Kings Canyon National Park

CALIFORNIA, USA

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks: Kings Canyon Version.


It is definitely worth saying that Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park are technically one place, however, they are at the same time two separate places offering very different landscapes, sites, and amenities. If you were to start in the Foothills of Sequoia and drive up Generals Highway you would eventually find yourself exiting the park boundaries miles beyond Lodgepole Visitor Center and entering the Jennie Lake Wilderness; from here you will enter the national park grounds again around Quail Flat and Montecito Sequoia Lodge where you will be in Kings Canyon National Park specifically. Now, to get to the section of Kings Canyon we explored you would need to continue North East onto 180, through winding cliff sides in the Monarch Wilderness before reentering Kings Canyon National Park at Cedar Grove Visitor Center just beyond Grizzly Falls. This stretch of Kings Canyon National Park is often known as Roads End.

The drive along 180 will be one of the most breathtaking in your life; I’m sure of it. Have your best and least distracted driver behind the wheel. The barren, rocky outcroppings are absolutely stunning. There are multiple pull-offs and even trailheads (multiple waterfalls) to stop and enjoy the Canyon along the way so plan to stop. Take care to fill up your car with gas before embarking on this adventure; we stopped at Hume Lake for a few necessities on our way through and a quick fill up.

Accommodations

We arrived in late afternoon and the Cedar Grove section of the park was empty. Hundreds of first come first serve campsites between the four campgrounds (Sentinel, Sheep Creek, Moraine and Canyon View) were available, and many for a mere $18 a night. It is HOT with moderate coverage in the canyon, so we found ourselves the shadiest spot we could to set up our gear before slathering on sunblock and heading further down the road to the Roads End Permit Station where many trails begin. 

Please note, the first section of Kinga Canyon National Park, Grant Grove, has additional accommodations as well. Campgrounds include Azalea Campground, which is open to tents, RVs, and trailers year-round, Sunset Campground, which is open to tents, RVs, and trailers from early spring through late fall, and Crystal Springs Campground, which is open to group camping for tents, RVs, and trailers from early spring through late fall.

If camping in a tent or RV isn’t quite your style, the beautiful John Muir Lodge is the pinnacle of Kings Canyon lodging; open year-round in the Grant Grove Village, offering 26 hotel rooms and a restaurant this stone-and-timber retreat is luxurious. Grant Grove Cabins and the Grant Grove Lodge are also available just .5 miles from Sequoia Grove, the visitor center, market, restaurant, gift shop and post office. You can make reservations online or call (877) 436-9615 for any of the above mentioned.


Trails

Trail suggestions are listed below and ranked in difficulty from Easy to Challenging.

TRAIL: Roaring River Falls

DIFFICULTY: VERY EASY

DESCRIPTION: A very short, shady, paved walk to a powerful waterfall rushing through a granite chute. About five minutes of walking will provide you with a beautiful view!


TRAIL: Muir Rock at Roads End

DIFFICULTY:  EASY

DESCRIPTION: This famous rock is where John Muir used to stand to give talks to visitors in Kings Canyon. It not only offers beautiful views of the South Fork of the Kings River but a great place to jump in and swim! As always, use your best judgment when entering the water; this is a strong river especially in May, June, and early July. Heed all warnings.


TRAIL: Zumwalt Meadow

DIFFICULTY: EASY

DESCRIPTION: This incredibly easy 1.5-mile trail passes high granite walls, lush meadows, and the Kings River. Trailhead parking is 4.5 miles east of Cedar Grove Village road toward Roads End. From the parking area, over the bridge, and to the boardwalk, the river washed away hardened surfaces, so some spots are now more difficult for wheelchair travel.


TRAIL: Buena Vista Peak

DIFFICULTY:  EASY – MODERATE

DESCRIPTION: Two miles out and back right off of Generals Highway. Beautiful wildflower filled switchbacks leave you to a rocky summit with a 360-degree view. We pulled over shortly after entering the Grant Grove Area coming from Sequoia National Park and completed this hike in about an hours time. There isn’t much tree cover on this hike either so on a hot, summers day be sure to have your sun protection available!


TRAIL: Mist Falls

DIFFICULTY: MODERATE

DESCRIPTION: This sandy trail follows the glaciated South Fork Canyon through forest and desert-like terrain, past an impressive show of rapids and cascades, to one of the largest waterfalls in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. A day hike for the books, you’ll enjoy the close proximity to the thunderous Kings River, the cool coverings of cedars and ponderosa pines, the stunning views down canyon and finally a thorough soaking from mist falls. The first part of this 9-mile round trip is relatively flat; during the last mile to the falls, the trail gains 600 feet. The average time for this trip is 4 to 5 hours, however, we hauled @$$ and finished the hike in about 3 hours and 10 minutes. Mist Falls itself isn’t actually all that exciting (personal opinion), it’s buggy and misty, however, the hike to the falls is absolutely stunning. One of the coolest parts was to hike through such different terrain from start to finish; it will be hot and dry to begin your hike (in the summer months) but as you climb in elevation and tree cover you will start to cool down so bring some extra layers along. 


TRAIL: Paradise Valley

DIFFICULTY: MODERATE

Photo Credit: http://www.redwoodhikes.com

DESCRIPTION: 17.3 miles out and back so it is most often done as an overnight or a double overnight. You will hike right on up past mist falls on this journey as well so you will experience all of the wonders of the above-mentioned hike! They say the real climbing and the best views occur just after Mist Falls. At Mist Falls the trail begins to gain elevation and will become more difficult; don’t forget to stop and look back at where you came from because the views of the Canyon get better with every step. At about mile 6 you will encounter campsites, this is a great place to turn around or for some, their destination if staying the night or completing the Rae Lakes Loop.

If you are backpacking on this route, you will pick up your permits at the Roads End Ranger Station and the start of this trail. The NPS typically reserves about 40% of its permits for walk-ups, but you would be advised to get here early, as anything along the Rae Lakes Loop is very popular. The station is open from 7:00 AM to 3:45 PM.

Don’t forget to turn around and enjoy the view on your way up!

TRAIL: Lookout Peak

DIFFICULTY: CHALLENGING

DESCRIPTION: Beyond Sheep Creek, using the Don Cecil Trail, the climb to Lookout Peak provides an incredible panorama of the park’s backcountry. This strenuous, all-day hike is 13 miles round trip and climbs some 4000′ to the summit. It is worth it though! You will have a splendid view looking right down into Kings Canyon, similar to the view you get of Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point. However, unlike Glacier Point, chances are you’ll have Lookout Peak all to yourself if you visit.

Photo Credit: https://www.alltrails.com/members/vijay-kanagala

Judging by the number of people we came across in this park in early August, it is severely under looked, but that’s the beauty of it! Much less busy than its neighboring parks Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park. This allows you more opportunity to enjoy the natural world in it’s more natural state. Known as the ‘backpackers’ park, Roads End is a popular spot to enter the High Sierra.

Coming from the East Coast where the park we most frequent, The Adirondacks,  is massive but not a national or state park due to communities existing within the 6 million acres, we’re used to back country camping. Kings Canyon at Roads End felt the most like home to use with its rough terrain and lack of tourists!

View of the Kings River as you drive deep into the canyon towards Roads End.

 

Planning your stay at Kings Canyon National Park? PIN ME!

Published by expeditioneducation

Hi there, I'm Kati! I'm an outdoor recreation loving public school teacher who plans epic adventures on her school breaks. If you like to explore and experience beautiful new places on a budget, then let me help you plan your next trip!

34 thoughts on “Kings Canyon National Park

  1. Wild Nemophilist – California – A PNW girl currently living in southern California. I'm a former makeup artist who decided that my lifelong career path no longer suited me, or my ideals. Instead I've chosen to get back in touch with my roots by pursuing clinical herbalism, as a means to not only satisfy my own passion for natural living, but to be able to help others as well. I spend as much of my free time as possible outside these days, using hiking, camping, and exploring as a form of therapy.
    Wild Nemophilist says:

    My heart is bursting looking at these pictures, I want to visit here so badly! I got a good laugh at the recommendation to pick the “best and least distracted driver”, my boyfriend always drives but he gets so distracted by the scenery! Maybe I will have to do the driving when we finally get to spend time at this park, to ensure our safety… Thanks for the info on the trails, I’m excited to check them out!

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducationexplorer says:

      Hahaha, seriously around every bend is a new, beautiful vista! Enjoy your trip when you go it is AMAZING.

  2. jessk13 – #youngprofessional, outdoors explorer MD born & raised, currently in GA, dog lover, foodie & craft beer enthusiast, move to live
    Jess says:

    Wow, such a great write-up on all the trails, did you get to do all of those? Either way, glad to have this to refer to if/when I get out there! Sometimes, I prefer to do a bunch of shorter, easier hikes to see a lot of different parts of a park, others I’m in it for a long haul. Like you said, a total hidden gem!

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducationexplorer says:

      I didn’t get to lookout peak but did the others!

  3. Absolutely loved this. Definitely adding this one to the bucketlist. Its absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing all the amazing tips and advice.

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducationexplorer says:

      You are so very welcome!!

  4. Sounds like an amazing hiking and camping experience, let’s just say I need to start planning on going on such trips for the benefits of my health and just to travel.

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducation says:

      Thanks for reading! & it is. absolutely beautiful and so much fun!!

  5. Maritza Baez – Buffalo, NY – I am a full time family physician ranked #1 in the USA for skincare experts on Healthtap out of over 55000 doctors! I am passionate about skincare, beauty & wellness. As a family physician, I can offer trustworthy solutions for healthy living.
    Maritza Baez says:

    this looks so amazing. I am so glad that they have a variety of difficulties for the trails

  6. Victor Step – Finland – I am an ordinary human being that is devoted to inspire and help others to grow, evolve & develop in all way possible, while doing the same for myself.
    Victor Step says:

    The places you share are incredibly beautiful. Sometimes, those of us that live in cities forget how beautiful the nature is. Thank you for sharing and reminding of it.

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducation says:

      Any time! You’re welcome!!

  7. The views look breathtaking! OMG. I don’t know if I would be able to keep my head from turning along that 180 drive…and I usually the least distracted driver in my household lol

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducation says:

      haha you aren’t kidding! it was unreal.

  8. I’ve always wanted to visit Kings Canyon. I love the way you described each trail by difficulty. Makes it so easy to choose which ones to go on. I loveeee hiking!
    xoxo
    Annie

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducation says:

      Hope you find one you love!!

  9. Lexi Ann – lost in thought – I love animals and anything art. The outdoors is my favorite place to be. I think old things are pretty neat and coffee is bae. I'm a photographer, vegetarian, aspiring environmental advocate, cruelty free product supporter, and obsessed bunny mom. You can usually find me procrastinating in coffee shops.
    Lexi Ann says:

    I have been to a number of National parks, especially when i was younger and my parents took me, but never to this one! I would be really interested to go as an adult and experience nature!

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducation says:

      I suggest it! It’s magical (:

  10. We’ve never gone hiking in the States yet but definitely would love to! I always get an itch to get outside and hike or snowshoe after a week of city life!

  11. Tammy A – I'm just a country girl loving my geeky life with my wonderful husband, always taking pictures, getting my hands dirty in the garden, being crafty, exploring with travels and enjoying all this on a budget. But above all, living my faith as a child of God!
    Tammy says:

    Oh my gosh the views are amazing. I’ve never been to that part of the country and hope to go someday. Great photo opps too.

  12. I love hiking and this national park would be a perfect choice for me to go hiking for a week. The views are absolutely stunning and it’s great that there are choices for every type of hiker and not all trails are difficult.

  13. She Is A Message Ministries – Okinawa, Japan – Hey there sis! You're probably new here so welcome to She Is A Message Ministries. This blogcast (blog and podcast) is perfect for the imperfect Christian woman who's trying her best to live a life pleasing to God. She also knows that it's only by God's grace and mercy that she makes it through each day. If this is you, keep scrolling. This site has a lot to offer you :)
    My Dee Dee's Diary says:

    I have never been to a National Park. There is so much to see and di here. I love your pictures

  14. This is one of the best thing why it is awesome to travel around US because of many national parks! Hiking might not be the best favorite but i love the nature parks 🙂

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducation says:

      can’t miss this beauty!

  15. What an awesome experience. I have visited a couple national parks here but plenty of state parks! I like to hike and really enjoy that all parks offer their own unique qualities

  16. We are planning a trip to Sequioa in the summer with the whole clan (grandparents and children hehe). As much as I would love to go hiking I couldn’t but we’ll surely plan a hiking trip soon. Thanks for sharing! You took beautiful photos!

    1. expeditioneducation – Hello! My name is Kati. I am currently a Middle School Teacher and three season sports coach in upstate New York. If you take a look at my blog you will learn that I love being outside, exploring places near and far, and aspire to create this website into something that inspires others to connect with what's around them. My hope is that you read something here that inspires you to learn more and challenge yourself every day. Don't be afraid to leave your comfort zone for that is where true growth​ begins! Thank you so much for reading!
      expeditioneducation says:

      I have a post on Sequioa as well if you’re interested! Enjoy the trip. it’s BEAUTIFUL!

  17. Looks like experience. Never been to such hike before in our country but I would love to do it someday hopefully this year. Would also love to visit this place someday!

  18. That’s awesome that you saw a rock where John Muir used to give talks. I can only imagine how cool it must have been to see him speak there.

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