Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park is one of those iconic places most Californians either have visited or is on their list of places to visit. Who can resist seeing the largest tree in the world, giant granite monoliths, canyons carved by rivers and glaciers, meadows full of flowers, and expansive canyon views all in one amazing park?? The second oldest National Park, Sequoia National Park, boasts 404,064 acres of beauty AND Sequoia-Kings Canyon combined have over 800 miles of trails! Wow! We only did 16 miles and felt like we barely scratched the surface.
Truck loaded with camping gear, hiking gear, wine, and food we entered Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park through the Kings Canyon entrance. It was a 5-hour drive from home and we were super eager to get to see the largest tree in the
park world, General Sherman…waiting through the park’s construction traffic gave us an opportunity to have our lunch so we could hit the ground running as soon as we reached General Sherman’s parking lot.
There were some spots left in the lower parking lot and a ton of people! Of course everyone wants to see the big guy!
At 7,000 ft elevation, the air is much thinner for us sea-level dwellers but that did not deter us from walking down the nicely paved trail to see General Sherman in all his girth. He is approx 2,200 years old, 275 ft tall and 36 feet in diameter at the base and still growing. General Sherman is the largest tree, by volume, in the world!
We admired him, walked around him and snapped a ton of photos, and then headed out on the Congress Trail.
The Congress Trail was much less crowded than the short out and back trail to see General Sherman. The trail is about 3 miles of paved trail that wanders through a couple of small meadows with wildflowers and the second largest tree in the world!
The President tree is the third largest tree in the world and stands tall right alongside the trail. Chief Sequoyah (in the top 10 biggest trees) is standing just behind the President tree keeping a close watch. Both are stunning trees and when one is in their presence, one is reminded of how small our place is on this earth.
Follow the path around and visit the group of sequoias called The Senate. As per usual they are just hanging out not doing much except growing.
Further along the path is the group of sequoias called The House and they aren’t doing much either. Thinking someone was giggling when they named these trees knowing that sometimes the House and the Senate are just representatives hanging out together. 🙂
We saw only a few other hikers along the Congress Trail which was nice as it allowed us to hike in the 80-degree heat and 7,000 ft elevation a little easier without our masks on for most of it. (PSA – wear your mask!)
Moro Rock is a dome shaped granite monolith that hangs out at 6,725 feet at the Sequoia National Park entrance side of the park. On weekends it’s hard to find parking and most walk over from the museum parking but we were lucky enough to get close parking later on a Friday afternoon.
We headed up the 350 steps to the top of this monolith stopping several times. The bosslady has a fear of heights and was at elevation causing some dizziness and nausea. Thankfully there are granite ‘benches’ to take a rest on as you climb up the granite stairs that are carved into the side of the rock. Most of the climb up you have Moro rock on one side of you and a steep drop off on the other with a short rail or rocks cemented in place. It’s a little unnerving.
People coming down cheered us on and we continued up with lots of breaks. As soon as we reached the top and the breeze kicked in and the expansive views opened up, we knew it was all worth it! THE VIEWS ARE INCREDIBLE!!!!
From here you can see the river carved canyon below and ridgetops beyond. It was insane how beautiful it was up there! Definitely one of the highlights of the trip and it was still the first day!
After carefully going back down all the steps we hopped in the truck and headed down the very curvy road out of the park and to our campsite in Three Rivers, CA. We stopped at one of the overlooks and captured our first glimpse of how massive Moro Rock really is!
Five Fours – A 5-star Hipcamp!
We’ve been trying to find unique Hipcamps to stay at on our weekend adventures and are we happy we found this one! Five Fours Upper Bunkhouse was so adorable! (If you use this link, you get $10 off and we get $10 credit for any Hipcamp!)
Our hosts went above and beyond with all the special touches! A hammock to watch the sunset and sunrise. Rocking chairs on the deck to enjoy the canyon views. A bbq to use. Soft toilet paper, lights, and running water in the freaking adorable bathroom! (Yes! Soft toilet paper!) A perfectly situated outdoor private shower with a view! A pump water spigot to wash dishes. All of the decor on the property fit the wild west theme and made you feel like you had traveled back in time. The property had such a good feel to it. Oh, and their dog Ruby, she was the cutest most well-behaved greeter!
We enjoyed our stay so much that we cannot wait to go back during the spring to stay there and explore more of the park! Full disclosure, it was 95 degrees at 7 pm and 75 degrees at 7 am. It was hot but still felt very good there! The river flowing through and all the stargazing you could want made the evenings perfect. No fires were allowed but that’s ok! Small bats came out just as the sun went down and ate up all the flying bugs for us!
The Big Loop
Seeing all the sites at any park can be difficult but a National Park can be even more difficult with the parking situations so we found a 10.5-mile loop hike that allowed us to see most of the items on our list for day 2!
Big Trees Trail
The parking at the Giant Forest Museum is plentiful so we decided to begin our hike there. The Big Trees trail is a short, level, and paved walk around a beautiful marshy wildflower-filled meadow surrounded by…big trees. 🙂
Thankful we chose to do this short loop trail first to avoid the afternoon crowds and enjoy the morning light filtering in through the big trees. It was a great start to our morning!
Walk around, check out the trailside panels, maybe use the restroom (there isn’t another one until Crescent Meadow) and then cross the road and start out on the Rim Rock trail.
Huckleberry to Tharp’s Log
Along Rim Rock trail begins the narrow dirt path through dense bushes and dogwood trees lining the trail. This was our first encounter with mosquitoes in the park and helped us to hurry along. This was also our first encounter with wildlife bigger than a chickaree! We came across a young buck nibbling on some bushes in the meadow completely ignoring us.
The trail turned into Bear Hill trail and started to climb a bit. Then opened with larger sequoias towering overhead and lower brush.
All the short switchbacks were very helpful! Being at elevation made it more difficult to hike so having a little relief was good! Hiking poles to the rescue too!
Hop on the Alta trail and watch how fast the greenery changes! It is more arid and the forest floor is not as dense. Little lizards could be heard scrambling away as we hiked through.
Once you hit the top of Alta trail you will start to head back down on Huckleberry trail. Look for a giant granite rock to your left and let us know what you think it looks like! The sequoias get big here and are spaced out nicely. We did not see another person from Rim Rock trail until we got close to the squatter’s cabin! It was so great! This is bear country so stay alert!
Just after Huckleberry Meadow, you will come across the squatter’s cabin with a sign explaining how it got its name. From here the giant sequoias seem to continue growing in size. We started seeing more people doing the Crescent Meadow loop.
Crescent Meadow is a beautiful open space that is marshy and full of gorgeous wildflowers and surrounded by trees. Sequoias don’t like their feet to be wet all the time and when the snow slowly melts it goes into these marshy meadows which are a great stop for butterflies!
Tharp’s Log is a wood cabin carved into the trunk of a fallen sequoia. It is said to be used by early pioneers and named after Hale Tharp. Tharp’s log is neat to see but a little anticlimactic. Crescent Meadow is the big highlight here! The loop around the meadow is paved and has some large sequoias dispersed around it. We took this to the parking lot, used the restroom, and then hopped back on the Sugarpine trail. It was really great to have restrooms along the hike for a change!
Sugarpine to Moro Rock
The Sugarpine trail was a narrow dirt trail that led us out toward the edge of the forest. We came across a small sign for Native American mortars so we took the short spur trail. There was a large flat granite rock with mortar holes where the Western Mono / Monache women would grind acorns to make acorn flour. So great to see these still! They aren’t filled in with dirt and gone forever.
Continuing on we crossed a couple of small streams and then Crescent Creek flowed over big boulders and down the side of the mountain. It was beautiful to see the water still flowing!
We picked up Moro Rock trail and made our way through a dense young forest and down and around some big switchbacks with dogwoods growing along the trail. When we reached Moro Rock we were tired! We were also thankful we had climbed to the top of it the day before because we would not have had the energy at mile 8.6 to climb up.
Passing the hoards of people going up Moro Rock, we continued on the narrow dirt trail back toward our parking at the Giant Forest Museum. After spending miles and hours in the quiet, almost people free forest, it was a little difficult for us to be around so many people again! We kept having to hop to the side of the trail to let oncoming traffic pass. This is definitely the main trail to get to Moro Rock when the parking is full.
Back at the parking lot of the Giant Forest Museum we enjoyed our lunch in the air conditioned truck and broke out the park map to see where we wanted to explore next. We agreed we were both too tired to do any more hikes so we opted for the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is at the other end of the park from the Giant Forest Museum which allowed us to cool down in the air conditioning and regain some energy!
We stopped at the market in Stony Creek Village to grab a soda and a little more ice for the cooler. Pouring the melted ice water from the cooler on our dirty sweaty feet felt sooo good! This also woke us up! Now we were ready to explore more!
We took the road to Hume Lake to see more of the park. It’s a beautiful lake but was very crowded on a warm Saturday. Would love to go back and rent kayaks another time. Back on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway we drove and admired the beauty all around us. We stopped at all the overlooks and turned around before dropping down into Cedar Grove. It was starting to get late in the day and we still had an hour plus drive to get back through the park and to the campsite.
One of the downsides of not camping inside the park is having to go up and down the steep winding roads in and out of both sides of the park. The upside was we didn’t have our reservation canceled (due to Covid many camping reservations were canceled inside the park) and we were the only campers!
We passed by Hospital Rock each time we came and went to the park and thought it was just a picnic spot. Looking at the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park app, we found it also has pictographs!!
The Western Mono and Yokuts tribes used to live in this area and continue their traditions here. They aren’t sure what the symbols mean but it is so great to see they are preserved so well!
Walk across the road from the parking lot and up a short flight of stairs to see a large granite rock with pictographs painted.
To the side, there is bedrock with mortars in it where the women would grind acorns into flour. Such a great representation of history right here! And the river is just below!
If you would like to read more about what happened to the Indigenous people of the area, please check out this link to the full book, Challenge of the Big Trees. None of the lands we stand on here were ours. We are glad it is at least being preserved for future generations to experience the history and beauty of this land. We can learn from history.
General Grant Grove
Our final morning in the park we stopped at General Grant Grove to see the second largest tree in the world at 268.1 feet high and 107.5 feet around. Did you know that Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park is home to 7 of the 10 largest trees in the world?? So crazy!
The short paved path to General Grant is about .5 miles and very accessible. You can catch glimpses of him on your way in and even walk through a downed tree!
We walked around and were still in awe of his sheer size even though we had been hanging out with these giants all weekend.
General Grant also has 2 other titles, The Nation’s Christmas Tree and the country’s only living national shrine.
There are signs throughout the park letting you know the history of the area. Back in the 1950-1960s, there were cabins and hotels and restaurants among all the giants. The park eventually removed over 300 buildings to allow nature to reclaim the area and to allow the giant sequoias to grow more successfully. If you get to go while the visitor centers are open, highly recommend it so you can learn more about the history of the area. We can’t wait to go back!
Panoramic Point Overlook
The last stop before leaving Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park was at Panoramic Point Overlook. Just behind the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, there’s a narrow road that leads up to the trailhead. It’s a short 1-mile round trip hike on a paved trail.
OH MY GOODNESS! The views from Panoramic Point Overlook were so incredibly beautiful!! We stood there all by ourselves just soaking it all in. It was stunning! We couldn’t have asked for a better last stop in the park.
Side note, there’s a 5-mile round trip hike to the park’s ridge fire lookout…we are doing this next time!!
All the Details
Download the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park app! It works offline. We downloaded it and were able to read up on the places we were visiting.
Plan out your visit ahead of time. This helps us to make sure we hit all the places we want to.
Take lots of water, snacks, and make sure you have plenty of gas. They only sell gas at the Stony Creek Village.
General Sherman and Congress Trail – 4.4 miles roundtrip, 614 ft elevation gain. Very busy! Flushing toilets at both the top parking and bottom parking with a water bottle fill station at each. The General Sherman loop is very busy. The Congress Trail is moderately busy and has a lot of large trees to see!
Moro Rock – .6 miles roundtrip, 161 ft elevation gain loss. Very busy! Vault toilets at the parking lot. Parking for under 20 vehicles. AMAZING VIEWS!
The Big Loop – 10.5 miles roundtrip, 1,122 ft elevation gain loss. Park at the Giant Forest Museum. Flushing toilets at Giant Forest Museum, vault toilets at Crescent Meadow and Moro Rock. We used the trail description for Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow and added in the Big Trees loop. It is only people-y at the main attractions. The trails in between are quiet.
Did we miss any details you would have wanted? Leave a comment below and let us know! ↓
Things We Love
We love Hipcamp! The site provides a lot of unique options of places to stay!! This is our third time using Hipcamp and we have several places saved to our favorites to explore more! Use this link HIKETHENWINE to get a $10 credit! (We also get a $10 credit, win win!)
The other thing we really loved having on this camping trip was our Klean Kanteen and our Corkcicle Canteen (25 oz holds a full bottle of wine!) to keep our wine chilled! Not sure why we hadn’t thought to do this before?!? We use these when we go to music in the park picnics during the summer.
Prechill your Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé, or whatever wine you choose, and load them up in the cooler. We had very chilled wine to drink in the 90 degree heat of the evenings. It was so great! Each holds a full bottle of wine and keeps them at their temperature without a problem! Yes, we think we are geniuses for doing this but other more experienced campers have probably been doing this for years! 😉
Check them out on Amazon below!