Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are appropriately called the “Land of Giants.” Not only are these parks home to the world’s largest trees, but also towering mountains, deep canyons, and vast caverns. This is a land of dramatic and extreme beauty.
Nearby Yosemite often overshadows these parks, but Sequoia and Kings Canyon are worth the drive up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
So here’s how to plan an epic trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks!
When To Go
The parks are open year-round, but June – August is when all areas of the parks, shuttle services, and accommodation are open and accessible. Outside of these months, services become more limited, and some parts of the parks become inaccessible due to weather.
In September – November, the Mineral King and Cedar Grove areas close, light snow is possible, it will be cold at night, there are fewer ranger programs, and many facilities reduce their hours and operations.
From December – March, you have a great chance of experiencing the beautiful snow-covered parks, but there’s no guarantee of snow. Tire chains are usually required during these months, the Sequoia shuttle service still runs between the Giant Forest Museum and the Wuksachi Lodge and Restaurant, but there’s no shuttle service in Kings Canyon.
Wildflowers and the alpine fields are the reasons to visit in Spring. Full shuttle services re-start in May, and many facilities and accommodations will begin to re-open with limited hours in April. Temperatures will still be chilly, especially at night, so have plenty of layers.
What To Do
Hikes: Panoramic Point to Park Ridge Fire Lookout (moderate); Congress Trail, which includes General Sherman (easy); Moro Rock (moderate); General Grant Tree Trail, which includes the Fallen Monarch (moderate); Rowell Meadow (moderate); Mitchell Peak (difficult, but worth it); Seville Lake (moderate – difficult); Redwood Canyon (moderate).
Scenic Drives: Drive through the Tunnel Log, Panoramic Point Road (RVs and trailers aren’t allowed on this road), Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, Majestic Mountain Loop, which is a three-day driving itinerary of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Yosemite National Park.
Know Before You Go
These side-by-side parks have an elevation range of 1,370 – 14,494 feet, so they’re more challenging to reach than many other national parks, and you’ll need to factor in how the higher elevation will affect your breathing and pace during your trip.
Both parks are only accessible from the West (no roads into the parks from the East).
This is bear country, so have bear spray on hand at all times, and make sure all food is stored correctly in your backpack, car, and lodging.
Because of the high elevation, you’ll want socks, long pants, and a jacket for the mornings and evenings, even in the summer. You’re also closer to the sun than you’re probably used to, so sunscreen is a must year-round.
There are restaurants in several of the parks’ lodges, but I recommend packing-out your lunch so that your schedule isn’t constrained by having to find a place to eat. Here’s a list of dining options in the parks. Many of these places are only open seasonally and are subject to closures and hourly changes. So always check ahead of time if an eating place is open or requires a reservation.
Where To Stay
As with all U.S. National Parks, I highly recommend staying inside the park. This will save you driving time, lets you start your day earlier and end later, and often times the in-park lodging has exclusive benefits or access to the park.
I stayed at Sequoia High Sierra Camp. The hike-in glamping site is the perfect blend of luxury and rustic living. Your spacious canvas tent is lit by gas lamps and furnished with plush beds and antique furniture not too far from the bathhouse. You’ll enjoy a five-course meal every evening from the best sunset spot in the park.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have a variety of accommodation options – tent sites, RV parks, lodges, motels, log cabins. And you usually need to book well in advance to secure lodging inside the park.
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Is there anything you’d add to this guide for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks? If so, let me know in the comments!
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This post is not a sponsored post, and, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are entirely my own. Some of these links are affiliate links, and, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission.