Julie United States 82 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.

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.

California Travel Guide

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

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK: Check out our article Best Things to Do in Yosemite for important travel information, sample itineraries, and how to plan your visit. In our Half Dome Hiking Guide, learn what it takes to hike this challenging trail. We also have detailed guides about how to hike Upper Yosemite Falls and the Mist and Muir Trails.

SAN FRANCISCO: For more information about San Francisco, read our article Best Things to Do in San Francisco and how to cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge.

DEATH VALLEY: Here are 5 reasons why Death Valley should be the next national park you visit.

USA ROAD TRIPS: Planning your next big adventure in the USA? Check our our USA Road Trip Guide for travel ideas and sample itineraries.

NATIONAL PARKS: In our Guide to the US National Parks, get the full list of national parks with important travel planning information, such as things to do in the parks and sample itineraries. You can also learn more about the national parks and get a FREE printable checklist in our US National Parks Checklist.

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.


Kings Canyon Sequoia National Parks


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Comments 82

  1. Avatar for Danielle B
    Danielle B

    We are planning to head to sequoia and kings canyon in a few weeks. We will be coming from San Diego. My plan is to reverse the order of the itinerary, do you see any issues with this? We also have 4 kids under 9. Any tips are greatly appreciated!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I don’t see any issue reversing the order of this itinerary. Our kids, who were a little older at the time, found the short walking trails in the groves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon to be more interesting than Zumwalt Meadows, but I still think Zumwalt Meadows is worth the drive and a bit different from the seeing the groves of sequoia trees. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for MSK

    Thank you so much for this itinerary!! My boyfriend and I are going here this month end and we are so excited! Especially because this itinerary is so helpful!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  3. Avatar for Missy

    I was reading your itinerary for Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks as we are visiting them next week. As I am scrolling thru I see some very familiar faces. Thank for another great article with very helpful hints on visiting these parks.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      That’s very exciting that you will be in California next week! When I look at those little faces I can’t believe how grown up Tyler and Kara are right now. Have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  4. Avatar for Denise

    Thank you for the helpful information! My family is traveling from Yosemite (probably stopping in Fresno for a night) to Kings Canyon, spending the night, then heading through Sequoia and towrds Los Angeles. We plan to start early in the morning, but I booked a night at John Muir Lodge, which I am now seeing is in the northern section of the park. Would this be a lot of backtracking? We would like to do a hike or two in the park and not just drive through, but we also don’t want to add a lot of driving onto an already heavy driving trip.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Denise. I think the John Muir Lodge has a very nice location in Kings Canyon and you won’t do a lot of backtracking (plus the drives in the park are very scenic). The lodge is centrally located and from here and it won’t take you too long to drive into Sequoia NP. Have a great trip! Cheers, Julie

  5. Avatar for Cinthya Osuna
    Cinthya Osuna

    June 2023: You won’t get to see much of the big Sequoia trees if you enter the park from the southern entrance to Generals Highway. The road is closed just past Hospital Rock and cuts off access to the Big Trees Trail. If you want to get to the Big Trees Trail, which I highly recommend, you’ll need to enter and exit from the Kings Canyon entrance. We had not realized the implication of that closure and came in from the southern entrance and ended up having to come back down and exit the park and then head up to Kings Canyon entrance. I could have done without that detour and I would have just come into the park from the Kings Canyon entrance so that we could have accessed the Big Trees Trail more quickly. The silver lining was that we got to see some gnarly movement in the Kaweah River as we drove to where the road closure was.

  6. Avatar for Ed D
    Ed D

    Great guides. Need recommendation for housing for 3 nights near Sequoia NP in early October; not to break the bank.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      We stayed in Visalia at a Holiday Inn Express, which is about an hour drive from Sequoia National Park. We liked being here since there were a lot of restaurants to choose from and the next day we drove to San Diego. A better town to consider is Three Rivers, which is much closer to the park. There is a brewery and a pizza place so it looks to be a decent place to stay a few nights. We drove through it on the way to Visalia and Three Rivers definitely has a lot more character and a better setting. Here is an affiliate link to Booking.com to look at properties in Three Rivers. Cheers, Julie

  7. Avatar for sonia

    Hi, I am looking for a road trip from San Jose, CA for about 4 days during Feb 20- Feb 24. I think the drive from San Jose to Sequoia/King Canyon is tough?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      I think the drive to get to the parks will be OK, but once there, you could face road closures in the parks, both because of the snow and because of the recent wildfire. Before you go, I recommend checking the National Park Service websites for updates about road closures and conditions in both parks. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Becky

    Hi Julie – As always, thank you for the amazing, informative posts!!!! We’re planning a trip to Pinnacles, Kings Canyon/Sequoia, Yosemite, Death Valley, and Joshua Tree this spring – very late March to early April. As you noted, we’ll miss things in Kings Canyon/Sequoia (and Yosemite) due to the weather. I understand and accept this, but I just want to make sure – we won’t have any issues traveling between parks will we?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      You’re welcome! And what an awesome road trip you are planning! I wouldn’t think you would have any problems getting from park to park, with the exception of traveling from Yosemite to Death Valley (depending on the route and the order you plan to visit the parks). You will cross the mountains and if there is a spring snowstorm, it could impact your travel. Tioga Pass in Yosemite will be closed no matter the weather conditions, since that usually doesn’t open in late spring. When planning the order of the parks, just pay attention to which roads are open, to get you to Death Valley. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Becky

        Oh, that’s super, super helpful to know – THANK YOU! I think we’re going to go reverse order because its so much cheaper to go into LAX and leave from San Jose. Hopefully that extra week will help as well. Thanks again!

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