Redwoods, the kings of the forest, reign in the Kings Canyon National Park. With several big parks running up and down California’s Sierra Mountain range, Kings Canyon is a hidden treasure. With neighboring Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks both at capacity on summer weekends, Kings Canyon offers a less-visited option for families. So I recommend it for where to see Redwoods in California with kids.
What are Redwoods?
The largest species of cone-bearing trees in the world. With bark that’s 12 to 24-inches thick, redwoods have no known diseases or don’t suffer from insect damage. Fire isn’t an issue either. Two varieties call California home.
- Giant Sequoias–Located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in Central California. They are bulkier with thicker trunks yet not as tall. Found in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park along with Yosemite.
- Coast Redwoods—The tallest trees in the world and located along the northern California coast. They are the tallest variety with heights over 370 feet from a seed the size of a tomato’s.
- Dawn Redwoods–Thought to be extinct yet rediscovered in Central China in 1944.
Where to See Redwoods in California with Kids
The redwoods are ancient, or old growth, trees. And are the tallest living things on the planet. Though the age of the living trees is unknown, most of the largest are close to 2,000-years-old.
Kids get that. So I’ve included seeing the Redwoods as one of the bucket list destinations for families.
Up until 1800, the northern coast of California was covered in approximately 2-million acres of redwood forests. Then as the gold rush started to tarnish, logging became the next gold mine.
Redwood National and State Parks—Find Coast Redwoods along U.S. 101 in northern California coast in-between Eureka and Crescent City.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park—See a couple of the tallest Giant Sequoias in a pair of parks that adjoin. The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the largest by volume. The General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park is slightly smaller.
Yosemite National Park—See Sequoias in the Mariposa Grove near the southern entrance. Or hike 2 to 3 miles into the Tuolumne or Merced Groves.
History of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Sequoia National Park became the second national park when it was established in 1890, after Yellowstone. And General Grant National Park was also established in 1890 but would be enlarged and later renamed Kings Canyon National Park in 1940. Both parks were created to protect the Giant Sequoia trees from the logging industry.
Family Fun in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks offers lots of family fun.
Visit the Giant Sequoia—Walk to the General Grant Tree in Grant Grove and stand in its shadow to understand its size.
Attend a Ranger Program—Check in at any visitor center for topics and times.
Scenic Drives–If limited on time, scenic routes offer glimpses of the magnificent redwood forests. Drive along CA State Route 180 from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center to the Cedar Grove Visitor. Or drive south into Sequoia National Park along the General’s Highway.
Horseback Riding—Take the kids on a guided horseback ride in Kings Canyon. Ride through the forest of the Giant Sequoias. One and two-hour rides available. Must be 7 years old and fit in a saddle. Helmets provided though close-toe shoes and long pants recommended.
Fishing—Fishing is allowed in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks though anglers are required to carry a California fishing license. And fishing licenses are not available in the park.
Note: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park doesn’t have a living tree that you can drive through. Find a downed tree tunnel in Sequoia National Park near the Giant Forest on Crescent Meadow Road. Downed trees happen because of weather related events, like winter storms.
Family Hiking in Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon offers some easier hiking trails for families with younger kids.
- General Grant Tree Trail—a .3-mile paved trail to see the famous tree.
- North Grove Loop—a 1.5 mile trail starts at the Grant tree parking area.
Kids at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Rangers present them after completing their booklet.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park offers the same Junior Ranger booklet. If kids visit the Crystal Cave, located in Sequoia National Park, they can earn the cave scientist patch after completing its booklet. Cave admission extra. Both Junior Ranger Booklets available at all visitor center locations.
Animals of the Sierra
Kids love to catch sight of a wild animal in national parks. Be on the look out for tracks and scat.
- Black Bear
- Mountain Lion
- California Mule Deer
- Stellar’s Jay
Remember to give animals 25-feet for your protection and theirs and 75-feet for bears and mountain lions.
Where to Stay in Kings Canyon National Park
The Grant Grove Village is the first village when entering Kings Canyon National Park from Fresno along CA State Route 180. Find the John Muir Lodge, Grant Grove Cabins, a small market selling basics plus beer and wine, a restaurant, gift store, a post office and Kings Canyon Visitor Center along with camping.
John Muir Lodge—In a timber and stone modern lodge, find comfortable rooms. Named after the naturalist John Muir who tirelessly worked to preserve and protect the Sierras.
Grant Grove Cabins—With timber and tent cabins, stay in a more rustic cabin during your stay. The timber cabins offer electricity and heating, while the tent cabins don’t. All cabins feature traditional beds with linens.
During my visit to Kings Canyon, I stayed in a Grant Grove Tent Cabin without electricity and heat. My son loved it and I found showers close-by.
The Cedar Grove Village is 35 miles west into the park after driving through the Sequoia National Forest along CA State Route 180. The Cedar Grove Lodge is in the heart of a glaciated canyon and features the Cedar Grove Grill serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Find a market, gift store, showers and self-serve laundry along with a campground in the Cedar Grove Village as well.
Camping in Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon offers several campgrounds across the park. Sites include a metal food storage box, a picnic table and a fire ring with grill.
Grant Grove Campground Area
Azalea Campground—Open year-round
Crystal Springs Campground–Summer only
Sunset Campground—Summer only
Note for 2018—The showers at Grant Grove Campground Area are to be closed for the 2018 season.
Cedar Grove Campground Area
Sentinel Campground—Open Spring to Fall
Sheep Creek Campground—Summer only
Moraine Campground—Summer only
Where’s Kings Canyon National Park
Located in Sierra Nevada mountains, Kings Canyon joins Sequoia National Park along with several national forests.
Fresno, California, offers an airport and Amtrak station, 53 miles west of Kings Canyon National Park along CA State Route 180.
Getting Around Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is open 365-days a year and 24-hours a day. Use an America the Beautiful annual pass ($80) or purchase a 7-day pass for $30 per vehicle that’s good for both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
Black Bears in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
The black bears of the Sierra Nevada mountains cause more property damage than a danger to humans. Using their sense of smell and strength, vehicles can not keep a bear out who wants a candy bar.
Note: Grizzly Bears do not live the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The Park Rangers recommend taking the following steps to prevent property damage.
- Don’t leave food or scented items in vehicles.
- Store all food or items with a scent, including toiletries, in provided bear-proof storage lockers.
- Lodge guests must bring all items indoors overnight.
- Keep a clean camp.
- Deposit all garbage in bear-proof trashcans or dumpsters.
- If you encounter a black bear, make loud noises to scare them away.
I recommend the following books and maps for further research.
Know Before You Go
- Make lodging and camping reservations as early as possible.
- Gas isn’t available in the Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park.
- Take care when driving the steep and winding park roads.
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