Sierra Nevada mountain range captured my imagination of visiting one of the Wild West tourist places in the United States ever since I read some fiction books that described the absolute beauty of the mountain range in the Central Valley of California. The Kings Canyon National park beckons any tourist who just loves to be among giant trees, to hike on mountain trails that pass through deep green gorges, lush meadows, and panoramic canyons.
Before we get to know what awaits a visitor to the Kings Canyon National Park, we will explore the ways to reach the Sierra Nevada hills.
For those who would prefer to fly because they can catch an aerial view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the truly giant Sequoia trees, there is a small airport at the Kings Canyon Nation Park which is only 75 minutes flight from the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. To reach the park entrance from the airport, taxis are available. The airport is a busy one as it is the connecting point to 3 major national parks that include:
- Kings Canyon
The nearest big city to Fresno Yosemite airport is San Jose that lies 250 km west of it.
I would prefer to drive up to the park entrance and I found out a detailed driving map at https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/maps.htm
What to see in the Kings Canyon National Park:
Don’t be disappointed that I am starting with just trees. You need not be tree lover to admire these Sequoia trees that are known by other names such as:
These giant trees with a base from which you gauge the size of the tree to some extent, grow up to a height of 280 feet! Its girth can measure up to 26 feet! Sequoia trees can live up to 3500 years! Don’t you think you would like to touch one of them in the Kings Canyon National Park? The trees’ seeds look like a scaly cone. You might have seen them in souvenir shops, painted attractively.
In spite of its height, girth, age, and name, it is not useful to make furniture out of it because it is fibrous.
To the east of the place one where you see the congregation of the giant redwood trees lies the Cedar Grove. It is located at the bottom of the Kings Canyon, about 8200 feet below and it is said to be the deepest canyon in the United States.
There are four beautiful waterfalls in the Kings Canyon. Invariably, where there is a canyon of rocks, we can see a couple of waterfalls. The four waterfalls here are:
- Roaring river falls
- Tokopah Falls
- Mist Falls
- Grizzly Falls
The Roaring River Falls is located near the entrance of the Kings Canyon National Park. It’s a 40 feet drop of the water that generates froth.
Tokopah Falls is the most attractive of all the 4 waterfalls because it falls down to 1200 feet. To see this magnificent falls, you need to walk 2.7 km passing on the Marble Fork Bridge.
Mist Falls is a cascade type of waterfall. The water of Kings River falls sliding on the rocky surface as a cascade before falling 100 feet below with a thunderous sound, generating mist and foam.
Watch a short video of the Mist Fall clip below:
The 75 feet Grizzly Falls is a short walk from Kings Canyon Scenic Byway which itself is a must-traverse road. It’s an 80 km stretch starting from the foothills of Fresno and ending at Kings Canyon passing on the way the Grant Grove, Sequoia National Forest, and the Cedar Grove.
If you ask anyone who had already been to the Kings Canyon, they would advise you not to miss seeing the Zumwalt Meadow, in the Cedar Grove. It is a scenic spot and ideal place to pitch a tent and enjoy the glorious sunshine that enhances the freshness of the lush green meadow.
The Kings River originates at the Sierra Crest that lies at height of 14000 feet. It is a major irrigation river in South-Central California and its length is 200 km. Part of the river drops down the rocks of the Kings Canyon.
Camping inside the Kings Canyon
There is nothing more thrilling than staying in a camp in such a scenic spot from where the view of canyon’s wilderness is breathtaking. If the weather is not all the cold, you can sleep outside the camp, overlooking the stars above. There are 14 camping spots that also allow a limited number of RVs.
The General Sherman Tree
I wonder why the word, ‘General’ is appended to the tree’s name. The tree is 275 feet tall and 36 feet in girth. It is supposed to be largest Sequoia tree in the world.
Visitors are taken on a guided tour of the cave whose walls and the roof is adorned with marble crystal formation. It is a sight that will be captivating. What a nature’s wonder it is! To reach the crystal cave, you need to walk about a kilometer.
It’s the first attraction a guide in the Kings Canyon will take as it is the foremost Sequoia tree grove. As the name suggests, you can peacefully walk through rows and rows of the giant redwood trees. The walking trail leads to the General Grant tree, the second largest sequoia tree in the world as of now.
Where to Stay in Kings Canyon National Park
As mentioned earlier, there are 14 campgrounds and RV parks. Since most of the visitors to the park come from either San Jose or San Francisco, there are not any star hotels in the vicinity of the park except cabins and log lodges.
Since the Kings Canyon Park is located amidst the Sierra Mountain Range, the weather can be fickle. Expect it to be chilly and go prepared accordingly.