In the southern Sierra, within a stone’s throw of Los Angeles lies a raw unspoiled, road less wilderness that is ripe for visitors who want to be alone with their own thoughts.
While Yosemite, nearby is literally plagued by crowds and developments, Sequoia and Kings Canyon are largely unspoiled, alpine realms with high country lakes, mountain streams, snow fields, and myriad peaks that top out at well over 12000 feet.
There is enough rough and raw living here to satisfy an would be adventurer and afford him or her a lifetime of exploration.
From the top of Moro Rock you can see and appreciate why the National Park is the second oldest park and why it was felt back in 1885 that it deserved to be preserved for future generations to enjoy and explore.
Your view will range from the Sierra’s great western divide to the foothills, to the Giant Forest plateau where the sequoias hold regal sway over the neighboring trees in the forest.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
The view extends from the 12,000 foot peaks of the Sierra’s Great Western Divide to the foothills. The Kaweah River races below you while above you stands General Sherman, 275 feet tall with a trunk that has been estimated to weigh in at about 1400 tons and has a circumference of almost 105 feet.
And just out of sight beyond the divide, Mount Whitney, reaches 14,494 feet of elevation. Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia’s sister, was added to the system in 1940. The older General Grant National Park, which is now known as Grant Grove, was enfolded into the new park. Added to the incredible groves of sequoias, the park takes in King’s Canyon and the gorges of the King River, two of the deepest in the U.S.
Today, the two parks are generally treated as one.
- There are only three roads that reach well into the park but if you are seeking scenery you most assuredly will not be disappointed in what you see from those roads.
- Highway 180 dead ends 8.5 miles past the Kings Canyon boundary and passes by Cedar Grove and several trailheads along the way. The road to Mineral King follows a branch of the South Fork of the Kaweah River and provides access to several wonderful trails.
With all this talk about trails and trailheads, it won’t be a real surprise that this is a great place to hike or rock climb.
Anywhere there are high mountains, such as Mt. Whitney, there’s usually climbing. NO way does the climate or season affect the park.. It doesn’t roll up its welcome mat in the wintertime. Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park offers excellent cross-country skiing once the snow starts sticking to the ground.The view of the native wildlife is unparalleled and is good all year round, not merely in summer and fall. From the world’s largest trees, to Mount Whitney, to some of the most exquisite Sierra scenery anywhere in the range, these parks deliver wonder, grandeur and a fulfilling peace of mind.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
When the rest of the world wants to see Yosemite, take a side trip and make your way into the Sierras where the magic still lives and the crowds don’t. A few things to see and do, as listed in the Park Itinerary are listed here for your information.
The Giant Forest was named in 1875 by explorer and conservationist John Muir and is the park’s most famous attraction. It is a giant sequoia grove and is also celebrated for its beautiful meadows. The cinnamon-colored Big Trees, members of the redwood family, may be seen today almost exactly as Muir found them.
Giant Forest Museum
Fun for the entire family, the Giant Forest Museum is open daily, free of charge, and is full of fascinating exhibits, plus interactive, hands-on displays that celebrate the life of a Giant Sequoia tree. The Giant Forest Museum, located on Highway 198, approximately one-hour north of the Ash Mountain entrance, is open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
The road from Ash Mountain to Hospital Rock was originally built by the Mt. Whitney Power Company to provide access to build a flume that carries water from the Marble and Middle Forks of the Kaweah River to a power generator just outside the park. You can see this concrete flume on the far side of the river.
General Sherman Tree
The General Sherman Tree is a gigantic sequoia is neither the tallest nor the widest tree but it is considered the largest living tree in the world because of its volume. It weighs approximately 2.7 million pounds and is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. The General Sherman Tree height is 274.9 feet, and its circumference at ground level is 102.6 feet. The diameter of its largest branch is nearly 7 feet. Each year the General Sherman adds enough wood growth to make a 60 foot tall tree of usual proportions.
Moro Rock is a large granite dome also found in the Giant Forest area. Common in the Sierra Nevada, the dome was formed by exfoliation, or the casting off in sheets of rock layers on otherwise unjointed granite. Taking a quarter-mile trail, you can climb nearly 400 steep steps to the top of the barren rock (el. 6,725 feet). Moro Rock offers an unparalleled view of the Great Western Divide and its rugged canyons. Moro Rock parking area is 3.5 miles south of the General Sherman Tree at General’s Highway. RVs and trailers are prohibited on this road.
This site on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River was once home to nearly 500 Native Americans belonging to the Potwisha sub-group of the Monache, or Western Mono, Indians. Archeological evidence indicates that Indians settled in this area as early as 1350. Today, visitors to Hospital Rock can still view ancient rock paintings, or pictographs and bedrock mortars used to grind acorns. The area got its present name in 1873, when James Everton stayed here to recover from a gunshot wound he had received while stumbling into a shotgun snare set to trap bear.
It is rumored that John Muir called this grassy open area the “gem of the Sierra.” Crescent Meadow is located 1.5 miles east of the Moro Rock parking area. A hike on the trail around the Crescent Meadow takes about an hour. Several trails start here, including the one-mile route to Tharp’s Log and the High Sierra Trail. From here the High Sierra Trail runs 71 miles to Mt. Whitney (el. 14,494 feet), the highest peak in the lower 48 state.
Hale Tharp, the first non-Native American settler in the area, established a cattle ranch among the Big Trees. Tharp also built a simple summer cabin from a fallen, fire-hollowed sequoia log in the 1860s. It is the oldest pioneer cabin remaining in the park. The cabin is located in the Giant Forest area, a mile northeast of the Crescent Meadow parking lot.
Find out more about the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks over at the National Park Service »