The Land of Giants has been on my list for over a decade now. I’ve lived in and out of Los Angeles for eight years, so it’s a wonder why this 3.5 hour road trip took so long to complete! I was honored to finally have the chance to stand amongst the world’s largest living things.
Note: Due to high levels of pollution from the Rattlesnake and Moraine Fires burning in the region, air quality advisory levels are currently in or near the Hazardous category. Always check the National Park Service page for the most recent updates and trail closures. Both National Parks are currently open, however, Sequoia National Forest and other nearby forests are closed to public entry. Also note that there is currently road construction between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on a portion of the Generals Highway between Grant Grove and Little Baldy Saddle causing delays. There is little to no cellular service and limited WiFi within the parks.
Sequoia National Park & Kings Canyon National Park
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are side-by-side and protect over 808,000 acres of designated wilderness in addition to 29,500 acres of proposed wilderness. Sequoia was established in September 1890, encompasses more than 631 square miles and is home to the world’s tallest living things. Kings Canyon National Park was established 50 years later in 1940, encompasses 722 square miles and is home to the deepest canyon in the U.S. Over 1,000 miles of hiking trails await!
How To Get There
The closest commercial airports to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Visalia Municipal Airport. Two entrances service the parks with Ash Mountain Entrance to Sequoia and Big Stump Entrance to Kings Canyon. Be prepared for windy, mountainous roads, and no gasoline is sold within the parks. A vehicle pass is $30, individual entry is $20 and motorcycles are $30. Annual passes for all national parks is $80. The parks are open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year with some roads closed during winter months.
What to See & Do
Sequoia National Park
General Sherman Tree – Distance: 0.7 miles round-trip to get to the landmark. The largest tree in the world (by volume, pictured here), standing tall at 52,508 cubic feet with a ground circumference of 102.6 feet.
Crescent Meadow – Distance: 1.8 miles round-trip. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll experience what John Muir called “the gem of the Sierra Nevada.”
Tokopah Falls – Distance: 3.7 miles round-trip, easy walk along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. The falls are 1,200 feet high and most impressive in spring and early summer.
Big Trees Trail – Distance: 1.5-mile round-trip that starts near Giant Forest Museum and wheelchair accessible.
Congress Trail – Distance: 3.2 miles round-trip near General Sherman Tree.
Tunnel Log – Located in Moro/Rock Crescent Meadow Road in the Giant Forest, a passageway through a tree is estimated to exceed 2,000 years of age (pictured towards the bottom of this post). The tree fell across the road from natural causes in 1937.
Moro Rock – Distance: 0.6 miles round-trip, experience the incredible views of the Great Western Divide by ascending the 400-step granite staircase to the summit. It felt like I was on top of the world!
Crystal Cave – Although currently closed due to COVID-19 (and closed each winter), this marble cavern is a beautiful sight when open and requires a steep half mile walk to/from the parking area and a half mile loop trail once in the cave. The only way to visit the cave is on a guided tour.
Mt. Whitney – The tallest mountain in the lower 48 states! All hikers entering the Mt. Whitney zone, including day-hikers, are required to obtain a permit. The shortest and most popular route to climb Mt. Whitney is a 10.7 mile trail from Whitney Portal. The elevation at the trailhead is 8360′. The elevation at the summit is 14,494′.
Kings Canyon National Park
General Grant Tree Trail – The General Grant Tree is the world’s second-largest, and is the nation’s official Christmas tree. A 1/3-mile, wheelchair-accessible loop trail takes you past a settler’s cabin and the Fallen Giant.
Zumwalt Meadow Loop – 1.5 miles of trail circling a picture-perfect Sierra meadow. As you walk along the Kings River, the towering granite North Dome and Grand Sentinel fill the sky.
Big Baldy Trail – 4.5 miles of trail alternating between forest and granite covered areas and eventually reaches an elevation of 8,209 feet with jaw- dropping panoramic views. For those interested in more Kings Canyon hiking, continue on for another half mile to catch a view of a formation called Chimney Rock.
Mist Falls Trail – 9 miles from Roads End trailhead where a riverside walk into Kings Canyon features a natural granite staircase that eventually leads to Mist Falls, thunderous in late spring and early summer, and still impressive into autumn.
Where to Stay
Reservations are required for camping and wilderness permits, and highly encouraged for lodging.
Wuksachi Lodge – Sequoia’s signature hotel, a stone and cedar mountain lodge situated in the heart of the park awaits!
Bearpaw High Sierra Camp – Set high atop a 7,800-foot granite saddle overlooking the Great Western Divide in Sequoia National Park. Closed for the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
John Muir Lodge – A stone-and-timber retreat located in Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon National Park.
Cedar Grove Lodge – Located in the heart of Kings Canyon National Park at Cedar Grove, the lodge is a breathtaking 35-mile drive from Grant Grove. Closed for the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
Grant Grove Cabins – Rustic, national park cabins located within walking distance of Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.
Campgrounds – There are fourteen campgrounds in these parks (10 in Sequoia and 4 in Kings Canyon), including three that are open year-round. Most campgrounds are first-come, first-served, with up to six people allowed per standard site.