Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

We spent three nights in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. They’re like Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, adjoining National Parks where you drive through one to visit the other. We first entered the parks from the south entrance, which turned out bad for us. Vehicles over 22′ are not allowed on a key road that takes you to the giant Sequoias and up to Kings Canyon (we are 25′). We did see a sign on our way in warning us that vehicles over 22′ were not allowed “between blah-blah and blah-blah” — that’s literally all I got because we hadn’t learned the map and the names of places didn’t mean anything. I assumed that it was a secondary or tertiary destination we wouldn’t be able to access. What the sign should say is; “Vehicles over 22′ can’t get to the Sequoia trees via this entrance.”

So, once we got to the park entrance, we figured out the route wasn’t accessible for us and we had to turn around and go all the way around to the northwest entrance. That took us a day because we needed to camp the night along the way.

Once we made our way down through Kings Canyon we arrived at Lodgepole Visitor Center and campground in Sequoia NP. Dry camping here is $18/night (more than the usual $10 we’ve seen for dry camping in parks). We were just happy to be deep in the park so we checked out the visitor center and settled in. The next day we went for a six mile loop hike to see “General Sherman” the largest tree in the world. It’s in a grove of other Sequoias known as the Giant Forest.

Along the hike we encountered a black bear who seemed to be trailing us. We picked up the pace and lost him. Later, Finn rounded a corner and came upon another black bear directly on the trail in front of us. We were really surprised by her and then I saw the two little cubs with her. We had done exactly what they always say not to do, surprised a mama bear with cubs. Black bears usually aren’t aggressive and she only gave us a few glances and let us back out. We watched the family for a while until they moved away from the trail.

The Sequoia trees are amazing. It’s difficult to imagine their history. The biggest are between 2,300 and 2,700 years old and they are among the oldest living things on the earth. The largest trees tower above you like skyscrapers.

On our third day we backtracked north to Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon NP and found a great camping spot on a hill directly under an adolescent Sequoia. From there we took a short hike to the grove of trees where the world’s second largest tree grows, General Grant. It is almost as massive as Sherman but Sherman beats Grant on volume. The Grant Grove is a fantastic place to see the giants because it’s so accessible. The grove is just a few short miles inside the park and very close to the village with many services. If you’ve got limited time, make this the grove you see.

After enjoying the trees we hiked back to our camp to gather firewood (the first NP we’ve visited that allows collection of fallen wood for campfires) and enjoyed an evening under the stars. In the morning we packed up and headed north towards our next destination, Yosemite.

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