Fun and Exciting Things to Do Kings Canyon National Park
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Kings Canyon National Park is a 462,000-acre park established in 1940, located north of its sister park, Sequoia National Park, and about an hour and 15 minutes drive east of Fresno. The park is a popular family destination, known for its scenic drives and views; it offers travelers many attractions and activities, including horseback riding, cave exploration, hiking, and kayaking for experts.
Hiking Guide for Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is known for its dramatic mountain scenery with sheer granite walls and spires, high sierra meadows, rivers, creeks, and lakes. The park is also significantly less crowded than nearby Yosemite and offers more remote options for those of you looking to head into the backcountry. Depending on how much time you have, you can hop on quick day-hike trails or you can be in the backcountry for days on end with extended backpacking trips.
Drive 4.5 miles east of the Cedar Grove Village turn-off for a quick one-mile hike at Zumwalt Meadow. Though brief, this is considered among the most scenic of Kings Canyon hiking trails with views of the steep granite walls while the Kings River meanders through the meadows. Make a stop at the Visitor Center to get a self-guiding nature trail booklet to bring along the hike.
Rae Lakes Loop
The Rae Lakes Loop leaves from Road’s End at Cedar Grove and is a 46-mile, multiday excursion with over 5,000 feet of elevation gain and up to nearly 12,000 of elevation at Glen’s Pass, 27.5 miles into the hike. This is the most-traveled route in Kings Canyon, so reservations are suggested and permits are required prior to heading into the backcountry.
The hike takes you past waterfalls, alpine lakes, and creeks and to stunning viewpoints all along the trail. Check with the Park Service to confirm any closed or off-limits areas, as well as camp limitations in areas such as Bullfrog Lake. If you plan on having bonfires, make sure you camp below 10,000 feet as it is prohibited to have them above that elevation.
Redwood Canyon Trails
Leaving the Grant Grove Visitor Center, there are five options for hiking in Redwood Canyon, ranging from four to ten miles. The canyon is known for having the largest area of old-growth Sequoia trees and the largest Sequoia groves. The park service has set a limit of two nights for camping in these areas. Try out the Sugar Bowl Loop (6.4 miles) for a chance to be among a high density of young Sequoias and to see the lookout points at the summit of Big Baldy.
Access the Sierra Palisades loop trail from CA Highway 168, west of Bishop, and follow the signs to South Lake, where the Bishop Pass trailhead is. This trail begins with a hike over Bishop Pass at 11,000 feet and heads down into Dusy Basin. The hike is loaded with passes of up to 12,000 feet elevation with razor granite peaks dotting the environment.
Pick up a topographic map before setting out, as there are also several side trips that can be taken from the Palisades trail. To do the entire loop, you will likely need at least four days to cover the 34 miles of hiking. This is one of the more remote hikes that can offer a real sense of solitude.
Sheep Creek Cascade
Another trail beginning in the vicinity of the Cedar Grove entrance to the park is the Sheep Creek Cascade, a day hike that travels along the Don Cecil trail within the forest before leading to the glen at Sheep Creek. Along the trail, you will see views of the Monarch Divide as you climb approximately 600 feet of elevation in two miles of hiking.
Within Kings Canyon National Park is the Boyden Cavern, located on Highway 180, which is open for walking tours from mid-April through mid-November. At the park’s visitor center travelers can purchase walking tours of the cave and/or opt for full or half-day rappelling and canyoneering trips. The Boyden Cavern walking tour is a 45-minute excursion available for all ages. Tours leave every hour on the hour. Natural formations viewed on the walk include stalactites, stalagmites, and subterranean streams.
Kings Canyon is home to hundreds of domes, including Tehipite Dome, the Sierra Nevada’s largest dome. Experienced rock climbers can obtain information and permits from the Cedar Grove Ranger Station, located in Cedar Grove Village. Some of the more popular domes include North Dome, Grand Sentinel, and Zumwalt Meadows.
Kings Canyon offers several different horseback riding activities. Tours and information are available from the Cedar Grove Pack Station or the Grant Grove Stables. Rides or trips are available, ranging from one-hour rides to week-long pack trips. Horseback riding trips are closed from late fall through spring. Summer trips are very popular, and reservations are encouraged.
The park receives an average of 200 inches of snow annually, making winter sports very popular. The winter sports season runs from December to mid-April. The Grant Grove area is the easiest to access in heavy snow conditions and features clearly marked trails. The park rangers offer free snowshoes for a free one-mile, two-hour walk. Cross-country skiing equipment is available for rent at the Grant Grove Market and the Wuksachi Lodge within the park.
Camping in Kings Canyon
Campgrounds in Kings Canyon National Park are located high in the California woodlands. The higher the elevation, the cooler and closer to mammoth sequoias you will camp. Bear-proof food storage is required for your safety. Potable water is available at most sites as well as tables, fire pits/grills, garbage receptacles, and toilets.
Grant grove is near the Giant Sequoias, located at 6,500 feet. There are three distinct campgrounds known as the Grant Grove area: Moraine, Sentinel, and Sheep Creek. All offer visitors flushing toilets and showers. These sites are available from May through October.
With an elevation of 4,600 feet, Cedar Grove is on the South Fork Canyon of the Kings River. Cedar Grove area consists of three separate campsites: Azalea, Crystal Springs, and Sunset. They all feature flushing toilets and showers. Azalea is the only one that offers year-round camping; the others are open from May until October.
It can be cold at Kings Canyon. If you are planning to have a fire at your campsite, you are allowed to use dead or down wood. Cutting limbs from trees is forbidden. You may bring wood from home if you like. To protect the forest, make sure that all fires are completely out by the time you leave.
Food storage in the backcountry is vital to your safety and that of the wildlife. It is also a legal requirement in Kings Canyon to utilize bear-proof storage containers. Even trash and recyclables that once contained food must be stowed in these containers. Toiletries including toothpaste, chapstick, bug spray, or any other items that are scented must also be stored in a bear can or bear locker. Plan for your trip accordingly by minimizing food packaging and bringing only small containers of what you need.
Protect Your Vehicle
Do not leave any scented items or food in your car either. Black bears, common to Kings Canyon, have been known to maul cars for left behind tasty treats. Food storage lockers are available at each campsite for your convenience.