If you’re looking for a less crowded alternative to the Yosemite Valley, I highly suggest visiting Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon. The towering sequoias are stunning, and King’s Canyon’s views and waterfalls will take your breath away. This Sequoia National Park & King’s Canyon Travel Guide will help you get the best out of your visit there, and highlights the scenery and hikes that you won’t want to miss.
Best Time to Visit Sequoia National Park & King’s Canyon
I recommend visiting from Spring-Fall as the road through King’s Canyon is closed in winter. For me, King’s Canyon was the highlight of the trip, so definitely include that in your itinerary. Know that you won’t have cell service in the park so buy maps, and download any music that you may want to listen to as you drive the windy roads. You will be going slow, so prepare accordingly.
Best Things To Do At Sequoia National Park & King’s Canyon
1. Visit The General Sherman Tree
The General Sherman tree is the world’s largest tree, and it’s definitely stunning to see. This tree’s biggest branch is over seven feet in diameter! It’s located in Giant Forest, and there are also 9 of the 30 largest sequoias on this walk. I recommend doing the whole walk which is paved and under a mile, but there is a shuttle from late May-early September if you can’t do the hike. The parking lot and trailhead are just off Wolverton Road. I’d recommend visiting this site during the week, as the weekend is more crowded, and this tree draws the most crowds in the park.
There are interconnecting trails from the General Sherman tree trail and I recommend the Congress Trail with its peaceful setting through the forest. There is a creek that flows through part of the hike and even a small waterfall. You may even get lucky like I did and see a deer! From this trail, you can see the President Tree, the Senate Group, the House Group, and the General Lee Tree. This is a 3 mile loop.
2. Hike To Tokopah Falls In Sequioa National Park
Tokopah Falls is definitely a hike that you want to do. Enter the Lodgepole Campground through the gate. Just tell the people at the gate that you are doing this hike and they will let you in. Park in the lot and walk across the bridge over the Kaweah River. I’d recommend downloading this trail on AllTrails before you go up to the park, so that you have have access to the map offline to get your bearings.
The hike is just over 4 miles and passes under pine trees and through a few forest meadows. The landscape is quite dramatic and a beautiful peak called the Watchtower rises up over one side of the waterfall. The waterfall itself is 1,200 feet tall and is quite stunning. There are a couple of spots where to have to cross through the creek, so make sure to wear waterproof shoes.
3. King’s Canyon Panoramic Point
Whatever you do, don’t miss the views at King’s Canyon Panoramic Point. You will see gorgeous views of Hume Lake and the mountains. The road to get there is narrow and winding. I had to ask at the Visitor Center to find it, as it’s a bit tricky, but it’s worth finding. It’s only a short 1/2 mile paved walk up to the vista.
4. Grizzly Falls
Grizzly Falls was the highlight of my entire trip. After visiting King’s Canyon Panoramic Point, keep driving up Highway 180. The views on 180 are just astounding, and soon you will reach Grizzly Falls. It’s not a hike, just a stop on the side of the road. I just happened to be there when the light was incredible, and there were so many rainbows in the mist all around me. It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had. It’s a bit slippery, so wear good shoes. There are also restrooms at this stop.
5. Roaring River Falls
Further up Highway 180, is the Roaring River Falls which lives up to its name. I’ve never seen a river run so fast as this one, and with the surrounding views, it’s just glorious. The short trail to the waterfall is paved and wheelchair accessible. If you continue on the trail, you will find yourself at Zumwalt Trail at Road’s End. Whatever you do, don’t go to Sequoia National Forest and miss King’s Canyon. For me, it was the most scenic part of the whole trip.
6. Trail of 100 Giants
The Trail of 100 Giants is an easy paved 1 mile walk through the Long Meadow Grove, an incredible grove of Sequoia Trees. You do have to pay $5 to park at the nearby lot. There was a man collecting the money, who I’m not sure was actually with the park or not when I went. There’s also a box for payment. I’d recommend going during the week if you can. The trail was very crowded and there was almost no parking the day I went. I had to circle the lot until someone left. The road to this trail is usually closed from Nov-April because of snow. This trail is the trail where two giant Sequoias fell in 2011.
Also, when you drive to this trail, you may be tempted to stop at California Hot Springs which is just 30 minutes away. I thought this place was a waste of money. It was $20 to enter what was nothing more than a swimming pool and two small hot tubs outside. It wasn’t really worth it, nor the water that hot, even in the hot tubs.
7. Peppermint Falls
Peppermint Falls is close to the Trail of 100 Giants, and I’m including it, not so much because the Falls were spectacular, but because the drive there was glorious. Make sure to download directions before you leave as you won’t have cell service and without directions, you will never find it. Also, the walk to the waterfall is short, but still, map it out on AllTrails before you go, as there isn’t really a trail to the waterfall, and I wouldn’t have found it without the map. The view is more from the side of the waterfall, but it’s still a sweet spot.