When famed naturalist John Muir wrote about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in 1891 - long before they were estabiished - he said: "In the vast Sierra wilderness far to the southward of the famous Yosemite Valley, there is a yet grander valley of the same kind."
The two national parks, administered jointly, form one of California's most spectacular and least-visited treasures. In them, you'll find the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on the planet; Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States; Kings Canyon, by some measures the country's deepest canyon, and the second-largest road-free wilderness area in the United States.
For simplicity, we refer to Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument jointly as "Sequoia National Park" in the descriptions below.
Scenes from Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Check it out: 12 Gorgeous Views of Sequoia and Kings Canyon
Why Should You Go? Will You Like Sequoia and Kings Canyon?
Sequoia and Kings Canyon are popular with photographers and anyone who loves the outdoors. The scenery is quite similar to Yosemite, but it's much less crowded, making it a perfect place to escape everyday life.
Best Time to Go to Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is open all year and is seldom crowded, receiving only about one-third of the visitors that threaten to overrun Yosemite. Most weekends, even in mid-summer, you can find hotel rooms available.
Spring and summer can bring out showy wildflower blooms, and the waterfalls are at their peak in summer.
In fall, you'll find colorful foliage along the river in Kings Canyon. Winter visitors will find the giant sequoias decked out in snow, but will miss the opportunity to see the magnificent Kings Canyon and Crystal Cave, which are closed from mid-November through mid-May.
If you've only got a day, the giant redwood trees are one of the area's most exciting features.
You can visit the General Sherman Tree or General Grant by taking a short walk from the main road, but they're not the only great things to see or do. Check out more of the best things to do.
Getting Around Sequoia National Park
When driving from one location to another, expect to average 25 mph or less. It takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to drive from Grant Village to Roads End in Kings Canyon. If you're just passing through on your way to Yosemite, it's about a three-hour drive from Sequoia National Park to Yosemite National Park via CA Hwy 41.
Winter snow sometimes closes the road between the Giant Forest and Grant Village, and you should always have chains with you in winter. These are the rules you need to know. When that road is closed, you won't be able to get into Sequoia National Park from CA Hwy 180. Call 449-565-3341 for a recorded message about road conditions.
If you have a big RV or are towing something, the size limit for single vehicles is 40 feet long. It's 50 feet for a vehicle and towed unit combined.
Some secondary roads have shorter restrictions, as does the 12 miles between Potwisha Campground and Giant Forest.
Tips for Visiting Sequoia National Park
During the annual National Parks Week in April, entry is free in more than 100 parks nationwide, including Sequoia National Park.
Get more information at the National Parks Week website. Entry is also free on selected other days that vary by year. You'll find the current year's list here.
If you arrive off-season, don't be fooled into thinking admission is free just because you didn't find a ranger at the entrance kiosk. The payment center moves to Grant Village in winter, and you should stop to pay the fee or risk being stopped by a ranger.
You won't find gas pumps inside either of the national parks, but you can buy gasoline at Hume Lake, Stony Creek, and Kings Canyon Lodge. However, it will cost significantly more than if you fill up in Fresno or Three Rivers on your way to the park.
Sequoia National Park has a bear problem. To prevent damage to your vehicle, follow all these precautions very carefully.
Mobile devices may not work everywhere.
If constant communication is important, check your provider's coverage map and leave your hotel phone number with the folks back home.
In the national parks, pets are allowed only in campgrounds, picnic areas, and other developed areas. In the National Forest, they can go on trails with you but must be on a leash less than 6 feet long.
Elevation varies at Sequoia but starts at more than 6,000 feet. Before you go, take a look at our high elevation tips and checklist of things to take. It will help keep you well and comfortable.
Forest fires are always a possibility in the summer. They can affect air quality and travel to the mountains. It’s a good idea to check for them before you go to Sequoia. The easiest to use resource is the California Statewide Fire Map. Just knowing the location of a fire isn’t enough. In my experience, it’s hard to tell what conditions are like in a specific spot. Your best bet may be to go old school: call your hotel or a local tourism-related business and ask.
Best Bites: Sequoia National Park Dining
Most of the hotels in the parks have cafes or restaurants.The one at Wuksachi Village is especially nice (reservations required). When it's available, the Wolverton barbecue can be the best meal in the park: succulent barbecued ribs and chicken with all the fixin's served on a deck next to a flower-filled meadow.
Where to Stay
Check our guide to finding hotels and campgrounds.
Getting to Sequoia National Park
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks
47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA
To get to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon, most visitors take US Hwy 99. Coming from Los Angeles and the south, exit onto CA Hwy 198 at Visalia and follow it through Three Rivers to the Ash Mountain entrance, about a one-hour drive from US Hwy 99. This is the most scenic way to enter, but this twisting road is not suitable for vehicles more than 22 feet long.
Coming from Sacramento and the north, exit US Hwy 99 at Fresno and take CA Hwy 180 east. It will take about 1.5 hours to reach the Foothills entrance.
Help Preserve Sequoia National Park
The Sequoia Parks Conservancy partners with the Park Service to help restore, preserve and support it. You can donate online or become a volunteer.