How to spend a weekend in Sequoia National Park

Sequoia and Kings Canyon are called “hiker’s parks” and rightfully so. There’s plenty of hiking trails to choose from and each of them gives something special to remember: from giant sequoias to waterfalls, quiet lakes and mountain top views.

We visited the parks during mid-April, which is still considered winter season. Some of the hiking trails and spots such as Crystal Cave and Cedar Grove were closed, but on the flip side there were fewer crowds and on many occasions, we felt as if we had the whole park pretty much to ourselves.

Below is our itinerary to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks over a weekend. Hope it inspires you to visit and help you plan your itinerary. Remember that whatever hiking trail you decide to go for, you will have a wonderful time!

Day 1 – General Sherman Tree, Big Tree Trail, Tokopah Falls

GENERAL SHERMAN TREE

Our first stop had to be Sherman Tree – the largest living organism on earth! It is almost 275 feet tall and is estimated to be 2,200 years old. From afar, it might not look like it’s so big but once you get closer, it feels strikingly gigantic.

Tip: Snap a few pictures from the back of the tree instead of sign board at the front. Less people and more time to experiment with different angles.

BIG TREE TRAIL

Once we finally checked off Sherman Tree off the list, we took the Big Tree Trail, which is a short paved trail circling Round Meadow. This was a great introduction to sequoia ecology.

Trailhead: Giant Forest Museum
Distance: 2/3 miles
Length of time: 1 hour round trip

TOKOPAH FALLS

This is a moderate hike that takes you to the head of Tokopah Valley, culminating at photogenic Tokopah Falls. On this trail we saw lodgepole pines, small meadows and crossed several creeks. Once closer to the waterfall, a view of the Watchtower, a pointed rock, opened up on the right. It was absolutely stunning. A few (rocky) steps further, we got an entire view of the cascading falls. We found a flat rock and lied down to enjoy the sound of the water.

Trailhead: East of the parking area at Lodgepole Visitor Center
Distance: 3.8 miles
Length of time: 1-2 hours

Day 2 – Tunnel Log, Moro Rock, General Grant Tree, Hume Lake

TUNNEL LOG

Tunnel Log is a fallen sequoia that became the only tree you can drive through, as well as one of the most popular Instagram spots! During the time we visited, this road was closed to cars so we had plenty of time to take photos, although a car going through would have been even more picture perfect.

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MORO ROCK

Moro Rock is a granite dome and probably my favorite viewpoint in Sequoia National Park. It offers spectacular views of the sierras on one side, and panoramic views of the sequoia groves on the other. We read that it is an strenuous hike but if you’re an seasoned hiker, you’ll feel it is a fairly easy and short walk up the staircase to the top.

Tip: on the way back from Moro Rock, take the unpaved hiking trail back to the trailhead. It’s more interesting!

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GENERAL GRANT TREE

After lunch, we drove to Kings Canyon to see the 2nd biggest tree in the world – General Grant Tree. After taking a few photos, we went on the North Grove Loop, which is a lightly traveled forest walk that offers a close look at Big Trees. The walk starts at the Grant Tree overflow-parking area.

HUME LAKE

Hume Lake was the perfect spot to end a fun-filled weekend in Sequoia. We brought some snacks and sat down to enjoy the incredible views of the sierras. When we went, the area was serene and quiet but if you visit in summer, expect to see crowds of kids as it is one of the most popular campgrounds in Kings Canyon (If you’d like peace and quiet sans crowds, you may want to skip this one in summer)

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Scenic Drives

No National Park visit is complete without some epic scenic drives in between hikes. Some popular ones are:

  • Panoramic Point Road
  • Generals Highway
  • Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
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Views from the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway

Good to know before you go

  • The Mineral King and Cedar Grove areas are open only in spring through fall, while Grant Grove, Giant Forest, and Lodgepole offer both summer and winter activities.
  • The roads in both parks are so windy! I usually don’t suffer from motion sickness, but there were some mountain roads that were insane. Drive with caution.
  • Park Entrance Fee is $30 for a vehicle pass. This fee includes both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park and is valid for up to 7 days. 
  • Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are open 24 hours a day 365 days per year. However, expect some road closures due to snow from October through May.
  • There are no gas stations or repair shops inside the park boundaries

Practical Tips for your visit

  • Download Google maps offline as there is no signal inside the park
  • Don’t worry if you run out of snacks. There’s a well-stocked supermarket at Lodgepole Visitor Center where you can also grab lunch.
  • Bring comfortable hiking shoes and sun protection

HIKING FAVES

Where to stay

Campgrounds

There’s plenty of campgrounds inside both parks. For more information, go to www.recreation.gov

Lodging

If you’d rather stay in a lodging facility inside the park, these are the most popular ones:

  • Wuksachi Lodge (inside Sequoia National Park) starting from $189. Book here.
  • Grant Grove Cabins & John Muir Lodge (inside Kings Canyon National Park) starting from $116. Book here.
  • Cedar Grove Lodge in the Kings Canyon (inside Kings Canyon National Park) starting from $147. Book here.

Airbnb

If camping is not your thing and lodging inside the park is out of your budget, Airbnb can be a good option. We stayed at this beautiful Airbnb in a nearby town called Three Rivers. It was a 45min commute to the park but we loved the house and the fact that we could venture out to lesser known places in the area. Read reviews and book here.


New to Airbnb? Here’s $40 USD free credit to get you started: https://bit.ly/2r3L4ob (invite link, not sponsored)


Bonus tip

We found an alternative scenic route into Sequoia National Park that took us through beautiful orange plantations and small hillside villages. We actually stopped to sample a few of the oranges and they were some of the best we have had in California! To access this lesser know part of the area, take the route 245 / Millwood drive via Elderwood CA.

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