Julie United States 66 Comments

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks sit side by side in central California. Filled with alpine peaks, deep canyons, and the largest trees in the world, you could spend several days here. However, if you only have one day, you have just enough time to visit the highlights of both parks.

We visited Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park on a road trip through California. Our day started in Mariposa, located just outside of Yosemite National Park. In the morning, we drove south to Kings Canyon, spent the day exploring both parks, and ended in a small, nearby town. Here is our one day itinerary for Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.


One Day in Kings Canyon & Sequoia

  • 9:00 am:  Arrive no later than 9:00 to Kings Canyon. Even earlier is better.
  • 9:00 am – 1:00 pm:  General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, and Zumwalt Meadows
  • 1:00 pm:  Lunch at Grant Grove Village
  • 2:00 pm:  Drive Generals Highway into Sequoia National Park
  • 2:30 – 3:30 pm:  General Sherman Tree, Giant Forest
  • 3:30 – 6:00 pm:  Moro Rock, Tunnel Log, and Crescent Meadows

Kings Canyon

There are two main sections to Kings Canyon: General Grant Grove and Cedar Grove/Zumwalt Meadows.

General Grant Grove is home to the largest sequoia trees in Kings Canyon, including General Grant, the second largest tree in the world. Cedar Grove and Zumwalt Meadows are located in the valley of Kings Canyon. This is a gorgeous place to visit and for those who want to explore the backcountry of Kings Canyon, this area is the jumping off point.

General Grant Grove

The only vehicular entrance into Kings Canyon is at the west side of the park near General Grant Grove. For us, it was a 2.5-hour drive from Mariposa to get here. We started very early in the day (leaving at 6:30 am from our hotel) in order to maximize our time to explore both parks.

General Grant Grove is located just beyond the entrance to Kings Canyon. The General Grant tree is the world’s second largest tree. Walk the 0.3-mile loop and feel tiny as you stand next to these giants.

General Grant Grove

General Grant Tree

Grant Grove

The General Grant tree is also known as the nation’s Christmas tree. On the second Sunday of December, you can “Trek to the Tree,” an annual Christmas celebration in the park.

While in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

Kings Canyon Panoramic Point

After Grant Grove, we crossed Highway 180 and drove on a very narrow and very curvy road to Kings Canyon Panoramic Point. It takes about 30 minutes of driving round trip to get to this point and enjoy the view.

Kings Canyon Panoramic Overlook

Is it worth it? It’s a nice view but it is skippable if you just want to move on to the more popular sites.

Kings Canyon Scenic Byway

The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is Highway 180. It is 50 miles long, starting at the Hume Lake Ranger District (located west of Kings Canyon, outside of the park) to Cedar Grove.

The drive from Grant Grove to Zumwalt Meadows on this road is 30 miles long and takes between 45 minutes and an hour. It is a beautiful drive, but don’t expect the wide, awe-inspiring panoramas you would see at Yosemite or Yellowstone. The road winds along the mountains, descending down into Kings Canyon. There are several spots for photos at the scenic overlooks.

Kings Canyon Scenic Byway

PRO TRAVEL TIP #1: This is a very, very windy road. If you suffer from motion sickness, make sure you take your Dramamine or anti-nausea medication before starting this drive.

PRO TRAVEL TIP #2: The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is only open from mid-May through mid-October.

Zumwalt Meadows and Cedar Grove

At the end of the Scenic Byway is a parking area. Get out, stretch your legs, and go for an easy walk. There is a flat walking trail into the Zumwalt Meadows. You are now down in the heart of Kings Canyon, with the mountains looming overhead.

Zumwalt Meadows Trail Kings Canyon and Sequoia

Zumwalt Meadows Kings Canyon and Sequoia

Nearby, you can also visit Grizzly Falls, located just off the road near Cedar Grove.

From Zumwalt Meadows, travel back along the Scenic Byway. Next up is Sequoia National Park.

Planning a visit to the US national parks? Visit our Guide to the National Parks to learn more about the parks, with important travel planning tips, sample itineraries, advice on when to go, where to stay, and more.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park is home to the General Sherman tree, the largest tree in the world. Did you know that Sequoia National Park is also home to Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States?

Sequoia National Park is the more popular of the two parks. During the summer months, expect to share the views with lots of people. These giant trees attract quite the crowd.

To get to Sequoia National Park from Kings Canyon, drive south past Grant Grove and follow the signs for Sequoia National Park. Now you will be driving on Generals Highway, the scenic road that connects the two parks together.

The drive from Zumwalt Meadows in Kings Canyon to our first stop in Sequoia, the General Sherman tree, takes 1.5 to 2 hours (63 miles). Along the way, you can stop at the Grant Grove Restaurant (Kings Canyon) or at the Lodgepole Deli (Sequoia) for lunch.

General Sherman Tree

The General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest tree, by volume. It is 275 feet tall (almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty) and has been growing for 2,300 to 2,700 years. Just think about how much human history has taken place during this one tree’s lifetime.

General Sherman Tree

The General Sherman Tree is located in the Giant Forest. There are many giant sequoias here, but finding the General Sherman is easy. Not only is the General Sherman massive in size, it will also be the tree with a crowd of people standing around it.

Sequoia in July


Walk the General Sherman Trail, a short walking trail that wanders through this grove of giant trees.

Sequoia National Park

Tyler Kara Tim in Sequoia

Huge Tree TrunkTyler and Kara Kings Canyon and Sequoia

If you want to explore further, walk the Congress Loop, a 2-mile loop that heads further into the forest.

Moro Rock

Moro Rock is a short but strenuous climb to a fabulous viewpoint in Sequoia National Park. This is well worth the effort.

To get to the top, you will climb 400 steps (0.6 miles round trip) to the summit of a granite dome. For us, this was our favorite viewpoint of the day.

Moro Rock Hike Kings Canyon and Sequoia

Moro Rock

View from Moro Rock Kings Canyon and Sequoia

Getting here: On weekdays, you can drive directly to Moro Rock on Crescent Meadow Road, but parking is limited. Consider taking the free shuttle from the Giant Forest Museum. On weekends and holidays, the road is closed to private vehicles and the only way to get here is via the shuttle. During the winter months, the road is closed, so the only way to get to Moro Rock is by hiking the 2 miles to it from the Giant Forest Museum.

Tunnel Log

Tunnel Log is a passageway that was carved into a fallen sequoia tree. Visitors to the park can drive through this tunnel, but only on weekdays when Crescent Meadow Road is open. We were here on a Saturday so we had to take the shuttle. During our visit, the shuttle drove right past Tunnel Log so we could only see it on a drive-by.

You do have the option to walk here from Moro Rock. It is a 0.75-mile walk one way and should take about 15 minutes to get there.

Crescent Meadow

Crescent Meadow is a quiet meadow located at the end of Crescent Meadow Road. There is a 2-mile leisurely walk (Crescent Meadow Loop) through alpine forests and a meadow filled with wildflowers during the summer months.

Crystal Cave

Go underground and explore this marble cavern. To visit Crystal Cave, you can only do so on a tour. Tours last 50 minutes and they are offered from mid-May through November. There is an additional fee to tour this cave.

We skipped Crystal Cave. To get here, it is one hour of driving round trip from the Giant Forest Museum. Add in the time for the tour and this little excursion takes about half of a day. For us, the thought of walking through a cave on a guided tour sounded uninteresting. With the limited time we had, we would rather wander among the giant sequoia trees and explore Kings Canyon.

Even though we didn’t do it, I still wanted to include Crystal Cave in this post since this is a popular spot to visit in Sequoia National Park.

Learn more about Crystal Cave.

Exit the Park

From Moro Rock, we drove south on Generals Highway, exited Sequoia National Park, and drove to Visalia. Visalia is a good-sized Californian town with lots of options for accommodations and restaurants. We stayed at the brand new Holiday Inn Express.

Another place to consider is Three Rivers. This town is a short drive from southern entrance to Sequoia National Park. It’s a very small town with limited options for accommodations and restaurants, but it is close to the park entrance.

Things to Know Before You Go

Park Entrance Fee

The National Park Service charges $35 for a vehicle pass. This fee includes both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park and is valid for up to 7 days. To save time at the entrance, you can purchase your ticket online in advance.

Hours of Operation

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are open 24 hours a day 365 days per year. However, road closures due to snow will limit access to several areas of the park from October through May.

Be Prepared for Crowds

In this itinerary, the most crowded spots will be the General Sherman Tree, the General Grant Tree, and Moro Rock. During our visit on a Saturday in July, parking in Sequoia National Park was extremely limited. We found a parking spot on the side of Generals Highway and had to walk up to the Giant Forest and to the shuttle for Moro Rock.

The National Park Service operates a shuttle in Sequoia National Park. This shuttle connects Moro Rock, the Giant Forest Museum, and the General Sherman tree for free. Learn more about the shuttle service here.

To avoid the worst of the crowds, especially during the summer months, it helps to get an early start to the day (7 am is ideal). By 9 am, Kings Canyon and Sequoia are filling with people. The earlier you get here, the more you can do crowd-free.

Guided Audio Tour

GetYourGuide offers an audio tour of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. This audio tour provides interesting facts and history for both parks. We have not used it, so I don’t know how it lines up with our itinerary, but for $10 it sounds like a good deal if you like to learn more about what you are seeing.

USA Road Trips

Are you going to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks? If you have any questions, comment below.

More Information for Your Trip to California:

Planning a trip to the United States? Read all of our articles about California in our California Travel Guide and about the USA in our United States Travel Guide.

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Kings Canyon Sequoia National Parks


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Comments 66

  1. Avatar for Brian

    We did this in reverse just this past weekend…

    First, Hume Lake is west of Kings Canyon, not east as mistakingly indicated above. Also, the Zumwalt Meadows boardwalk is closed now because the bridge washed out, but the rest of the loop is open so you can still take the path over the rock piles.

    I highly recommend not skipping nearby Roaring River Falls though. It’s a modest hike from Zumwalt so you can do both and enjoy the walk along the South Fork Kings River.

  2. Avatar for Rifky Pines
    Rifky Pines

    Love your blog.
    I was wondering how Kings Canyon is different than Sequoia? If I don’t want to drive that much, what will I be missing if I do Sequoia without Kings Canyon.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You won’t be missing out on that much. However, I do recommend visiting Grants Grove in Kings Canyon. It’s similar to what you will see at Sequoia NP but I still think it is worth the time. And really it’s not that much time, since it is quick to visit and not far from Sequoia NP. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for Paulo
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  4. Avatar for Joe

    Hi !!
    I was wondering if you can help me plan this trip if I were to fly into Fresno at 2pm on a weekday (say Thurs) and leave Saturday noon back to Fresno (and staying in some hotel in Visalia).
    What all do you think I can accomplish? assuming I drive into Seq or Kings canyon directly from the airport?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Joe. It’s an hour drive from Fresno to Kings Canyon. Your first afternoon, you could tour some of the sights here: Grant Grove OR drive Highway 180 to Zumwalt Meadows and see this area, since it is so far removed from everything else. However, it would be a long drive to Visalia from Zumwalt Meadows, so you might be better off just seeing the sights around Grant Grove. On Friday, get an early start and start at Sequoia National Park. I recommend hiking the Congress Trail first. If you can get here early, before 8 am, it should be relatively uncrowded (it would be really nice to see the General Sherman tree without a long line of people). Spend the morning visiting the rest of the Sequoia sights, then finish up at Kings Canyon. You could either drive back to Visalia or drive to Fresno. Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Kris
    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We have not hiked Mt. Whitney yet. During our trip to California, we only had one day for Kings Canyon and Sequoia so we did not have time to do this hike. But it looks great! Cheers, Julie

  6. Avatar for Diane Held
    Diane Held

    Hi Julie,

    I love your website and always use this for my starting guide to plan my park vacations! I am in the process of planning the next family vacation and wanted to get your thoughts. My Itinerary was going to be fly into Fresno, get our rental car and go straight o Sequoia NP and Kings Canyon NP. I was going to spend two days here and then drive to Yosemite where we would spend two nights here and then onto Lake Tahoe for three days. (flying home from Reno)After reading your page on Sequoia and Kings Canyon I am wondering if we should just do a full day in these two parks and only spend one night and then up early the next day to head onto Yosemite. It doesn’t sound like there is much to do in these parks other than look at the trees.? Seems like a a lot of curvy driving with not many views or short hikes.? What are your thoughts? Should we spend two days here or just do one and spend 3 days in Yosemite?

    Thanks for your input,


    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Diane. Great question! Yes, I think that you should spend 1 day in Kings Canyon + Sequoia and 3 days in Yosemite. There are more hikes to do in Kings Canyon, but in my research, they did not seem as interesting as those in Yosemite. I felt like 1 day was enough for both of these parks combined. There is so much to do in Yosemite that you could spend an entire week here, so the extra day will give you more time to explore this park. We liked Kings Canyon and Sequoia, but we loved Yosemite. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for Bridget

    Hi Julie. We’ll be heading to Sequoia and Kings Canyon next weekend. Given the crowds this year, do you think it would be a good idea to do the itinerary in reverse? I’m assuming that Sequoia is more crowded than Kings Canyon. What are your thoughts about this? Thanks in advance!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Yes, we found Sequoia to be more crowded than Kings Canyon. Doing this in reverse is not a bad idea. You might want to go right to the General Sherman Tree since this was the busiest spot when we did this. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Tobie
    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  9. Avatar for Tommy

    This is great, thanks! Just wondering how you found the driving to be? Specifically getting to Grant Tree…and then from Grant Tree to Sherman Tree…and on south out of the park? Thanks.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We did this the summer of 2017. Crowds weren’t too bad at all of these places, with the exception of the Sherman Tree (this was the busiest spot and we did have some trouble getting parking). I would expect crowds to be larger this year. I think many of the national parks will be dealing with record traffic this summer. So, start early and midday you may have to circle the lots a few times to get a parking space. But in general, it’s a very pretty drive! Cheers, Julie

  10. Avatar for Michael Harlow
    Michael Harlow

    Great article. So much jnformation. Thanks. Wish we would’ve found this before we went up there. Last year we went hiking Sequoia national Forest and Sequoia national Park and had a blast. We made a short video and had no idea that some of the places that we would visit are now gone due to the recent fire. If any of your readers want to see what the national forest look like before hand, please refer them to this video. Thanks so much for your wonderful blog.

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