These photos of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks cover the must-see sights. You can see them in a day's drive starting from the southern (Ash Mountain) entrance to Sequoia, near the town of Three Rivers on CA Hwy 198.
If you're staying longer, use the guide to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to find out about lodging and explore the things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Drive-Through Tunnel Log
Many of the "novelty" trees that drew visitors to Sequoia in the 1930s and 40s are gone, but people still enjoy driving through this fallen giant, which is on the side road from the Giant Forest to Moro Rock. You could once take a picture of your vehicle atop a neighboring fallen tree so big you could drive several cars onto it at once, but it is now closed, having become too decayed to be safe.
Great Western Divide
The Great Western Divide is part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its highest peak is 13,802-foot Mount Kaweah (which is only about 700 feet shorter than Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S.), but eight other peaks in the range are over 13,000 feet tall. This photo was taken from the base of Moro Rock.
Climbing Moro Rock
Moro Rock is a large granite dome created when expansion causes rock layers to flake off from the main rock. It's an easy place to get to, only a quarter-mile hike from the parking lot.
You can get to the top by walking up about 400 stone steps. For climbers, the rock face offers 1,000 vertical feet of cracks and knobs. The top of the barren piece of granite is 6,725 feet high.
General Sherman Tree
This photograph give absolutely no sense of how massive this tree is, nor does the simple fact that it's the largest living thing on earth. You have to see it for yourself, but here are its statistics:
- 2300-2700 years old
- 275 feet high from base to top
- 36.5 feet wide at the base
- The first large branch is 130 feet (13 stories) above the ground
- The largest branch is 6.5 feet across
To get to the General Sherman Tree, hike from the parking lot along a 0.4-mile path that descends 212 feet, which of course means you'll have to hike back up that far on the way out. If you're not up to all that, just off the main highway there's a drop-off point and parking for vehicles with handicapped parking permits, which is much closer to the big tree.
General Grant Tree
The Nation's Christmas Tree, located in California's Sequoia National Park is younger than the General Sherman tree by several hundred years but it's almost as big at 268 feet tall. It's the third-largest Giant Sequoia tree, located in the Grant Grove near the Highway 180 entrance and Grant Village.
Hume Lake is a man-made lake, originally built to supply water for a flume used to float rough-cut sequoia lumber 54 miles from Converse Basin to a mill in the town of Sanger. There's a big Christian camp here, along with a store, cafe and gas station and you can rent boats. It's off the main road going toward Kings Canyon and can be reached by turning off onto either end of the loop road that goes past it.
Kings Canyon is a glacier-carved valley flanked by spectacular, tall cliffs with the Kings River flowing through it. A few miles outside the boundary of Kings Canyon National Park, it deepens to become what is by some measures the deepest canyon in North America.
The canyon and drive into it are some of the most spectacular sights in the park. If you want to see them, know that Highway 180 is closed in the winter. Dates depend on snowfall, but expect the closure to start in mid November and last into April.
It's not a typing error—there is no apostrophe in the name of this canyon. It doesn't belong to the king but instead is named for a river, which in turn was named for the three kings in the Biblical story. According to the diary of Padre Munoz who traveled with the Moraga Expedition in the early 1800s, the first name Europeans gave the nearby river was Rio de Los Santos Reyes (River of the Holy Kings).
You'll see formations like this in many parts of the Sierras, with Yosemite's Half Dome and Sequoia's Moro Rock being good examples of what happens when surrounding rocks flake away from the dome. When geologists talk about them, they use lots of words like "batholiths" and "plutons," but here's the plain English version: First, molten rock (magma) from the earth's core moves toward the crust, but instead of reaching the surface and becoming a volcano, it solidified. Over time, the rock gets pushed up, the rock crystals expand and layers start to flake off, forming a rounded dome of rock.
This pretty waterfall is only a five-minute walk from the parking area. It's a nice cool spot to stop on a hot day. It typically flows from May through August and is about 70 feet tall.
When you begin your descent into Kings Canyon, you can barely see the thin ribbon of water running far below. By the time you get down to the Kings River, you'll find it flowing dramatically over big boulders right next to the highway. The river begins as three forks that join in the foothills below Sequoia to become a popular place for whitewater rafting.
Grand Sentinel is a granite formation near the end of the road in Kings Canyon. Similar to Yosemite's El Capitan, it's a good place for rock climbing and doesn't suffer from overcrowding like its more famous counterpart.