Clinton and I have had the pleasure of visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park multiple times in the past, each time has left us in awe. The serenity and beauty of the giant sequoias, and the strength and magnificence of kings canyon are beyond words. This trip was for work, and I was very fortunate we stayed at the John Muir Lodge one night! I highly recommend the lodge – but be aware that there is no AC, no TV, and it is rather ‘rustic’. For me, it was perfect! It was nice and cool, even during the middle of July, so I left the windows open at night. It was incredibly dark and quiet. Sitting on the rocking chairs outside until after the sun set was a nice feature of the location of the lodge. I was able to see wildlife, deer mostly, multiple times during our short stay. While visiting the park, we stayed in Three Rivers. It is a cute town with a few places to eat – we recommend the Ol’ Buckaroo (we went here multiple times, they have great specials that change daily) and Gateway (beautiful creek side views of golden California)! It is also very close to the entrance of the park.
The park is actually a combination of both Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Joined officially by Congress in 1943, both Sequoia and Kings Canyon were founded separately by different acts. The land set aside to protect the sequoia trees became Sequoia National Park in September, 1890, while Grant Grove National Park was established. President Roosevelt abolished this designation and renamed it Kings Canyon National Park. When talking to the Rangers, they didn’t seem to be too concerned about their fellow employees and who was working at “Kings Canyon” or “Sequioa”, though it was fun to see that where they were located in the district was more a point of pride! Lodgepool, Foothills, Cedar Grove…all different areas. Who really knew? 🙂
The first visitor center, Foothills, is a good first stop for general questions once you make it through the entrance station. There is a fee to visit the park, or you can purchase your National Park pass. We always get a yearly pass – it helps the parks in more ways than you think! Generals Highway is a gorgeous drive to get you out to your first iconic spot – the General Sherman tree. It is really a magnificent tree. I had thought there would be more evidence of the many fires that went through the area but was happy to see that there was not as much damage as anticipated. In fact, you could not see any residual effects of fire – at least at this location. The tree is heavily visited so, much like the General Grant tree up further north, be prepared for lots of people taking pictures! There is a hike to both locations – and yes, I did write both. These two trees are NOT next to each other! In fact, they are a long drive apart. Don’t plan on visiting just these two famous trees. There is the Big Stump Grove and the Lodgepool Visitor Center between the two trees that warrant at least a quick stopover. Various overlooks are worth the view as well.
After leaving General Grant, further up the road you will enter Kings Canyon National Park. Cedar Grove Visitor Center is a great introduction to the park. Down at the ‘end of the road’ is a small ranger station, but lots of trails. If you plan to camp, plan ahead. It may look like there are plenty of places to camp, but most of the park is actually heavily protected. Dispersed camping is not allowed – only designated camping. Follow the camping rules and make sure to pay attention to the bear safety signs! The area is frequented by black bears, and they are no joke. Don’t be THAT person! It is unsafe for you and the bear.
Visiting Sequoia/Kings Canyon is always a treasure, but it is especially nice after reading about so many devastating things that have happened in California. Wildfires are frequent and have led to multiple preventative measures. I find it heartening that so many also treasure these wonderful trees and took these measures to prevent them from burning. While many trees did suffer, the destruction could have definitely been worse. Thanks to the many countless hours the fire teams provided, we can still visit these wonderful parks today! There were multiple opportunities to learn about the various plants and animals of the park. Even if you are not able to walk along a trail, the drive alone through the park is amazing. Take your time – it is windy and hard to take your eyes off the beauty!
Speaking of trails, there were many of them. Roaring River Falls in Kings Canyon is definitely worth the trip. If you do want more of a hiking experience, look up the roads end trails. The hikes to the trees are about a mile round trip and are downhill to begin with, but there are plenty of benches along the way. Take your time and enjoy the beauty of all the OTHER wonderful sequoia’s that will surround you on the trail. General Grant and Sherman just happen to be some of the largest bases but there are hundreds of other trees just as majestic.
Don’t visit California without trying to squeeze in a trip to Sequia & Kings Canyon National Park! It is worth your time!