The parks' best attractions, getting there, and when to go
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks lie in the Sierra Nevada range in Central California, about 230 miles north of Los Angeles and about 275 miles southeast of San Francisco.
- To reach the entrance to Kings Canyon, take State 180 east from Fresno, and continue 55 miles to the park.
- To reach Sequoia, take State 198 from Visalia, and continue 45 miles northeast to the park. The two parks are linked by Generals Highway, which is open year-round except after heavy winter snowstorms.
WHAT TO SEE
You’ve come to see the trees, of course. And you won’t be disappointed.
Count the giant sequoias of Sequoia National Park as one of those natural wonders you need to experience in person, because no picture does them justice.
Estimated to be up to 2,700 years old, they rise nearly 300 feet tall and more than 100 feet around, making them the largest (by volume) trees on Earth. And they flourish only here on the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada.
Sequoia’s giant sequoias are knockouts. But 635-square-mile Sequoia National Park and its next-door neighbor, Kings Canyon National Park, contain a whole vacation’s worth of other attractions to awe you.
Want waterfalls? Try Tokopah or Grizzly.
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (State 180) begins in the Sierra Nevada foothills, then runs through the spectacular glacier-carved canyon that gives that park its name.
On the south edge of Sequoia, Mineral King is one of the most beautifully untouched yet accessible oases of mountain wilderness around.
And if you’re up for adding a major accomplishment to your travel Life List, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney, stands at 14,494 feet on Sequoia’s eastern boundary.
Slide show: Top wow spots of Sequoia and Kings canyon
For the best introductions to the parks, head to these visitor centers.
- Foothills Visitor Center On Generals Highway at State 198 near the park’s south entrance; 559/565-3135.
- Lodgepole Visitor Center North of Giant Forest on Generals Highway; 559/565-4436.
- Giant Forest Museum In Giant Forest, 16 miles from the park entrance at State 198; 559/565-4480.
- Kings Canyon Visitor Center (559/565-4307) in Grant Grove Village will get you oriented.
Lodging and restaurants are clustered at Lodgepole Village and Wuksachi Village in Sequoia, and Grant Grove and Cedar Grove Villages in Kings Canyon.
WHEN TO GO
Sequoia and Kings Canyon are parks for all seasons.
- Summer: July through mid-September is the most popular time (but even so, the park doesn’t get as crowded as the other big Sierra Nevada park, Yosemite). All campgrounds and attractions are usually open; the park offers many ranger-led hikes and other activities. Expect warm weather but pleasantly cool hiking beneath the redwoods.
- Fall: Mid-September and October are choice times to visit, with fewer crowds but good weather—warm days, cool nights.
- Winter: Portions of the parks are closed November until mid-April, but there are great winter activities—including cross-country skiing and snowshoeing—at Grant Grove and Wuksachi Lodge.
- Spring: April through June brings fine wildflower displays in the lower elevations of the parks and waterfalls at their peak.
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