Be humbled by nature at its most impressive in these two breathtaking national parks, home to some of the largest living things on this planet.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks lie side by side and encompass some of the most astounding terrains on Earth. Here, everything is big; the trees are like natural skyscrapers and the canyons seem bottomless. Discover a dramatic landscape of towering mountains, deep caverns, gushing waterfalls and forests that can make you feel as though you have stepped into a fairytale land of giants.
Stand at the foot of the huge General Sherman and feel humbled by the majesty of nature. This giant tree rises 275 feet (83 meters) into the sky and stands in what is today known as Giant Forest. While you can find sequoia trees in several national parks, Giant Forest has over 8,000 of them. Learn more about sequoias at the nearby Giant Forest Museum. Another famous tree here is General Grant, also known as the “Nation’s Christmas Tree,” in Kings Canyon National Park’s Grant Grove. To see the largest remaining sequoia grove, head to Redwood Canyon.
Hike the park’s more than 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) of trails. Uncrowded and wild, the trails lead through some of California’s most beautiful landscapes. Take the Kearsarge Pass through Onion Valley to see the show-stopping Kearsarge Lake. Intrepid explorers can attempt the 8-day trek up Mount Whitney, America’s highest mountain outside of Alaska.
Drive the stunning Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which weaves along the roaring Kings River for 30 miles (50 kilometers). Stop at Junction View for dizzying looks into the cavernous Kings Canyon, one of North America’s deepest canyons, and at the 80-foot-high (20-meter) Grizzly Falls.
The two parks are located in the southern Sierra Nevada. Visalia, 35 miles (56 kilometers) west, is a good jumping-off point, offering park-bound shuttles. During the summer, ride the free in-park shuttle to reach the major sights. Visit year-round to experience the ever-changing seasons but be aware that Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is open only from late spring to October.