Kings Canyon is located in the California Sierra Nevada mountains. It is divided into two sections. The first is the General Grant Grove, home to the second largest Giant Sequoia. 267 feet tall, the General Grant is only dwarfed by the 274 foot General Sherman that lives in Sequoia National Park. The majority of the park is the site of three river forks, two that belong to the King’s River and Canyon that gives the park its name, the other to the San Joaquin river.
The rivers can be treacherous. Most deaths come from accidental drowning when unintended swimmers slip on rocks and fall into fast moving rapids. If one desires to swim or use river craft, be careful, especially during the early summer months when the winter run off is coldest and swiftest. There are no beginning kayak runs, but an experienced kayaker can find some challenging opportunities. No motor boats are allowed on any river in the park.
Grant Grove is home to over 1500 giant Sequoias with diameters over a foot across. It is accessible from Sequoia National park, its sister park to the south. The way into Cedar Grove is called the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. Be sure to fill up for the fifty mile drive with no gas stations or restrooms on the way and no gas stations within the park. There is a fee to enter the park. For those planning a single day hike, the fee is ten dollars per person. Vehicles can enter for up to seven days for twenty dollars. Pets must be kept off the trails and on a leash.
The Grant Grove area has six different cabin types available. They are within walking distance of sequoia groves, the visitor center, post office and restaurant. The Cedar Grove has a small yet lovely lodge of 18 rooms with a counter service restaurant and gift shop. It is located near the southern fork of the Kings River in the scenic Kings canyon that reminded John Muir of Yosemite.
The twin parks offer fourteen different camp sites that usually fill up quickly so be sure to call early for reservations. Grant Grove and Cedar Grove campsites do offer some comforts, but other sites such as Mineral King and South Fork are more for those who prefer solitude and survival skills. Bear resistant lockers are available and recommended for all campers. Recreational vehicles are allowed but there are no hook-ups. Plan for appropriate trips out of the park to resupply or dump waste.
Other available activities include day hikes, overnight backpacking, horse trails, rock climbing and snow activities during the winter. There are paved and unpaved trails for hiking, bear resistant containers to take on overnight back packing trips, short trips or multi-day pack trips on horseback, and an 8-mile hike to Bubs Creek will provide rock climbers with many opportunities. During the winter one can rent skis or snowshoes or by snow play gear for use in restricted areas.
The terrain varies with the elevation of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The foothills are chaparral with shrubs and oaks, while higher up are the conifers and sequoias. Cedar Grove has a history of being warmer than most mid-elevations campgrounds, so do plan accordingly. Due to harsh weather and rock slides, Cedar Grove is closed during the winter.
Firearms are allowed in the park if the possessor is permitted under federal state and local laws. There are restricted locations where firearms are not permitted. These sites are plainly marked and the rangers expect compliance. The rangers also can provide a visitor with a number of entertaining an informative programs. One can chose from ranger led talks to campfire circles to snowshoe walks. Schedules are available each season and are subject to change due to weather concerns.
Whether one is a casual vacationer or an experienced outdoor enthusiast, Kings Canyon provides ample opportunity to revel in the beauty of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.