Epic Guide to Kings Canyon National Park in California will help you plan and prepare for an unforgettable experience. Here you will find the top things to do, a complete camping and lodging guide, epic hiking trails, and so much more!
Kings Canyon National Park
Nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, adjacent to the glorious Sequoia National Park, is the sprawling Kings Canyon National Park.
Kings Canyon has some of the largest trees in the world by volume, incredible rivers especially during spring runoff, and incredible viewpoints.
Whether you want to go backcountry camping amidst the towering trees or have a picnic by the river with your partner, the opportunities to indulge in the environment at Kings Canyon are endless!
So, what are you waiting for? A paradise of adventurous hikes, towering trees, wildflower valleys, and so much more awaits you!
About Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is spread across 461,901 acres in the central California Sierra Nevada Mountains.
This incredible park is oftentimes overshadowed by two of the crown jewels in California, Sequoia National Park to the South and Yosemite National Park to the North. This does give park visitors an incredible opportunity to make it a three-park road trip to explore what is often referred to as the Majestic Mountain Loop.
The park is named after Kings Canyon, a magnificent valley of jagged peaks complimented by expansive wildflower meadows (that are at their peak in the summertime), cascading rivers, large sequoia trees, ad other natural features worth exploring.
The park also includes a large part of the John Muir Wilderness, named after an avid explorer that was an integral part of the conservation efforts of the regions in the Sierra Nevada.
In fact, one of the most impressive trails in the entire National Park system named the Pacific Crest or John Muir trail, runs through the whole length of the Kings Canyon National Park, terminating at Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, located at the border of Sequoia National Park and the Inyo National Forest.
The Redwood Mountain Grove within the park boundary is home to nearly 16,000 trees, making it the largest concentration of Sequoia trees in the world. The crown jewel of this oasis of natural beauty is Kings Canyon, set on the South Fork of the ever-flowing Kings River.
This canyon is 8,200 feet deep (deeper than Grand Canyon) and is surrounded by several backcountry trails for those looking for a challenging hike with a breathtaking view.
Called “a rival to Yosemite” by explorer John Muir, Kings Canyon is also famous for being inhabited by hundreds of black bears, mule deer, mountain lions, lynx, and several birds, reptiles, and amphibians.
The park consists of two main areas, Grant Grove, which is where the infamous General Grant Tree is located (General Grant, believed to be 1,650 years old, is the second-largest tree in the world), and Cedar Grove, where you’ll enjoy views of the canyon, river, and valleys.
Besides the giant Sequoia trees that take up most of the forested lands in the park, you’ll also find white fir, incense cedar, yellow pine, and other unique plants and trees that make the region the lush patch of green that it is.
The park is a delight to explore year-round, though, during spring and summertime, you’ll be able to traverse all parts of the park, camp in any of the backcountry spots, and hike on scenic trails in pleasant weather.
With the fall time, you’ll discover fall foliage all across the park, and the breeze will get colder, making it a truly ethereal experience. If you’re an adventure junkie who also loves the cold, in the winter time you’ll get the opportunity to immerse yourself in winter sports like snowboarding, skiing, etc.
Due to a lightning storm that occurred across California, severe fires (namely the Cabin, Colony, and Paradise fires) were ignited.
Though the Cabin Fire was contained, the other two merged into one colossal flame (referred to as the KNP Complex) and continued to damage the natural resources for days. This caused devastation in the area like fallen trees, rockfalls, and a massive amount of scattered debris, which remains in burned areas.
Though visited by much lesser explorers than the neighboring Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, the Kings Canyon National Park has plenty to see, admire, and do, making it the ideal destination for exploring and relaxing, devoid of long queues, roaring crowds, and jam-packed parking spaces.
Is Kings Canyon National Park worth visiting?
No trip to Sequoia National Park would be complete if you did not take the time to explore at least a little of what Kings Canyon has to offer. There is nothing quite like taking the General Grant tree trail, approaching the tree, then realizing just how big it is! This is just one of the many natural wonders to see within Kings Canyon National Park.
History of Kings Canyon National Park
The beautiful region that does not constitute the Kings Canyon National Park was inhabited thousands of years ago by Native Americans.
Specifically, the Owens Valley Paiute people who resided in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada mountains practiced agriculture in the lower elevations and charted out trade routes in the area.
Several other sub-groups settled in the area in the following decades at the Sierra foothills, adjacent to the Kings River.
The region of the park and surrounding areas were first explored by the Spanish explorers of California, followed by those that visited during the California Gold Rush in search of gold or other minerals.
In the 1860s, a road from the Sequoia National Park region to Grant Grove (part of the Kings Canyon National Park) was constructed, and after a century of different explorers visiting and touring the area, a survey by state declared the region remarkable.
During an expedition to climb and survey Mount Whitney (located in Sequoia National Park), mountaineers followed the Native American trade tracks in Kings Canyon and began to see the similarities between it and the landscapes of Yosemite.
Though several adventure-enthusiasts and surveyors had traversed the wilderness of Kings Canyon, it was when John Muir, known fondly as the Father of the National Parks, first visited the area that it became popular with the public.
John Muir realized the unreal beauty of the region and fought to get the region declared as a federal preservation area; however, there was a lot of dispute involved.
It was in 1890 when President Benjamin Harrison declared the area a national park, called General Grant National Park at the time. This was the fourth national park in the entire system.
Following this, there was a shift in management and proposals by nearing counties to establish a hydroelectric dam in the region, as it was believed that the Kings River and reservoirs had ample hydroelectric potential. Thankfully, such efforts were blocked in the interest of natural preservation.
Years later, on March 4, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed a law that created Kings Canyon National Park, a combination of the original General Grant National Park and over 400,000 acres of glacier-carved jagged peaks.
In 1943, the administrations of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park were combined with cutting costs during World War II, and they have been managed together. In the years after, other regions like Cedar Grove and Tehipite Valley were also incorporated into the Kings Canyon region.
A park with an extensive history, preserved archeological sites of past inhabitants, and beautiful valleys surrounded by towering glacial peaks, the Kings Canyon National Park is worth a visit!
Things to know before your visit to Kings Canyon National Park
7-day single-vehicle park pass - $35
7-day individual park pass - $20
7-day motorcycle park pass - $30
Learn more about National Park Passes for parks that have an entrance fee.
Planning a National Park vacation? America the Beautiful/National Park Pass covers entrance fees for an entire year to all US National Park Sites and over 2,000 Federal Recreation Fee Sites.
The park pass covers everyone in the car for per vehicle sites and for up to 4 adults for per-person sites.
Buy on REI.com and REI will donate 10% of pass proceeds to the National Forest Foundation, National Park Foundation and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities.
Free Entrance Days -Mark your calendars with the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
Pacific Time Zone
Pets are permitted in specific areas of the park, including parking lots, paved roads, campgrounds, and picnic areas, as long as they’re on a leash (it can be up to 6 feet long).
Remember that pets are not permitted on any trails, including paved trails like the Grant Tree Trail.
Cell service is very limited and can be hard to find. There are a few spots in the region, like the John Muir Lodge, where you might find it, depending mainly on your carrier and luck. You will find service for most carriers at the park entrances.
The park is open 24 hours a day year-round. Visitor services hours depend on the time of year.
Wi-Fi is available at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center in Grant Grove Village
Insect repellent is always a great idea when outdoors, especially if you are around any body of water.
We use Permethrin Spray on our clothes before our park trips.
Make sure to bring your own water bottle and plenty of water with you. Plastic water bottles are not sold in the park.
You’ll be able to find parking near the entrance station or by the General Grant Grove.
Unfortunately, the Kings Canyon National Park does not have any RV parking spots (though there are RV stations in the campgrounds), so if you’re looking to camp in your RV, Sequoia National Park might be a better option.
You’ll find restaurants and food shops at the Lodgepole, Cedar Grove, and Grant Grove visitor centers, though if you’re hoping to camp in the park, bringing your own food or snacks couldn’t hurt.
Cedar Grove Grill
The Cedar Grove Grill is situated right by the Kings River, and if you happen to sit outside, you’ll enjoy a beautiful view of the river flowing through the thick forest. The joint serves well-prepared, warm, and hearty foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, perfect for a break between hikes.
Unfortunately, there are no gas stations within the Kings Canyon boundary, so be sure to fill your gas tank before entering the region. The nearest gas stations to the park are:
Three Rivers, along Highway 198, 5 miles outside of Ash Mountain Entrance Station
Dunlap, along Highway 180, 20 miles west of Grant Grove
Drones are not permitted within National Park Sites.
National Park Passport Stamps
National Park Passport stamps can be found in the visitor center.
Kings Canyon NP is part of the 2010 Passport Stamp Set.
Electric Vehicle Charging
If you’re driving an electric vehicle, you’ll find charging stations in the town of Three Rivers outside of the Sequoia park entrance. In addition, charging stations are also available in the neighboring cities of Visalia and Fresno.
Most destinations within the Kings Canyon National Park are accessible, including paved, ADA-accessible, low-elevation trails. You’ll find accessible restrooms are available outside the visitor center and
Restaurants, a lowered pay phone, water fountains, and benches.
At the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, you’ll find educational exhibits, films (with assistive listening and audio descriptions), information, and a park store. The extensive exhibit hall also includes 3D, tactile models of local wildlife so that everybody can experience the region’s beauty!
Details about Kings Canyon National Park
Size - 461,901 acres
Kings Canyon NP is currently ranked at 21 out of 63 National Parks by Size.
March 4, 1940 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the park.
In 2021, Kings Canyon NP had 562,918 park visitors.
In 2020, Kings Canyon NP had 415,077 park visitors.
In 2019, Kings Canyon NP had 632,110 park visitors.
National Park Address
47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271
Kings Canyon National Park Map
Where is Kings Canyon National Park?
The Kings Canyon National Park is located in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, neighboring the towns of Tulare and Fresno. The park, spread across 461,901 acres, is the least visited park in the Sierra Mountains.
Estimated distance from major cities nearby
Three Rivers, California - 38 miles
Fresno, California - 69 miles
Oakhurst, California - 112 miles
Kernville, California - 118 miles
Bakersfield, California - 132 miles
San Jose, California - 202 miles
Los Angeles, California - 243 miles
San Francisco, California - 244 miles
Las Vegas, Nevada - 418 miles
Estimated Distance from nearby National Park
Sequoia National Park - 10.5 miles
Yosemite National Park - 111 miles
Redwood National Park - 514 miles
Pinnacles National Park - 173 miles
Death Valley National Park - 306 miles
Where is the National Park Visitor Center?
Kings Canyon Visitor Center
83918 Highway 180
Kings Canyon National Park, CA 93633
Open year-round, hours vary according to seasons.
Summer hours: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
The Kings Canyon Visitor Center is situated in Grant Grove Village at 6,500 feet, promising a scenic view. At the center, you’ll be able to explore exhibits about the different regions, watch an informative film, and browse around the park store.
Cedar Grove Visitor Center
Kings Canyon National Park, CA 93633
Operational Hours: It is open seasonally, usually from the beginning of the summer season (mid-May) until mid-September.
Hours: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
The Cedar Grove Visitor Center is located adjacent to the South Fork of the Kings River at 4,600 feet above sea level. You’ll find basic amenities at the visitor center, accessible washrooms, information exhibits, souvenirs, tactile exhibits, and more.
Getting to Kings Canyon National Park
Fresno Yosemite International Airport - 50 miles
Santa Barbara Municipal Airport - 288 miles
Los Angeles (LAX) Airport - 209 Miles
Visalia Municipal Airport - 58 miles
San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport - 194 miles
Inside the parks, Highway 198 becomes the General's Highway, which connects 198 to 180. Vehicles over 22 feet long should enter the parks via Highway 180.
In winter, the General's Highway between the parks often closes. Chains may be required on park roads. No roads cross these parks east to west.
From Fresno - 70 miles, 1 hour
You’ll begin your journey by merging with California Route 41 North before taking Exit 128A to join with California Route 180 East towards Kings Canyon, leading you to the park.
From San Jose - 200 miles, three and a half hours
To get to Kings Canyon, you’ll get on US Route 101 South heading towards Los Angeles. Shortly, you’ll take Exit 357 for California Route 152 East, and then after approximately 50 miles, you’ll merge with California Route 99 South. Just outside Fresno, you’ll take Exit 133B to merge with California Route 180 East, leading you to the park’s entrance.
From Los Angeles - 240 miles, 4 hours
You’ll start your drive from Los Angeles on US Route 101 North before merging with Interstate 5 North and heading towards Sacramento. Soon, you’ll continue onto California Route 99 North, towards Bakersfield. After following some local roads, you’ll get onto California Route 180 East or Kings Canyon Road, taking you to your destination.
From San Francisco - 240 miles, 3 hours 45 minutes
The fastest route from San Francisco begins by getting on US Route 101 South and then promptly exiting onto Interstate 580 East. You’ll go on to merge with Interstate 5 North which will lead you to California Route 120 East. From here, you’ll take Exit 461 for California 120 East and then Exit 6 off of that road onto California Route 99 South towards Fresno. Ultimately, you’ll take Exit 133B to merge with California 180 East.
From Las Vegas - 420 miles, 6 hours and 30 minutes
To get to Kings Canyon National Park from the resort city of Vegas, you’ll begin your road trip by getting on Interstate 515 North and then almost immediately taking Exit 76A to merge with Interstate 15 South heading towards Los Angeles. After entering California, you’ll get on California 99 North towards Bakersfield before taking local roads to make it onto California Route 180 East, the road that’ll lead you to the paradise that is Kings Canyon.
Best time to visit Kings Canyon National Park
The best time to visit Kings Canyon NP is any time you can get to the park. We have visited in all four seasons and loved it every time.
Weather and Seasons
Post the harsh winter, springtime brings a sense of calm, as the valleys bloom with beautiful wildflowers and the temperatures progressively rise, making it a great time to visit and explore the hidden corners of this vast paradise.
For Kings Canyon National Park, the summertime is peak season, with all attractions, scenic roads, and destinations open; you’ll find the most crowds during this time.
However, the weather is excellent for a hike or a night of stargazing. Bonus: The park offers most of its ranger-led activities in the summertime.
For many, the autumn months are ideal for a visit as you’ll enjoy pleasant weather conditions and sunsets that’ll take your breath away, without any hassles of big crowds or queues.
Also, the park’s leaves turn all sorts of warm colors, making it a sight worth seeing.
For a truly unique experience, you can visit Kings Canyon National Park in the thick of the wintertime.
Though some parts of the part are closed from November to April, you’ll get a chance to indulge in winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, sledding, etc., at Grant Grove.
We suggest planning a minimum of a full day to explore the park. Having a couple of days will make it easier to visit all of the top things to do in Kings Canyon.
A section of the Kings Canyon national park that was initially a part of the General Grant National Park, Grant Grove is populated by the largest concentration of tall Sequoia trees worldwide.
In Grant Grove, you can explore the Grant Grove Village (home to a visitor center, restaurant, lodge, cabins, etc. ), Panoramic point (located at 7,500 above sea level), which is one of the best overlooks and gives you panoramic views of the canyon, mountains, Hume lake, valleys, and more.
You can also visit Redwood Mountain Overlook or Kings Canyon Overlook for more unobstructed views of the area.
Located in the Grant Grove is the massive General Grant Tree, the second-largest tree according to volume in the whole world. About 1,700 years old, this Sequoia tree is 268 feet tall with a diameter of 40 feet!
Claimed to be the only living war memorial of the United States (as stated by President Dwight Eisenhower), the General Grant Tree will not disappoint!
Located near the South Fork of the Kings River, Cedar Grove offers many trails (varying in difficulty and elevation) like the Roaring River Falls Trail, Knapp’s Cabin Trail, Don Cecil Trail, Hotel Creek Trail, etc.
The region is also home to Mist Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in the parks.
Several ranger-led programs are offered at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, including a Junior Ranger Program, which you’ll be able to find at any of the visitor centers in the park.
There are also talks and guided trails in Grant Grove and Cedar Grove, including a ranger-led snowshoe walk in the thick of the winter.
Within the Kings Canyon National Park, you’ll find Black Bears, Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, etc. The area is also designated as a Globally Important Bird Area, making it a deeply-loved attraction for bird enthusiasts.
You’ll find California Quails, the rare and endangered California Condor, Band-Tailed Pigeons, California Spotted Owl, etc.
Hiking in Kings Canyon National Park
Always carry the 10 essentials for outdoor survival when exploring.
One of the best ways to explore the Kings Canyon National Park is by going on one of the many hikes in the park.
Some of the most recommended trails (depending on your ability and strength) are Cedar Grove Overlook, Sheep Creek Cascade, Roaring River Falls, Zumwalt Meadow, etc. Be sure to carry the ten essentials for outdoor survival when exploring!
How to beat the crowds in Kings Canyon National Park?
Out of the Sierra parks, the Kings Canyon National Park is the least visited and seldom has roaring crowds and long queues leading to its major attractions.
However, the crowds can pick up in the summertime, so if you’re looking to avoid them, visiting in the fall or springtime is recommended.
If the weather is pleasant and you’re well prepared, you can begin your exploration early in the day to admire the scenery without many people and distractions around.
Where to stay when visiting Kings Canyon National Park
Located in the Grant Grove region of the national park, this beautiful wooden property is a half-mile hike from a sequoia grove.
Equipped with nearly 40 rooms, stunning views from its expansive balconies, and basic necessities, a night spent at John Muir Lodge is bound to be delightful.
Grant Grove Cabins
Situated in the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon, this property offers six different types of cabins.
Within close proximity to the General Grant Tree, Big Stump, Panoramic Point, and other attractive destinations, this lodge is set at 6,500 feet and might be clad in the snow in the thick of winter, making it a truly magical woodland dream!
Open: Spring to Fall
Situated within the Kings Canyon at an elevation of 4,600 feet, the Cedar Grove Lodge offers over 20 rooms, a gift store, a market, and a snack bar.
From this property, you’ll easily be able to access the Roaring River Falls, Muir Rock, and several hiking trailheads.
Lodging near Kings Canyon NP
Wuksachi Lodge - Located in Sequoia National Park offers a great opportunity to stay in the park. Look forward to a fireplace in the lobby, a bar, and conference space. Be sure to enjoy a meal at Wuksachi Lodge Restaurant, the onsite restaurant. Enjoy onsite activities like hiking/biking and snowshoeing. Book Online
Visalia Marriott - look forward to a firepit, a coffee shop/café, and dry cleaning/laundry services at Visalia Marriott at the Convention Center. Active travelers can enjoy aerobics at this hotel. For some rest and relaxation, visit the hot tub. Be sure to enjoy happy hour at the onsite restaurant. Free in-room Wi-Fi is available to all guests, along with a bar and a 24-hour gym.
Comfort Inn & Suites Sequoia/Kings Canyon - Take advantage of free to-go breakfast, laundry facilities, and a gym at Comfort Inn & Suites Sequoia/Kings Canyon. For some rest and relaxation, visit the sauna or the steam room. In addition to a hot tub, guests can connect to free in-room Wi-Fi, with speed of 100+ Mbps (good for 1–2 people or up to 6 devices).
Holiday Inn Express Visalia Sequoia Gateway - Take advantage of a free breakfast buffet, golfing on site, and shopping on site at Holiday Inn Express Visalia Sequoia Gateway Area. Free in-room Wi-Fi is available to all guests, along with dry cleaning/laundry services and a business center.
Click on the map below to see additional vacation rentals and lodging near the park.
For an epic adventure check out Escape Campervans! They have a location right in San Francisco.
Season: Late May until Early September
Campsites: 158 (RVs and Trailers permitted, up to 30 feet)
Accessibility: Two campsites are ADA accessible, with paved routes for wheelchair accessibility
Located a short distance from the park near the Grant Grove Village entrance, the Sunset Campground is surrounded by evergreen beauty. You’ll find firewood, ice, food storage lockers, and potable water, costing $22/night.
Season: Open year-round, though the winter and spring time have limited capacity
Campsites: 110 (RVs and trailers permitted, up to 30 feet)
Accessibility: One site is ADA accessible with paved roads for wheelchair accessibility
Located within proximity of the Kings Canyon National Park entrance, the Azalea campground is a perfect secluded region amidst the beautiful sequoia trees.
You’ll find firewood, ice, food storage lockers, and potable water, costing $22/night.
Season: Late May until Early September
Campsites: 50 (RVs and Trailers permitted, up to 25 feet in length)
Accessibility: One site is ADA accessible
Situated at an elevation of 6,500 feet, near the Grant Grove Village, the Crystals Springs Campground is brilliant for regular and group camping trips.
Since it’s set at a high elevation, the weather can change immediately, so be well prepared, even in the height of summer. You’ll find firewood, ice, food storage lockers, and potable water, costing $22/night.
Season: Mid-June to late September
Campsites: 16 (RVs and Trailers not permitted)
Accessibility: One site is ADA accessible with relatively paved paths for wheelchair access
A group-only campground, the Canyon View campground enjoys a solid view of the canyon, located by the South Fork of the Kings River.
You’ll find showers and food in the nearby Cedar Grove Village, firewood, ice, food storage lockers, and potable water at the campsite, starting at $40/night.
Season: Late April to Mid November
Campsites: 82 (RVs and Trailers Permitted, up to 82 feet)
Accessibility: Three sites are ADA accessible, with relatively paved roads for wheelchair access
Situated on Highway 180, right by the Cedar Grove Visitor Center at 4,600 feet, this campground is an expansive area surrounded by beautiful Sequoia and Fir trees.
You’ll find firewood, ice, food storage lockers, and potable water at the campsite starting at $22/night.
Season: Late May until Early September
Campsites: 111 (RVs and Trailers are permitted, up to 30 feet)
Accessibility: No ADA sites
Situated a short distance from Cedar Grove Village, the Sheep Creek Campground is set at an elevation of 4,600 feet, meaning that the weather can be unpredictable, even in the summer months.
At the campground, you’ll find firewood, ice, food storage lockers, and potable water at the campsite starting at $22/night.
Season: Late May until Early September
Campsites: 121 (RVs and Trailer permitted, length varies by site)
Accessibility: Five sites are ADA accessible, with paved roads for wheelchair access
Located in the center of Kings Canyon, less than a mile from Cedar Grove Village, Moraine Campground is situated at an elevation of 4,600 feet. Here you’ll find food storage, ice, firewood, and potable water; each site costs $22/night.
Campgrounds near Kings Canyon NP
Creekside RV park - Bishop, CA
This campground offers lodging, RV and Tent Sites, fishing, and more.
Visit CampSpot to check out other campgrounds near Kings Canyon
If anyone in your party gets car sick or motion sick you may want to pack some Dramamine or motion sickness bands. The roads into and out of the park are windy. My wife Tammilee does not normally get motion sick and by the time we stopped driving she was not feeling great and didn't even want to do a small walk because she felt so bad.
Plan lots of time for driving! Especially during the summer months and holidays, the driving may be slower and portions of the park are a fair distance from each other.
Pack snacks and water with you. There is a small convenience store within the park but you will pay park prices. There are a couple of gas stations on the way into the park but they did not have the best options.
Dress in layers! It may be a warm day outside of the park but when you get into the park and are surrounded by the big trees the temperature quickly cools off.
Make sure and check current road conditions, especially in Fall, Winter, and Spring. Be aware that it can snow at any time and many of the park's roads close with the snow.
Check weather reports before you visit so you can plan your day.
There is not an in-park shuttle that connects Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
You can check out these books and maps:
Visit the reservations page to make reservations for Crystal Cave Tours, Lodging, Camping and more.
Kings Canyon National Park Facts
Kings Canyon National Park was established on March 4, 1940
General Grant Tree, declared by legislation as the Nation’s Christmas Tree (1926)
Kings Canyon National Park covers a total area of 461,901 acres
Parks Near Kings Canyon National Park
Point Reyes National Seashore
Fort Point National Historic Site
Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site