Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Photo © NPS/Rick Cain
Towering silent sequoias, vast canyons and stunning granite cliffs, breathtaking marble caves and unusual karst topography, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states—Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are monuments to beauty on a grand scale. The lower-elevation foothills provide year-round camping and hiking in an area of great biological diversity with abundant spring wildflowers. In the mid-level conifer forests, miles and miles of trails—including the paved Big Trees Trail with wheelchair accessibility—invite visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of the ancient groves. Grant Grove offers a fascinating glimpse into the effects of logging in the area, as well as the benefits of sequoia preservation. Cedar Grove in the massive Kings Canyon features towering cliffs, tumbling waterfalls, and the powerful South Fork of the Kings River. Almost 96% of the parks is managed as wilderness but can be accessed via a network of over 800 miles of well-maintained scenic trails.
If you are planning a trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, plan ahead for a variety of conditions. Extreme variations in elevation and topography from region to region mean it is possible for it to be hot and dry in one area at the same time that snow is falling or present on the ground in another area. There are four distinct seasons and five unique regions. During your visit, you can choose among the Foothills, Mineral King (an alpine valley), Giant Forest and Lodgepole (home to the world’s largest trees), Grant Grove (also home to giant sequoias), and Cedar Grove (at the end of the breathtaking Kings Canyon Scenic Byway). The Mineral King and Cedar Grove regions are accessible only in the summer. Each season and region offers different activities, facilities and features.
Hiking Trails: The parks offer hikers over 800 miles of maintained trails. Some, such as the paved Big Trees Trail are wheelchair accessible. Trail elevations vary from 1,300 feet in the foothills to 14,494 feet at the peak of Mt. Whitney.
Camping: The parks offer 14 campgrounds in 5 unique areas of the parks. Some campgrounds, such as those in the Grant Grove and Cedar Grove areas, offer easy access to amenities while others, such as those in the Mineral King and South Fork areas, offer a greater sense of solitude. There are no RV hook-ups in the parks. Be aware of length advisories and restrictions at certain campgrounds. (For example, until May 2012, there a 22-foot length restriction at Sequoia National Park. RVs wishing to enter the park are advised to enter through Kings Canyon National Park off of Highway 180.)
There are many other activities available at the parks, including ranger-led walks, fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, sledding, etc.
Help us keep this place beautiful. Take only pictures. Leave only footprints. Please pack out your trash.
Know the Bear Facts! Whether staying in the picnic area or going for a longer hike, always store food away from bears. Use large, brown bear-proof boxes to store food and scented items. Never leave food or scented items unattended.
Be Safe! Bring plenty of drinking water and snacks/lunch. Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction, as well as long pants (due to ticks and poison oak). Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Bring insect repellent.
Two highways provide access to the parks. Highway 180 enters Kings Canyon National Park from the northwest via Fresno, California. Highway 198 enters Sequoia National Park from the southwest via Three Rivers, California. There are no roads in the parks that cross to the east side of the Sierra Nevada, nor are there any roads that enter the parks from the east. You can visit both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks all year—although some areas are inaccessible by car from approximately November through May because of snow and ice. GPS and route-finding units do not often give accurate directions in this area. Double-check your route using the park map available on the web (nps.gov/seki) and road signs. For more information, contact the parks at (559) 565-3341, Fax (559) 565-3730.
Best Starting Points: Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park on the northwest side or the foothills on the southwest side of Sequoia National Park. (Please note: If you enter through Sequoia National Park, you will need to drive another hour to reach giant sequoia groves.)
Fees: Entrance for 1-7 days costs $20 per vehicle (private, non-commercial) or $10 per person on foot, bicycle, motorcycle, or in a bus. Inquire about annual passes if you wish to visit the parks regularly.
Many exhibits, as well as some campsites and trails, are accessible. For more information, visit the park website or contact the parks.
Pets are not permitted on any trails within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but are allowed 100 feet from roads in developed areas (picnic areas, campgrounds, and roads). Where allowed, pets must be on leashes no longer than 6 feet in length. Never leave pets in cars when it is warm, or they overheat quickly. Pets must not be left unattended in the parking area or in vehicles.