National Parks often feel like a far off destination, something that’s out of your reach for an average getaway. While you can plan a week visit to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, they are also close enough for a weekend getaway from both Northern and Southern California. In just a few days, you can get in not one, but two, National Parks. All while visiting the world’s largest tree and the second largest canyon in North America.
Head off to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for the opportunity to take in the best that nature has to offer and the serenity that comes along with escaping from civilisation and the networks we are used to. Even a weekend in the parks gives you a chance to get away from it all and visit many of the landmarks it has to offer.
Whether you want to rough it in the park, camping and hiking a handful or more miles each day or you’d rather post up in a hotel and drive between highlights you’ll be able to get the most out of the parks.
Note: Some passes and meals were provided at no cost to the author. As always, all opinions remain my own.
Walk Through Big Trees
The goal of my trip down to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was to walk within the big trees. While I’ve lived in California for over 20 years this was my first trip to visit the Giant Sequoias. As you drive through the parks along the road you begin to take in the grandeur of these giant trees that have lived a multiple of the years longer than you. As you get out of your car and walk through the trees the gravitas of these forests only grows.
Visit General Grant, the third largest tree in the world in Kings Canyon National Park and walk through the trail. Your jaw will drop as you walk by this grove of trees that you can’t come close to wrapping your arms around.
Head into Sequoia National Park to drive through many more of the Giant Sequoias. Get out and visit the Giant Forest Museum and learn more about the history of this place, the challenges it faces and what we are doing to preserve it.
The grand finale of the big trees comes when you walk down to General Sherman, the largest tree in the world. Head out early so you can beat the crowds and get a classic photo showing how small you are and how grandiose this tree is.
Hike A Canyon
As much as I made this trip to visit the Giant Sequoias, the highlight of my trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was the time I spent in Kings Canyon. I’ll get into the drive down below, but it was here that I felt I had gotten away from the world and had a chance to take in everything around me. In Kings Canyon National Park, the crowds are thinner than around the Giant Sequoias but the beauty is no less.
Kings Canyon is the second largest Canyon in North American and the view from the bottom of it is awe-inspiring. The feeling of exploring a place that helped you feel how much bigger the earth is than you was one of the most reinvigorating experience I’ve had in awhile. The park offers a variety of programs and one you shouldn’t miss is taking a hike with a ranger. I spent two hours walking and chatting with a ranger. This allowed me to learn so much more about the parks and the park service itself.
Zumwalt Meadow is another can’t miss. This smooth flowery meadow is a stark contrast to the mountainsides that surround it. The loop around the meadow is only about a mile and easy for anyone to take.
Find Breathtaking Vistas
One of the benefits of making it up to 8,000 feet is the views that come with it. When you’re driving through both parks you’ll have a hard time not stopping everything couple minutes to get out of your car, snap some photos and just stand in awe.
In Sequoia National Park, don’t skip the hike up Moro Rock. It’s not an easy one, as it’s 400 steep steps up the rock, but it is one pretty much anyone can do as long as you go at your own pace. Once you reach the top you will have views across the Sierras and back into the Central Valley.
Some of the best views you’ll find is on the drive into Kings Canyon. At the top, as you begin to head down you’ll have vistas across this massive untouched space that will blow you away. As you drive further in you’ll find beautiful rock formations and eventually make it down to a roaring river. The drive will take you at least an hour but make sure to do it in daylight where you can appreciate the views.
Listen to Rushing Waterfalls
If you needed one more reason to visit the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks you can add beautiful waterfalls to the list.
Down in Kings Canyon just off the main road and you’ll Roaring River Falls. You don’t have to hike far for this one and it’s a view worth stopping by for. Even by the end of summer, there was still a significant fall. Sit back and relax and enjoy.
If you’re looking for more a hike, at the end of the road in Kings Canyon you’ll find the trail to Mist Falls. One of the best-known hikes in the parks is 4.5 miles to fall and has some challenge to it. Start earlier in the day to beat the crowds and the heat.
Over in Sequoia you can take a medium length hike, 1.7 miles, to Tokopah Falls. Another chance for you to take in many of the big trees and listen to the falls.
Don’t Forget to Relax & Indulge
Just because you’ve gotten away from it all doesn’t mean you have to rough it. While there are many campgrounds throughout the parks there are also a few different accommodations to enjoy.
In the closest section of Kings Canyon National Park, you can stay at the John Muir Lodge and their Grant Grove Cabins. A perfect spot for families who want some of their own space. Or once you’ve driven all the way into Kings Canyon you can stay at the Cedar Grove Lodge, which is basically a simple hotel set next to the river. You can spend you evenings here relaxing on their deck and taking in the stars.
In Sequoia National Park, look into staying at Wuksachi Lodge, probably the nicest of the three. Here you’ll also findThe Peak’s Restaurant where you can enjoy delicious dining right at the park. Here they take the local region as inspiration for top notch meals. Whether you order a brisket, burger or pasta you won’t be disappointed. And don’t skip on dessert. They have lavender honey ice cream made specifically for them.
Enjoy your time exploring the parks and taking in everything they have to offer. From the waterfalls to the views and, of course, the big trees you can sneak away from our urban lives for even just a weekend to take it all in.
If you’re planning your trip and looking for more tips head over to Visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, they helped me plan my getaway and are a useful resource for the area.
What do you like to do when you’re off exploring nature? Leave your favorite things in the comments below.