The beauty and awe of experiencing Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is something that is truly something that should be on everyones bucket list of experiences. From the largest tree in the world to the breathtaking mountain vista views there is really no other place like it on earth.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are adjoined in the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Known famously for housing the worlds largest tree and the National Christmas Tree, this natural region is 84% accessible only by foot, offering some of the United State's most breathtaking views and natural scenery. Generals, Explorers, Presidents, Poets, as well as many others throughout history have spent time walking, exploring, and portraying these vast "lands of giants."
When to visit
This can be a tricky component when planning your trip here because in the summer the popular spots in the park can get quite crowded and in the winter access is highly dependent on snow conditions. We liked going in the fall of the year due to the lack of crowds, but it can be risky because snow can close roads there as early as September. We recommend staying up to date on current weather conditions before your trip to get an idea of what to expect.
How to get There
Driving is the best option for getting the most out of your trip to Sequoia. Access to the area is provided via CA 180 and CA 198, both very scenic routes that we would recommend making a loop on your trip taking one of them in and the other out.
If you are driving be prepared to drive on mountainous roads and be sure to check weather conditions prior to hopping on the road. Once you reach the entrances to the park you will pay a fee. The quantity will depend on the size of your party. Check out the National Parks site for specific fee information.
Fresno Yosemite and Visalia airports are within approximation of an hour of the parks. These would be your closest airport options. However, many larger airports, including international airports are within a few hours and within reach of a visit to the park.
There are a few bus options as well. Greyhound, for example, makes stops in both Visalia and Fresno where you can connect with the Sequoia Shuttles.
The nearest Amtraks are located in Fresno and Hanford. You can connect with the Sequoia at both of these.
We personally chose to visit Sequoia National Park because we were itching to see the worlds largest trees as well as the sweeping views that surround the area. Many think of California as sunny beaches, pacific coast views and dessert. But, the Sequoia's are far from dessert landscape and oceanic views. Pictures simply don't do is justice. When exploring, you feel like you are walking through an enchanted forrest with every step! There is also a ton to do adventure and see aside from the magnificent giants surrounding you. Once inside Sequoia National Park you can:
What to do
The national park is packed with things to do mostly revolving around outdoor activities like hiking. ......
1) Hike to Morro Rock and see the Western Continental Divide from 6,750 ft
This is one of the most surprising and rewarding hikes that we went on. It is a fairly short and easy hike with the trailhead lying right off of the main road (CA 198). The main trail is almost all on granite rock with steps for the steep parts and handrails where needed. The views are worth every step.
2) Say hello to some furry friends (from a safe distance)
Black bears are prominent wildlife to see within the park. If you're lucky enough to spot one, or a family of these beautiful creatures keep your wits and be cautious and smart while considering yourself lucky to have had the opportunity. The park does a great job of keeping these animals, and many others, safe and living in their natural habitats while embracing the ever flowing traffic of people coming in and out throughout the year. You can help keep the animals, who call this landscape their home, safe by checking out a few safety tips before you travel.
3) View the worlds largest tree
The General Sherman sequoia tree is the largest tree (measured in volume) in the world. This impressive towering timber is worth the beautiful walk to see it. It will leave you speechless!
4) Sing carols around the National Christmas Tree
In 1924, after a little girl "ooh'ed" and "ahh'd" over what a perfect Christmas Tree it would be, a man named RJ Senior went through many efforts, and in 1926 with the permission of President Coolidge designated this wonder as The National Christmas Tree. While you can't get close enough to touch it, you can glance up as far as your eyes will allow to gleam at it's heigh and width. Trust us, this will be enough to leave you breathless and excited!
5) Camp under some of the most countries most natural scenery - don't forget to star gaze!
Camping is, in our opinion, the way to go when you visit Sequoia. If you plan it well enough you can actually sleep underneath one of the giants of the land while star gazing at some of the most spectacular sky views (in our opinion). You will need to plan ahead when looking into camping in the park. Some campgrounds close as early in the year as September. You will want to also look into reserving a spot, depending on the year because of high traffic and seasonal popularity.
6) Drive through the middle of a Sequoia Tree trunk
Located near Crescent Meadows is a sign that will direct you to what is known as the Tree Tunnel. Here you can literally drive your car through the center of a massive Sequoia Tree. There was a tunnel that was the size of the stump that you could drive through. However, this tree was reported damaged during one of the recent snow storms so it appears you can't access that one but you can still access the tunnel log.
7) Explore the Inside of Caves
Sequoia and Kings Canyon is filled with Caves throughout the park that you can adventure through and explore. You will want to plan ahead so you can decide which caves will be in your location and if reservations need to be made.
8 ) Hike!
84% of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is accessible ONLY by foot! This means views, hiking trails, adventure!
9 ) Stop and appreciate the Trees
Be sure to actually stop and appreciate some of Gods creation. Laugh a little while you try and wrap your arms around the trunk of the tree, glance up and see if you can actually spot the tip top. Take a moment to appreciate the enormity of these trees and the vastness of this natural landscape which is so hard to find in todays age. Don't let it pass you by!
10 ) Participate in a free Ranger Program
We did not participate in this opportunity but for families with kids this could be a great opportunity for the youngsters to learn something and even get out and explore a bit! The National Parks offer great ranger programs that teach important tips and tricks for wilderness safety.
A great tool that helped us with planning our trip was the National Park page. It is constantly being updated with conditions and alerts as well as useful information.
Where to Lodge
While lodging is somewhat limited within the park, it DOES exist. There are a few year-round lodges such as Wuksachi lodge and John Muir lodge as well as seasonal lodging such as Cedar Grove Lodge. Our favorite choice that we highly recommend, of course depending on the time of year which you are visiting, would be camping. There is truly no other camping experience quite as wonderful as sleeping under the majesty of the Sequoias. However, if you aren't too fond of cold nights and the season of year in which you are visiting doesn't allow the camping option, you will want to check out one of the lodging recommendations. These fill up fairly quick so make sure you check in advance. There are also hotel options outside of the park that you can check out as well. The only negative with this is driving back into the park to explore can be backed up due to the mountainous, two lane roads so you will need to plan accordingly.
WINE & DINE
Surprisingly, Sequoia and Kings Canyon offer quite a few dining options. Many are inside the lodges, however there are other options to choose from. When planning where to eat make sure you check out a park map. Locations can be pretty spaced out and may not be in an area that is convenient for your adventure. There are also dining options outside of the park. If you are camping or planning to picnic inside the park there are quite a few market options where you can pick up supplies and picnic items. One VERY important thing to remember when planning your picnic or camping experiences within the park is that bears are prevalent to this region. Make sure if you are outside you use the bear boxes and proper trash disposals to keep both you and your family/friends, as well as the bears safe!
We hope you find this information helpful. We would love to answer any questions you may have if you are planning to travel to this gorgeous, God created natural landscape. Enjoy your travels!
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*All photos used in this post are the sole content of BestCaptured*
We are the Bests! Jo and Mo. Founders of BestCapturedTravel.
We have been immensely blessed with many opportunities to see various parts of the world. We live an average, working life in Cambridge, MA but through our many opportunities have developed a passion to see the world. Our goal is to share with other desiring travelers different tips and experiences from around the world as we begin to check them off our bucket list. If anything, we hope to provide a little sense of motivation and adventure to those wishing to embark on their own journey!
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