53 Best Sights in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Hospital Rock

American Indians once ground acorns into meal at this site; outdoor exhibits tell the story. The picnic area's name, however, stems from a hunter/trapper who was treated for a leg wound here in 1873. Look up, and you'll see Moro Rock. Grills, drinking water, and restrooms are available.

Hotel Creek Trail

For gorgeous canyon views, take this trail from Cedar Grove up a series of switchbacks until it splits. Follow the route left through chaparral to the forested ridge and rocky outcrop known as Cedar Grove Overlook, where you can see the Kings River canyon stretching below. This strenuous, 5-mile round-trip hike gains 1,200 feet and takes three to four hours to complete. Difficult.

Kings Canyon National Park, CA, 93633, USA

Recommended Fodor's Video

Kaweah Lake

The Kaweah River rushes out of the Sierra from high above Mineral King in Sequoia National Park. When it reaches the hills above the Central Valley, the water collects in in this lake, a reservoir operated by the Army Corps of Engineers. You can swim, sail, kayak, water ski, hike, camp, fish, and picnic here. The visitor center at Lemon Hill has interesting exhibits about the dam that created the lake.

34443 Sierra Dr. (Rte. 198), CA, 93244, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $10 day use

Kings Canyon Visitor Center

The center's 15-minute film and various exhibits provide an overview of the park's canyon, sequoias, and human history. Books, maps, and weather advice are dispensed here, as are (if available) $15 wilderness permits.

Kings Canyon National Park, CA, 93633, USA

Knapp's Cabin

Stop here not so much for the cabin itself, but as an excuse to ogle the scenery. George Knapp, a Santa Barbara businessman, stored gear in this small wooden structure when he commissioned fishing trips into the canyon in the 1920s.

Lodgepole Visitor Center

Along with exhibits on the area's history, geology, and wildlife, the center screens an outstanding 22-minute film about bears. You can buy books, maps, wilderness permits, and tickets to cave tours here.

Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Closed Oct.–Apr., Shuttle: Giant Forest or Wuksachi-Lodgepole-Dorst

Marble Falls Trail

The 3.7-mile trail to Marble Falls crosses through the rugged foothills before reaching the cascading water. Plan on three to four hours one-way. Moderate.

Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262, USA

Mineral King Ranger Station

The station's small visitor center has exhibits on area history. Wilderness permits and some books and maps are available.

Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Typically closed mid-Sept.–mid-May

Mineral King Road

Vehicles longer than 22 feet are prohibited on this side road into southern Sequoia National Park, and for good reason: it's smaller than a regular two-lane road, some sections are unpaved, and it contains 589 twists and turns. Anticipating an average speed of 20 mph is optimistic. The scenery is splendid as you climb nearly 6,000 feet from Three Rivers to the Mineral King Area. In addition to maneuvering the blind curves and narrow stretches, you might find yourself sharing the pavement with bears, rattlesnakes, and even softball-size spiders. Allow 90 minutes each way.

Sequoia National Forest, CA, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Road typically closed Nov.–late May

Mineral King Trails

Many trails to the high country begin at Mineral King. Two popular day hikes are Eagle Lake (6.8 miles round-trip) and Timber Gap (4.4 miles round-trip). At the Mineral King Ranger Station ( 559/565–3341) you can pick up maps and check about conditions from late May to late September. Difficult.

Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262, USA

Mist Falls Trail

This sandy trail follows the glaciated South Fork Canyon through forest and chaparral, past several rapids and cascades, to one of the largest waterfalls in the two parks. Eight miles round-trip, the hike is relatively flat, but climbs 600 feet in the last 2 miles. It takes from four to five hours to complete. Moderate.

Kings Canyon National Park, CA, 93633, USA

Mt. Whitney Trail

The most popular route to the summit, the Mt. Whitney Trail can be conquered by very fit and experienced hikers. If there's snow on the mountain, this is a challenge for expert mountaineers only. All overnighters must have a permit, as must day hikers on the trail beyond Lone Pine Lake, about 2½ miles from the trailhead. From May through October, permits are distributed via a lottery run each February. The Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center ( 760/876–6200), on Route 136 at U.S. 395 about a mile south of Lone Pine, is a good resource for information about permits and hiking.

Panoramic Point Trail

You'll get a nice view of whale-shape Hume Lake from the top of this Grant Grove path, which is paved and only 300 feet long. It's fairly steep—strollers might work here, but not wheelchairs. Trailers and RVs are not permitted on the steep and narrow road that leads to the trailhead parking lot. Moderate.

Kings Canyon National Park, CA, 93633, USA

Pinewood Picnic Area

Picnic in Giant Forest, in the vicinity of sequoias if not actually under them. Drinking water, restrooms, grills, and wheelchair-accessible spots are provided in this expansive setting near Sequoia National Park's most popular attractions.

Project Survival Cat Haven

Take the rare opportunity to glimpse a Eurasian lynx, a clouded leopard, a jaguar, and other endangered wild cats at this conservation facility that shelters more than 30 big cats. A guided hour-long tour along a ¼-mile walkway leads to fenced habitat areas shaded by trees and overlooking the Central Valley.

38257 E. Kings Canyon Rd. (Rte. 180), Dunlap, CA, 93621, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: $16, Closed Tues. May–Sept. Closed Tues. and Wed. Oct.–Apr.

Roads End Permit Station

You can obtain wilderness permits, maps, and information about the backcountry at this station, where bear canisters, a must for campers, can be rented or purchased. When the station is closed (typically October–mid-May), complete a self-service permit form.

Roaring River Falls Walk

Take a shady five-minute walk to this forceful waterfall that rushes through a narrow granite chute. The trail is paved and mostly accessible. Easy.

Kings Canyon National Park, CA, 93633, USA

Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument

Delicate spring wildflowers, cool summer campgrounds, and varied winter-sports opportunities—not to mention more than half of the world's giant sequoia groves—draw outdoorsy types year-round to this sprawling district surrounding the national parks. Together, the forest and monument cover nearly 1,700 square miles, south from the Kings River and east from the foothills along the San Joaquin Valley. The monument's groves are both north and south of Sequoia National Park. One of the most popular is the Converse Basin Grove, home of the Boole Tree, the forest's largest sequoia. The grove is accessible by car on an unpaved road.

The Hume Lake Forest Service District Office, at 35860 Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Route 180), has information about the groves, along with details about recreational activities. In springtime, diversions include hiking among the wildflowers that brighten the foothills. The floral display rises with the heat as the mountain elevations warm up in summer, when hikers, campers, and picnickers become more plentiful. The abundant trout supply attracts anglers to area waters, including 87-acre Hume Lake, which is also ideal for swimming and nonmotorized boating. By fall, the turning leaves provide the visual delights, particularly in the Western Divide, Indian Basin, and the Kern Plateau. Winter activities include downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

Tokopah Falls Trail

This trail with a 500-foot elevation gain follows the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River for 1¾ miles one-way and dead-ends below the impressive granite cliffs and cascading waterfall of Tokopah Canyon. The trail passes through a mixed-conifer forest. It takes 2½ to 4 hours to make the round-trip journey. Moderate.

Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Shuttle: Lodgepole-Wuksachi-Dorst

Tunnel Log

This 275-foot tree fell in 1937, and soon a 17-foot-wide, 8-foot-high hole was cut through it for vehicular passage (not to mention the irresistible photograph) that continues today. Large vehicles take the nearby bypass.

Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262, USA
Sights Details
Rate Includes: Shuttle: Moro Rock–Crescent Meadow

Wolverton Meadow

At a major trailhead to the backcountry, this is a great place to stop for lunch before a hike. The area sits in a mixed-conifer forest adjacent to parking. Drinking water, grills, and restrooms are available.