Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Sequoia National Park Giant Tree
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.
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.

Things You Should Not Miss

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.  Stop in and see the Generals.  Both the General Grant tree, located in Grant Grove, and the General Sherman tree, in the Giant Forest, are true wonders of nature.  The General Sherman tree is the largest single trunk tree on earth.

3.  Take a ranger guided walk.  There's nothing like getting the real scoop about the area and what you're witnessing from a park ranger in Sequoia or Kings Canyon.  From spring to fall, these daily walks are a special treat.  Also, at some of the campgrounds of the parks, the nightly ranger talks are a treat as well.  Check at the visitor centers for a schedule of these walks and talks during your visit.

Sequoia National Park

What is There Now

Ash Mountain - The ecology of the oak chapparel is located in the foothills in the south Sequoia National Park area.  Visit the Foothills Visitor Center there.

The Giant Forest
- Where not only the General Sherman tree resides, but the Giant Forest Museum explains the forest and its ecology.

Grant Grove - Here is where the other general waits for you to walk the twenty minute trail and see his tree, General Grant.

Crystal Cave - Yes, there's a cave here, too.  Get your tickets at the Lodgepole Village Visitor Center or Foothills Visitor Center.  They aren't available at the cave.

Tokopah Falls - Take a hike to the falls from Lodgepole Village. - Free Shipping on ALL orders

Lodging and Camping

There is lodging inside Sequioa and Kings Canyon National Park, some open year round, plus many choices outside the park as well.  See the local tourist bureaus for outside park choices.

Inside the Parks
Cedar Grove Lodge, Kings Canyon National Park (Spring to mid-fall) - Lodge rooms in Cedar Grove Village.

Grant Grove Cabins, Kings Canyon National Park (Summer) - Rustic cabins in Grant Grove area near visitor center.

John Muir Lodge, Kings Canyon National Park (Year Round) - Modern rooms in Grant Grove area near visitor center.

Wuksachi Lodge, Sequioa National Park (Year Round) - Modern hotels rooms in lodge buildings.  Four miles from the Giant Forest.

There is an abundance of camping opportunities at Sequoia and Kings Canyon with a variety of locations to suit your natural wishes.  Some of the sites are open all year round.

Sequoia National Park (Name, Area, Elevation, Sites)
Atwell Mill - East Fork of the Kaweah River, 6,650' elevation, 21 sites
Buckeye Flat - Middle Fork Kaweah River, 2,800' elevation, 28 sites
Cold Springs - Mineral King, 7,500' elevation, 30 sites
Dorst Creek - North, 6,800' elevation, 204 sites
Lodgepole - Marble Fork Kaweah River, 6,700' elevation, 203 sites
Potwisha - Middle Fork Kaweah River, 2,100' elevation, 42 sites
South Fork - South Fork Kaweah River, 3,600' elevation, 11 sites

Kings Canyon National Park
Azalea - Grant Grove, 6,500' elevation, 110 sites
Cedar View - Cedar Grove, 4,600' elevation, 23 sites
Crystal Springs - Grant Grove, 6,500' elevation, 50 sites
Morraine - Cedar Grove, 4,600' elevation, 120 sites
Sentinel - Cedar Grove, 4,600' elevation, 82 sites
Sheep Creek - Cedar Grove near Kings River, 4,600' elevation, 111 sites
Sunset - Grant Grove, 6,500' elevation, 157 sites

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Links

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce
Visalia Chamber of Commerce
Fresno Chamber of Commerce

Nearby Attractions

California Tourism
Yosemite National Park
Manzanar National Historic Site
Devil's Postpole National Monument
Death Valley National Park
Sierra National Forest

Sequoia Then and Now

Sequoia National Park
(photo above), Round Meadow, circa 1940, group of Sequoia gigantea.  From Library of Congress.

Sequoia 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 Now

Sequoia National Park, Mt. Whitney
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.  (Above photo) Mount Whitney.  Photo courtesy NPS.

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.

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Visitor Statistics

Sequoia National Park

909,274 visitors
#75 Most Visited National Park Service Unit

Kings Canyon National Park
567,544 visitors
#100 Most Visited National Park Service Unit

Park Size

Sequoia National Park
403,879 acres (Federal)
404,051 acres (Total)

Kings Canyon National Park
461,846 acres (Federal)
461,901 acres (Total)

Source: NPS, 2013 Visitor Statistics; Visitor Rank among 369 units.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Entrance Fees

7 Day Pass - $20 per vehicle or $10 per person

Crystal Cave Fee
Adult - $15
Senior - $13
Children 5-12 - $8.00
Under 5 - $3

Entrance fee also includes the Giant Sequoia National Monument section inside Sequoia National Forest

Fees subject to change without notice.

Sequoia/Kings Canyon Weather

The climate at these parks vary from place to place due to the change in elevation from 1,500 feet (foothills) above sea level to 14,494 feet.

For example: The average high and low in January in the Foothills is 57/36 degrees.  At mid-elevation (4-7,000 feet), the temperatures in January average 42/24 degrees.

In July, the Foothills average high/low is 97/68 degrees while the mid-elevation temps are 76/51 degrees.

Check the weather forecast and be prepared for the difference in temperatures and conditions.

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