Over a long weekend in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, 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.
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.
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.
You’ve got a couple hours of driving ahead of you today, so start the day early by stretching your legs with a hike. There are countless options, but some of the best include the ones that take you atop a granite dome: Little Baldy, Big Baldy Ridge, and Buena Vista Peak offer incredible views of the surrounding forests and valleys in less than five miles of hiking.
Get back in the car and take the scenic Generals Highway west and north until you reach Grant Grove. You can stop for a buffet lunch at Montecito Sequoia Lodge, or wait until the end of your drive and eat at the full-service Grant Grove Restaurant.
Take the stunning drive along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which descends into Kings Canyon. If it’s a summer afternoon, take a break from the heat by exploring Boyden Cavern. Continue east toward Cedar Grove, being sure to stop at Grizzly Falls along the way. The misty waterfall is just off the highway and makes for a great photo op.
Check into Cedar Grove Lodge or set up camp at one of Cedar Grove’s four campgrounds. Enjoy a sunset meander through Zumwalt Meadow. Find a bench and watch the Kings River roll by. Have dinner at the Cedar Grove Grill. After dark, spend some time stargazing. You’re in one of the darkest places in the park, so the views are especially good.
Pick one big activity for today. If you want to hike, you can enjoy the water at Mist Falls or take in the views from the Cedar Grove Overlook. To hit the trail on horseback, visit the Cedar Grove Pack Station. Or maybe sightseeing is more your speed: both Knapp’s Cabin and Roaring River Falls are a short distance off the highway.
Take the highway up and out of the canyon and return to Grant Grove. Visit the General Grant Tree, the world’s second largest tree, and admire the other sequoias that surround this giant. Stop in at the Grant Grove Market for picnic supplies, then enjoy a sunset dinner at Panoramic Point. Watch the skies above the Sierra fade from pink to purple to slate. Spend your last night at one of the Grant Grove Cabins and dream of your next trip to these magnificent parks.