Adjacent to Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park promises a day filled with scenic waterfalls and astounding views.
How to Spend One Day in Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park, the closest neighbor of Sequoia National Park, rarely pops up in search bar by itself when looking for national parks to spend a day in. Even when you enter the area either from one park or the other, a sigh Welcome to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks reminds you of their close proximity. Many people visit Sequoia National Park and assume that Kings Canyon National Park looks somewhat similar. I was one of these visitors. It took me one day in Kings Canyon National Park to change this perception. Sharing some similar features, these national parks are different like water and fire. Next time you are in the area, spend at least one day in King Canyon National Park and see it for yourself.
About Kings Canyon National Park
Home to the deepest canyon in the United States, Kings Canyon Park looks similar to Yosemite. Even John Muir, the Father of the national parks, couldn’t dismiss such resemblance. The prominent Scottish-American naturalist regarded the place as “a rival to Yosemite”. In no way, I can compare myself with this famous figure. Nevertheless, spending one day in Kings Canyon National Park made me wonder if we accidentally didn’t drive to Yosemite National Park instead.
Once you enter the park, it almost instantly astounds you with its towering cliffs, deep valleys, and giant trees. The place consists of two recognizable areas: Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. In fact, the Grant Grove allures the majority of the one-day visitors of Kings Canyon National Park. The main reason behind it is the General Grant Tree, the world’s 3rd largest tree and the largest tree in the park.
The Cedar Grove fills your day in Kings Canyon National Park with different views and activities. Located 35 miles east of the Grant Grove, it offers easy and steep trails, cascading waterfalls, and Kings Canyon itself. This is the area where you want to spend most of your day, exploring the natural wonders of Kings Canyon National Park.
How to Get to Kings Canyon National Park
BIG STUMP ENTRANCE. For a day, spent entirely in Kings Canyon National Park, enter the area from the west via Highway 180. Highway 180, the northern entrance to the parks, is wider and less steep than the Ash Mountain entrance. It is also a preferred route for vehicles longer than 22 feet.
ASH MOUNTAIN ENTRANCE. If you want to add some of the highlights of Sequoia Park to your day in Kings Canyon National Park, take Highway 198 through Visalia and Three Rivers. The entrance station is located near the town of Three Rivers. Once in the park, continue onto the Generals Highway. The route connects Sequoia Park with Kings Canyon National Park, allowing to see the best of each of them in one day.
Winter season limits your entrance options. You can enter only one park or the other. To spend a day in Kings Canyon National Park, use the Big Stump entrance. The section of the highway that connects Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks remains closed in winter due to the unfavorable weather conditions.
WHAT TO DO IN ONE DAY IN KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 180)
If for whatever reasons you have less than one day to spend in Kings Canyon National Park, head straight to the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. The route is 50 miles long. It begins in the foothills outside of Fresno and spreads all the way to the Cedar Grove. Winding through the Grant Grove and some parts of Sequoia National Park, the byway introduces you to the deep canyons and several sequoia groves. The section of the road a short drive from Hume Lake, though, closes for winter. Thus, be sure to plan your one-day visit to Kings Canyon National Park from mid-May until mid-October.
General Grant Tree
The General Grant Tree, the most popular landmark of the park, is located about 4 miles away from the Big Stump entrance. You can get to the tree, otherwise known as the Nation’s Christmas Tree, via a 0.3-mile paved loop trail.
Although Hume Lake is officially a part of Sequoia Park, it is located so close to Kings Canyon National Park that it is almost impossible to skip it during your one-day visit. This popular campground site allures with sandy beaches, boat and kayak rentals, and great fishing opportunities. Once you have enough of Hume Lake and its water activities, continue on to the Cedar Grove. But first, be sure to take in the stunning view on the lake from above just a short drive away.
When you get back on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, drive for another 22 miles. Keep your eyes on the road, but be ready to hear the sound of pondering water at any time, though. Nestles just off the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, Grizzly Falls, another highlight of Sequoia National Park, is about to come into view. You hardly need to spend a minute of your day in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to hike to this natural wonder. The towering 75-foot waterfall is a great view from the parking lot. On the other hand, a short hike and alluring water at the base of the waterfall might be all you need at this point of your one-day journey in Kings Canyon National Park.
Sheep Creek Cascade
Grizzly Falls is, however, the first stage of your search of the waterfalls in and near Kings Canyon Park. Right after it comes Sheep Creek Cascade. Located in the Cedar Grove, the place is quiet as fewer visitors venture into this area of the park. Park near the Cedar Grove visitor center and look for the Don Cecil Trail. Sheep Creek Cascade is set along the path one mile away.
Roaring River Falls
Kings Canyon National Park adds one waterfall after another to your one-day itinerary. The next on the list is Roaring River Falls. Like Grizzly Falls, it nestles just off the highway. Walk down a paved 0.3-mile round trip path to see the powerful waterfall rushing through a granite chute up-close.
Trailhead to Zumwalt Meadow is just a short 3-minute drive away from Roaring River Falls. Zumwalt Meadow is arguably one of the most picturesque areas of the King Canyon valley floor. Two tall granite cliff faces surround the place, determining its size and inviting you to spend the rest of the visit admiring the beauty of this part of Kings Canyon National Park.
What to Pack for a Day in Kings Canyon National Park
- The weather at high elevations can be unpredictable. Often you can be wearing shorts and a few minutes later need long pants to cover your legs. Therefore, never disregard layers when heading to Kings Canyon National Park for a day. Be sure to pack leggings or long pants for the hikes through the woods. A lightweight rain jacket comes in handy when rain tries to interrupt your hiking journey.
- Use sunscreen to protect your skin from excessive amount of sun.
- A pack of Kleenex wet wipes makes your adventure in Kings Canyon National Park easier when you need to clean your hands and shoes after hiking.
Things to Know before Visiting Kings Canyon National Park
Park Entrance Fee
- VEHICLE PASS: $35. The pass is valid for 7 days for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
- INDIVIDUAL ENTRY PASS: $20. The pass allows access for an individual traveling on foot or by bicycle. You can use it to enter Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks up to 7 days since the day of its purchase.
Hours of Operation
- Kings Canyon National Park is open all year round. Road closures due to snow, however, limit the access to some areas of the park from mid-October through mid-April.