The scenic 50-mile Generals Highway was built in 1935 to connect the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon to the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. Start your tour at the Big Stump entrance on Highway 180 in Kings Canyon and allow a full day for the drive.The one-mile Big Trees Trail, which starts at the Trail Center shelter by the museum, is a great introduction.From the Big Stump entrance, turn right at the junction onto the Generals Highway. Drive four miles south to Redwood Mountain Overlook and stop to look southward over the 3,400-acre Redwood Mountain Grove, the world’s largest remaining stand of sequoias. More than 15,000 sequoias larger than a foot in diameter thrive in this grove. Continue driving south for two miles to the Quail Flat junction. A right turn accesses the trailhead for hikes into the Redwood Mountain Grove; a left turn leads to Hume Lake.
Continue south on the Generals Highway for one mile to the 7,100-foot Kings Canyon Overlook, with views of the Middle and South Forks of the Kings River. Across the highway is the trailhead for the hike to Buena Vista Peak (one mile).
The drive continues southeast, reaching Stony Creek Lodge in seven miles (groceries and gas available). From here, the Generals Highway climbs to 7,335-foot Little Baldy Saddle (a two-mile trail leads to Little Baldy’s summit), and then drops down to the left turnoff for Wuksachi Lodge, a great place for a meal or an overnight stay.
One mile south is Lodgepole Village, with its well-stocked grocery store, visitors center, deli and pizza parlor, campground, showers, laundry, and trailheads for a number of hikes. Continuing southward, the highway enters Giant Forest. To see the chart-topping General Sherman Tree, the largest tree on earth by volume, turn left at the sign for Wolverton/General Sherman Parking and then follow the 0.5-mile trail downhill to the tree. During the summer months, leave your car and ride the free shuttle bus to other highlights in the Giant Forest area, including Moro Rock, Crescent Meadow, and the Giant Forest Museum. If the bus isn’t running, you can drive yourself (the three-mile-long Crescent Meadow Road is a left turn off the Generals Highway just past the Giant Forest Museum). More than 40 miles of trails travel through the Giant Forest; pick any one and take a walk among nature’s majestic sentinels. The one-mile Big Trees Trail, which starts at the Trail Center shelter by the museum, is a great introduction.
Past the Crescent Meadow turnoff, the Generals Highway begins to lose elevation. At Commissary Cove, a side road descends 6.5 miles to Crystal Cave (get cave tour tickets in advance at the Lodgepole or Foothills Visitor Centers). After this fork, the main highway enters into a series of steep switchbacks, dropping into the deep canyon of the Middle Fork Kaweah River. In less than 10 miles, the road loses more than 3,000 feet in elevation, and the air temperature rises substantially. Pause at the turnout at Amphitheater Point to look back uphill at precipitous Moro Rock, which seems to cling to the mountainside, and then stop at Hospital Rock to see the Native American pictographs and morteros (rock holes) once used for grinding seeds.
After passing two campgrounds, Buckeye and Potwisha, the Generals Highway finally winds downward to pass underneath Tunnel Rock and before it reaches the Foothills Visitor Center.
Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Yosemite, Sequoia & Kings Canyon.