in the lobby, and heavy wood furniture. It was functional and clean. It was very close to the General Grant Tree.
        • ** Grant Grove Cabins: They are available in both timber and tent cabin styles and are within walking distance of the Grant Grove. WARNING: these accommodations are among the most requested lodging options in Kings Canyon National Park!
      • Montecito Lodge : I’d like to stay here next time. Looks like they have rooms and cabins for rent, overlooking a small little lake as well as mountain views. It’s very close to the Big Baldy trailhead.
      • Wuksachi Lodge: seems a bit more upscale and new. It’s close to the Giant Forest Grove of the Big Trees and Giant Forest Museum, Big Trees Trail, Crescent Meadow, Wolverton Recreation Area, and the Lodgepole Visitor and Market Center.
      • (Closed for the 2020 Season: Wilderness Lodging: Bearpaw High Sierra Camp and Pear Lake Winter Hut)
  • Fun fact about Kings Canyon National park (found on wikipedia) : Kings Canyon, is a rugged glacier-carved valley more than a mile (1,600 m) deep. It is also characterized by some of the steepest vertical relief in North America!
  • Hikes I did:
    • Easy:
      • Zumwalt Meadow (Kings Canyon Park): Most of this loop was closed but we still got a glimpse at the meadow and some pretty river views.
      • River Trail (Kings Canyon Park) : We did part of this trail, from Zumwalt meadows towards to Roaring Falls. This is where we saw the bear!
      • Roaring falls (Kings Canyon Park) : paved, short walk to the lovely waterfall.
      • Grizzly Falls (Kings Canyon Park) : paved, short walk to another longer waterfall.
      • General Grant Tree (Kings Canyon Park) : Paved short walk around a famous Sequoia.
      • General Sherman Tree (Sequoia National Park) and short part of Congress Trail: Paved Trail around one of the famous big Sequoia trees. it can get VERY HOT in the summer and with the altitude, they recommend elderly people rest and stop often on their way back to the parking lot, from the tree.
      • Big Baldy Trail (Kings Canyon Park) : I strongly recommend this hike. It was easier than expected and the views were amazing!
    • Intermediate:
      • Copper creek (Kings Canyon Park) : We only did the first 2 miles of this hike because we ran out of time but the views were breathtaking. It was a good climb that had many switchbacks, leaving me wanting more. I will be back!!
  • Boyden Cave: It was an unexpected stop for us and well worth it!  J. Putnam Boyden found this cave in 1906 and actually lived inside the it for ten years! They are now offering tours, only doing private ones due to COVID-19, and it was pleasurable. You’ll be able to experience the full darkness : a very unique moment for me. Another fun fact is that this cave is located in the deepest river cut canyon of the United States, the 8,200-foot (2,500 m) deep Kings Canyon!
  • The Tunnel LOG is worth the little detour!  The giant sequoia, which is 21 feet wide, fell over and across the Crescent Meadow Road in 1937.  They then carved a hole in it so cars could drive through it.
  • So is the Fallen Buttress Tree : located near the Parker Group & Meadow Road, these roots really give you an idea of how gigantic and strong the Sequoia Tree is. I felt like, what I would imagine an ant standing beside a human would feel like!
  • Hikes I want to do next time:
    • Copper creek (Kings Canyon Park): This Trail is 22.8 miles in and out with a 7,700 ft incline so not sure you can make in it and out in one day! Most people camp halfway up.
    • Mist Falls (Kings Canyon Park): 8.7 mile hike in and out. Strongly recommended by my friends and very popular hike.
    • Little Baldy (Sequoia National Park) : 3.3 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail with an 800 ft elevation gain located near Three Rivers.
    • Moro Rock Trail (Sequoia National Park): 0.4 mile heavily trafficked out and back, up the stairs to the top Moro Rock. Accessible to all but expect a lot of stairs!
    • Marble falls (Sequoia National Park) : 7.4 mile heavily trafficked out and back with an elevation gain of 1,627 ft.
    • Congress Trail : 3 mile heavily trafficked, paved walk through the sequoias right outside the General Sherman Tree. You can get close to some of the Sequoias here.

Impressions of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks:

I wouldn’t know where to start. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are such magical places – I don’t think words and pictures can pay it justice.

I felt like an ant in a city of giants.

I was amazed at how often the scenery changed from meadows to stony mountains, canyons,  water falls and rivers!

Get your cameras out and be ready for a lot of photo ops!

I want to go back explore more hikes that I didn’t get a chance to do. I also want to see the real views, without the smoke layer. We were in the park for 36 hours and I can promise you it was not enough time!

Related Posts: Big Bear Moutain and Mammoth Mountain.