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  • Elaine Sison

Two Day Itinerary for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Updated: Jul 3


Walking on a tree trunk at Kings Canyon National Park

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Surround yourself with magical giant sequoias by taking a road trip to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park in the United States. Sequoia and Kings Canyon are two separate parks but they are conveniently next to each other. This two-day itinerary includes hiking tips and plenty of activities to fill up a full day at each park to see some of the top highlights.


Note: I went to both national parks on the 4th of July weekend, one of the busiest times of the year.


Know before you go:

Advance reservations for wilderness permits are required for camping or any form of overnight stay. Plan ahead because weekend reservations can fill up a month in advance.


Not a camper? If camping isn’t your style, Fresno and Visalia are the closest California cities to both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park which are two hours away.


Be sure to always check the weather each day because the parks have varying climates at different elevations. Check the weather on nps.gov for a more accurate forecast than your usual weather app.


Giant sequoia trees at Sequoia National Park
Giant sequoias towering over you.

Day One: Sequoia National Park

Moro Rock

Start off your morning at Moro Rock at Sequoia National Park. Reach the top of Moro Rock by ascending 390 steps where you’ll get a 360 view of Sequoia’s National Forest. I’m sure it would look stunning at sunrise or sunset too. There is only one way up and one way down so expect to wait to go to the top because it is a high-traffic activity. During the summer weekends, only shuttles are accessible to get to this destination and several other popular activities, so plan on parking at the Lodgepole Campground to catch the shuttle.

  • Level: Moderate, but short. If you’re in shape, then this might be easy.

  • Distance: 0.5 miles


Moro Rock at Sequoia National Park
The peak of Moro Rock. High traffic on holiday weekend.
390 steps at Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park
Going down the 390 steps of Moro Rock.


The General Sherman Tree

The largest and oldest tree in the world standing at a height of 275 feet and 36 feet wide. We came here on a holiday weekend and it was hectic (as expected), so I recommend coming on a weekday to avoid the crowds. This is a great activity for the family too.

  • Level: Easy

  • Distance: 1-mile loop

  • Wheel-chair accessible trail available

The tallest tree in the world at Sequoia National Park
The General Sherman Tree is the tallest tree in the world.

Tunnel Log

Experience driving through a tree along the scenic route. On summer weekends, you can take the park’s free shuttle to get to the tunnel log, but private vehicles are not permitted except on weekdays.


The Big Trees Loop

Enjoy the Big Trees Loop with a beautiful stroll to admire the gorgeous meadow and giant sequoias. We even got to walk inside a couple of fallen sequoia trunks! The trail connects to the General Sherman Tree too, creating a 3-mile one-way hike. During the summertime, the shuttle makes a pitstop here too.

  • Level: Easy

  • Distance: 1.3 miles

Meadows view at Big Trees Loop view in Sequoia National park
Big Trees Loop view of the meadows

a walkway through giant sequoias at Sequoia National Park.
A paved walking path through giant sequoias
Trail path at Kings Canyon

Tokapah Falls

Tokapah Falls is an out-and-back hike to a waterfall where you can rest near the water before heading back. We didn’t get a chance to hike the trail because it took us a lot longer than expected to go through all the other activities and ride the shuttle. Due to the ongoing California drought, the waterfall may look sparse in the summer so it will look different each season.

  • Level: Moderate

  • Distance: 4 miles


Got time to explore more? Check out these additional things to do at Sequoia National Park:

  • Giant Forest Museum: Currently closed, but check nps.gov for updates

  • Crystal Cave: Advance reservations required

  • Little Baldy Trail: 3.3-mile hike with 360 views in summer and fall only


Day 2: Kings Canyon National Park


The General Grant Tree

Kings Canyon is home to the second-largest tree in the world standing at 267 feet tall. The General Grant Tree was coined the Nation’s Christmas Tree in 1926 by President Calvin Coolidge.

  • Level: Easy

  • Distance: 0.3 miles


second largest tree in the world in Kings Canyon.
The second largest tree in the world is called the Nation's Christmas Tree.


Junction View at Kings Canyon

Take a stretch break and get a birds-eye view of the Western Sierra.

Junction Viewpoint at Kings Canyon.
Posing with the Junction View in the back.


Grizzly Falls (viewpoint)

Make a quick pit stop here to admire the waterfall. You are open to exploring the area some more, but the parking lot is a quick walk to the waterfall.

Grizzly Falls at Kings Canyon National Park.
Enjoying the calm waterfall during the summer at Grizzly Falls.


Zumwalt Meadows

Zumwalt Meadows is located in the Cedar Groves area where it is open seasonally between April to November. It connects to Kings River, but the extended trail is currently closed as the path was broken.

Zumwalt Meadows at Kings Canyon
Zumwalt Meadows
Mountain views and Zumwalt Meadows at Kings Canyon.
Mountain views and Zumwalt Meadows at Kings Canyon.


Mist Falls

You’ll find the beginning of the hike to be flat and uneventful for two miles, but it gets interesting when you ascend the hills. This out-and-back trail has stunning views of the valley and leads you to a waterfall where you can relax along the rocks and take a dip in the water. This part of the valley is hotter and mostly unshaded, so bring food, water, and plenty of sunscreen.

  • Level: Moderate

  • Distance: 8.7 miles

Waterfall at Mist Falls Trail in Kings Canyon National Park.
Reached the waterfall. You have the option to keep going or stop here to take a break before hiking back.

Mist Falls Trail at Kings Canyon.
Mountain views during the Mist Falls hike.
Rocky trail path at Kings Canyon

Hume Lake

Hume Lake makes a great place to kick back and enjoy water activities with access to lodging and campgrounds. We didn’t have time to stick around, but we stopped by to fill up our gas tanks at the gas station.


To sum up, you can see the top highlights of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in two days. If you have time to stay longer, you can do all the additional activities I mentioned.


Where to stay:

Hotel accommodations in Visalia:

  • Boutique hotel: The Darling Hotel is a stylish art deco 1930s-themed environment and has been restored and renovated. The building was originally an annex to Visalia's County Courthouse so this is a historic hotel in Visalia that is only 45 minutes from Sequoia National Park.

  • Budget-friendly hotel: La Quinta by Wyndham Visalia/Sequoia Gateway is in Visalia and 45 minutes from Sequoia National Park. This is a budget and pet-friendly hotel that includes complimentary parking.

Camping at Sequoia and Kings Canyon:

Advance reservations are required to camp in Sequoia or Kings Canyon. For summer 2023, some campgrounds are closed due to the winter storm. Please refer to Sequoia and Kings Canyon's official camping site for the latest information and reservation


Transportation

I recommend renting a vehicle or bringing your own vehicle to get to both national parks.


Park shuttles

During peak season between June to September, parking at the most popular sights fills up by mid-morning on weekends and holidays in Sequoia National Park. It is recommended to take the free shuttle when you want to visit the Giant Forest or the Lodgepole areas. The shuttles can take you to the General Sherman Tree, Giant Forest Museum, Crescent Meadow, and Moro Rock. I've only been on the weekend so the shuttle was convenient and we didn't have to wait long as the shuttles run continuously throughout the day in the summer. During the October to May months, there is no free shuttle as visitation is low during the shoulder and low season to these parks.

There is no shuttle at Kings Canyon National Park.


Have an amazing time and remember to leave no trace by not littering or taking out all your trash with you when you visit these beautiful parks.


Additional resources:

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Elaine is a California Bay Area native who now lives in San Diego, CA as a remote marketing project manager by day and a travel content creator.

Elaine created PureTrips for adventurers who are looking for travel guides and hiking tips to create memorable experiences.

Keep exploring.

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