For camping in the California mountains among towering trees, you can’t do any better than Sequoia and Kings Canyon, the twin National Parks in the southern Sierra Nevadas. The trick is to find the campground that — as the now-legendary Goldilocks would say — is “just right.”
Unfortunately, finding that perfect spot is more complicated than it ought to be. Here's why: There are not one but two national parks, side by side. There are campgrounds in the national forest. Other government agencies also offer places to camp. On top of that, privately-owned campgrounds and camping spots are available outside the parks.
Use the tips and strategies below to make sense of your options quickly.
Start by knowing this: The national parks each have campgrounds, more than a dozen of them total. There are also campgrounds in the national forest. Other government agencies also offer places to camp. On top of that, privately-owned campgrounds and camping spots are available outside the parks.
Campgrounds in and Around Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
All of the national park campgrounds charge a nightly fee. Most sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but some can be reserved. On Saturday nights in July and August, and all three-day weekends, you should have a reservation to avoid finding everything filled up. If you arrive unprepared, Lodgepole Campground may have a few sites available, but don't count on it.
If you couldn't get the reservation you wanted, don't give up. Try using the website Campnab. For a small fee, they will scan the reservation system for up to four months, checking for openings and notifying you when openings appear. Depending on how much you pay for the service, they scan every five minutes to an hour.
Some campgrounds have flush toilets and RV dump stations, while others accommodate tents only and may have just pit toilets. None of them have showers, but there are pay showers at Lodgepole Village and Cedar Grove Village. You can also shower at Grant Grove during limited hours. See the national park campground locations and find out what facilities each one has.
If you are traveling in an RV, you won't find hookups at any of the national park campgrounds, but some have dump stations. Check the park website to find out which ones are open.
Backpackers can camp in wilderness areas inside the park, but you need a wilderness permit.
Camping Nearby But Outside the Parks
The USDA Forest Service manages more than 50 developed campgrounds in the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument, some that accommodate RVs and have toilets and running water, while others are more primitive.
Fees vary, and some of the most basic places are free. Camping season runs from late-May through mid-October, but a few campgrounds are open year-round. See a list of all of them with descriptions and find information about reservations.
Camping is also available nearby in Sequoia National Forest's Hume Lake Ranger District.
Reservations For Federal Sites Anywhere
You can make reservations for campgrounds in the national parks, in Sequoia National Forest and other locations administered by the U.S. Government at one website. You can reserve up to six months ahead - and up to a year for group sites that accommodate seven people or more.
Here's how: search for "SEQUOIA & KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS" at recreation.gov. Select the Campgrounds box on the left to see them all. They even include sites that don't take reservations.
Their map is also helpful, but use it with caution. Places that appear too close may not be because of mountains in between. For example, Onion Valley is about 5 miles from Cedar Grove on the map, but it's a 360-mile drive around the mountains to get there.
Private Campgrounds Near Three Rivers
Just outside the park's south gate is the town of Three Rivers. You'll find several campgrounds and RV parks in the area:
Sequoia RV Ranch: They have RV sites and can accommodate all kinds of recreational vehicles. Some of their sites are on the river. If you don't own a trailer, they have one for rent.
Three Rivers Hideaway: The hideaway has over 40 Rv and tent sites, and three cabins and they say they're the closest RV park to Sequoia.
Kaweah Park Resort: The resort is near Lake Kaweah, with RV hookups and tent sites. It's a bit west of Three Rivers near Lake Kaweah
Lemon Cove-Sequoia Campground: It's on Highway 198 near the small town of Lemon Cove.
Visalia/Sequoia National Park KOA isn't as close to the national park as its name implies but instead is about an hour's drive west of the nearest entrance gate. It's a well-equipped park with lots of spaces and amenities.
High Sierra Camps at Sequoia
Bearpaw Meadow Camp is a backcountry tent hotel overlooking Kaweah Gorge and the Great Western Divide, providing hikers with linens and meals, open only in summer. Bearpaw is 11.3 miles from the trailhead at Crescent Meadow. The average time to hike there is about seven hours. You can make reservations online.
Sequoia High Sierra Camp is a much more refined place, where the experience is sometimes called "glamping" (glamorous camping). Their 36 luxury canvas cabins combine a wilderness camping adventure with the comforts of home. To get there, you can make an all-day hike 11 miles along a well-marked backcountry trail or drive to a trailhead and hike just 1.5 miles. Open July through October.