Begin coaching your neck muscle groups now: Whenever you go to Sequoia and Kings Canyon Nationwide Parks, you’ll spend a number of time trying up — manner up — at a number of the largest dwelling organisms within the historical past of the planet. If the identify wasn’t a lifeless giveaway, the primary points of interest in these twin parks in Central California are roughly 40 totally different sequoia groves. These behemoth bushes can solely develop on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, from 4,000 to eight,000 toes in elevation, and the parks are residence to seven of the ten largest bushes on the earth.
Amazingly, these bushes, which stretch as much as practically 300 toes excessive, aren’t even the tallest issues within the parks. In actual fact, they’re positively dwarfed by geological formations just like the namesake Kings Canyon, a glacial valley hemmed in by 4,000-foot-high granite partitions, and Sequoia’s Mount Whitney, the best level within the Decrease 48 at 14,494 toes.
Situated within the Southern Sierra Nevada, about equidistant from San Francisco and Los Angeles, Kings Canyon and Sequoia are literally two nationwide parks for the value of 1. They share a border and a protracted historical past, courting again to the early days of the conservation motion in America. On Sept. 25, 1890, President Benjamin Harrison established the nation’s second nationwide park, Sequoia, to guard the realm’s namesake giants from the encroaching logging business. Only a week later, he added Common Grant Nationwide Park to the roster.
In these early days, America’s first Black nationwide park superintendent (and the one African American commissioned officer within the U.S. Military), Col. Charles Younger, led efforts to construct a street into Sequoia’s Large Forest, and by 1903, the panorama had opened to vacationers coming in by wagon. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress established Kings Canyon Nationwide Park, which absorbed the previous Common Grant park.
At this time Sequoia contains 631 sq. miles, which embrace the famed Generals Freeway, which cuts by dense sequoia groves; Moro Rock, a climbable granite dome; the pristine Mineral King glacial valley; and Crystal Cave, a marble cavern closed till 2023 on account of wildfire injury to its street and path. The bifurcated, 722-square-mile Kings Canyon, in the meantime, sits atop Sequoia like two lopsided bunny ears: To the west, a squiggly sliver of parkland surrounds the Common Grant Tree and the neighboring village and customer heart; to the east, a a lot bigger swath of wilderness is centered round Kings Canyon correct, dotted with iconic vistas like Zumwalt Meadow, Roaring River Falls and Muir Rock. The meandering ribbon of the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway connects the 2 sections because it cuts by the adjoining Sequoia Nationwide Forest.
Regardless of their world-famous supertall points of interest, Kings Canyon and Sequoia stay blissfully crowd-free a lot of the yr. In 2019, earlier than pandemic-related disruptions, Sequoia welcomed about 1.2 million guests; Kings Canyon, simply over 630,000. Evaluate that to the 4.6 million who stopped in at Yosemite Nationwide Park, their Sierras neighbor 40 miles to the north.
For park ranger Rebecca Paterson, “tuning in to the soundscape” is likely one of the greatest methods to benefit from the wilderness. “Discover a secluded spot, take a couple of steps off the path, possibly sit down, possibly shut your eyes, and simply be silent and hearken to the sounds of the park for a few minutes,” Paterson says. “I can’t categorical how calming and gratifying that is.”
Location: Central California, about 260 miles from San Francisco and 220 miles from Los Angeles
Acreage: 865,964 acres, or 1,353 sq. miles
Highest level: Mount Whitney, 14,494 toes
Lowest level: The foothills entrance, 1,370 toes
Miles of trails: 866
Most important attraction: Sequoia groves with record-breaking bushes
Entry charge: $35 per personal automobile for as much as seven days; $30 for bikes; $20 for bicycles or walk-in entry; $70 for annual passes
Greatest strategy to see: By automotive or by the free park shuttle (between Could and September)
When to go to keep away from the crowds: September, after the summer season crowds depart and earlier than the snow begins
Plan Your Journey
The parks are comparatively centrally positioned throughout the state and a little bit of a trek to succeed in from main cities: You may count on a few five-hour drive from San Francisco or a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Los Angeles. Relying on the place you’re flying in from, you might wish to reap the benefits of the a lot nearer Fresno Yosemite Worldwide Airport, about an hour and quarter-hour from the Kings Canyon entrance on State Route 180. The airport gives nonstop flights from 11 U.S. cities, together with Dallas, Denver and Las Vegas.
When planning your journey, word that it’s onerous to generalize in regards to the climate in these elements. There’s an infinite elevation shift from the foothills in Sequoia (as little as 1,370 toes) to the massive tree groves in each parks to Sequoia’s towering Mount Whitney. Because of this, temperatures can frequently drop to 30 levels as you ascend increased by the parks. Happily, the NPS maintains a useful web site with forecasts for particular areas. The foothills are likely to have milder winters and scorching, dry summers, with common highs in July and August reaching into the higher 90s and common winter lows dropping to the mid-30s. In Sequoia’s Large Forest and Kings Canyon’s Grant Grove, summer season temperatures are considerably milder, normally within the mid-70s within the daytime and the 50s at evening. Even when it’s scorchingly scorching if you enter the parks (it has been recognized to hit 114 levels), you should still want a light-weight sweater by the point you’re surrounded by sequoias. Plan and pack accordingly — layers are your pal.
Whereas the winter could be peaceable and the parks look beautiful below a blanket of contemporary snow, issues decelerate throughout these months. A number of roads, together with 180 from Grant Grove to Cedar Grove, Mineral King Street and Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Street, shut on account of treacherous, icy driving situations, and most of the parks’ lodging choices shutter. Presently, Freeway 180 to Cedar Grove is closed on the Hume gate till spring 2023. Test the park web site for closures earlier than you go.