Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
For lots of people, when they think of a vacation to California, they think of the south, of Hollywood, of the beaches from Malibu to San Diego, and even when they think of history, whether that be of the Gold Rush, or nature and national parks, they think Yosemite, but for a vacation that combines both the history of our natural wonders, nature, and California, there are several parks in central and northern California that deserve to be on your itinerary, two of which have to do with a whole lot of giant trees, the northern California site of Redwoods National Park, plus the twinned central California national parks of Sequoia and Kings Canyon, not far from the doorsteps of Yosemite.
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- Then and Now
- Things You Should Not Miss
While many associate the giant redwoods of California with the park way up north due to its name, not far from the southern doorstep of Yosemite sits Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Sequoia is a name that comes from the Cherokee name for big tree or redwood, sikwoya. And here's a bit of a shock, Sequoia National Park is the second oldest national park in the nation, just behind Yellowstone. And with the addition of national park land since its inception on September 25, 1890, plus the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park, there are now over 850,000 acres of the southern Sierra Nevada, its foothills, and those grand gigantic trees to explore on foot, on the new Shuttle system, at a lodge or campsite.
There are a variety of activities and sightseeing opportunities here, many due to the change in elevation that ranges from 1,300 feet to over 14,000 feet. From the foothills to the forests to the mountain tops, Sequioa and Kings Canyon provide breathtaking views of things so large, sometimes they are hard to imagine. Just ask General Sherman and General Grant. Oh, by the way, they're trees.
Photo above: The first car entering Sequoia National Park in 1910. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon Then
We're Really Talking Then - The nature of Sequoia National Park has been around so long, well, that it would have seen every major occurence on the North American continent since BC. The growth rings of some of the trees here indicate that the age of one tree can be over 3,000 years.
History in the Park - There's a whole lot of history in the parks, too, but they do seem to get overshadowed by the natural wonders and beauty of it all. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks were home to the Western Mono (Monache), Tabatulabal, and Yokuts Indian tribes. Once the exploration age reached the southern Sierra in the late 1700s, it did not take long before the area was replete with miners, trappers, and loggers looking for their fortune. Once the area was turned into Sequoia National Park in 1890, history did not stop. It continued with the cavalry troops of colored soldiers who marched from the Presidio to guard the area of the park. They also completed the first road to the Giant Forest.
There are over 250 Native American archeological sites and 69 historic sites within the confines of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks today.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon Now
Sequoia and Kings Canyon are a sightseer's joy and a camper's haven. There is such a variety of experiences to have and sites to witness here, whether you like giant trees, mountains, or meadows.
There are visitor and nature centers scattered throughout the park. Some are open all year; some not.
Visitor Centers and Museums
Foothills Visitor Center (Sequoia) - Generals Highway, one mile from Sequioa Park's southern entrance. Crystal Cave tour tickets sold here.
Giant Forest Museum (Sequioa) - Generals Highway, sixteen miles from south entrance off Route 198. Exhibits on the Giant Forest.
Beetle Rock Nature Center (Sequioa) - Summer. Located across from the Giant Forest Museum.
Lodgepole Visitor Center (Sequoia) - Located 21 miles from southern entrance on Generals Highway. Includes the movie "Bears of the Sierra." Crystal Cave tickets also sold here.
Mineral King Ranger Station (Sequoia) - Mineral King Road. Seasonal.
Kings Canyon Visitor Center (Kings Canyon) - Grant Grove village. Movie and exhibits.
Cedar Grove Visitor Center (Kings Canyon) - Located in Kings Canyon. Seasonal.
Road's End Wildeness Permit Station (Kings Canyon) - East of Cedar Grove Village. Seasonal.
Photo above: Bear in the foothills of the park. Courtesy National Park Service.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
1. Take a ride on the free Sequoia park shuttle. This new way to see Sequoia is perfect for those that want to explore the main areas of the park without having to worry about their car. The shuttle has two main routes, green and gray. The Green Route goes from Waksachi Lodge to Lodgepole Visitor Center to the Sherman Tree and the Giant Forest Museum. The Gray Route goes from the Giant Forest Museum to Moro Rock Staircase to Crescent Meadow. You can even take the Sequoia Shuttle from Visalia is you wish to connect to the above two routes. The Visalia round trip costs $15, but there is no additional park fee to pay if you choose the transportation option. The shuttles are in operation from late May to the beginning of September.
2. Take a ranger tour. The best way to learn more about Sequoia or Kings is to take advantage of the free ranger tours. In summer, there's the largest variety to take. From the Foothills to the Giant Forest and Lodgepole to the Giant Grove, you'll learn about the big trees and history of the forest and park. Even all year long, you can take advantage of one, depending on the daily schedule. Snowshoe hike in the winter is very popular.
3. For a little background information before you get out into the nature of the parks, take advantage of the exhibits at the visitors centers of Sequoia and Kings Canyon.
Photo above: Shuttle buses at the Giant Forest Museum. Courtesy National Park Service.