Kings Canyon National Park; tall trees, deep canyons, majestic Sierra peaks!

Our Scotty teardrop trailer at an overlook, with Kings Canyon and the High Sierra in the background.

 

The General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon Park is one of the largest trees in the world (nearby General Sherman in Sequoia Park is largest).

Kings Canyon features huge monoliths like this in side canyon on the approach highway.
Roaring River Falls is just a short hike off the highway, deep in the Kings River Canyon.
Kings Canyon classic “U” shape is result of glacial carving millions of years ago!

Huge trees, towering Sierra peaks, deep canyons and miles of wilderness are hallmarks of Kings Canyon National Park.  Entering the park you will see distant views of Kings River Canyon and Sierra peaks nearing 14,000 feet (nearby Mt. Whitney, at 14,500 feet, is a bit out of view). Kings Canyon National Park is a sister park to Sequoia National Park; they share common borders and one entry fee gets you into both majestic parks (with a Federal Senior pass, both are free!).

The entry into Kings Canyon Park is through the western piece of the park, and soon you experience the General Grant Grove of Sequoias, amazing in the number of huge trees in a confined, walkable setting (the grove is very handicapped-accessible). Nearby Kings Canyon Visitor Center and Grant Grove Village offer sequoia and historic perspective; lodging and several campgrounds are available here.

Continuing towards the canyon, stunning Sierra views are offered at every turn. You traverse through Sequoia National Forest, past the scenic Hume Lake turnoff, privately owned Kings Canyon Lodge, a rustic hotel and Boyden Cave as one tours along the frothing South Fork of the Kings River.

Reentering Kings Canyon Park, stop at the Cedar Grove Visitor Center and Village for unique canyon insights. Take a break at Roaring River Falls viewpoint; a short uphill hike takes you to a picturesque waterfall in a granite canyon.  For those into hiking and real exploration, the Palisade Crest area in Kings Canyon and the Mt. Whitney area in Sequoia each host six peaks above 14,000 feet, including Mt. Whitney, highest in the lower 48 states!

Continue on to Zumwalt Meadow and Roads End, where you will see a number of trailheads and climbers preparing to scale the walls of varied monoliths. Campers will find a host of scenic campgrounds in the Kings Canyon itself, and lodges offer plenty of indoor respites for the weary traveler. Neighbor Sequoia Park also offers additional campgrounds and lodging options; go to www.nps.gov/seki.

While driving, keep your eyes open for deer, skunks, coyotes and, occasionally, black bears! While visiting Kings Canyon, plan a day-trip or longer to Sequoia National Park, it’s neighbor to the southeast. The General Sherman Grove, the Tunnel Tree and other points of interest are not to be missed. For a great lunch or dining stop, try the Grant Grove Lodge and Wuksachi Lodge (with a wonderful dining room and quaint bar).  During summers, Cedar Grove and Lodgepole also offer dining options.

Plan a weekend trip or longer to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks; you will forever want to return!

How to get there: From Stockton, the park is 205 miles and about 4 hours; we took Hwy. 99 to Fresno, then east on Hwy. 180 to the park entrance.  

When to go: Just about any time of the year, though biggest crowds hit in summer when school is out.  The park’s main attractions are located around 6,700 feet, though the Kings Canyon is lower and warmer.  Temperatures stay pretty cool, even during most summer days, but get nippy at night (often deep snows cover the landscape in winter).  Many of the campground options are in Kings Canyon itself, considerably lower in elevation and a bit warmer.

What to see while there:  Stop first at one of several visitor centers for displays that offer the historic insights on this stunning landscape.  And, hikers will regret not hiking General Grant Trail; the park offers scores of other trails along the Kings River, through the Sequoias and into the High Sierra backcountry. 

What’s nearby: Fresno and Visalia are not far off your route; Visalia has a cute and walkable historic downtown worth touring.  Of course, the park shares a common border with Sequoia Park, so plan to visit both!

What to take: Good walking shoes or boots, sunscreen and sunshade hat, and water bottles or a canteen if you plan to hike the park’s spectacular trails.  Camera and binoculars, too! 

Where to stay (including camping): Fresno and Visalia offer lodging and dining options outside the park.  Grant Grove Village and Stony Creek Village (in adjoining Sequoia National Forest) offer lodging options; both, as well as Wuksachi Lodge, Cedar Grove and Lodgepole also offer dining options.  Camping is offered at a number of sites within the park around Grant Grove Village; we liked the campgrounds along the Kings River.

For more info: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, PO Box 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271-9700; www.nps.gov/seki; or phone  559.565.3341 for insights into the park as well as hiking and camping. Camping can be booked through www.recreation.gov, or by calling 877.444.6777.

For additional travel destination inspiration, see my blog: http://blogs.eSanJoaquin.com/Valley travel; or contact me, tviall@msn.com.  Next week we continue our tour of California’s national parks with a feature on Redwoods National Park; until then, happy travels in the west!

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