fbpx
1-866-477-4171
1-866-477-4171
Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Trip Planner

The largest trees in the world – Sequoiadendron giganteum or the giant sequoia – are the top draw for many visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. And this slice of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California is indeed one of the best places to see these incredible, awe-inspiring trees. Tens of thousands of sequoias grow here, spread out among around 40 different groves. Some are easily accessible from the road, some require a short hike, and some lie miles in the backcountry – so there’s a spot for everyone to marvel at these behemoths.

But don’t get so caught up in the sequoias that you miss the rest of what these impressive parks have to offer. Sequoia and Kings Canyon are also full of rushing rivers, steep canyons, vertical mountain peaks, granite domes and elaborate caves. Wildlife like black bears, mule deer, mountain lions, marmots and bighorn sheep make their homes here. More than a thousand miles of hiking trails wind through the parks’ wild backcountry; this is also a wonderful place for rock climbing, fishing, horseback riding, and winter sports.

Everyone should see the wonders of Sequoia and Kings Canyon at least once in their lifetime. And whether you have a day to tour the parks or plan to return for multiple visits, you’ll always find something new and exciting to explore.

Contents

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

How To Get Here

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located in eastern California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. Kings Canyon is immediately north of Sequoia but those boundaries don’t mean much when you’re on the ground – the two are connected by roads and trails, and one entry fee gets you into both. Three entrances grant access by car: Big Stump, Ash Mountain and Lookout Point which is for the Mineral King Area. Which entrance is best depends on where you’re coming from and which destinations you most want to see.

By Plane

Fresno

Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) is a little over an hour’s drive from the Big Stump Entrance at Kings Canyon, and an hour and a half from the Ash Mountain Entrance at the south end of Sequoia. You can fly direct from many major US cities, and several car rental agencies operate out of the airport.

Other Airports

Several other major US airports are within driving distance of Sequoia and Kings Canyon, including Merced (two hours and 15 minutes away), Stockton (three hours and 15 minutes), Sacramento (four hours), and San Francisco (four hours).

By Car

Most visitors come to the parks by car. Highway 180 leads to the Big Stump Entrance (straight east of Fresno), and it’s the best route for larger RVs and trailers. You can reach the Ash Mountain Entrance via Highway 198 (northeast of Visalia) – but from the entrance station onwards, this road becomes steep and narrow.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

By Public Transit

Unlike at many other national parks, it’s possible to pull off a car-free visit to Sequoia via public transit – and don’t worry, the GuideAlong tour will still work – note: there’s no public transit into Kings Canyon. Both Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses stop in Fresno and you can then connect with Visalia’s V-Line bus at the Fresno Airport to reach Visalia. From there, take the Sequoia Shuttle into the park and connect with the park’s free shuttle system. The Greyhound bus service also stops in Visalia.

Getting Around

The most popular way to get around the parks is by car. For RV drivers, it’s worth knowing that the roads in Sequoia and Kings Park National Parks are narrow, winding and steep – and vehicle length limits and advisories are in place on some park roads.

Sequoia National Park Free Shuttle

Sequoia National Park’s free shuttle system connects many of the park’s main attractions, so you easily access them by parking in one of the larger lots (like Lodgepole Campground or Wuksachi Lodge) and hopping on the shuttle to reach destinations like Giant Forest and General Sherman Tree. And on summer weekends, the park shuttle is the only way to get to popular Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. The shuttle runs daily from June into early September as well as during fall and winter holidays.

It’s especially worthwhile taking advantage of the shuttle system if you are in an RV that’s restricted by vehicle length limits, and to be aware of the designated RV parking areas within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

The free Sequoia National Park shuttle routes are:

  • Route 1 (Green): The green route goes between the Giant Forest Museum and Lodgepole Campground, with a stop at the General Sherman Tree Trailhead.
  • Route 2 (Gray): The gray route connects the Giant Forest Museum to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow.
  • Route 3 (Purple): The northernmost route in Sequoia goes between Lodgepole Campground and Wuksachi Lodge.
  • Route 4 (Orange): The orange route stops at the General Sherman Tree Trailhead and parking lot, plus Wolverton.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Entrance Fees

All visitors are required to pay an entrance fee to visit the parks. Passenger vehicle entries are valid for seven consecutive days in both parks, plus the Hume Lake District of Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument. Passes are sold at Big Stump and Ash Mountain Entrance Stations and can also be purchased ahead of time on nps.gov. If you’re planning more than one visit to Sequoia and Kings Canyon this year, it’s worthwhile to get the annual entrance pass instead.

Depending on the length of your stay and how many National Parks you plan to visit in a year, it may be more beneficial to purchase the America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. This pass covers entrance fees into all U.S. National Parks as well as over 2,000 National Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges, National Historic Sites, and other federally managed lands. 

Passes are free for current U.S. military members and reduced for Seniors aged 62 years or older. Senior passes also provide a 50 percent discount at select campgrounds.

Have Kids in the 4th Grade? 
You and your family can get free access to hundreds of parks, lands and waters for an entire year!  

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Tour Map

 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Where to Stay

Campgrounds

Most of the parks’ 14 developed campgrounds require advance reservations (South Fork is the only one that operates on a first-come, first-served basis). All of them are in high demand during the summer season so for your best chance of snagging one, book online the moment reservations open up. This varies depending on the campground; some are available four months in advance, some one month, and some just a few days in advance. Make sure to check the latest conditions as you plan your trip, as damaging winter storms in 2022/2023 forced the park to shut down a number of campgrounds for major repairs.

They’re not technically inside the parks, but you’ll also find a couple of campgrounds in Giant Sequoia National Monument, between the Grant Grove and Cedar Grove areas of Kings Canyon. Princess Campground and Hume Lake Campground both require advance reservations.

If you don’t manage to get a reservation on your first try, don’t despair. Check availability frequently, as cancellations do pop up.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Lodging

Four hotels are located within park boundaries. Three of them are in Kings Canyon National Park: Cedar Grove Lodge, which sits on the Kings River in the Cedar Grove area, and Grant Grove Cabins and John Muir Lodge in Grant Grove Village. Wuksachi Lodge is located just north of the Giant Forest area in Sequoia and is open most of the year.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

There are also backcountry lodging options for seasoned wilderness travelers. Pear Lake Winter Hut, operated by Sequoia Parks Conservancy, hosts experienced backcountry skiers and snowshoers six miles east of Wolverton in Sequoia National Park. Unfortunately, the longtime favorite Bearpaw High Sierra Camp is closed indefinitely as it undergoes infrastructure upgrades.

Outside the Parks

On the south side of Sequoia, the Town of Three Rivers is the closest home base for visiting Mineral King, the Foothills area and Giant Forest. You’ll find plenty of hotel options in town and along the highway en route to the Ash Mountain Entrance. Farther north, a handful of hotels and cabins can be booked along Highway 180 heading into the Big Stump Entrance.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Like A Tour Guide In Your Car

Don't miss a thing as you hear perfectly timed audio, based on your location. Commentary that is so entertaining, informative and easy to listen to, all ages love it!
album-art

00:00
album-art

00:00
album-art

00:00
album-art

00:00

When To Visit

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are open year-round, holidays included. Most visitors come between June and August, though September and May see only slightly fewer people. Conditions will vary quite a bit between the different regions in the parks: in summer the foothills are dry and very hot, the Cedar Grove area is a bit cooler, and the higher-elevation sequoia groves have warm, pleasant days and cool nights. In the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, the foothills might have comfortable temperatures and flowers while the upper groves are snowed in.

Winter can be a wonderful time to visit the parks, with abundant snowfall in the high elevations and lots of opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing and sledding. But keep in mind that many park services shut down for the winter, as do the Cedar Grove and Mineral King areas. Snow can close roads temporarily, too.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

How Much Time Do You Need to Visit

Ideally, you’d be able to spend at least two full days in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. That way, you can devote one day to each park. More days mean you’ll have more time to wander among the trees, go hiking, tour a cave, and just drink in the scenery. But these parks are still worth a visit if you have only one day. Here’s how we suggest you spend your time (this assumes you’ll be entering from the Ash Mountain Entrance – adjust as necessary if you’re using another entrance).

One Day

Get on the Generals Highway and head up into the mountains, stopping first at Moro Rock for its incredible views. Continue on to the Giant Forest Museum and General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world. Drive on into Kings Canyon National Park and stop to marvel at General Grant Tree. Then, take the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway as long as you’re able to see some of the canyon views from highway pullouts.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Two Days

Make day one your Sequoia National Park day. Start with a visit to Foothills Visitor Center to get your bearings, then head into the park on the Generals Highway. Make sure to stop at Tunnel Rock and Hospital Rock to see fascinating geology and historic sites. Continue on to the high country and Moro Rock, then enter the land of giant trees. Besides visiting the Giant Forest Museum and General Sherman Tree, take the short spur drive to Wolverton for more impressive sequoias.

On your second day, head to Kings Canyon. Begin at Kings Canyon Visitor Center, then make the short trip out to General Grant Tree. Then drive the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, stopping at the many scenic viewpoints along the route. Continue to Cedar Grove Visitor Center and Village, then drive on to Road’s End. You must retrace your steps to leave the park.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Three or More Days

With more than a couple of days to tour the parks, you have time to really soak in what makes this place so special. Besides the a-list sites mentioned on the shorter itineraries, choose at least one more spot that piques your interest. Book a tour of Crystal Cave or Boyden Cavern. Explore the remote Mineral King area. Do at least one longer hike. If you’re a fan of granite domes, do the thrilling Moro Rock hike or head up the less-crowded Sunset Dome. Love waterfalls? Hike to Mist Falls in Kings Canyon. Or perhaps wander among the sequoias by following the trails in Muir Grove or hiking Congress Trail, or go wildlife-watching in Crescent Meadow.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

How to Avoid the Crowds

No question about it – Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks get busy in the summer. In Sequoia the most visitors arrive in July and August; in Kings Canyon it’s June through August. If you can shift your visit to May or September, you’ll likely still have good weather and fewer people to share it with. Spring and fall are very pleasant in the lower elevations, though you’ll likely to run into some snow in the higher ones during these shoulder seasons. Winter will get you the most solitude, but even if you visit in the summer, you can dodge the crowds with these tips.

Generally, Sequoia is busier than Kings Canyon, so spend most of your time at the latter to avoid the main crowds. And there’s plenty to see in Kings Canyon – this stunning glaciated canyon has waterfalls, granite domes, wildlife, the Kings River and miles of excellent hiking trails. Cedar Grove and Road’s End are its two major destinations, but there are also a slew of scenic viewpoints on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway into the park. The road into Kings Canyon is usually open from May through October.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

No matter which park you’re in be sure to get a very early start – hitting your destination around sunrise means you’ll probably have no problems getting a parking spot, and you’ll have a better chance of seeing wildlife, too. And get out on the trails. Hiking even a few miles will get you away from the lion’s share of park visitors, and if you can do some overnight backpacking, even better.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

In Sequoia National Park, take full advantage of the park’s free shuttle system. This won’t help you escape the crowds exactly, but you won’t have to jostle for limited parking spots. Leave the car at the larger lots at Lodgepole Campground or Wuksachi Lodge and hop on the shuttle to reach bustling sites like General Sherman Tree and Giant Forest Museum.

Another option to avoid the crowds in Sequoia National Park is to explore the lesser-traveled Mineral King area. The remote valley of Mineral King is the highest elevation you can reach by car in the parks (7,800 feet / 2,377  meters) and also the least crowded destination. It’s home to a variety of hiking trails that lead to sparkling lakes and airy mountain passes. The road into Mineral King generally opens in late May and closes in October, and be mindful that it’s steep, twisty and not suitable for RVs or trailers.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Things to See and Do

Four Guardsmen, Sequoia National Park

This impressive grouping of four trees form a natural entryway on the road to the forest in Sequoia National Park. They are famous for being successfully protected from the KNP Complex fire, thanks to the efforts of firefighters who wrapped their bases in aluminum blankets. The Four Guardsmen are part of the Giant Forest, a cluster of huge trees.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park

The largest tree in the world, the General Sherman Tree, grows among hundreds of other enormous sequoias in the Giant Forest. Measuring 275 feet tall and more than 36 feet in diameter at its base, General Sherman inspires awe, amazement, and perhaps even a new understanding of your place in the universe. Don’t miss it.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Giant Forest Museum, Sequoia National Park

Located at the Giant Forest, the museum is a fantastic place to begin your exploration of this unique area. Located in an historic market building, displays help demonstrate the story of the giant sequoias. A number of short, but worthwhile, trails complete with interpretive signage depart from the museum site. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Hospital Rock, Sequoia National Park

Archeological evidence around the Hospital Rock provides insight to how different Native American groups lived in and used the area dating back to the 14th century. Our modern Hospital Rock name originated through incidents where on two occasions a pair of settlers were given treatment for injuries at the site by the then resident Monache band, including a gunshot wound from a trapping accident. Those two settlers then tagged the site: Hospital Rock. This location features ancient bedrock mortars and pictographs. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Moro Rock, Sequoia National Park

This is a fantastic small-ish granite dome that is able to be scaled using a 350 step staircase. Panoramic views from the top are impressive and include the Great Western Divide of the Sierra Nevada, the foothills, and the San Joaquin Valley. One of the top three best sights in Sequoia!

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Tunnel Log, Sequoia National Park

Unlike some other tunnel-though-a-tree locations, where a living tree was sacrificed for amusement, this car-sized tunnel was carved through a giant sequoia that had already fallen naturally. The park managers thought it was a good way to help visitors further understand the immensity of the giant sequoias, and also was a unique way to make the road passable once again. Don’t worry if your vehicle is too large – there is a bypass option!

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Big Stump Grove, Kings Canyon National Park

Though it can seem and feel a little sad visiting a tree graveyard, Big Stump also inspires us as to why it is so important for us to preserve these uniquely iconic trees that have taken thousands of years to reach their level of grandeur. Scientists are also learning how these big trees decay, and how we might re-generate the grove. The biggest tree in Big Stump was called the Mark Twain tree and measured 14 feet in diameter, possibly one of the biggest sequoias ever. The hiking trail can be accessed from either the picnic area or a trailhead near the Big Stump Entrance Station.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Cedar Grove, Kings Canyon National Park

The Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon sits in a pretty setting and provides the last of available services, deep in the park, including campgrounds, a market and even a basic lodge. From the area there are a series of very nice hikes to choose from, ranging from short and easy to backcountry hauls. The river setting and several waterfalls add to the appeal.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

General Grant Tree, Kings Canyon National Park

The General Grant Tree, close to Grant Village and the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, is one of the world’s largest. The parking area is conveniently located making this marvel very easily accessible. If you are willing to walk further, this grove contains other fantastic trees and formations well worth exploring. It was the goal to protect this particular tree and grove from logging that eventually lead to the creation of Kings Canyon National Park.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Panoramic Point, Kings Canyon National Park

A very descriptive name for this elevated view that is expansive across the peaks of the high Sierras and the depths of Kings Canyon. The access road is located opposite the turn for the General Grant Grove. A very short hike is needed to open up the best views.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Roaring Falls, Kings Canyon National Park

Just a short half-mile walk on a paved trail gets you to enjoy Roaring Falls. The roaring gets very thunderous during the late spring melt and run-off. More serious hikers can continue on to Mist Falls, one of the biggest in the park.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Zumwalt Meadows, Kings Canyon National Park

Zumwalt Meadows is considered the best pick on the relatively easy hikes in the Cedar Grove area of the park. The trail is relatively flat and extremely scenic. This is one of the better areas for spotting wildlife, but keep in mind, wildlife tend to not be active at the hottest parts of the day. Unlike much of the canyon, these meadows are the remains of an old lake bed.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Best Hikes

Moro Rock

One of the most famous hikes in the parks for good reason, this granite dome serves up the perfect combination of challenge, thrill and scenic payoff. The trail is short – just 300 feet of elevation gain via 350 stairs – but with its steep drop-offs and spin-around views, it’ll get your heart racing. Hand rails along the way add a bit more security. Don’t attempt this one if the rock is snow-covered or icy, or if there’s a threat of lightning.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Congress Trail

If you want to spend time gazing up at some of the largest trees on the planet, the Congress Trail won’t disappoint. This 2.7-mile lollipop loop trail takes off from the General Sherman Tree and winds past other famous sequoias, including the House and Senate groups and the President Tree. The trail is fairly flat and paved, and accessible to wheelchairs via the accessible-only parking lot on the Generals Highway.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Lakes Trail

This route departing from Wolverton strings together four alpine lakes like beads on a necklace. You’ll gain views of granite cirques, blocky peaks and the canyon of the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River – and the lakeside backpacking sites are superb. The first destination, Heather Lake, is a little over 8 miles round-trip. Continue another mile for a 10-mile total round trip, to Aster and Emerald Lakes, or hike the whole way to Pear Lake for a 12-miler.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Mist Falls

Hike through a sunny pine forest to the powerful, gushing Mist Falls on this 8-mile round-trip in Kings Canyon (start from Road’s End). Most of the walk is flat, though you’ll have to hoof it up 600 steep feet to reach the falls. Stand back to take in the view of the South Fork of the Kaweah River tumbling over the granite slope – slippery rocks make getting too close a dangerous proposition. 

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Tokopah Falls

Target early summer for this easy, 1.7-mile one-way hike along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River: that’s when the 1,200-foot tall Topokah Falls flows at top volume. You’ll travel through the steep-sided, granite Tokopah Canyon, which also features wildflowers and sunny meadows.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Muir Grove

This lovely sequoia grove doesn’t get the hordes that the more famous sites do, and the 4-mile round-trip hike features mixed conifer forest and a granite dome with sweeping views of nearby rock formations. Pick up the trail in Dorst Campground; the official route ends right at the start of Muir Grove, where you can wander among the giants.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Family Fun Adventures

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are chock-full of fun for all ages. Park trails range from short meadow strolls to multi-day treks into the wilderness, pleasing toddlers to teens. A multitude of campgrounds set the scene for epic campfire stories and s’mores sessions. And if you’re impressed by the size of a giant sequoia, imagine how it looks to someone who only comes up to your knees. Here are a few more ideas for kid-approved adventures in the parks.

Marvel at Big Trees

Visiting a grove of living sequoias is non-negotiable – but don’t forget to also check out some of the more unusual sequoia destinations in the parks. Kids get a kick out of driving right through a fallen trunk at Tunnel Log and strolling the length of Auto Log, both on Crescent Meadow Road. And imagine living inside a sequoia log, as settler Hale Tharp did in the 1800s. His log-turned-cabin, Tharp’s Log, is an easy hike on the 1.8-mile (2.9-kilometer) Log Meadow Trail Loop, which also passes the hollowed-out stump/playhouse of Chimney Tree.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Ride a Horse

Somehow, the parks look even better from the back of a horse. Saddle up for a family trail ride with one of two outfitters in Kings Canyon National Park: Grant Grove Stables offers one and two-hour rides through the sequoias around Grant Grove, while Cedar Grove Pack Station can get you out in Kings Canyon for a short, full-day, or multi-day ride.

Become a Junior Ranger

The National Park Service’s excellent Junior Ranger program gets kids five years and up extra-excited about their vacations. Pick up a free activity book at any visitor center and complete the age-appropriate tasks to learn more about the flora, fauna, and history of the parks. Then report to a visitor center or evening program to be officially sworn in as a Junior Ranger and receive a coveted park badge.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Go Swimming

The standout swimming hole just below Muir Rock at Road’s End in Kings Canyon beckons on a hot summer day. Though the Kings River here is usually slow-moving, be very careful – this is a wild river, and currents and cold temps can be dangerous. This is best for kids with strong swimming skills. As you splash, gaze up at the famous rock where John Muir himself used to stand for public talks about the area.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Go Sledding

The higher elevations of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks receive buckets of snow every winter, making them paradise for skiing, snowshoeing, and especially, sledding in three designated snowplay areas. In Sequoia, popular Wolverton sits at 7,250 feet (2,210-meters) in elevation, meaning it usually has snow first and keeps it the longest. In Kings Canyon, Columbine and Big Stump are also excellent spots to sled, tube and build a snowman.

Crescent Meadow

Take the short spur drive or shuttle ride to this lovely mountain meadow for good opportunities to see spring wildflowers and wildlife. It’s a worthy destination in its own right, but the route to Crescent Meadow also leads past notable trees like Tunnel Log and Auto Log, and the meadow connects to historic sites like Tharp’s Log and Squatter’s Cabin via hiking trails.

Awesome Experiences

Tour a Cave

Take a break from craning your neck at the trees and instead, explore the incredible landscape under the ground. Sign up for a guided tour of Crystal Cave in Sequoia National Park to see the marble cavern’s stalactites and stalagmites up close. You can get a similar experience at Boyden Cavern, located in the Sequoia National Forest between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Go Rock Climbing

Newbies and experienced climbers alike love the parks for their wide variety of routes up granite and marble slabs. Known for delivering a similar experience as Yosemite National Park, but less busy, Sequoia and Kings Canyon have everything from easy-access climbs to deep wilderness routes. A handful of outfitters can lead you up the rock in the parks and the nearby national forest.

Stand on Top of a Granite Dome

One of the parks’ signature features are its dramatic granite domes, formed by the unique geologic forces of crystallization and exfoliation. Their bald summits provide outstanding views across the landscape, and hiking to the top of one can be a real thrill. Moro Rock is the most popular dome in the parks (and it’s certainly worthy!), but it’s far from the only one. Lesser-traveled dome hikes include Little Baldy near Dorst Campground in Sequoia National Park, and Sunset Rock in the Giant Forest area of Kings Canyon National Park.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Packing List

Layers: Temperatures can vary widely from season to season and even day to day, especially if you’re in the higher elevations. How to dress for that? Layers! For a summer visit, start with a comfortable t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt (great for sun protection), then add a warmer mid-layer (go for wool or synthetic fabrics, not cotton if possible, as cotton takes a long time to dry if it gets wet). You might even want light gloves, a hat and a light puffy jacket for cool nights and mornings. A light windbreaker jacket is also useful.

Rain Gear: Make sure to pack a waterproof, breathable rain jacket in case you run into an afternoon thunderstorm.

Footwear: You’ll want sturdy hiking shoes for strolling the sequoia groves and walking the trails. High-cut boots provide extra ankle support, while low-cut trail shoes are a bit lighter and easier to break in – let your personal preference be your guide. Waterproof footwear is a great idea in case you run into rainy days, river crossings or summer snowfields. Make sure whatever you pick has good traction.

Daypack: Stash the day’s essentials in a backpack large enough to hold a few layers, snacks, water and maps. Choose one with a hipbelt and a sternum strap for the most comfortable carry.

Sun Protection: Prevent sunburn, especially on the higher-elevation, exposed trails, with a high-SPF sunblock and sun hat. A lightweight shirt with a hood and UPF protection is great for shielding your arms and neck, too.

Water: Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water – a must for hot weather, hard hiking and high altitudes – with a sturdy, refillable water bottle or hydration system. If you’re hoping to do long hikes or a backpacking trip, add a water treatment method like a filter or UV pen so you can safely refill off the grid.

Trekking Poles: A good pair of trekking poles adds critical stability on steep, rocky trails, and reduces the pressure on your joints, too. Adjustable poles let you fine-tune the length for varied terrain and pack up easily, but fixed-length poles are sturdier.

Phone Charger: If you’re taking pictures with your phone, running out of batteries may result in missed opportunities. A DC car charger is best, so that you can charge your phone while driving.

Plastic Bag: Stash a plastic bag in your daypack for picking up any trash you find along the trails. Protect wildlife, keep the surroundings natural, and leave the parks better than you found them!

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Audio Driving Tour with GuideAlong

Top Tips for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

  • Book Accommodation in Advance: Reserve lodging and campgrounds well ahead of time, especially if you want to sleep in the park. There are far more people who want to stay than beds available! If you can’t get your desired spot right away, don’t give up - cancellations pop up regularly, so check back everyday.
  • Cave Tours: If you'd like to go on a cave tour, be sure to secure a reservation in advance.
  • Plan your Timing: If possible, avoid visiting on holiday weekends - especially in the summer.
  • Check Road Conditions Before Your Trip: Fall through spring, snow, and other storms can temporarily close roads so check NPS information on nps.gov ahead of time and find out the current road status before traveling.
  • Check Vehicle Length Limits and RV Parking Information: Some roads in the parks are unsuitable for vehicles that are very long or for trailers. If your vehicle is oversized, be sure to check NPS information on nps.gov on what areas you won't be able to travel to before you arrive.
  • Start Early: Even on regular days, aim to get started early to improve your chances to snag a parking spot for that popular trail you wanted to hike.
  • Ride the Free Sequoia Shuttle: When it's busy, do take advantage of Sequoia's shuttle bus system. Bring your ear buds so you can keep listening to the commentary.
  • Be Bear Safe: Sequoia and Kings Canyon are home to lots of black bears. When camping, it’s crucial to avoid attracting them into your camp by storing all food, garbage and scented items in a hard-sided vehicle or bear locker when not actively using them.
  • Plan Ahead for Hiking: Wear appropriate footwear - you'll need to do short hikes even at some of the most major sites. And if planning on hiking a little further, carry sufficient water and snacks and use sun protection - a hat and sunscreen. Anyone planning a hike should also have a detailed topographical map and a compass on top of any GPS unit or navigation app you like.