Moon Sequoia & Kings Canyon

Hiking, Camping, Waterfalls & Big Trees


By Leigh Bernacchi

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Ascend towering peaks, take in awe-inspiring views, and get to know some of the oldest, tallest, and rarest living things on Earth with Moon Sequoia & Kings Canyon. Inside you'll find:
  • Flexible Itineraries: Unique and adventure-packed ideas for day hikers, winter visitors, families with kids, campers, and more
  • The Best Hikes in Each National Park: Detailed hike descriptions, trail maps, mileage and elevation gains, and backpacking options
  • Experience the Outdoors: Behold greatness at the base of a giant sequoia, stop and smell the wildflowers of Zumwalt Meadow, or savor panoramic views from the summit of Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the continental US!). Strap on snowshoes for a ranger-led winter walk or spelunk your way around otherworldly rock formations in Crystal Cave. Cool off in the mist of a trailside waterfall, conquer the 400-step climb to the top of Moro Rock, and gaze at ink-black skies with unbeatable views of the Milky Way
  • How to Get There: Up-to-date information on traveling between the parks, gateway towns, park entrances, park fees, and tours
  • Where to Stay: From RV or tent campgrounds to rustic cabins and all-inclusive lodges, find the best spots to kick back, both inside and outside the parks
  • Planning Tips: When to go, what to pack, safety information, and how to avoid the crowds, with full-color photos and easy-to-use maps throughout
  • Expert Insight: Former national park ranger Leigh Bernacchi provides helpful background on the parks' history, geology, conservation efforts, and more
Find your adventure in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks with Moon.
Exploring more of America's parks? Check out Moon USA National Parks.

About Moon Travel Guides: Moon was founded in 1973 to empower independent, active, and conscious travel. We prioritize local businesses, outdoor recreation, and traveling strategically and sustainably. Moon Travel Guides are written by local, expert authors with great stories to tell—and they can't wait to share their favorite places with you.

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tourists standing inside a giant sequoia

Grizzly Falls

DISCOVER Sequoia & Kings Canyon


Planning Your Trip





Best of Sequoia and Kings Canyon


Family Fun



Backpacker’s Paradise


Romantic Getaways


Congress Trail.

Your experiences in Sequoia and Kings Canyon can be like the features of the parks themselves: the biggest, highest, and deepest.

Sequoia National Park houses the two largest living trees in the world: General Sherman and General Grant. The tallest peak in the contiguous United States is Mount Whitney, soaring above the Sierra Nevada at 14,505 feet high. Driving the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway drops you into one of the deepest canyons in the United States, even deeper than the Grand Canyon. From the top of the Sierra Nevada down to the Kings River, countless waterfalls hurtle off cliffsides. Towering above the giant trees are granite spires and marble walls, carved by glaciers into nature’s immense sculptures.

Most of the parks’ two million annual visitors come for the giant sequoias. Of all the denizens of earth, sequoias are among the oldest, rarest, and largest. The sheer magnitude of these giants defies description and confounds cameras. These remnants of an ancient time once covered the northern hemisphere. Most of the groves remaining in the world persist in a narrow band in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. You can’t help but be awestruck when you’re standing at the base of General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth.

taking a rest on General Grant Trail

Wuksachi Lodge in winter

stream fed by Sierra snowmelt

The natural world awaits around every bend of river, road, and trail. Wildflowers paint hillsides along the Kings and Kaweah Rivers in spring. Squirrels chatter and jays shriek. Bears shuffle along the same trails as we do.

Human history is preserved here, too: Among the oaks are grinding stones, where Native Americans once processed acorns to feed their families. Underneath it all lies a system of 200 caves, many of which remain untouched by humans.

These are your parks. Get out there and explore! Gawk up at thousands of giant sequoias. Find unparalleled solitude in the open expanses of windswept granite in the backcountry. Walk along narrow wooded trails, glimmering gold meadows, or snowy paths. Peer up at ink-dark skies and try to count all the stars. Sequoia and Kings Canyon contain enough adventure for a lifetime.

staircase up to Moro Rock

General Sherman Tree.

Indian paintbrush flower


1 See Giant Trees: Behold the two largest living trees on earth: the General Sherman Tree and the General Grant Tree.

2 Venture Underground: Explore the otherwordly rock formations inside Crystal Cave.

3 Go Stargazing: The ink-black skies of Sequoia and Kings Canyon are framed by granite peaks. Stare in awe and try to spot a shooting star or the Milky Way.

4 Take a Hike: Take a short stroll to a waterfall or spend the whole day on the trail.

5 Feel the Spray of a Waterfall: Hear the boom of Roaring River Falls (pictured) or hike all day to Mist Falls.

6 Go Snowshoeing: In the winter, the parks are quiet, covered in a blanket of snow. See for yourself how different the landscape looks by strapping on a pair of snowshoes.

7 Go Backpacking: To immerse yourself in the wilderness of these magnificent parks, pack up your gear and hit the backcountry trails. There’s nothing quite like the solitude here.

8 Drive Kings Canyon Scenic Byway: Explore one of North America’s deepest canyons from the comfort of your car on this gorgeous winding road.

9 Wander Through Wildflowers: You’ll find gorgeous displays in meadows, along river banks, and in countless other spots throughout the parks.

10 Take in the Views at Moro Rock: It’s a steep climb up 400 stairs to reach the top of this granite dome, but it’s worth it for the expansive views, stretching from the valley floor to the mountain peaks.

Planning Your Trip

Where to Go

The foothills of the Sierra Nevada are often overlooked as visitors race to the sequoias. But this area, rich in Native American heritage and filled with oak trees, deserves your time and exploration, too. Pleasant hiking, bird-watching, fishing, and hotel and dining options create an ideal year-round escape. Spring is an especially wonderful time to visit this area, with countless waterfalls and colorful wildflowers.

Giant Forest and Lodgepole

Giant Forest and Lodgepole are the most popular parts of the park, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does the largest living being on earth, the General Sherman Tree, preside over the thousands of surrounding sequoias, but there are over 50 miles (81 km) of trails for hiking and exploring.

base of the General Sherman Tree

Lodgepole grants quick access to high country lakes and unforgettable backpacking trips. Staying at Wuksachi Lodge is a treat, but you can also sleep under the stars at one of the popular campgrounds.

Grant Grove

Bustling Grant Grove offers all the amenities you need for a comfortable trip, including cabins, a lodge, a restaurant, and an excellent visitors center. It’s also home to the world’s second largest tree, the General Grant Tree, and a network of hiking trails. Grant Grove has something for everyone: scenic vistas for photographers, the activity-filled Hume Lake for families, and Redwood Mountain Grove, for those looking to lose themselves in nature.

Kings Canyon and Cedar Grove

Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the country, is an ideal backpacking destination, containing hundreds of miles of wilderness. Granite basins are dotted with idyllic lakes and waterfalls, accessible via day hikes as well as multiday treks. If it gets too hot in the summer, you can duck underground and explore Boyden Cavern. This is also a great area for camping.

Mineral King

In this remote area, the least visited of either park, you’ll encounter peaceful lakes, brightly colored metamorphic rock formations, and a bounty of wildflower-lined waterfalls. Camp at one of two campgrounds, either by a stream or under sequoias, or stay at a rustic resort. This is an excellent place for backpacking, fishing, and bird-watching.

Before You Go
When to Go

Sequoia and Kings Canyon are open every day of the year, though some areas close in the winter.


Summer, from May to August, is the high season for both parks. Plan ahead for lodging reservations and tours of Crystal Cave, especially on weekends. Lines to get into the park can be long, so arrive early. The shuttles that traverse Giant Forest and Lodgepole will be packed, so don’t wait for the last bus of the day. To escape the crowds, visit less trafficked parts of the parks, like Cedar Grove or Mineral King.


The shoulder seasons are when you can get great deals on hotels, first pick of backcountry campsites, and enjoy temperate weather. Fall, from September to November, is gorgeous in Cedar Grove, Grant Grove, Lodgepole, and Mineral King, when the leaves of riparian trees and the grasses brighten to gold. The streams of the Foothills run low, but you’ll enjoy cool weather for strenuous hiking.

Springtime, from March to April, is a delight in Grant Grove, Lodgepole, and the Foothills, when snowmelt trickles into waterfalls, hiking trails start to thaw, and the blooms of redbud trees blaze along the river. Spring is peak wildflower season in the Foothills.

wildflowers in the Foothills region


Lodgepole and Grant Grove are at perhaps their most photogenic in winter, which spans from December to February, with white snow contrasting against the red bark and green needles of the giant sequoias. Cozy up at the hearth of a park lodge, or join a ranger on a snowshoe walk.

The Foothills don’t see snow in winter, so you’ll have your pick of trails, many of which offer total solitude. Cedar Grove and Mineral King are closed in winter.

Before You Go

Visit the official website for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks ( There’s even an official (and free!) smartphone app offered by the National Park Service. The site and app give you access to the park map and newsletter, among many other resources and tools. For more ideas, check out the website for the Sequoia Parks Conservancy ( [URL inactive]) and follow the nonprofit group on social media.

Park Fees and Passes

To cruise through the park entrance stations without waiting in a long line, buy your entrance pass online in advance. Passes last for up to seven days and cost $35 per vehicle, $30 for motorcyclists, and $20 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Other options include:

• an annual pass to Sequoia and Kings Canyon, which costs $70 and covers all passengers in your car

• the America the Beautiful pass, which costs $80 for a year and covers all passengers in your car

• a senior pass ($20 for a year or $80 lifetime), if you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and 62 or older

• the Access Pass (free), which is available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents with disabilities

• the Every Kid Outdoors Annual 4th Grade Pass (free), which is available to children in fourth grade (and their families) and lasts the length of the school year

Entrance Stations

The southern entrance to the parks is the Ash Mountain Entrance Station (Hwy. 198, open year-round), near the town of Three Rivers. It provides easy access to the Foothills, Giant Forest, and Lodgepole.

Also near Three Rivers is the Lookout Point Entrance Station (Mineral King Rd. and Hwy. 198, late May-mid-Oct.), which provides access to Mineral King.

For access to Grant Grove, Cedar Grove, and Kings Canyon, head to the Big Stump Entrance Station (Hwy. 180, open year-round), the northern entrance to the parks.

Big Stump Entrance Station


If you’re visiting in summer, you’ll want to reserve most activities in advance, especially tours of Crystal Cave and horseback riding excursions. Ranger activities are free and do not require reservations.

Reserve a campsite on For the park-based lodges and cabins, you can make reservations on If you plan on taking the shuttle into the park from Visalia, reserve your seat in advance at

In the Park
Visitors Centers

The parks’ four major visitors centers house educational exhibits and bookstores with souvenirs. They also host ranger programs and are where you can obtain a wilderness permit.

Giant Forest Museum (Generals Hwy., 16 mi/26 km north of the Ash Mountain entrance, 559/565-4480, 9am-6pm daily mid-May-mid-Nov., 9am-4:30pm daily mid-Nov.-mid-May) is in the heart of Sequoia’s big trees. There’s a shuttle stop and a large parking lot, a picnic area, access to hiking trails, and enough information about giant sequoias to make you an expert.

Giant Forest Museum

Lodgepole Visitor Center (63100 Lodgepole Rd., 559/565-4436, 7am-5pm daily May-Nov.) hosts a wilderness permit desk, a bookstore, and ranger programs in a centralized location near the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. Nearby are a restaurant and shuttle stop.

Kings Canyon Visitor Center (Hwy. 180, 559/565-3341, ext. 0, 8am-5pm daily late May-early Sept., 9am-4pm daily late Sept.-Dec. and early Mar.-May, 10am-3pm daily Jan.-early Mar.) is the most detailed in the park. Located in Grant Grove Village, the center has interesting displays and staffs enthusiastic rangers.

Foothills Visitor Center (Generals Hwy., 559/565-4212, 8am-4:30pm daily Apr.-Nov., 9am-4pm daily Dec.-Mar.) features displays about the area’s flora and fauna, as well as its human history. It’s small, but it packs in a lot, including a self-registration desk for off-season backcountry trips, a bookstore, and lots of handouts about the parks.

The parks have three other informational facilities, though these are more rudimentary than the main visitors centers. In Cedar Grove, the one-room Cedar Grove Visitor Center (Hwy. 180, 559/565-3793, 9am-5pm daily May-Sept.) offers historical photographs and information. The Road’s End Permit Station (Hwy. 180, 559/565-3341, 7am-3pm daily May-Sept.) in Kings Canyon functions as a wilderness station where you can rent bear canisters. In Mineral King, the one-room Mineral King Ranger Station (mile 24/km 39, Mineral King Rd., 559/565-3768, 8am-3:45pm daily late May-mid-Oct.) doubles as the wilderness permit office and bookstore.

Where to Stay

If you’re looking for a place to stay in Sequoia and Kings Canyon at the last minute, here are some tips:

• Check for campsite cancellations. Sometimes you can snag a last-minute reservation at Lodgepole or Dorst Creek Campgrounds.

Call the park (559/565-3341) to see if all campgrounds are full.

• Pick an area where you’ll have a better chance of success, and try your luck at first-come, first-served campgrounds. You’ll find the most options at Azalea and Crystal Springs Campgrounds in Grant Grove. In Cedar Grove, try Sheep Creek or Moraine Campgrounds. If you’re set on camping in Lodgepole, try for a spot in Stony Creek or Upper Stony Creek, both of which are in nearby Sequoia National Forest.

Getting Around

A personal vehicle is recommended to optimize your ability to move around and between the parks. There is a free park shuttle, but it’s limited to just the Giant Forest and Lodgepole areas of Sequoia National Park. There’s also a long-distance shuttle that transports riders to Giant Forest from Visalia; it costs $20. Both shuttles run only on holidays and in the summer.

Best of Sequoia and Kings Canyon

Over a long weekend in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, you can see the highlights and get some solitude. Whether you want to camp or stay in a hotel, be sure to make reservations in advance.

Day 1

Pack a picnic lunch for today, so that you can stop to eat whenever hunger—or the scenery—calls. Enter Sequoia National Park via Ash Mountain Entrance Station. Just past the entrance station is the Indian Head sign, carved in the 1930s, which marks the entrance to Sequoia. Pop into the Foothills Visitor Center to get your passport stamped and to get oriented.

Continue up the Generals Highway until you reach Hospital Rock. At this large rock outcropping, you can see pictographs left by the Patwisha people who once lived here. It’s about an hour’s drive to the next stop: the General Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia that’s also the world’s largest living tree. Explore more of the surrounding Giant Forest by hiking the Congress Trail.

Backtrack along the highway a bit to the Giant Forest Museum. Park your car here and explore the museum, learning all about giant sequoias. Take the shuttle to Moro Rock, then climb 400 stairs to get a stunning view of the park, overlooking the forest canopy.

the view from Moro Rock

Head back up the Generals Highway to Wuksachi Lodge, where you’ll retire for the night. Make reservations in advance for dinner at the lodge’s restaurant, The Peaks. Sip an aperitif on the deck and enjoy the sunset views. If you’d rather sleep under the stars, you’ll need to make reservations in advance for a spot at the Dorst Creek or Lodgepole Campgrounds.


On Sale
Jan 5, 2021
Page Count
216 pages
Moon Travel

Leigh Bernacchi

About the Author

Raised in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Leigh Bernacchi has always been passionate about the mountains, and some of her best experiences in the wild and wonderful Sierra Nevada have taken place in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. As a national park service ranger, she shared these experiences with hundreds of visitors, and on her days off, she explored the parks from the bottom of snowmelt streams to the tops of waterfalls in the backcountry.

Leigh currently works for the University of California, Merced’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society as the program director. She loves to tell stories about the discovery of the natural world through the lenses of geology, ecology, and sociology. Leigh is an avid birder, hiker, and backpacker.

Learn more about this author