Late last month – over the last weekend to be exact – my brother, Jim, and I spent a couple of days in Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park – it was both of our first time there! On another one of his trips in the past, we spent a day at Joshua Tree National Park, so I think maybe I’ve gotten myself into a National Park tradition with him, ha!
The parks, connected by the Sequoia National Forest, are absolutely breathtaking. We had never seen such giant trees before. We’d never seen so much GREEN! There would be times when cars would just completely stop in the road because the giants around the bend were completely unexpected. We had the best time. We ended up choosing a couple hikes that completely removed us from all the crowds…we would pass one, maybe two hikers the entire time. But being out there, just us and Mother Nature, soaking it all in, taking in the most insane views; that was the best part. I feel so lucky that I got to share it with my big brother! While he hasn’t been able to get out hiking much in the last few years since he lives in the city, he told me that this trip has given him the bug again…he’s ready to get out there to hike and trail run! That just made me the happiest to hear 🙂
WHEN WE WENT:
Even if you don’t live in LA, I’m sure you’ve all heard about how crazy traffic can be. To avoid turning our four hour trip into an eight hour trip, we left at 5:30am on Friday morning and made it to the entrance in about 4.5 hours (with stops for coffee and breakfast)! We left the park to come home on Sunday around 2:00pm and it only took us 3.5 hours to pull back into our driveway. The drive itself is really easy. I suggest splitting up the driving, though, because once you’re in the park, there’s plentyyyyy more driving to do!
Since we booked our trip a little last minute, we didn’t end up getting a campsite within the parks (they go fast!). We learned later on from some park rangers that a lot of campers don’t show up to their sites, so you can hope for a same day site booking, or you can attain a Wilderness Pass and camp off of one of the trails a specified number of miles away. This could be a little risky, in case all sites are filled or all passes are given away, but most of the Rangers assured us that usually it’s pretty easy to get lucky.
Instead, we booked a hotel in the closest town to the Sequoia entrance: Three Rivers. We stayed at the Western Holiday Lodge, and while it was definitely not the most glamorous, it did the trick! We spent our entire days in the park anyway, so we really just needed a place to sleep and shower! Our hotel was about a 15 minute drive from the Park Entrance, so it was worth it for us!
WHAT WE ATE:
We opted for a hotel with Continental Breakfast, so that we wouldn’t have to worry about that meal. For lunches, we had packed a cooler filled with fruit, bread, lunchmeat, plenty of snack bars, and a big bag of pretzels. We ate picnic lunches in the park everyday during our trip! These were actually my favorite meals J For dinner, once we left the park, we stopped at two local spots…basically the only two that were open past 9pm! A pizza place and a BBQ place. Before we would enter the park, we stopped at a little grocer to pick out some fresh fruit that we could snack on throughout the day. It gets hot up there so you have to stay hydrated! Keep a big jug of water in the trunk of your car…just in case! Maybe my favorite stop we made in Three Rivers was at Sequoia Coffee Co. …this place felt a little more LA than Mountain Town…but their iced coffee was just what I needed to start the day after a longgggg previous day of driving! Definitely recommend!
WHERE WE HIKED & WHAT WE SAW:
Since we left LA super early, we got to the park just before 10 o’clock Friday morning. Since the park is currently doing some road construction on the main through-road, it takes a little longer than normal to get through the initial climb. The first really jaw-dropping area we drove through was Big Trees Forest, so naturally we had to stop and get out to check out the redwoods for our first time!
Big Trees Trail is an easy one-mile loop on a boardwalk. Even if it’s easy, I recommend stopping here to stretch out your legs after a long morning of driving! The trees kind of outline this little meadow and it’s a great first view at all the giant redwoods to come.
Little Baldy Hike is about a four mile out-and-back trail with a steep elevation gain. It starts with a couple of switchbacks and then dips into a really cool little meadow before dumping you out on a little rock overlook. Don’t be fooled like we were into thinking this is the summit! Keep going on the trail…it’s called Baldy for a reason…the summit looks like a big, round bald head! The view is unreal — I think this was my favorite viewpoint of the whole trip!
^^what we thought was the summit vs. the actual summit^^
Buena Vista Point Trail is a really beautiful 3-ish mile hike with an easy going elevation gain, but you’ll definitely work up a sweat. We didn’t run into a single soul on this little hike, which was a shame because the view really is something special. We ended up sitting up there for awhile, taking in the views of the winding road that runs through the park.
General Grant Tree Grove was a fun stop that we made at the tail-end of the day…which I think was smart because there weren’t many people there at that time at all! General Grant is the third largest tree in the world (I hope I’m getting that right), and the Grove is filled with lots of other really big sequoias…it’s an easy little nature walk on a paved path. It was a great way to end our long day!
I think the biggest thing we learned from Day One is how much driving you actually do in the park. For this reason, Jim ended up driving on Day Two, since I would be driving us back the next day! We were also pretty wiped out from our first day, so we took advantage of our full day in the park to drive allllll the way up to Kings Canyon National Park. We both decided we loved this park even more than Sequoia because the crowds are less. It all seems a little quieter up there. We drove all the way to Roads End, and that’s where we learned all about Wilderness Permits and given-up campgrounds!
Before we drove up to Kings, we stopped at the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia because it’s the largest tree in the world! The parking for this seems a long ways away from the actual tree…and many people opt to take the shuttle down…but if you’ve got two working legs than I 100% recommend taking the 1 mile trail down to the tree and the grove. It’s an easy downhill path, and coming back up isn’t so bad either! I think, if you’re at the park, you’re there to hike, not take a shuttle! The General Sherman Tree was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen — sometimes it’s hard to wrap your head around just how long these things have been growing and growing and growing…
^^our advice? there’s a huuuuge line of people standing to get their photo in front of the tree…just walk around to the other completely empty side and snap your photo there instead! ^^
Once we got into Kings Canyon, there’s lots of beautiful sites to stop at along the way, including waterfalls and rivers. Make the stops! Just be smart about pulling back out onto the narrow road…we almost saw a car go over the edge into Kings Canyon itself! There are speed limit signs for a reason in the park…especially on roads that don’t have guard rails.
Near Roads End, you’ll reach Zumwalt Meadows, a really beautiful 3ish mile loop that you can make as long or as short as you’d like. The shades of green on this trail are so bright they almost look fake! This was one of both Jim and my favorite stops of the trip…we want to come back and explore a little further down Bubb’s Creek next time!
On our last day at Sequoia, we got up early to get in a nice hike before hopping in the car and heading back home. We opted for the popular Moro Rock. It’s a pretty famous summit that you can see from a lot of different parts in the park and it offers some pretty rad views. We were told to try and head there at either sunrise or sunset, probably to avoid some of the crowds. This was definitely the most popular spot we hiked all weekend, but it was worth the crowds, for sure! The thing about Moro Rock, is that you can take a shuttle directly to it and hike up the many many manyyyy steep steps, and call it a day. OR you can actually take one of the shadiest, most beautiful hikes to it! We opted for the shady, beautiful hike 😉 We hiked the Moro Rock Trail to Moro Rock, summited Moro Rock, and then looped back to the parking lot via Soldiers Loop Trail. The whole entire time we kept telling each other how glad we were that we opted for the hike rather than the shuttle. I 1,000% recommend you do this if you’re able to!!! We met a few other hikers along the way and they all seemed to be happy that they made the same decision.
And that was our Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Weekend! Hope you enjoyed all the photos — it was hard choosing which ones to post! We definitely have plans to come back, and I think next time we’ll camp in the park, to avoid some of the extra driving in and out of the entrance. If you have any questions about our experience or are planning your own trip, send me a message!
thanks for stopping by!