The parks’ best attractions, getting there, and when to go
Meet Sequoia and Kings Canyon


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.

Size matters: This 2,100-year-old giant sequoia, in Giant Forest, is the largest (by volume) tree on Earth, weighing in at an estimated 1,385 tons.


Like many of the parks’ trees, it was named in the 1870s for a leader in the recently fought Civil War—in this case Union Army general William Tecumseh Sherman.


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.

David Fenton
Breathtaking views flank Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which curves into the heart of the park.

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.

Photo by Carr Clifton

Think of this as Sequoia’s secret: a hidden valley up at 7,500 feet reached by a winding 28-mile road.  It’s a trek, but you won’t be sorry when you get there—Mineral King is gorgeous.


For moderate hiking, take the 4.5-mile one-way trail to Upper and Lower Monarch Lakes.

You can backpack to camp here (wilderness permit required–cost is $10 plus $5 per person; purchase at Mineral King Ranger Station or online at, camp at nearby Cold Springs or Atwell Mill campgrounds, or stay at the rustic cabins of Silver City Mountain Resort on Mineral King Road.

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:

  • 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.


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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