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Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks
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Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are located adjacent to each other in the central part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. They are situated about 200 miles north of Los Angeles and about 200 miles southeast of San Francisco. Both parks can be reached from either city in about four hours. The entrance to Kings Canyon lies about 50 miles east of Fresno and the entry to Sequoia is about 35 miles east of Visalia.

Sierra Nevada Mountain wilderness © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Both parks are beautiful to see with plenty of unspoiled wildernesses.

The main access to either park is via Highway 99 through the Central Valley of California. This vast arid plain was once a semi-desert valley sheltered between the Coastal Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Today, it has been transformed, by massive irrigation, into one of the most fertile agricultural regions in the USA. As you drive through the Central Valley, you will find many roadside markets selling fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables all grown in the surrounding fields and orchards.

Unlike Yosemite Park, and the Grand Canyon, Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon NP do not become crowded with millions of visitors each year. Both parks are beautiful to see with plenty of unspoiled wildernesses, but they are not as popular. No public transportation is convenient to either park, and the only access is by automobile or bus tour. If you want to get away from the crowds of tourists, these are great places to visit.

Sequoia National Park

The southern entry to Sequoia lies near the town of Three Rivers about 35 miles east of Visalia on Highway 198. Three Rivers, California, has about a half dozen motels plus several stores, gas stations and restaurants. You should definitely fill your tank here, as there is no fuel available in the park. These are the closest accommodations to the park unless you camp or stay at one of the lodges within the park boundaries.

The park entrance lies just a few miles east of town. It costs $10 for a 7-day pass to enter both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. From the entrance, the road climbs nearly 2,000 meters in 26 miles of switchbacks to the 2,500-meter summits of the first Sierra peaks.

Several groves of Sequoia trees are located close to the summit. Nearby park facilities include toilets, camping, a snack bar and a store. A few lodges are located throughout the park with overnight and longer-term accommodations. These usually require advanced reservations, but they are not as difficult to secure as the lodgings in Yosemite.

Sequoia trees are the largest in the world

Sequoia trees, also known as giant California redwoods, are the largest trees in the world. They grow to a height of nearly 100 meters, which is not much higher than the Sugar pines and Ponderosa pines growing around them. The Sequoia, however, develops immense bulk. The trunks are often 4 to 6 meters in diameter. Even at 100 meter above the ground the trunk can be 4 or 5 meters in diameter.

Many of the Sequoia trees have survived for over one thousand years. Ancient forest fires have hollowed some, and you can walk through their cavernous interiors. You can even drive through a few. Others have fallen and lie on the forest floor. Early settlers in the Sierra Mountains even constructed houses and stables within the hollowed trees. The Sequoia groves are magical places in the land of the giant trees.

Kings Canyon National Park lies just north of Sequoia

Kings Canyon © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
The scenery is fantastic. Canyon walls rise 1,000 meters on each side with sheer granite cliffs and beautiful waterfalls.

Kings Canyon National Park is adjacent to Sequoia, and you can enter it directly from Sequoia NP via Route 198. The main, northern entrance lies about 50 miles east of Fresno along Highway 180. There are only a few small villages along this route with a meager assortment of accommodations and services. Within Kings Canyon are camping facilities, toilets, restaurants, convenience stores and several lodges. There is also one privately owned business that is a combination motel, service station, bar and convenience store.

From the park entrance, Route 180 climbs through about 20 miles of switchbacks to the summit of the first mountain range at about 2,000 meters. There are camping and lodging facilities at the summit near some spectacular groves of Sequoia trees. Along this road are some great views and a wide variety of hiking, mountain biking and riding trails. Riding horses and pack animals are available to rent at several stables in the park. Lodging is available at the mountaintop, but advanced reservations are necessary.

The scenery in Kings Canyon is spectacular

From the summit, Route 180 drops 1,000 meters down into the canyon through a series of switchbacks with spectacular views. At the bottom, it follows the raging Kings River up this narrow defile for about 10 miles to Cedar Grove Village and Roads End. The scenery is fantastic. Canyon walls rise 1,000 meters on each side with sheer granite cliffs and beautiful waterfalls. Kings Canyon resembles Yosemite Valley without the thousands of tourists.

There are camping facilities, a lodge, restaurant, store and horse rental stables at Cedar Grove Village. Many hiking and riding trails lead into the mountain wilderness from points around Cedar Grove Village and Roads End. It is possible to hike into these mountains and not see another person for weeks. Kings Canyon is a great place to appreciate the unspoiled wilderness of the USA without crowds of tourists.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon Accommodations

If you wish to stay at one of the lodges within Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks, you must contact the lodging concessionaires. You can find links to their web pages on the National Park pages for these parks under the "Lodgings" tag: National Park Service

In the little town of Three Rivers, California, near the south entrance to Sequoia National Park, there are several motels. I stayed at this Comfort Inn and found it to be quite nice and comfortable with reasonably priced rates. You can check on availability, features and prices or you can make reservations here: Comfort Inn

Visalia is about a half-hour drive west of the south entrance to Sequoia NP. It offers a larger selection of accommodations. Click on the following links to check features and prices or to make a reservation: Econolodge is a budget priced hotel. Holiday Inn and Marriott are more moderately priced.

Fresno is about a one-hour drive west of the north entrance to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon. It offers a wide variety of accommodations. Click here to explore the prices and features of the hotels in Fresno: Fresno Hotels

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: © Mike Leco / USATourist.com
Photo Description: A Giant Sequoia tree