When to visit
- Very Favourable
What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada. Their dramatic landscapes testify to nature's size, beauty, and diversity - everything you want when you travel to Western USA.
You will feel very tiny in this land of natural giants. Sequoia National Park was created in 1890 to protect the giant sequoia trees from logging, becoming the first national park formed to protect a living organism.
However, it was not until much later that the preservation efforts bore fruit.
SEQUOIA & KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS
Season: Open year-round, 24 hours a day, weather permitting.
Road closures: Note that most of the roads in the parks are closed from November to mid-May due to weather conditions. Only the road from Gardiner (Montana) to Cooke City (Montana) is open year-round.
Entry fee: $35/vehicle including occupants. Valid 7 days. Purchase the America the Beautiful Pass for $80 if you plan to visit more than 2-3 parks.
Shuttle service in the park? Yes, in Sequoia National Park (see box below)
* Note: vehicles over 22 feet are not allowed to use the south entrance to Sequoia National Park, near the Foothills Visitor Center on Hwy 198 (coming from Three Rivers and Visalia) - see box below for more information.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK
General Sherman Tree
This is the star attraction of Sequoia National Park, a must-see in every sense of the world! Standing 84 m tall, and 31 m in circumference at the base, it is the largest living organism on the planet, and is more than 2,200 years old. Isn't that incredible?
An easy 800-metre (round-trip) trail leads to the Sherman Tree. Plan to spend about 45 minutes visiting the tree.
Distance (round-trip): 3.2 km
Time (round-trip): 1 hour
In addition to the impressive General Sherman, there are many other natural wonders to be seen in the vicinity.
The Congress Trail, an easy 3.2-kilometre loop (1 hour) that begins near the Sherman Tree, offers excellent opportunities to see other notable trees. It leads through the heart of the spectacular forest, allowing visitors to capture the essence of a giant sequoia grove. You will certainly feel very small, surrounded by all these incredible natural giants!
Giant Forest Museum
This small museum and information centre provides a wealth of information about giant sequoias, the park, and the region. It is definitely worth a stop.
Big Trees Trail
Distance (round-trip): 2.4 km
Time (round-trip): 1 hour
Big Trees Trail, a 2.4-km loop around a lush meadow, begins near the Giant Forest Museum and takes about 1 hour. It is like a continuation of the museum with its many interpretive exhibits about the natural history of giant sequoias.
Distance (one-way): 900 m / 400 steps
Time (one-way): 30 minutes
To enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada and its 4,000-metre peaks, climb the 400 steps to the flat summit of Moro Rock, a bald granite dome in the centre of the park. For best visibility, do this hike early in the morning or on a cool day. It will take you about 30 minutes to reach the top.
Not accessible for vehicles over 22 feet.
Tunnel Log is a giant sequoia that fell across the road in 1937. A tunnel was cut through the fallen log to allow vehicles to pass. In addition to giving you a very good idea of the sheer size of these trees, it makes for amusing photos. An interesting curiosity!
Not accessible for vehicles over 22 feet.
This is one of the largest alpine meadows in the park, surrounded by the sequoias of Giant Forest (note: the road is not accessible for vehicles over 22 feet). The area at the end of Crescent Meadow road offers many hiking options, one of which is a 1-hour (3.2 km) loop that will take you past two interesting features:
Tharps's Log, one of the oldest cabins in the park, is in fact a rustic shack built right into the enormous hollow trunk of a fallen tree. It served as a summer "home" for a pioneer called Hale D. Tharp, who was the first non-Native American person to discover the Giant Forest in 1858. He lived there every summer until the creation of Sequoia National Park in 1890.
Chimney Tree is an old hollowed-out sequoia inside which you can literally sit down. Another magnificent spot for some interesting photos or to take a break and contemplate your spectacular natural surroundings!
This cave is the best-kept secret in Sequoia National Park! 45-minute guided tours are available to explore the majestic marble cavern, and are suitable for families with young children. Tickets can be purchased at Lodgepole Visitor Center or Foothills Visitor Center.
Note that the road is not accessible for vehicles over 22 feet. If you're feeling adventurous, there are other tours that will take you even further into the depths of the cave. Ask a Ranger at one of the Visitor Centers. As the temperature inside the cave never goes above 10 degrees Celsius, it would be a good idea to bring a jacket.
TRAVELLING BY RV?
If you are travelling in a vehicle over 22 feet long, you will not be allowed to use the south entrance to Sequoia National Park near the Foothills Visitor Center on Highway 198, coming from Visalia and Three Rivers. Because roads in these parks are narrow, winding, and steep, longer vehicles often cross the double yellow line and pose a danger to other drivers.
THERE IS A SHUTTLE SERVICE TO SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK.
The Sequoia Shuttle operates throughout the summer, from late May until early September.
The Visalia Route offers service to the towns of Visalia and Three Rivers, up Highway 198, to Giant Forest Museum in the heart of the park:
Once inside the park, take advantage of unlimited shuttle service between the Visitor Centers and the park's major attractions. The in-park shuttles are free of charge, so you can simply hop on and off at any stop.
1- Giant Forest (Green Route)
Please visit the website for more details on shuttle routes and schedules.
THERE IS NO SHUTTLE TO KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK AND NO SHUTTLE SERVICE INSIDE THIS PARK.
KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK
General Grant Tree Trail
Distance (round-trip): 800 m
Time (round-trip): 30 minutes
The General Grant Tree Trail is an easy 800-metre trail (about 30 minutes) that leads to the second-largest tree in the world. General Grant Tree is between 1,500 and 2,000 years old and is only 2 metres shorter than the General Sherman Tree.
The trail also passes by the Fallen Monarch Tree, a fallen giant sequoia that visitors can walk through.
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
This is the only vehicle route into Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in North America. It follows dramatic granite cliffs and the wild and scenic Kings River, ending about 10 km after Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is 80 km long (160 km round-trip) and travel time is about 3 hours. The road is closed in winter.
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
THE PEAKS RESTAURANT / WUKSACHI LODGE ($$-$$$)
This is your best option for eating in the national park. Choices are limited and you can't count on price and quality in remote areas. Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a comfortable, casual setting, with rustic furnishings and a fire in the stone fireplace when weather permits. The dining room also offers a lovely view! Breakfast is an abundant buffet with pancakes, eggs, fresh fruit and more. The lunch and dinner menus feature soups, salads, sandwiches, pasta, and fish, meat and poultry dishes. Note that it is not possible to make a reservation if you are not staying at Wuksachi Lodge, but you can eat there.
Open in May-October for breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. In November-April, open for breakfast from 7:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and dinner from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
SAM’S ITALIAN DELI & MARKET ($-$$)
This Italian market was founded in the late 1980s by Angela and Sam, an Italian couple originally from Bari, in southern Italy. They serve a variety of deli sandwiches and pasta takeout. The aisles are filled with Italian specialty products, Angela bakes the bread and focaccia, and Sam prepares homemade sausages. A must to satisfy your hunger at a low price.
Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
PISMO’S COASTAL GRILL ($-$$$)
You'll think you're on the California coast with the coastal theme and delicious fish and seafood dishes. The quality and freshness of the food will exceed your expectations and create a memorable dining experience. In addition to a vast array of ocean offerings, the menu also includes a selection of salads, burgers, sandwiches, pasta and grilled meats.
Open Sunday-Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
SIERRA SUBS & SALADS ($-$$)
This roadside sandwich and salad shop is just minutes from Sequoia National Park, on the banks of the Kaweah River. You can take your food to go or enjoy your meal on the patio overlooking the river. They serve a wide array of healthy, delicious options and all the sauces, salsas, soups, salads and salad dressings are prepared in-house from scratch. The menu features sandwiches, salads, quesadillas, burgers and pizzas. More than a dozen vegetarian and vegan selections and gluten-free breads.
Open Tuesday-Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
OL’ BUCKAROO ($$)
Located on a cliff overlooking the Kaweah River, the Ol' Buckaroo is a boho-chic food truck that serves homemade New American Cuisine-style dishes prepared from fresh organic ingredients. As all the food is prepared in the truck, meals must be enjoyed outdoors, but in a superb natural setting. The menu changes with the seasons.
Open for breakfast Saturday-Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and for dinner Thursday-Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Also open Mondays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
*** Hours may vary ***
Where to sleep ?
- Very Favourable