Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Home to four of the five largest sequoias in the world
HIGHLIGHTS: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks offer more than 850 miles of maintained wilderness trails and more than 723,000 acres of officially designated wilderness. Four of the five largest sequoias in the world grow in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park and Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. Save the Redwoods League has protected more than 2,200 acres in these parks.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, backpacking, ranger-led programs, cave tours, swimming, fishing, picnicking, bird watching, and plant studying. In the summer, two free shuttle buses take visitors to the most popular sights.
VISITOR CENTER: The Grant Grove visitor center is on Highway 180 south of the town of Cedar Grove. The Lodgepole Visitor Center, which hosts visitors to Giant Forest, is to the south on Highway 198. Both can be reached from the west side of the park on Highway 99.
CAMPGROUNDS: Sequoia and Kings Canyon have 14 campgrounds with a total of 800 sites. All but two of these campgrounds are on a first-come, first-served basis. Lodgepole and Dorst Creek take reservations for the summer. For more information call (877) 444-6777 or see the parks' campgrounds page.
TRAILS: Though it's far from wilderness, a 2-mile-long paved trail that begins at the General Sherman Tree provides an excellent introduction to the sequoias of Giant Forest. In addition to Sherman (see below) it takes you past Chief Sequoyah, the General Lee, McKinley, and many other massive trees. From the Lodgepole Visitor Center, go about two miles south on the Generals Highway to the trailhead.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The General Sherman Tree is 275 feet tall and has a circumference of 103 feet. In terms of volume (52,508 cubic feet), it's the largest tree in the world. It's old, too: between 1,800 and 2,700 years.
HIDDEN GEM: Go underground to explore the polished marble, stalactites and curtains of Crystal Cave. The guided tour involves a somewhat strenuous 1.5 mile hike. Tickets are available at the Lodgepole Visitor Center. The cave itself is off the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park, between the Ash Mountain entrance and Giant Forest.
EAT: Savannah Boiano, Education Director at the Sequoia Field Institute, says "Three Rivers locals totally appreciate the 'fine dining in a sandwich' at Sierra Subs."
Reimers Candies is the place to get an ice cream cone, especially on a hot summer day.
In the parks, Savannah suggests trying the dinner theater/ living history barbeque. It's a unique, family friendly dinner experience hosted by Wuksachi Lodge.
STOP: If you are flying into the area, you should take some time to linger among giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park.
Between the parks, Savannah recommends experiencing the excitement of an old-fashioned fire lookout. Buck Rock fire lookout is a popular off-the-beaten-path destination that will give insights into the role fire plays in systems such as the Sierra sequoia groves.
FAVORITE HIKE: In Kings Canyon National Park, Savannah's favorite sequoia hike is in the Redwood Mountain Grove. The drive to the trailhead is on an unpaved, yet sedan-friendly road. She says, "Descending to the trailhead on this road, the pace immediately brings me to a slower way of visiting an older, less visitor weary park. From the drive to the walk I feel as though I'm touring as done so by the hearty visitors of yesteryear." This moderately strenuous hike lets one photograph seasonal dogwoods, listen to woodpecker drumming, cross creeks via fallen sequoias and explore the largest intact grove of giant sequoias left in the world. In addition, for those wanting to overnight backpack in a sequoia grove, a simple permit will allow for a very memorable experience!
In Sequoia National Park, Savannah's favorite sequoia walk lies within the heart of John Muir's Giant Forest. Circle Meadow lies quietly beyond the shadow of the General Sherman tree. Along this easy meadow-side hike are sequoias with names like Bears Bathtub, the Pillars of Hercules and the Black Arch tree. At this point, one is beyond earshot of enthusiastic visitors and touring cars and yet close enough to reach there in reasonable time to do something else that's on your park bucket list.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Caves are one of earth's remaining frontiers! Of course, experiencing Crystal Cave can be life changing. Savannah says, "Touring the half mile cave route is at once thrilling, magical, and expanding. I think that it is great that a tour of a natural frontier is still possible for us." Adults can sign up for a Wild Cave Tour, where they will spend four to six hours inching their way along little-seen cave passages, stopping to observe the comings and goings of tiny troglobites or photographing unique marble cave features.
DON'T MISS: Spring in the Sierra foothills is gorgeous. Walking among wildflowers and spring birds is invigorating and inspiring. Savannah likes to take a camera and binoculars, pack a lunch and find any public land or nature preserve to explore, photograph and get rejuvenated. Areas such as Dry Creek Preserve and Balch Park, south of the Sequoia National Park, are very popular destinations for families. The Trail of 100 Giants is popular for big trees lovers. For water enthusiasts, Lake Kaweah offers spring kayaking. Watch out for bald eagles and great white pelicans. The powerful Kings River and Kaweah Rivers both have plenty of white water rafting and kayaking opportunities.
Tell us your favorite stops, hikes, places to eat, and more when visiting this park!
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