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Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park were stops on one of our epic Missouri to California road trips. As we planned the trip, we couldn’t wait to experience the majesty of the enormous sequoia trees. Like many people, we’d seen the pictures and videos of these amazing trees. Now it was time to experience them for ourselves.

Though we only spent two nights in the park, it’s an experience I won’t ever forget. We stayed at the only lodge within Sequoia National Park–Wuksachi Lodge. This one is a little different from some of the classic lodges we’ve stayed in because the check-in building is in a completely separate location from the actual lodges. While the lobby is often in a different building from the actual rooms, this was the first one we’d encounter in which our building was a short drive away from the lobby, gift shop, and restaurant.

And due to the way we’d scheduled the trip, we found ourselves at the parks on Memorial Day weekend. Luckily, we arrived on Friday evening, and we were able to get a popular stop in the park completed before the crowds arrived the next morning. And though it was busy, we were able to see everything we’d hoped to. Our greatest challenge? Getting Moro Rock in. Due to parking and shuttle buses, we ended up making the climb at sunset. This turned out to be amazing. I highly recommend climbing the rock at golden hour.

So, sit back and enjoy our pictures of these amazing parks. I would go again in a heartbeat; everyone should see these awesome trees at least once.

Background on the Parks

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. These two adjacent national parks are managed as one unit and cover a combined area of over 1.3 million acres.

Sequoia National Park, established on September 25, 1890, is the second oldest national park in the United States, after Yellowstone. It is named after the giant sequoia trees, which are the world’s largest trees by volume and can be found throughout the park. The park is home to General Sherman, the largest tree on Earth, as well as several other notable giant sequoias. The park also features numerous stunning landscapes, including deep canyons, rugged mountains, and alpine meadows. Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, is also located within the park’s boundaries.

Kings Canyon National Park, established on March 4, 1940, is named after the massive glacially-carved Kings Canyon, which is one of the deepest canyons in North America. The park is known for its impressive granite cliffs, roaring waterfalls, and pristine wilderness. It offers a diverse range of ecosystems, from the low-lying foothills to the high alpine regions. The park is also home to the General Grant Grove, which preserves a grove of giant sequoias, including the General Grant Tree, the third-largest known tree in the world.

Both parks are renowned for their natural beauty, biodiversity, and recreational opportunities. They attract millions of visitors each year who come to explore the stunning wilderness, hike the many trails, camp, fish, and engage in other outdoor activities. The parks are also vital habitats for numerous plant and animal species, including the endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, as well as black bears, mule deer, and various bird species.

The Drive to the Park Gate

On the road trip. we’d just been to Death Valley National Park and stayed the night in Lone Pine, California. After visiting some of the attractions around Lone Pine, we made the drive to Sequoia National Park. And it was stunning.

Sequoia National Park

Here is a view of Moro Rock. We climbed it the next evening.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

After driving through some beautiful scenery, we encounter the iconic Sequoia National Park sign.

Sequoia National Park

As we drove towards our lodging for the night, the trees were more and more magnificent.

Sequoia National Park

It was amazing to wind our way through the trees.

Sequoia National Park

We saw some deer along the way.

Sequoia National Park

General Sherman Tree

As we got closer to the Wuksachi Lodge, we realized that we’d pass the General Sherman. Since it was still daylight, we decided to stop and check it out before we checked in.

The trail is paved and has an accessible option for those who need it.

Sequoia National Park

We parked our car and headed to the trail. On this Friday evening before Memorial Day, it wasn’t busy at all.

Sequoia National Park

I love walking out in nature, especially nature as gorgeous as this!

Sequoia National Park

This little stop shows you how large the General Sherman tree really is.

Sequoia National Park

This cross-section also demonstrates the size of these trees.

Sequoia National Park

Though the General Sherman is the highlight of the trail, you’ll encounter so many beautiful sequoias in the area.

Sequoia National Park

Finally, you’ll see the General Sherman.

Sequoia National Park

But again, it’s not the only amazingly gigantic tree in the area.

Sequoia National Park

We finally arrived at the main event. You’ll be able to get some great photo ops here.

Sequoia National Park

Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park

After we visited the General Sherman, it was time to check in at Wuksachi Lodge.

Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park

Again, the lobby, gift shop, and restaurant is in a building that is completely offsite from the rooms. You’ll need to drive over to your building. There may have been walking trails between our building and the lobby building, but we didn’t use them.

Here are a couple of things to know about staying here. You will need to take all food out of your car at night. Also, there is an uphill incline to get from the parking lot to the building. It was some work to get our stuff out of the car and up to the room. Also, there was no elevator in the building, and our room was on the second floor.

The last thing to note–it was super dark at night here. I was not comfortable going to the car at night, not due to crime or anything, but because it was so dark we were afraid we might walk right into a bear! I will say that this was an excellent place to see the stars. It was stunning. No light pollution here.

Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park

Our room was a standard hotel room. It was comfortable and fit our needs well. I definitely recommend staying in the park if you can. We didn’t have to make the drive into the park in the morning when traffic was ready; we were already inside the park.

Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park

Bear Spotting

While a lot of people were hitting the popular trails and attractions during Memorial Day weekend, we set out driving around, looking for bears and other wildlife. We weren’t disappointed.

Sequoia National Park

As we passed this little meadow, Jeff said, “This looks like the kind of place a bear would be.” He wasn’t wrong.

Sequoia National Park

Picnic Area

Often, we grill out when in national parks. This way, we can save some money here and there, and sometimes the options in national park restaurants are not fabulous.

On this busy Saturday evening, we were glad to have our grill.

Sequoia National Park

Our grilling may have grabbed the attention of a bear and her cub. It wouldn’t be the first time. Below is a cub that was following its mama across the street from the picnic area.

Bear at Sequoia National Park

The cub stayed across the street while mama bear decided to check out the food situation in the picnic area.

Bear at Sequoia National Park

The bear roamed around while we took refuge in our car. Luckily, we’d already eaten and packed up our food.

Bear at Sequoia National Park

Moro Rock

After our picnic, it was time to check out Moro Rock.

Moro Rock

On this busy holiday weekend, the rock was only accessible via shuttle all day. The parking lot to the shuttle had been full all day, as well. Finally, we had out chance. Parking became available, and the shuttle system stopped for the day. We were about to experience Moro Rock at sunset.

The climb up the rock is pretty much straight up. It can be challenging at times, but there are places to rest for a moment. And you’ll want to stop was the views become more beautiful with each upward step.

Views from Moro Rock

The pattern seemed to be: check out the view, then climb more steps.

Moro Rock

Moro Rock was still pretty busy, but it was manageable. We were able to stop here and there where no other people were around. But for the most part, there was a steady stream of people going up and down the trail.

Moro Rock

Golden hour was an excellent choice for the time of day to climb the rock.

Views from Moro Rock

The colors were stunning.

Views from Moro Rock

Simply breathtaking!

Views from Moro Rock

Here is another view of the stairs going up the rock.

Moro Rock

Gorgeous sunset!

Views from Moro Rock

Finally, you’ll get to the top. Then you’ll have a 360 degree view.

Moro Rock

Tunnel Log

Of course, doing Moro Rock at sunset meant that it was getting dark when it was time to do Tunnel Log. This drive-thru experience is in the same area as Moro Rock, and parking is limited during busy times. We weren’t able to work it in earlier due to crowds.

Sequoia National Park

Although it was dark, it was still fun to drive through the log and get our photos.

Tunnel Log

Kings Canyon National Park

On Saturday afternoon, we explored Kings Canyon. There was limited visibility due to fog, but the area is still beautiful in those conditions. Also, if you want to see the General Grant and the attractions nearby, you’ll need to hop over to Kings Canyon.

Kings Canyon National Park

The fog adds a dreamlike quality to the experience.

Kings Canyon National Park

How amazing is it to walk in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world?

Kings Canyon National Park

While in Kings Canyon, we made a stop at the visitor center.

Kings Canyon National Park

You can always get great information.

Kings Canyon National Park

The exhibits help explain what you’re experiencing as you explore the parks.

Kings Canyon National Park

In this area, you can also get some counter-service food. We grabbed a few items for lunch. It was certainly busy during Memorial Day weekend, but the wait wasn’t too long.

Kings Canyon National Park

After some lunch, we made our way to the General Grant Tree Trail area.

Kings Canyon National Park

Again, you’ll have the opportunity for the necessary General Grant photo.

Kings Canyon National Park

One of my favorite experiences at the General Grant Grove is walking through this fallen tree.

Kings Canyon National Park

Again, you really get a sense of how big these trees are when you can have close encounters with them.

Kings Canyon National Park

I had no idea that you could walk the length of one of these trees until we were there.

Kings Canyon National Park

Before we left Kings Canyon to head back to Sequoia, we checked out John Muir Lodge. This looked like a great choice for lodging in the area. Maybe next time.

Kings Canyon National Park, John Muir Lodge

Before we headed back to Sequoia, we left the park and reentered so we could get the sign.

Kings Canyon National Park

After visiting Kings Canyon, we went back to Sequoia where we later had our picnic and did Moro Rock, to give you more a sense of our timeline. The next morning, we packed everything up and headed toward our next destination–Salinas and Monterey, California, to check out John Steinbeck country.

I don’t think I have to do very much to convince you that Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks are completely worth it and must-dos! These parks are simply some of those destinations that everyone should experience. If you haven’t been, I hope you get there soon. Happy trip planning!

Sequoia National Park
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5 Comments

  1. Now, I want to go camping! I haven’t been to these national parks but I want to!

  2. Loved reading about Kings Canyon and the Sequoias! I have only briefly stopped by on a drive through the area and it was breathtaking. Reading this has reminded me that I need to actually go, stay and explore some day!

  3. I’ve got Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on my list so love this helpful two-day itinerary. Hiking Moro Rock at Golden Hour is perfect timing…so beautiful!

  4. What wonderful experiences you had at Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park! I so want to see the sequoia trees up close!

  5. Sequoia isn’t a far drive from where I live. I would love to visit someday! It’s beautiful.

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