If you’re thinking of going on holiday to California, it’s well worth checking out one or two of the national parks. Personally, if I were heading in that direction anytime soon, I’d go to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
These are located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and, as twin parks, they’re often treated as a single place by visitors. They are right next to each other, so it’s easy to visit both in one trip. And since there’s just so much to see and do, there’s no reason not to do exactly that!
So, what are these parks all about? Well, they’re both characterised by some pretty amazing landscapes – think marble caves, dense forests, deep canyons and granite peaks – as well as exciting wildlife. Plus, each offers lots of sights and activities, but arguably the most famous thing to do here is see the giant sequoia trees.
Before you set off, it’s worth remembering the parks are divided into five regions: Foothills, Giant Forest, Grant Grove, Cedar Grove and Mineral King. The final two only offer summer activities. So, what are the top things to see and do?
See the giant sequoias
Giant sequoia trees are the largest living plant species on earth, and the best place to see them is the Giant Forest. The piece de resistance is General Sherman, which at 84 m high is the largest tree in the entire world by volume. If you fancy seeing it (and why wouldn’t you?), there are two main walking trails you can take.
The main is just off Wolverton Road, but it’s a fairly steep and intense 0.5-mile descent, so you need to be quite fit to tackle it. Alternatively, an easier and more accessible route can be found off the Generals Highway, around 2 miles north of the Giant Forest Museum. And this, in fact, is the next top place to visit.
Giant Forest Museum
Also located (as you have probably guessed!) in the Giant Forest, the Giant Forest Museum is a great place to learn about giant sequoias, as well as what else you can see in this part of the parks. As such, it’s a logical place to start out when you’re visiting this area. Plus, you should also find other useful information here, such as details of exciting walking trails to go on.
These two parks are absolutely covered in incredible trails – they really are a hiker’s paradise. That said, there are also plenty of gentle routes if you’re looking for something less strenuous, so don’t be put off if you’ve never thought of yourself as a hiker. While there are far too many paths to mention, I’ll give an example of one that caught my eye, just so you have an idea of what to expect.
Starting off just past the Marble Fork Bridge in the Lodgepole Campground, the Tokopah Falls hike is a simple and short (around 1.5 miles each way) walk to Tokopah Canyon, with its stunning cliffs. Here, you’ll find the Tokopah Falls, which are an impressive 1,200 ft high. To see them at their best, visit in early summer.
To do something a little bit different, take a tour of Crystal Cave. Located off the Generals Highway, it is open from mid-May to November, and you should bear in mind there is a half-mile trek to reach the entrance of the attraction. It’s well worth the walk, though!
You’ll be able to see stunning marble formations, which have been polished for years and years by a subterranean stream. There are tours available each day, but it’s really worth booking either a day in advance – if possible – or early in the morning as tickets get snapped up fast.