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Top Things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Kings Canyon. Where to see Redwoods in California with kids.
See California’s Giant Sequoias in Kings Canyon along with its meadows. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

As the trees and land recover from the 2021 KNP wildfire, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are open for visitors. See the epic Sequoia trees in both parks while enjoying the outdoor activities that make national parks special, like hiking, camping and seeing wildlife. Here’s the top things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. 

At a Glance

Year Established: 1890 for Sequoia 1940 for Kings Canyon
Located: Southern California
Size: over 850,000 acres combined
Top Features: Old Growth Redwoods 

 

Top Things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks 

  • Stop by a Visitor Center
  • See the Redwoods
  • Take a Hike 
  • Attend a Ranger Program
  • Take a Horseback Ride
  • Earn a Junior Ranger Badge
  • Have a Picnic
  • Spend the Night in the Park 
  • What are Redwoods?

Which to visit Sequoia or Kings Canyon

Sequoia and Kings Canyon are adjoining national parks in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Southern California. Since Sequoia is closer to Southern California, it’s the more popular of the pair though Kings Canyon offers a quieter area to explore the redwoods. 

The sequoias, a type of redwood tree, are the kings of the forest since they are some of the largest trees in the world. In fact five of the ten largest trees in the world by volume are in Sequoia National Park. 

Reigning in both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, find enormous trees with trunks bigger than a bedroom and canopies that touch the clouds in each park. In Sequoia, head to the Giant Forest for the General Sherman tree. To see the General Grant tree, head to Kings Canyon’s Grant Grove. 

There are no roads that bisect the parks from east to west. Both national parks are developed on the western side only, Sequoia National Park is also home to Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in California. 

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Where to see Redwoods in California with kids.
Load up the kids explore the less-visited national park with Redwoods. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Which to visit Sequoia or Kings Canyon

Sequoia and Kings Canyon are adjoining national parks in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Southern California. Since Sequoia is closer to Southern California, it’s the more popular of the pair though Kings Canyon offers a quieter area to explore the redwoods. 

The sequoias, a type of redwood tree, are the kings of the forest since they are some of the largest trees in the world. In fact five of the ten largest trees in the world by volume are in Sequoia National Park. 

Reigning in both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, find enormous trees with trunks bigger than a bedroom and canopies that touch the clouds in each park. In Sequoia, head to the Giant Forest for the General Sherman tree. To see the General Grant tree, head to Kings Canyon’s Grant Grove. 

There are no roads that bisect the parks from east to west. Both national parks are developed on the western side only, Sequoia National Park is also home to Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in California. 

Where are the Redwoods in the U.S. 

California boasts two of the three types of redwoods.

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.

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.

Types of Redwoods

  • The Giant Sequoias are located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in Central California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. They are bulkier with thicker trunks yet not as tall at the coastal redwoods of Redwood National and State Parks.
  • The Coastal Redwoods are the tallest trees with heights over 370 feet grown from a seed the size of a tomato seed.
  • The Dawn Redwoods were thought to be extinct, yet discovered in 1944 in Central China.

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Where to see Redwoods in California with kids.
Nestled in a grove of tree, a timber cabin offers the perfect escape. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

The majority of the parks are wilderness and not developed. So visitors won’t find roads or developed camp sites in the wilderness areas. Here are the developed areas of the parks.  

Foothills area is located along Highway 198 outside of Three Rivers at Sequoia National Park’s Ash Mountain Entrance.

Giant Forest and Lodgepole area is near Kaweah River and offers the Wuksachi Lodge and the Giant Forest (with the largest trees) in Sequoia National Park. It is located along General Highway the main road that connects both parks.

Grant Grove area is located in Kings Canyon National Park at the Big Stump entrance of the park. Find the Kings Canyon Visitor Center and the General Grant grove. 

Cedar Grove area is in Kings Canyon National Park and visitors have to drive through Sequoia National Forest to reach this area along Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. 

Mineral King area is in Sequoia National Park after entering the Lookout Point entrance. This area is not suitable for RVs and travel trailers. 

Visitor Center in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Foothills Visitor Center in Sequoia

Stop by for maps and brochures along with an interpretive area. There are ranger programs departing from the Foothills Visitor Center. 

Located inside of the Ash Mountain Entrance at 47050 Generals Highway. It is open year-round and daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia

Learn about the giant trees in a historic market and why they can grow so large. 

Located at mile 16 on Generals Highway. Open year-round from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday through Monday and closed Tuesday to Thursday. 

Kings Canyon Visitor Center 

In the Kings Canyon National Park, learn about the three regions of the park, its Sequoia grove, Kings Canyon and the High Sierra. There’s also a 15-minute interpretive movie. 

Located at 83918 Highway 180. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Cedar Grove Visitor Center in Kings Canyon 

Find this visitor center next to the South Fork of the Kings River with an interpretive center discussing the cultural history of the area.

Located on Northside Drive. Open daily from the end of May until mid-September from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed seasonally. 

Mineral King Ranger Station in Sequoia

Grab food storage containers and wilderness permits along with maps and brochures. 

Located at Mile 24 on Mineral King Road. Open daily from the end of May until  the end of September from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed seasonally.

Lodgepole Visitor Center in Sequoia

Closed for renovations. 

There are 14 wilderness ranger stations in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon wilderness.

Horseback Riding. Where to see Redwoods in California with kids.
Kings Canyon National Park offers horseback riding for kids over 7. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Hiking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon 

Find hiking across both parks from easy interpretive trails to strenuous backcountry overnight trails. The famed Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail both traverse Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. 

  • General Sherman Tree Trail—A .5-mile trail (.72-km) to one of the most famous trees in the park. Busy trail. 
  • The Big Tree Trail—A.75-mile (1 km) loop trail around the Round Meadow with interpretive signs.
  • Moro Rock—Climb 300 stairs for view of Great Western Divide
  • Tokapah Falls—A 1.7-mile one-way trail to the 1,200-feet (365 m) falls and the Kaweah River. Early summer is the best for waterfall viewing. 
  • General Grant Tree Trail—A .3-mile paved trail to see one for the more famous trees in the park. Busy trail.
  • North Grove Loop—A 1.5-mile (2.4 km) trail through a mixed forest.
  • Zumalt Meadow—A .8-mile (1.3 km) trail pass King River.
  • Roaring River Falls—Short walk to waterfall. 

Note: Pets are not allowed on hiking trails in Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park for your safety and theirs. 

Guided Horseback Riding

Take the kids on a guided horseback ride in Kings Canyon National Park. Ride through the forest of the Giant Sequoias on a one or two-hour ride. 

Must be 7-years-old and fit in a saddle. Helmets provided though close-toe shoes and long pants recommended. Weigh restrictions are also enforced. 

Grant Grove Stables and Cedar Grove Stables both offer guided horseback riding from early June until mid October. 

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.

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.

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Attend a Ranger Program to learn more about the Giant Sequoias. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Junior Ranger Badges in 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.

Head to a visitor center to pick up a Junior Ranger booklet. Or you can print your booklet at home.

Crystal Cave Tours

Note: Crystal Cave is closed for 2022 due to KNP fire. 

Located in Sequoia National Park, take a guided tour of a marble cave. Tours cover .5-miles of the the cave and last 50 minutes. A steep .5-mile walk is required to and from the cave. Tours offered from Spring until Fall and reservations are required a couple of months in advance. 

Cave temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10C) so pack a layer for the tour. . For more information and to reserve tickets, head to its website.

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Junior Ranger Badge. Where to see Redwoods in California with kids.
Earn a Junior Ranger badge during your stay in Kings Canyon National Park. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The People of the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Many tribal people used the Sierra Nevada Mountains, particularly in the warmer parts of the year. The Mono, Yokuts, Tübatulabal, Paiute and the Western Shoshone all used the land of Sequoia and Kings Canyon. 

Walter Fry came to the Sierra Nevada mountains as a logger and counted the rings of one of the trees he felled. From that point forward, he championed the creation of Sequoia National Park and work for the parks in the early years. 

Captain Charles Young was a military officer station at Sequoia and led the Buffalo Soldiers who patrolled the park. Young initiated the program to buy-out private land owners near Sequoia in an effort to enlarge the area of protect. 

Susan Thew was originally from Ohio though moved to California to escape the winters of the Midwest. Settling in the area, she spent several summer photographing the rugged and remote landscape. Her photos went on to help expand Sequoia National Park in the 1920s, after its creation in 1890. 

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
  • Badger
  • Bobcat
  • California Mule Deer
  • Coyote
  • Stellar’s Jay
  • Western Bluebirds 
  • California quail

Remember to give animals 25-feet for your protection and theirs and 75-feet for bears and mountain lions.

Black Bears in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Be Bear Aware

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. 

Tips from Park Rangers: 

  • 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 guest 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.

Note: Grizzly Bears do not live the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

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Where to Picnic in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park 

  • Big Stump Picnic Area
  • Columbine Picnic Area
  • Wolverton Picnic Area
  • Pinewood Picnic Area
  • Halstead Meadow Picnic Area
  • Lodgepole Picnic Area
  • Crescent Meadow Picnic Area
  • Hospital Rock Picnic Area 
  • Foothills Picnic Area
  • Mineral King Picnic Area

Where to Eat in Sequoia and Kings Canyon 

The Peaks Restaurant in Wuksachi Lodge sells breakfast, lunch and dinner year-round.

Grant Grove Restaurant and Courtyard serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Lodgepole Deli, Market and Snack Bar is open seasonally from mid-April through October. 

Cedar Grove Snack Bar serves breakfast, lunch and dinner from late May through October. 

Where to Stay in Kings Canyon National Park

Lodges

Wuksachi Lodge offers 102 rooms and The Peaks Restaurant, located close to Lodgepole Village. 

John Muir Lodge features 36 rooms and a restaurant in the Grant Grove Village. It’s a timber and stone modern lodge with comfortable rooms and named after the naturalist John Muir who tirelessly worked to preserve and protect the Sierras.

The Grant Grove Village is the first village when entering Kings Canyon National Park from Fresno along CA Highway 180. Along with a lodge and cabins, there is a small market selling basics plus beer and wine, a restaurant, gift store, a post office and Kings Canyon Visitor Center along with camping.

Cedar Grove Lodge offers 21 rooms along with a snack bar. It’s open from Spring until Fall. 

Cedar Grove Village is 35 miles west into the park after driving through the Sequoia National Forest along CA Highway 180. Find The Cedar Grove Lodge in the heart of a glaciated canyon along with a market, gift store, showers and self-serve laundry along with a campground.

Cabins

Grant Grove Cabins are timber and canvas cabins with electricity and heating along with a bathhouse close-by. Also find tent cabins in the area without electricity and heating. All cabins feature traditional beds with linens with picnic tables outside. 

Camping. Where to see Redwoods in California with kids.
A Grant Gove Tent Cabin provides more protection from the elements than a tent and kids love them. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Where to Camp in Sequoia and Kings Canyon

With 14 campgrounds across the parks, visitors find lots of camping options. Though reservations are needed as the developed camp sites go quickly and fill up. Reservations open 30 days before arrival date. 

Lodgepole Area Campgrounds in Sequoia

Sequoia National Par offers a couple campgrounds across the park. Sites include a metal food storage box, a picnic table and a fire ring with grill.

Lodgepole Campground
  • Open from Late May until end of November
  • Reservations recommended
  • 214 sites without hook-ups
  • Potable water and flush toilets (seasonal)
  • Hot showers (seasonal)
  • Dump station (seasonal)
Dorst Creek Campground

NOTE: Closed for 2022 season due to fire

  • Open from mid-June until Labor Day.
  • Reservations recommended
  • 222 sites without hook-ups
  • Potable water and flush toilets (seasonal)

Grant Grove Area Campgrounds in Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon offers several campgrounds across the park. Sites include a metal food storage box, a picnic table and a fire ring with grill. 

Azalea Campground
  • Year-round
  • Reservations recommended
  • 110 sites without hook-ups. Only 20 sites open year-round.
  • Potable water and flush toilets
Crystal Springs Campground
  • Open from Late May until mid-September
  • Reservations recommended
  • 50 sites without hook-ups.
  • Potable water and flush toilets (seasonal)
Sunset Campground
  • Open from Late May until Labor Day
  • Reservations recommended
  • 158 sites without hook-ups.
  • Potable water and flush toilets

Cedar Grove Area Campgrounds

Canyon View Campground 
  • Open from mid-June until late September
  • Reservations recommended
  • 16 sites for groups without hook-ups. No Rvs. 
  • Potable water and flush toilets
Sentinel Campground
  • Open from late April to  mid-November
  • Reservations recommended
  • 82 sites without hook-ups.
  • Potable water and flush toilets (seasonal)
  • Hot showers (seasonal)
Sheep Creek Campground
  • Open from Late May until early September
  • Reservations recommended
  • 111 sites without hook-ups.
  • Potable water and flush toilets (seasonal)
  • Hot showers (seasonal)
Moraine Campground
  • Open from Late May until early September
  • Reservations recommended
  • 121 sites without hook-ups.
  • Potable water and flush toilets (seasonal)
  • Hot showers (seasonal)


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Gateway Towns to Sequoia and Kings Canyon 

Fresno

Located in San Joaquin Valley along along Highway 99 offers the Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) and Amtrak station. Find a host of lodging, dining and shopping for your trip. Fresno is  53 miles west of Kings Canyon National Park along Highway 180. 

Visalia

Located south of Fresno and located along Highway 198, Visilia is the closest gateway town to Sequoia National Park. It’s about 35 miles from the Foothills Visitor Center in Sequoia. Find lodging, dining along with shopping in Visalia. 

History of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia National Park is the second national park when it was established in 1890, after Yellowstone. General Grant National Park was also established in 1890 and would be enlarged over the years. It was renamed Kings Canyon National Park in 1940. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park was designated at UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1976.

The General Sherman tree is the largest tree on Earth by volume. Located in the Giant Forest, it is with five of the 10 largest trees found on earth. 

Weather in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Summer see highs in the 70s F and lows in 40s F. Rain is rare and a welcome break to keep down the dust. September rolls in and the nightly temperatures are the first to fall. The first light snows happen at the higher elevations in late October though temperatures top out in the 50s F during the day, depending on elevation.

In November temperatures average with highs 40s F and overnight lows are 20s F. Winter is snowy in the mountains and roads can be hard to navigate without chains or snow tires. This is the quietest time of the year. Though the lower elevations see its first wildflowers in January. Spring weather climbs out of the valley and up to the mountains from March with highs in the 40s F until summer brings in mid-June. Use caution when near rivers and streams with swift moving water from snow melt run-off. 

Where’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Located in Sierra Nevada mountains, Sequoia and Kings Canyon are adjoining national parks and there’s several national forests in the area as well. There are five main areas of both parks: Foothills, Giant Forest and Lodgepole, Grant Grove, Cedar Grove and Mineral King. Mineral King and Cedar Grove are open from Spring until Fall and the rest are open year-round.  

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 $35 per vehicle that’s good for both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. 

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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.

See California's redwood trees at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Adjoining parks, each offer scenic drives, hiking, camping along with ranger programs and more. Get all the details you need to plan a trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, like where to find the tall trees, where to find waterfalls and where to stay for your getaway in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Best National Parks for Redwoods | National Parks in California | Where to find Redwood Trees in California | National Parks close to LA | Top destinations in California #NationalParks #California

See California's redwood trees at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Adjoining parks, each offer scenic drives, hiking, camping along with ranger programs and more. Get all the details you need to plan a trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, like where to find the tall trees, where to find waterfalls and where to stay for your getaway in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Best National Parks for Redwoods | National Parks in California | Where to find Redwood Trees in California | National Parks close to LA | Top destinations in California #NationalParks #California

 

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a 95-year-old house. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.

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