Are you about to plan a trip to Sequoia National Park but don’t know where to start? The widespread nature reserve adjoins the famous Kings Canyon, encompassing 1,353 square miles. So, it’s no surprise if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with organizing your upcoming getaway!
Luckily, we’re here to help. Discover all of the top Sequoia attractions, plus learn where to go and what to see in this incredible location. So, if you’re looking for the best things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, read on for a carefully curated one and two-day Sequoia national park itinerary.
Keep in mind that this itinerary is packed to give you the most options of hikes in Sequoia and sightseeing throughout the parks. This itinerary could easily be made into a 3-day Sequoia trip at a more leisurely pace too.
One Day in Sequoia National Park
If you only have one day at your disposal, prepare for a jam-packed Sequoia National Park itinerary. While you won’t have time to make it to Kings Canyon, you can still explore the highlights of Sequoia National Park and hike a few of the best trails.
Entering via the Ash Mountain Entrance, you’ll enjoy a scenic drive as you pass the famous Sequoia National Park sign, Tunnel Rock, and Generals Highway Lookout. Upon entering The Giant Forest, turn right down Crescent Meadow Road to drive under the park’s famous fallen Sequoia tree, Tunnel Log. The enormous tree has been here since its fall in 1937 so take a few minutes to snap some photos of the unique tunnel carving.
Next to the Tunnel log, you’ll find the Moro Rock trail, your morning hike. You probably noticed this iconic sight as you entered the park, and now you get the opportunity to climb it. The trail is only half a mile (0.8 km), but it features over 300 steps, which will give your legs a good workout for sure! Even so, as you’re doing it before it gets too hot, you shouldn’t arrive at the top covered in sweat!
The challenging rock-cut stairway leads up to an incredible panoramic summit where you’ll be so high that you can see over the forest’s canopy out to the Great Western Divide (Sierra Nevada mountains that form part of the divide between Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks).
Crescent Meadow Trail
At the end of Crescent Meadow Road, you’ll find a lovely 1.7-mile (2.7 km) loop trail through the forest and meadows that will serve as a nice cool down after your earlier climb. There are so many sights to see on this short route, such as the historic landmark, Tharp’s Log, a fallen tree that was turned into a cabin by a 19th-century cattle rancher. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife here too as the area is a well-known spot for bear sightings, deer and various bird species.
As you drive further north on the highway, you’ll soon reach Lodgepole Visitor Center. Stop here and enjoy your packed lunch in the picnic area or buy food from the visitor center. Lodgepole is also the turn-off for Tokopah Falls, your next stop on your one-day Sequoia National Park itinerary. So once you’ve filled your belly, follow Lodgepole Road down to the Tokopah trailhead.
The 1.7-mile (2.7 km) trail to the water is a gentle and scenic route, passing along the Kaweah River. Although summer is the best time to visit Sequoia as the weather is the most stable, it can get scorching during this time. So, if you’re here in the summer, you’ll love the various swimming holes where you can refresh in here. Also, during this season, Tokopah is at its best, with plenty of water cascading down the falls and gorgeous wildflowers in full bloom.
General Sherman Tree and Congress Trail
Next, head south on the highway back towards Three Rivers. There is one more stop on your park itinerary for the day, and the best was saved for last. The General Sherman Tree in the Giant Forest is the world’s largest tree, so as you can imagine, this part of the park gets pretty crowded with tourists.
You can’t help but marvel at its enormous size as you look up at this 275 feet (84 meter) tree from ground level. But it’s not just its height that is impressive; the trunk is quite thick, with a diameter of 36 feet (11 meters). The General Sherman Tree is approximately 2,200 years old and is still growing.
There is a short trail to General Sherman from the car park, but I recommend taking the longer and more scenic route via the Congress Trail if you have time and energy. The 3-mile (4.8 km) paved trail loops through the forest, passing General Sherman and many other gigantic sequoias.
Two Days in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
A 2-day Sequoia and Kings canyon itinerary will allow you to slow down the pace and explore further afield. After a morning checking out the spots in Sequoia that you didn’t have time to see yesterday (if you’d like), explore the wonders of Kings Canyon via car, foot, and horseback.
Day 2 of your Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park itinerary begins with one of the area’s hidden gems, Crystal Cave. This intriguing marble cavern is one of the only Sequoia attractions that you need to book in advance and take a guided tour around. So, be sure to get your tickets before setting off on your summer road trip to Sequoia National Park.
The tour of this enchanting cave lasts around 45 minutes, and you’ll follow a half-mile loop to check out what’s below the surface of the national park. Here, you’ll find geologic features like stalactites and stalagmites along with fascinating cave-adapted wildlife.
Now it’s time to cross over into Kings Canyon and tackle the most challenging hike in your Kings canyon Itinerary. The Big Baldy trail is a 5-mile (8 km) hike up the 8209-foot (2502 meter) granite peak. The majority of the first half is uphill, but the views from the top are so spectacular that you will quickly forget about your aching legs.
The trek takes around 3 hours in total, so bring enough water and snacks to keep you going. If you’re not keen on doing such a long hike, you can opt for the nearby Little Baldy trail instead, which is a shorter and less challenging 3.3-mile (5.3 km) route.
Lunch and Horseback Riding in Cedar Grove
Once you make it back down the mountain, rest your feet as you take the scenic 1-hour drive to Cedar Grove for a well-deserved lunch. Treat yourself to a burger or filling sandwich at Cedar Grove Grill before the next activity on your Sequoia itinerary.
You’ll be pleased to hear that it’s not another hike but, instead, a gentle horseback ride through the national park. So hop on one of the gorgeous horses at Cedar Grove Pack station and enjoy a scenic ride around Cedar Grove and along the Kings Canyon River.
Muir Rock, Bailey Bridge, and Mist Falls
From Cedar Grove, head east for 10 minutes until you reach Road’s End. Park up to explore the splendid attractions here, such as Muir Rock, a large granite slab on the river. Daredevils like to climb onto the rock and dive the 8 feet (2.4 meter) drop into the river, but you can also just take a dip on the swimming hole.
At Roads End, you’ll also find the lovely Bailey Bridge. Take the 30-minute trail from the parking lot to cross the bridge and admire the gushing river below. If you continue on the path north of Bailey Bridge, you’ll reach Mist Falls. This small but picturesque waterfall usually rages in the late spring and early summer. However, it is an additional one-hour walk from Bailey Bridge (one way) so check that you have time first.
Grant Grove Village
No Road trip to Sequoia National Park is complete without a stop in Grant Grove. Here you will find the second most famous Sequoia tree, General Grant. Although it’s not quite as big as General Sherman, it’s still impressive and worth checking out as it’s a short and easy 0.3-mile (0.5 km) trail to reach it. Alternatively, opt for the 1.5 mile (2.4 km) North Grove Loop from the Grant Tree parking area to admire more of the sequoia forest along with some creeks and meadows.
Hopefully, it will almost be sunset by this point, giving you just enough time to get to the best sunset spot in the park, Panoramic Point. You can drive right up to the viewpoint that is 7,520 feet (2292 meters) above sea level. Take a moment here to reflect on your Sequoia National Park trip as you watch the nightfall.
Where to Stay in Sequoia & Kings Canyon
Now that you’ve got an epic Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park itinerary, you’re probably wondering where to stay on your road trip. You’ll find several splendid towns within a 15 to 90-minute drive to the park, but Three Rivers is the nearest and most convenient.
The charming small town of Three Rivers is super welcoming, has a handful of restaurants, and is just 10 minutes from the Ash Mountain Entrance. Below are some top Sequoia Park accommodation picks. You can also check out a more detailed accommodation guide on the best places to stay in Sequoia National Park for more options.
Luxury: Rio Sierra Riverhouse boasts comfortable, modern suites, friendly staff, and splendid stream views. Every room has an ensuite bathroom, fully-equipped kitchen, cozy fireplace, and private terrace.
Mid-Range: The traditional Plantation Bed & Breakfast in Three Rivers town center has excellent amenities like a seasonal outdoor pool with a hot tub and a delicious daily breakfast. The deluxe king room boasts a balcony, spa bath, and gas fireplace.
Budget: For a no-frills, affordable Sequoia National Park trip, head to the pet-friendly Lazy J Ranch Motel with an outdoor pool and spacious grounds. Here, you’ll have all the necessities, such as air-con, a flat-screen TV, a hairdryer and complimentary toiletries.
Enjoy your trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks!