Nestled in the southern Sierra Nevada, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks features a rugged and picturesque landscape made famous for the Giant Sequoia trees found within the boundaries of the parks. With majestic redwood groves, scenic byways, plentiful hiking trails, waterways, special events and guided tours, there is something for every level of outdoor enthusiast amongst the Sequoias.
Both parks are open 365 days a year so activities vary greatly depending on which time of year you plan to visit. Spring through fall there are plenty of hiking trails suitable for day hikes or overnight backpacking. For those planning to backpack into the parks’ back country there is plenty of it as the vast majority of the parks is comprised of rugged wilderness. The jewel of the parks’ trails is the High Sierra Trail which stops at the serene Bearpaw Meadow resort and at Mount Whitney before meeting up with the famous John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.
Aside from backpacking, there are several outstanding climbs that range in difficulty from easy to extremely challenging. The rock quality is similar to Yosemite in both parks. There are climbs that are more easily accessible such as Moro Rock just off Generals Highway and extremely remote climbs like Angel Wings which are ideal if you’re looking for a solitary retreat.
Note that a permit is required for overnight camping outside designated campsites and the number of permits issued is limited during the peak months between May through September. If you are planning to hike up into the back country at this time, it is best to book your reservation early.
If the prospect of an adventure in the rugged back country sounds too rigorous for you, there are ample day hiking trails and even a scenic motor byway. Grant Grove is a favorite day hike area where visitors can find Grant Grove Village and visitors’ centers. Here there are shops and restaurants so you can pick up maps and guidebooks or ask park rangers for assistance. The trails here range in their level of difficulty. You can take it easy through the peaceful redwood groves or you can challenge yourself climbing the scenic terrain of the Sierra Nevada.
The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is a 50 mile drive through spectacular Sierra Nevada scenery ranging from rolling foothills to rugged mountain peaks to redwood groves. There are several different routes available and they change from season to season so check with one of the many visitors’ centers within the parks to find out which drives are best at the time of your visit. Also, if you want to focus more on sightseeing and less on driving through winding mountain roads, the Sequoia Shuttle is free and there are three different lines available which hit most of the major destinations in the parks’ front country.
If horseback riding is more your style, there are several stables within the parks which offer a variety of trips. Whether you’re looking for a short guided trip or a multi-day pack trip or something in between, you’ll be sure to find something that suits your needs. Remember, that if you’re visiting within the peak season, to book a reservation well in advance as space fills up fast.
For snowbirds, the parks offer guided snowshoe walks for free and there is ample cross-country skiing available. There is also Pear Lake Ski Hut in Sequoia National Park for downhill enthusiasts. Ski and snowshoe rentals are available in the parks and there are sledding areas as well.
The parks boast several lodging options including cozy lodges and cabins as well as beautiful campgrounds. Campgrounds vary in their offerings with some having easy access to amenities and others offering more of a secluded experience. Peak visiting months are between July and August so make sure to book your reservations well in advance if your visit within the season. It’s important to note that there are no RV hook-ups in the parks.