Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Sights To See

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK

Sequoia National Park is a masterpiece created by nature. Here you can see the world's largest living organism. The following are just a few of the many sights to see in the park.

Giant Forest

Named in 1875 by explorer and conservationist John Muir, Giant Forest is celebrated for its beautiful meadows and its sequoia grove, the park's most famous attraction. The first thing to do in Giant Forest is to go to the Giant Forest Museum, where exhibits and park rangers will help you understand the story of this beautiful grove. The cinnamon-colored Big Trees, members of the redwood family, may be seen today as Muir found them, "Giants grouped in pure temple groves, or arranged in colonnades along the sides of meadows." The northern fringe of the grove is guarded by the General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world. The two-mile looping Congress Trail provides access to the majority of these trees.

General Sherman Tree

This gargantuan sequoia, while neither the tallest nor the widest tree, is considered the largest living tree in the world because of its volume. It weighs approximately 2.7 million pounds, and it is believed to be approximately 2,100 years old. Its height is 274.9 feet, and its circumference at ground level is 102.6 feet. The diameter of its largest branch is 6.8 feet. Every year, it adds enough wood to make a 60-foot-tall tree measuring one foot in diameter, and it's still growing. It was named in 1879 by James Wolverton, a pioneer cattleman who had served under General William Tecumseh Sherman in the Civil War. The tree is accessed from Wolverton Road, four miles north of the Giant Forest Museum along the Generals Highway.

Moro Rock

Moro Rock is a large granite dome also found in the Giant Forest area. Common in the Sierra Nevada, domes are formed by exfoliation, or the casting off in sheets of rock layers on otherwise unjointed granite. Outward expansion of the granite results in exfoliation. Taking a 0.25-mile trail, you can climb nearly 400 steep steps to the top of the barren rock (6,725-foot elevation). It offers an unparalleled view (especially at sunset) of the Great Western Divide and its verdant canyons. Watch out for lightning. The Moro Rock parking area is 1.5 miles from the Giant Forest Museum. The road is closed in winter.

Tharp's Log

Hale Tharp, the first non-American Indian settler in the area, established a cattle ranch among the Big Trees. He also built a simple summer cabin from a fallen, fire-hollowed sequoia log in the 1860s. It is the oldest pioneer cabin remaining in the park. Muir called it "a noble den." The cabin is located in the Giant Forest area, a mile northeast of the Crescent Meadow parking lot.

Crescent Meadow

John Muir is said to have called this lovely, grassy, open area the "gem of the Sierra." It is located 1.5 miles east of the Moro Rock parking area. A hike on the trail around the meadow takes about an hour.

Crystal Cave

The parks protect more than 200 caves, including Crystal Cave. Formed of limestone that has been metamorphosed into marble, it is decorated with curtains of icicle-like stalactites and mounds of stalagmites. To reach it, you must drive to the end of the twisting, seven-mile road heading west from Generals Highway two miles south of the Giant Forest Museum. Trailers, RVs and buses are prohibited because the road is extremely narrow. From the parking area, it is a 15-minute hike down a steep path to the cave entrance. The cave can be toured in summer only. Sequoia Natural History Association offers daily, 45-minute guided tours from mid-May through late October. A jacket or sweater is recommended since it is about 50°F in the cave. Information is available at park visitor centers, call (559) 565-3759 or visit www.sequoiahistory.org. Tickets are not sold at Crystal Cave and must be purchased at least 1.5 hours in advance at Lodgepole or Foothills visitor centers only.

Mineral King

From Highway 198, three miles east of Three Rivers, is a 25-mile winding road leading to Mineral King. Because of 598 tight turns, the drive takes about 1.5 hours. The glacial valley, added to Sequoia in 1978, was named by 19th-century prospectors searching for silver. To see Mineral King at a leisurely pace, it's best to stay at one of the two area campgrounds, Atwell Mill or Cold Springs (no trailers permitted). With 11 different trails, Mineral King is a hikers' heaven. Avalanches have mowed down trees on the valley floor so lowlands are covered with wild meadows. Forests of lodgepole pine, sequoias and white and red fir are at higher elevations. The rocky landscape is colorful: rusty-red shales, white marble and granite, and a black metamorphic shale. Alpine trails begin at the 7,500-foot elevation and most climbs are steep. This road is closed in winter; it also prohibits vehicles longer than 22 feet in any season.

Hospital Rock

Hospital Rock, about six miles northeast of the Foothills Visitor Center, was the home of a subgroup of the Monache people until the 1870s. You can see pictographs as well as nearly 50 grinding spots used by Monache women to grind acorns into flour, the staple of these American Indians' diets.

KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK

Kings Canyon National Park is a masterpiece created by nature. Here you can marvel at the wild Kings River. The following are just a few of the many sights to see in the park.

Big Stump Trail

Near the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, three miles southwest of Grant Grove Village, is Big Stump Basin Trail. The one-mile loop trail reveals the remains of early logging. The Mark Twain Stump is all that's left of the 26-foot-wide, 1,700-year-old tree that took two men 13 days to cut down in 1891. Also, because sequoia wood decays slowly, piles of sawdust created more than a century ago still remain.

Grant Grove and the General Grant Tree

Grant Grove is one mile beyond the Kings Canyon Visitor Center on the west side of the road. From the parking area, a 0.5-mile loop trail leads to the General Grant Tree. The tree, which measures 267.4 feet tall and 107.6 feet around, was discovered by Joseph Hardin Thomas in 1862 and named by Lucretia P. Baker in 1867 to honor Ulysses S. Grant. While still a youngster at 1,800 to 2,000 years old, the beautiful behemoth is the star attraction of a grove of 2,000- and 3,000-year-old sequoias, including the 254.7-foot-tall Robert E. Lee. The General Grant is called "The Nation's Christmas Tree," and special Yuletide celebrations are held under its snow-laden branches every year.

Panoramic Point

At Grant Grove Village, you can take a narrow, steep, 2.3-mile road that snakes east to Panoramic Point. From the parking area, take the 0.25-mile trail to the 7,520-foot-high ridge. The view takes in a magnificent stretch of the High Sierra. You can see Hume Lake in Sequoia National Forest and, just beyond a low ridge behind the lake, Kings Canyon. No RVs or trailers are permitted.

Kings Canyon and the Kings River

"A rival to the Yosemite," wrote Muir, describing the glacial canyon, the south fork of the mighty Kings River. It is an awesome sight to behold the white water of this wild river as it rushes between the granite canyon walls. You enter the canyon of the Kings River at Horseshoe Bend, just before reaching Boyden Cave, on the 30-mile drive from Grant Grove to Cedar Grove, which lies in the heart of Kings Canyon. The road is closed from November to April.

The deepest part of Kings River canyon is not in the park, but in Sequoia National Forest. At one spot above the South Fork of the Kings River, the granite cliffs rise more than 8,000 feet from river to ridge. Many visitors are surprised to learn that this river-carved section of the valley is thousands of feet deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. To reach this area which lies at the base of 10,051-foot Spanish Mountain, stop at Yucca Point, 15 miles northeast of Grant Grove on Highway 180. From here, take marked Trail #28E01 and hike for one mile northwest down a steep and winding path. The hike is arduous, so take water. When you reach the confluence of the South and Middle forks of the Kings River, you are at the deepest part of the canyon. Note: Watch for poison oak and snakes.

Boyden Cave

You can't miss the entrance to this cave, found where Highway 180 crosses the South Fork of the Kings River. Located 10 miles short of Cedar Grove, the cave is in neighboring Sequoia National Forest. Daily tours are conducted during summer; call (209) 736-2708 for more information.

Cedar Grove/Kings Canyon

Highway 180 ends 40 miles from the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park in the famous Kings Canyon itself. Cedar Grove, nestled in a mile-deep section of Kings Canyon, is near two spectacular granite formations: Grand Sentinel at 8,518 feet in elevation and North Dome at 8,717 feet in elevation. The precipitous Grand Sentinel rises 3,500 feet above the canyon floor.

The best place to see these features is on the Zumwalt Meadow Nature Trail.