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Posted by on Aug 14, 2016 | 111 comments

Top Things to See in Kings Canyon National Park

There are three National Parks in California’s Sierra Nevada.

Yosemite National Park

Sequoia National Park

And… Kings Canyon National Park

Chances are that if you are not familiar with the area, you have not heard about the last park in the list.  Actually, I know Californians which have never heard of the park even though it is adjacent and operated jointly with Sequoia (the two parks are administered as one unit).

To put things in perspective, Sequoia gets about one million visitors per year and Kings Canyon gets only half of that.  And, I have a suspicion that most of those visitors concentrate on the sequoia groves located close to the park’s entrance.  Several years ago, Sunset Magazine included the Park in its list of the “Sierra’s Hidden Gems.”

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure what I was set to discover. We are on a quest to visit all of California’s National Parks.  Therefore, we allocated a day to Kings Canyon.

General Grant Grove

As the name implies, we stopped in this area to take a look at the General Grant, the second largest tree in the world. He used to be the third until the tree that used to be the second largest lost the upper half of its trunk. It is a bit confusing since the interpretative signs in the park still describe him as the third largest.

General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park, California

General Grant is famous for being proclaimed the “Nation’s Christmas Tree.”

The other interesting thing about General Grant is that he is considered a baby.  Well, a sequoia baby of only 1,700 years.  The oldest sequoias are about 3,500 years.  Therefore, the moisture, nutrients and sunlight conditions on his location are ideal for growth.  That is why he has beaten much oldest trees in terms of size.

General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park, California

General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park, California

It is fascinating to walk around the grove.  The marked trails are full of stops were visitor’s can learn about the trees, area’s history and even, how trees in the vicinity were cut and taken to the East Coast.  The fallen trunks were used to prove the veracity of pioneer’s tales related to humongous trees found in California.

General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park, California

General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park, California

General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park, California

General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park, California

The Main Attraction: Kings River Canyon

Once we were done admiring the mighty sequoias, we started a slow descent for a short period of time.  After seeing the “Kings Canyon Scenic Byway” sign, a sharp cliff appeared on my right side. My husband stopped to take a better look and noticed I was starting to get anxious.

He asked me if I wanted to continue.  I mumbled a hesitant “yes.” I thought we were going to pass the high areas fast.

I was wrong.

Shortly after the stop, we took a left curve and that is when I saw the deepest abysm I have seen in my life.

The sky was mostly gray and sunset was upon us.  A straight line of sun rays were passing through the clouds and lighting the left wall of the canyon.  It was a transfixing image. I wasn’t expecting that at all.

As you can imagine, I was holding to dear life in my seat. All I could think was a video I saw on YouTube about a bus transiting one of the world’s most dangerous roads (in China). Why do you need to go to China if we have equally scary stuff in the United States (no railing separating you from the bottom)?

But, I survived the steep descent to the canyon’s floor.  Our initial idea was to drive the road and return to camp near the park’s entrance. I told my husband I couldn’t take the drive back to back. We ended up camping close to Cedar Grove Visitor’s Center (located in the lower part of the park).  The subsequent photos were taken the following day when we were getting out.

This area of the park protects the headwaters of the South and Middle Forks of the Kings River and the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. Both the South and Middle Forks of the Kings Rivers have extensive glacial canyons. One portion of the South Fork canyon, known as the Kings Canyon, gives the entire park its name. Kings Canyon, with a maximum depth of 8,200 feet (2,500 m), is one of the deepest canyons in the United States.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

A few miles outside the park, Kings Canyon deepens and steepens becoming arguably the deepest canyon in North America for a short distance. At the highest part of the road, the canyon appears so deep that it is almost impossible to see the river at the bottom. I had to use the camera’s maximum zoom to capture the following photos.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Check out how the road meanders on one side of the canyon.  Super scary!

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

The neat thing is that the junction of the South and Middle Forks of the Kings River can be observed from the road.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

The river gets more visible as soon as you get closer to the bottom of the canyon.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Kings Canyon National Park, California

There is a point where the river can be observed at road level.  The power of this river cannot be described with words.  He moves at full force with an eternal impetuous sound.

Kings Canyon National Park, California

Grizzly Falls

It was time to take it easy and admire the scenery. A 0.1 mile trail located next to the road takes you to 75 feet waterfall.  I got another taste of nature’s power in here.  It was nearly impossible to get to the base of the fall due to the force of the water.

Grizzly Falls, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Grizzly Falls, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Roaring River Falls

This is another short but powerful waterfall that can be reached by a 0.3 paved trail.  Granite peaks can be observed from the trail (remember to look back).

Roaring River Falls, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Roaring River Falls, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Roaring River Falls, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Zumwalt Meadow

Zumwalt Meadow is the most scenic part of the Kings Canyon valley floor. The woods around the meadow are noticeably more lush and green than the woods in the rest of the valley, which is by and large rather sparse and without ground cover. In addition the meadow is at the steepest and most dramatic part of the canyon, situated between two tall, nearly vertical granite cliff faces. A one-and-a-half mile loop circles the meadow and is one of the more popular trails in the park.

Zumwalt Meadow, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Zumwalt Meadow, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Zumwalt Meadow, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Zumwalt Meadow, Kings Canyon National Park, California

After the trailhead to the meadow, a short drive will take you to the road end.  To get out of the park, you have to drive to the high altitude area using the same road used to get to the bottom.

Hume Lake

Before leaving the park’s grounds, we detoured to Hume Lake.  This is actually a reservoir used to store logs for an adjacent mill and supply water for a flume used to transport the cut lumber.

Hume Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Hume Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, California

The lake was purchased by the Forest Service and it is used for recreation nowadays.  Activities such as boating, fishing, hiking and swimming are permitted.

Hume Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Hume Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, California

It was the perfect ending for our little adventure.

Hume Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Hume Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Hume Lake, Kings Canyon National Park, California

Details

  • This post barely scratches the surface of what Kings Canyon National Park offers to visitors. Please, visit the park’s website for more information.
  • In my opinion, this park is unique in terms of its views.  I recommend visiting it in conjunction with Sequoia National Park (do not skip it!).

Have you visited Kings Canyon National Park?

Pin it for later?

Here is a list of the best things to see at Kings Canyon National Park located in California's Sierra Nevada. Get prepared to be amazed!

111 Comments

  1. I wasn’t aware of this spectacular park. The falls and trees are incredible.

    • I am glad you found out about the park thru this post. I am telling you, not a lot of people are aware of it.

  2. Sequioa and Kings Canyon (the twins as I call them) are perfect destinations for those longing to be with the giant trees. Not too far from here, along the Kings River, we have rented a cabin that formerly housed the park ranger and we had the entire place all to our own. It is awesome. If you want to get away this is the place. There’s also a small beach to get some sun.

    • You may need to tell me about this place. We saw all the cabins close to Sequoia National Park entrance. I would love to stay in the area.

    • Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Just awesome..that water falls.Have a nice day.

    • Thanks! The waterfalls are one of my favorite things about these parks.

  4. Gorgeous shots. Those falls are stunning!

    • Awww, thanks for your comment. I am a waterfall lover, so, I do not mind bumping into one or two.

  5. Thanks for sharing your travel to Kings canyon park. I had heard of Yosemite and Sequoia, but not Kings before. Lovely photos. #MondayEscapes

    • Thanks Ahila! It is my pleasure to share this beautiful park.

  6. You just put Kings Canyon higher on my list. I love those kind of roads, especially the magnificent views. I could almost feel the power of the waterfalls through your wonderful images. I’m guessing this park is not as busy as some.
    Gaelyn recently posted..2016 Heritage Days at North Rim Grand CanyonMy Profile

    • There were barely people when we visited (and we were there on the Memorial Day weekend). At some points, we were the only ones on the road. I like to explore under those conditions.

    • I know! The possibilities are endless. I have seen pictures of gorgeous lakes on the park. Would love to visit those.

  7. Stunning! have to admit I’m not all that familiar with this park so it was good to read your post. We’re off to Acadia National Park in a few weeks on the East Coast – I really wanted to visit a park for the centennial:).

    • I have seen pictures of Acadia and it is stunning. Hope you guys have a wonderful time.

    • The sequoias take your breath away. They are huge! People didn’t believe trees that huge existed. That is why some were cut and shipped to the East Coast.

    • Canyons like this are impressive. Scary but impressive.

  8. We’ve talked about going here next spring, so your images and information and so helpful and inspiring! I went to high school camp at Hume Lake — great memories!
    Sharon recently posted..Monterey and the Lone CypressMy Profile

    • I saw several “camps” at Hume Lake. It will be nice to stay there. We weren’t able to walk around the lake since some tree cutting was taking place.

    • Yes, they are impressive. More when you see from afar people or cars next to them.

  9. Tis true! Many Californians haven’t heard of it, myself included! So thanks for sharing! I’ll be pinning this for the next time we are home! #WanderfulWednesday

    • Some of my friends had no idea where the park is located even though they have lived in California their entire life.

  10. Just wow. How I wish to be there 🙂

    • Thanks! I know the feeling. I rather be at the park than at home or work.

  11. Your post is as expansive as the views! What a tour. What a place. I’ve been on some scary roads in Central America. And narrow trails on the big island. The memories are the best part. When you can breathe again.

    • When you can breathe again… That is the trick. So grateful to have visited this park but I really freaked out while there.

  12. Wow! The nice collection of beautiful parks. I want to go these parks near future. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks! Hope you make it one day.

    • Those falls surprised me. They were so easy to reach and so powerful.

  13. What I love about photography blogs is that I get to see places in the world i might never travel to nor experience. This post today has done this for me. Thank you so much for a wondrous sight and story about this place in USA. I’ve come over from Jen at Pierced Wonderings and added my blog. I shall add your linky back at mine. Thank you!
    Denyse Whelan Blogs recently posted..The Blue Mountains N.S.W. Australia. 366/232.My Profile

    • Thanks a lot Denyse! I think it is great to be part of a community who visit ans share places like this. As you mentioned, we may not be able to visit every corner of the world but at least we can take a peek at wonderful places.

    • We camped in the lower part of the park. It was great but you had to be careful with the bears. That was a first for me.

  14. This is my kind of day trip. I love going to places where other people don’t go, even if it’s more out of the way. I love to be able to explore in peace and you feel like you’ve found something special too.

    Those waterfalls are magnificent! I wish we had more in Belgium, but we just have the one little one, which I’ve yet to visit!

    ~ K

    • I do not do well in crowded areas (more when people are pushing you and elbowing you). So, yes, I prefer to have my space and stroll around less visited areas.

    • We are on the same page. I love them too.

  15. Hi Ruth! What a gorgeous area. Love the trees, and waterfalls. One of these days I will get to California to see your fantastic parks and canyons. Thanks for hosting this week. #TPThursday
    Nancie recently posted..Nova Scotia: Queensland BeachMy Profile

    • I know you are fan of places like this. Do come to California. There is a lot to see and do.

  16. Wow – those roads!? I’m not sure I could’ve driven them! However, the rest sounds right up my tree lined street – It’s on my bucket list to see the Giant Sequoias one day. #FlyAwayFriday
    Alex recently posted..The Life Of The River – Mondego, PortugalMy Profile

    • My husband was the one driving because I cannot do this for sure. It is a bit difficult to enjoy the panorama when you are scarred but I am glad I visited.

  17. I visited King’s Canyon once in combination with Sequoia, but I only remember seeing the General Grant tree, not going down into the canyon. It looks just as beautiful as Yosemite, only with fewer people! Gorgeous pictures, by the way!
    Rachel Heller recently posted..Reconsidering BenidormMy Profile

    • I think not a lot of people make it to the canyon area. As I said, I had no idea on how the park was going to look. We just continued the road an stumbled on all these marvelous sights.

  18. I love the idea of showcasing one of the lesser know National Parks – you’re right, I had never heard of it. But it’s on my radar now! Those height and width of those trees is incredible – the photo with the parking lot included really put them into perspective! The waterfalls and canyons are beautiful too.
    Gemma recently posted..Hiking McIntyre Bluff, Okanagan Valley, BCMy Profile

    • I love blogging about places that are not that well known. I think people who appreciate travel and discovery will enjoy visiting them.

    • That is right! It is hard to imagine something is 2,000 to 3,000 years old. It is great to take a look at they taking into consideration that.

  19. I haven’t been to Kings Canyon NP yet. I was aware of the park, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was like. Your photos have given me a better idea of what to expect. When I finally get the chance to do a big California roadtrip, I’ll be sure to visit every NP, including this one!

    • I was in the same bandwagon. I was aware of the park but not sure what I was going to find there. Now, I know and am happy to share my experience.

  20. Wow, what an amazing park with very interesting features! I would love to hike there. I’m adding it to my bucket list.
    Charlene recently posted..Summer Is Gliding ByMy Profile

    • I hope you make it there one day. It is a perfect location for those who enjoy hiking.

  21. We love Kings Canyon! We’ve visited a few times and I really like that there’s not as many people compared to Yosemite. That drive makes me a bit nervous too but those views are amazing. Try to visit Boyden Cave the next time you go. It’s got some incredible formations.
    Mary{The World Is A Book} recently posted..Things to do in One Day in Key West, FloridaMy Profile

    • I thought about visiting the caves but I desisted since it was Memorial Day Weekend. But, I want to do it in the future.

  22. Thank you for this post! I love reading about nature and specially when it comes to the mountains. I would love to come over to see it one day. There would be so many places in the US i’d love to go! Keep up the good work!
    Kreete Tokman recently posted..Manly to Spit Bridge Coastal WalkMy Profile

    • Thanks Kreete. I am glad you enjoyed the post. I love the outdoors and wish I would have more time to visit different places.

  23. I opened this thinking it would be about the Kings Canyon in Australia, but I was pleasantly surprised. The park looks beautiful, especially the waterfalls and lake. Great place to get amongst nature. Nice one! #TheWeeklyPostcard
    David recently posted..11 Essential Things to do in BrașovMy Profile

    • It is funny that there is a park with the same name in Australia (down to the S in Kings). It has popped up numerous times while I was researching the article. Great you liked the article.

  24. Another amazing find, Ruth! Your posts always inspire me to go outdoors more. Such variety of landscapes within one park. The giant sequoias are a sight to behold, and Kings Canyon really lives up to its name! I can empathise with how you felt about that cliff with no railing – I encountered a similar road in Gran Canaria and it was nerve-wrecking! Thankfully, all’s well that ends well.
    Michelle | michwanderlust recently posted..Bangkok – New Eats and Old FriendsMy Profile

    • Right! I saw your photos of Gran Canaria and noticed a lot of cliffs. I mean the moments of worry and fear are worthwhile because of the glorious views you usually see when visiting places like these.

  25. I haven’t been to King’s Canyon since I was a teenager, yet is one of my absolute favorite parks. Thanks for bringing me back after so many years! I can’t believe they don’t have a guard rail on that road, though. Yikes! #wkendtravelinspiration
    Jim ~ ReflectionsEnroute recently posted..Don’t Cry – Summer is Over!My Profile

    • They have a thick wall in other places in Sequoia. But, I guess that area is more transited than the scenic route in Kings Canyon. I hope there ha snot been many accidents on the road.

    • Thanks Nicola! I am so glad you liked the post.

    • Seems like you a fall fan too. I love places full of waterfalls.

  26. This is the great things about the National Parks. there are so many of them and when you find the won that is stunning and not overrun with tourists it’s amazing.

    • You are so right. And, there are several like that in California (which is amazing).

  27. I miss Kings Canyon. You just gave me a great idea for a long week-end. I have a new puppy and I think she will be thrilled to run around in this beautiful forest. Do you know if dogs are allowed in the park?

    • Not sure if dogs are allowed in the parks and trails. I know I saw several but you know how sometimes people do not follow instructions. On the other hand, some of these trails are so low volume that I do not think somebody will notice.

    • The sequoias are so wonderful. I would love to visit more groves.

  28. You’re right I had never heard of King’s Canyon and after seeing your stunning photos I don’t understand why. I think it is far more stunning than Yosemite (which I have visited).
    I did however have a little smile as you described yourself clinging to the car seat. I have done this as well whilst knowing full well that should the vehicle go over the cliff holding onto the seat will not help 🙂
    Sally@Toddlers on Tour recently posted..The Not So Good Moment in a Family Holiday to SingaporeMy Profile

    • The scenery is very similar to Yosemite but the canyon itself make it stand out (that is something the other park does not have). I cling to everything I can. I know it doesn’t make a difference but I just can’t help it.

  29. Amazing photos here Ruth, and so much to see and do! I’ve bookmarked this so that if I ever do get to travel there one day I can use this as an itinerary! 😀 General Grant has always been on my list of places to visit because it ticks off all of my botanical favourites boxes, and I love those big sequoia trees, they’re stunning! Grizzly Falls also looks stunning – beautiful! – Tasha

    • I think California would be your botanical paradise because we have the largest trees by volume, the tallest trees and the oldest trees. I still have to see the tallest and oldest. Thanks for your nice words.

  30. This park looks amazing! So much to see and do! Those trees are incredible and that waterfall looks amazing as well. I’ve never heard of Kings Canyon, but my parents are always looking for new parks to explore so I’ll have to pass this post along 😀
    Lauren recently posted..Argentine Eats with Parrilla Food TourMy Profile

    • Oh yes! You have to tell them about this park. Plus, Sequoia is next door and Yosemite not that far away. They can go tree parks in one trip.

  31. Stunning scenery. Love those waterfalls!

    • Aren’t they stunning? You wouldn’t believe how powerful they were when I visited.

    • That is true! It is a big coincidence that both parks have the exact same name even though they are very different. Would like to go to the one in Australia!

  32. Thanks for the tips and photos of Kings Canyon. It goes on my list for our year when we RV through the US.

    • Wow! That is great. I would love to do an RV trip. Well, I guess I would be happy if I can travel with a small trailer or teardrop.

    • Hope you can go back to see more of the park. I am sure you will enjoy the sights.

  33. You always have the best places in California to blog about that I didn’t know existed, haha! Definitely bookmarking this for later! Thanks so much for joining us on #FlyAwayFriday!

    • It is my pleasure to help you with your wanderlust. More ideas to get going.

  34. Omg SOO gorgeous! Those waterfalls are just absolutely beautiful!! Thank you for sharing on #FlyAwayFriday and cannot wait to see what you have to share at the next linkup!! Xo Chloe

    • Thanks Chloe! I am glad you enjoyed the post. Happy to share at the link party.

  35. One day we will have the time to explore some of these amazing parks in the US. Certainly diverse, and very interesting

    • Yes, you have to make plans to visit California. You will enjoy our National and State parks.

  36. We really enjoyed our time in Kings Canyon NP. I remember looking at my photos afterwards and thinking how it didn’t do justice to the grandeur and scope of the scenery. The kids and I got motion sick driving down to the bottom, but a hike set everything all right. Looks like you had a great time… other than the fear of driving off the road.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..At the End of the Universe at the Museum of Fine Arts HoustonMy Profile

    • I do not get motion sickness but I am afraid of heights. Glad things were ok for you guys. I was fine at after we passed the highest area.

  37. Spectacular place! I visited Sequoia many years ago but do not remember King’s Canyon. That is quite a scary road. I must admit to some acrophobia– not as bad when I drive or look down but I really get anxious when watching someone standing (or worse, leaning over) at the edge of a precipice!
    Ken Schneider recently posted..Summer birds in IllinoisMy Profile

  38. These are some amazing photos! Thanks for sharing, as I will probably never see them for myself. Like you, I am not really thrilled with roads that aren’t relatively flat. My ‘adventure’ gene was left out of my DNA, I think!
    bettyl – NZ recently posted..better than rain…My Profile

  39. Hello, it is a beautiful park. I love the trees and the waterfalls. I have been to Kings Canyon years ago but I barely remember the visit. Your photos and post are wonderful. Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

  40. Hi! Nice collection of beautiful photos. Congratulations for the 100 anniversary year in your National parks. BTW,Why do not you come to Japan.

  41. Such beauty in Kings Canyon! I’ve been to the Sierras many times, but I haven’t visited this park. Your visit was quite an adventure! I hope you enjoy a spectacular fall, Ruth. Our high altitude fall will soon be over. Snow will soon fall.
    Barb recently posted..The Golden Season in Breckenridge – Our WorldMy Profile

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