Visiting America’s second oldest national park at Sequoia located near central California, is truly a treat. And although it can take hours to get there, it’s so easy to become more inspired with every visit to a national park. We decided to make it an adventure as we mapped our way out to explore Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located directly next to each other. They are in central California near the Fresno area. Taking off from the San Diego area, we head northward towards Los Angeles. We came into the fire affected areas on the freeway. It seemed like we were surrounded by chaos. As we sit in traffic gridlock, helicopters hover above us and brush fires are to our left in the hills; let’s just say it felt a bit hectic.
We encountered a few road blocks on our road trip heading north passing through Los Angeles. At this point, the firestorm of 2018 is happening all around us as we saw a plume-like cloud at the backdrop of the city as we move at a snails pace northward.
Witnessing all these fires reminded us of our experience with fires and evacuations back in 2014. We also experienced massive fires in San Diego in 2007. Evacuation orders were announced to us during the 2014 San Marcos fires which were burning literally in our backyards. Here are a few photos.
Sequoia National Park
Finally, we arrive at Sequoia National Park early enough in the day to enjoy most of the park. Well, at least the parts that were not closed due to the winter season. Our journey continues into the park as we ride on The Generals highway. Driving on this 80 year old roadway definitely added to overall park experience.
We encountered road construction delays as we went through the park entrance. The construction delay includes a 2 hour delay but we made it in time, where only 40 minutes remained until traffic would be allowed through. Update: Road construction may be complete, please click the link above for the most current road travel announcements.
Our timing worked out almost perfect, spending time at the Foothills Visitors Center allowed us a little break as we waited. Enjoy this journey through the park as we share some of the highlights and points of interest of Sequoia National Park.
A visit to the Giant Forest Museum is a nice stop to use the restrooms and see a few Sequoia exhibits, pick up information and browse the gift shop. You will also find maps and details about Kings Canyon National Park reservations. As well as Sequoia National Park camping reservations. Permits are also offered here.
General Sherman Tree
We love trees. So of course, we make our way to see more magnificent trees and the next giant to see General Sherman Tree. Here you will find two different hiking trails that take you down to the tree. The main trail is about 1/2 mile down stairs and paved walkway. There are small signs that include a warning: “High Elevation, so take your time.” This sign is of course intended for those walking back up the hill, those returning to the parking area. I know I’ve said it already, but these trees are amazing.
General Sherman Tree is estimated to be 2,200 years old. It’s largest branch is nearly 7 feet in diameter. Wow! Do you know the difference between Sequoia and Redwood trees?
Sequoia vs Redwood
Here are a few details.
Sequoias grow naturally in the west slope of the California Sierra Nevada range and have a massive trunk and is also called the Sierra Redwood.
The Redwood tree is a taller and more slender tree and grows in the northern and coastal part of California.
Several of the meadows, water fall trails, and other paths are closed for the winter season. We had hopes to see a few bears as well, but only a few of them are out and roaming around different parts of the park. This time of year is truly beautiful. There is a brisk freshness in the air, however, the controlled burning fires in the park didn’t make for the best photo opportunities. Not to the mention the fires burning in the Los Angeles area going on at the same time.
The Park Ranger informed us that the bears are small black bears, about the size of a large dog. She also reminded us to remain at a distance, do not feed them, and properly store food in appropriate containers. The ranger also indicated there might be a few bears in the meadow areas, but we did not see any.
Unfortunately, due to all the fires happening around California, and the national park doing a contained burn, the smokey hazy skies is all we could capture.
Kings Canyon National Park
On our second day visiting the national parks in this area, we started early in Kings Canyon. These parks are very remote, so it can be challenging finding Sequoia National Park lodging reservations close to the parks. Our lodging for the night is in Fresno (Since Sequoia and Kings are located right next to each other). It was a beautiful morning as we make our way in and around Kings Canyon National Park.
Fallen Monarch Tree
Compare the fallen Monarch photo to the black and white photo taken around 1900. It is amazing walking through this fallen tree as it lay here just the same as it did back in the early 1900s. (See the black and white photo info display photo, Life after Death) Sequoias can avoid decay even for thousands of years fallen on a forest floor. Take a walk through the center of the fallen Monarch here in the video below. Click here.
Kings Canyon Overlook
Another point of interest is an incredible overlook we stumbled upon on our drive down to Hume Lake that offers stunning views of the canyon below and impressive landscapes.
Unfortunately, the hazy smokey skies continue to linger all around us during this particular weekend. Although we feel a bit disappointed, we refuse to allow this to put a damper on our visit!
As we went further into the park, we came upon Hume Lake. This area is home to a smaller lake and camping area. The lake area is very quiet, peaceful and serene. The lake is on private land and not part of the national park. There is camping opportunities and large group camping events available. The hiking trail that goes around the lake is approximately 2 miles. I wasn’t really impressed with Lake Hume area, but it was very quiet and had only a few people milling around.
As we continue exploring the park, we came upon the infamous giant sequoia tree. We also wandered around this neat old time cabin. Built in 1872 by Israel Gamlin, and later it became where the first park ranger resided, this is Gamlin Cabin .
General Grant, Americas Christmas Tree. The world’s second largest tree!
It is so exciting to visit someplace new, never before seen. It is even more special when you visit a national park. I can hardly put into words how truly amazing these two beautiful national parks are. They are full of stunning landscapes, interesting history, and impressive plant life (giant trees). We recommend visiting these two parks if you are up for adventure. One good thing is that they are conveniently located next to each other, so you can explore two parks with one visit.
To top off our amazing visit, we were able to enjoy a few stunning sunsets!
More information about these parks are below:
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271
- There is no gas available in the park.
- Trails: Day hikes are available in all areas.
- Bears: Black bears are attracted to human food, and they know what the plastic grocery bags are. You can’t even begin to understand how good their sense of smell of food is. You must properly store food at all times.
- Do not feed any wildlife.
Lodging and Dining
Lodging and Places To Stay:
We stayed in Fresno, since these national parks are located slightly over an hours drive. As a member of Choice Hotels, there are a wide variety of options and locations.
As we plan our travels, we do try to make reservations in hotels that are close to dining choices. There are a few restaurants nearby so we don’t spend too much time driving around and wasting time.
Save it for later!