This itinerary takes you through the highlights of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in two days and features a good mix of driving, hiking, and sightseeing.
Day 1: Kings Canyon National Park
Spend the night prior at one of the campgrounds or cabins near Grant Grove. In the morning, wake up and walk the short trail to Panoramic Point to watch the sunrise. After breakfast at the Grant Grove Restaurant, stop in at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center for maps and information.
From Grant Grove Village, drive one mile northwest on Highway 180 to the left turnoff for the General Grant Tree. Walk the 0.6-mile loop around the world’s second-largest tree and pay homage to the General and its many neighboring behemoths.
Return to Highway 180 and cruise east on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (road open May-Oct.), stopping at the roadside overlook at Junction View. Here you can peer down at the confluence of the Middle and South Forks of the Kings River and admire what geology has created in this magnificent canyon. Shortly past the Cedar Grove turnoff, stop and take a brief walk to Roaring River Falls, a snowmelt-fed cataract that drops through a narrow gorge into the South Fork Kings River.
Continue to the trailhead for Zumwalt Meadow. Walk this scenic 1.8-mile loop alongside the Kings River, enjoying views of the Grand Sentinel and North Dome towering more than 3,500 feet above the valley floor. At Road’s End, take the short walk to Muir Rock, where you can sit by the river and watch the water roll by, or go for a quick dip.
Grab an early dinner at Cedar Grove Lodge and spend the night here or in one of the Cedar Grove campgrounds. Otherwise head back to Grant Grove before dark so you can enjoy this spectacular scenery all over again.
Day 2: Sequoia National Park
From Grant Grove, drive 1.5 miles west on Highway 180 and turn left onto the Generals Highway, heading south for Sequoia National Park. It’s a winding and scenic 26 miles (plan 45 minutes) to Lodgepole, where you can pick up maps and information. Along the way, stop off at Wuksachi Lodge, just north of Lodgepole, for breakfast or lunch in the forest-view dining room.
Once at Lodgepole Visitor Center, buy Crystal Cave tour tickets and grab some picnic supplies at the Lodgepole Center Market. Stretch your legs with a 3.6-mile round-trip hike to Tokopah Falls. You’ll have plenty of marmots for company on this forested trail through a U-shaped glacial valley.
Back on Generals Highway, continue south and park your car across the road from the Giant Forest Museum. Take a peek at the fascinating exhibits inside, then ride the shuttle bus to the General Sherman Tree. Get your picture taken at the largest tree on earth, then leave the crowds behind on the two-mile Congress Loop, which travels among hundreds of cinnamon-colored giant sequoias. Or if the shuttle bus is running along Crescent Meadow Road, ride it to the Moro Rock parking lot and climb the 390 stairs to the top of this 6,725-foot granite precipice.
The twisting, seven-mile road to Crystal Cave lies just south of Giant Forest off Generals Highway (look for the turnoff on the right). Plan to arrive prior to your scheduled tour time to make the 0.5-mile walk to the cave entrance. Formed of limestone that metamorphosed into marble, fascinating Crystal Cave lies hidden behind an impressive spiderweb gate. Beyond it, you can explore the secret underground world of Sequoia.
After the cave tour, return to Generals Highway and drive south for 8.5 miles along the road’s multiple twists and turns. Stop at Hospital Rock to picnic among the Native American pictographs. The Ash Mountain entrance lies a mere six miles west. Six more miles west on Highway 198 is the gateway town of Three Rivers, which offers overnight accommodations.
Alternatively, you could start your tour from the south, beginning at the Ash Mountain entrance. Continue north all the way to Kings Canyon, or simply stop at Lodgepole and explore from there.
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