Explore California’s Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks that encompass giant trees, deep canyons, crashing rivers, and towering mountains. These two neighboring parks in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains are administered as one park by the National Park Service. While Sequoia is famous for its giant groves of Sequoia trees that happen to be the largest on earth, Kings Canyon is known for some of the steepest canyons in North America created by the Kings River.
NEED TO KNOW
Even though the parks are open year round, during winters some areas may be closed due to snow. Also, the weather varies as you gain elevation in certain parts of the park. It is best to check the NPS website for current road closures and weather updates. The parks are home to black bears so stay cautious and don’t keep food unattended.
THE GENERALS HIGHWAY
The Generals Highway connects the Sequoia National Park, Giant Sequoia National Monument, and Kings Canyon National Park. The highway is a narrow, steep and winding road with multiple vantage points. So take your time on this road.
People come to Sequoia National Park for the giant sequoia trees and the Giant Forest is the place to find them. It is home to half of the Earth’s largest and longest living trees. The star attraction among the sequoias is The General Sherman Tree which stands 275 feet (83 m) tall and is over 36 feet (11 m) in diameter at the base. It is the world’s largest tree, measured by volume and it’s still growing. You need to walk a half a mile trail to get to the tree. These giant sequoia trees are a sight to behold and you can’t help but gawk at these beauties. You may find yourself becoming a tree hugger. From here you can hike the adjacent Congress Trail, a 2-mile loop that travels through dozens of sequoias that are also grand in size.
Moro Rock is a granite dome that you can see from afar and ranks as favorite among visitors. Even though the park garners public attention for its giant sequoia trees, this rock formation will lead you to sweeping views of the Great Western Divide. To get to the top of Moro Rock you have to conquer over 400 steps. The steps are carved alongside the rock following its natural crags and crevices. The hike was, in fact, easy as the handrails provide easy support while going up. Once you get there you are rewarded with the most astounding view. The skyline is marked by alpine valleys and glacier-carved peaks scraping the sky at over 13,000 feet. It has to be the most beautiful mountain view I have ever witnessed. It is jaw-dropping, to say the least.
This is one those bucket list things to do. Ever wanted to drive through a tree? Here’s your chance. It is an iconic picture to recreate as you drive under a giant hollow sequoia tree. Be prepared to have an audience behind you lined up waiting for their turn.
Grant Grove is located in Kings Canyon National Park and this grove has more giant sequoias grouped in a 90-acre area. Here you will find the General Grant Tree which is the second largest giant sequoia by trunk volume. Fun fact – President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation’s Christmas tree in 1926. Here you can also visit the historic Gamlin Cabin and the Fallen Monarch along a 1/3 of a mile trail.
KINGS CANYON SCENIC BYWAY
The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway provides 50 miles of unparalleled natural beauty. Every vista point will make you stop and get out fo the car. The road traverses from the top of the canyon to with great views to the floor of the canyon. It is one of the most scenic National Park drives. At every turn, we were going oh wow! At Junction Point, you get an amazing view down into Kings Canyon where you can see the King’s River flowing through the mountains.
As you go down the road, you find yourself getting closer to the river and before you know it, you are right beside it.
This 75-foot waterfall is just off the road and it is nearly impossible to stand close to it without getting wet. You can’t tell from the picture but the sound and sight of the waterfall totally justifies the name Grizzly.
ROARING RIVER FALLS
Roaring River is another waterfall easily accessible by a short 0.3-mile trail. This is a small waterfall that packs a lot of power.
I find great joy in finding waterfalls that don’t require much effort and you can just sit by and enjoy it.
When you get to Zumwalt Meadow it is the end of the scenic byway. Road’s End (no pun intended) is the last point accessible to vehicles on the King’s Canyon Scenic Byway. Beyond this point, it is a backcountry area which is even more beautiful. But Zumwalt Meadow is a great way to end your day at King’s Canyon with the river flowing and mountains in the backdrop. The meadow has a perfect setting here.