There’s more to do in California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks than admire the big trees, even though that should be your first priority, since the Sierra Nevada is the only place in the world where the giant sequoias naturally grow. Take a hike along the North Grove Loop Trail (the less crowded option) to view the General Grant Tree—the world’s third largest. Alternatively, the trees can be seen from your car along the winding 47-mile (76-kilometer) Generals Highway. Once you’ve had your fill of trees, explore the parks’ other gems.
There are over 200 caves in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Explore Crystal Cave with a guide and learn about stalactites, stalagmites, and visit Marble Hall and the Dome Room, where the stalagmite resembles the U.S. Capitol dome. To catch a glimpse of deer and admire the wildflowers of the park, stroll along the trail circling Zumwalt Meadow, situated on the Kings River. To cool off, head to the top of John Muir Rock and jump into the river, a great spot for swimming and relaxing. Even in the winter, the parks are beautiful; some campgrounds and lodges are open, and there are 50 marked cross-country skiing paths for your family to explore.
Evening ranger-led programs are popular activities in many of the parks' campgrounds. Check with the visitor center for a list of events. The Wuksachi Sequoia Lodge also hosts campfires under the stars.
Directions to the parks and all other information—lodging, activities, advisories—can be found at www.nps.gov/seki.
Please note: There are no gas stations within the parks’ boundaries, so make sure to fill the tank before arriving.
Based on articles from National Geographic Traveler and compiled by Stephanie Robichaux