Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and about three and a half hours from Los Angeles, they cover a total of 1,353 square miles together. (The two are almost always grouped together, as they share entrances, fees and topography. In fact, if you follow the main road through Sequoia, it will lead directly to Kings Canyon.)
Although Sequoia and Kings Canyon are overshadowed by the fame of neighboring Yosemite National Park, there is something to be said about visiting a similar site with much fewer people. These two parks offer many opportunities for solitude, if that is what you are looking for, especially in early spring or after autumn.
Redwoods are among the largest trees on the Planet. It is difficult to understand their size until you stand directly under one of them, or try to wrap your arms around one of them, or after see yourself in a photo. These trees are giants.
Fortunately, in 1890, US President Benjamin Harrison recognized how special these trees are. Sequoia was the first national park to protect a living organism. A week after, what we now know as Kings Canyon was also designated a national park.
Today we can still enjoy this protected land and have the chance to explore everything it has to offer. From attractions to viewpoints to hikes, here are all the best things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
1. Visit General Sherman’s Tree
The General Sherman Tree is by far the most famous attraction in the parks and is a must-see.
More than 2,000 years old, General Sherman stands behind a protective fence and is the largest tree in the world by volume. The trunk is over 36 feet in diameter and keeps getting bigger every year!
Visitors must take a paved path from the parking lot to reach the famous tree. Although you can’t go directly underneath, you can still appreciate the size and grandeur of this famous redwood tree.
2. Go to the Giant Forest Museum
The Giant Forest Museum is a good place to visit that will surely make you appreciate these trees even more.
The historic building was built in 1928 and contains educational exhibits for all ages. Here you will learn all about the ecosystems that you will find at different heights in the parks. You will also learn about giant sequoias and coastal mammoths, which are closely related but not the same species.
Ask if they offer guided tours by forest rangers during your visit to get more in-depth knowledge about these parks.
3. Climb the Moro Rock
There are 350 arduous steps up a slope to the top of Moro Rock, a large granite dome visible from the entrance to Sequoia National Park. It’s not an easy climb, but the view is worth it!
Once at the top, you will be greeted by a 360-degree view of the park’s wilderness. He’s a humble face.
If you are afraid of heights, this can be a challenge for you. But there are handrails to the abyss, so it’s a safe trip. Please note that in winter and early spring, the parking lot or the ascent may be closed. Your best bet is to climb Moro Rock once the snow has melted for the year.
4. See the Tokopah Falls
Tokopah Falls is a fairly well-known waterfall in Sequoia National Park that rises to an impressive height of 1,200 meters. If you can visit in the spring, the water will rush and roar because of the melting snow. This is one of the best things to see in the park, with a picturesque viewpoint and an imposing peak behind the cool white waterfall.
The Tokopah Falls Trail is about six kilometers long and starts at the Lodgepole Campground. It is a fairly easy walk, with a gradual and generally gentle ascent along the river. This route features some of the best scenery in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, from pine trees to meadows to wildflowers, if your timing is right.
5. Driving the Generals highway
Generals Road is the main road in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It connects the two, so just follow the high-altitude road through Sequoia and into Kings Canyon. This is one of the most scenic rides in California, as you see the scenery and terrain change as you go up.
6. Visit the General Grants Tree
Kings Canyon also has a famous tree called General Grant, which is the second largest tree in the world. It is located in Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park and is one of several large redwoods in the area. A short paved loop leads to the base of the tree, which is surrounded by a wooden fence, just like General Sherman.
7. Browse the Congress route
This well-marked trail starts right next to the General Sherman Tree. The walk is about five kilometers long and winds through dense clusters of large orange redwoods. hikers will also have the opportunity to cross a tunnel cut into a fallen tree.
Although you should definitely stay on the trail, there are places that will take you up close with trees that seem almost as tall as the General Sherman Tree itself.
The way to Congress makes you realize how small we really are in this world. This is one of the most scenic trails in all of Southern California’s national parks and a must-see!
8. Watch the sunset at Beetle Rock
Beetle Rock is sometimes hard to find, but the sunsets are worth it! The granite dome offers a breathtaking view of the forest and the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This was easily one of the highlights of my visit.
To find it, take the paved walkway just south of the Giant Forest Museum parking lot. Walk a short distance through the trees and you will find a huge wide rock that is perfect for a sunset picnic.