There are a few campgrounds located in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Lodgepole Campground is the most centrally located for Sequoia and is, in my opinion, the best option. If the park campgrounds are all full Sequoia National Forest, which borders the park, has some last minute options.
While there are a few restaurants in the park, as well as a deli and market near the Lodgepole campground, I would suggest bringing your own food for this trip. Pack a cooler and make some sandwiches. It will be much easier.
Day 1: Sequoia National Park
General Sherman Tree
The world’s most massive tree! This is the biggest draw in Sequoia National Park, and for good reason. It’s cool, like, really cool, and the only real way to understand its size is to stand beneath it. Go in the morning or late evening as this spot gets crowded. Old Shermy is a half mile from the parking lot.
Surrounding General Sherman is the 3 mile Congress Trail. It branches off from the tourist path (the line between the parking lot and Sherman) and explores the rest of the Giant Sequoia grove. While General Sherman has a fence around him, keeping you from getting an up close look, the trees on the Congress Trail are unobstructed, making for some decent photo and tree hugging opportunities.
Want to climb a tiny half dome wannabe? Then Moro Rock is for you! This “hike” (it’s really a .4 mile staircase) will put you on top of the granite dome, Moro Rock. From there, you will get some great views of the valley below (complete with lots of air pollution, thanks California!). The real marvel here, I would say, is the trail itself. Carved right into the rock, it is an engineering feat and a fun climb. The trail is tiny though, and this place gets CROWDED. Try to avoid coming in the middle of the day.
A Little further down the road (and through a tree tunnel) is the meadow John Muir called the “gem of the Sierra.” While I don’t think I would go that far, it is a nice spot to explore, relax, walk, hike, nap, picnic, all that crap.
I’m going to be honest, I have never been here. It requires some advance planning as you need to reserve spots on a guided tour, and I’m more of a last minute kind of gal. Even still, it looks awesome, and I really wish I had been able to go. You can make reservations on recreation.gov.
Let’s be real, Sequoia National Park can get hot. Luckily, it comes complete with a river. Drive down Generals Highway past Hospital Rock and you will find pullouts with easy river access, deep swimming holes and loads of sun tan friendly rocks. Be warned though, the water is cold and the rocks are SLIPPERY. I may have fallen down and smacked my knee.
While this is not a must do, it is a do if you have some time to kill or want to poke around the gift shop. They have interesting displays, great information about the trees and forest, and a fun wheel of fortune game that tells you what your tree fate would be. I died as a sapling every time.
Day two: Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
While much of the beginning of this drive was burned by wildfires recently, don’t let that deter you. The forest comes back to life as you get further in, and the views are well worth your time. Crank the tunes, roll down the windows, put your feet on the dash (as long as your friend is driving) and go.
This place seriously looks like Yosemite Valley without all the people (or the waterfalls but shhh). It is calm, quiet, relaxing, and b e a utiful. Take a stroll and enjoy the solitude.
Take a Swim
If you are feeling hot again, and you probably will be, there is again a conveniently placed river. Find your own beach, a swimming hole (yes, those again) and take a chill break.
Know before you go
- Firewood inside the park is a little spendy, so grab some on your way in.
- While it is hot during the day, the nights get cold, so bring those layers
- Much of this park is wilderness. The best way to really see it is to grab a backpack and a permit and hike the trail, although you may need longer than a weekend
- Fire danger here is real. Don’t be the guy that buys down good old Shermy. Nobody likes that guy