The trees are the stars of the show at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (www.nps.gov/seki ). Groves of giant sequoias, including the largest known tree on earth, soar out of the fertile Sierra soil.
But in these parks you’ll also find rugged granite formations (including Kings Canyon—a deeper gulch than the Grand Canyon), marble caverns, rushing rivers, and an astounding variety of ecosystems, from chaparral to alpine meadow.
Visitors can enter Sequoia at the Ash Mountain entrance on Highway 198 or at Big Stump in Kings Canyon on Highway 180. There are no road entrances on the east side of either park.
The closest major highway to the park is Highway 99. Turn east onto CA-180 from Fresno to get to the north entrance and onto CA-198 from Visalia in the south. The main road running through the two parks is called The Generals Highway. It connects CA-180 (Kings Canyon Highway) in the north to CA-198 in the southwest.
Drive carefully in Sequoia and Kings Canyon. They might call it a “highway,” but in truth the Generals Highway is a steep, narrow, twisting mountain road that can be treacherous in bad weather and when driven too fast by unfamiliar and inexperienced motorists. Maximum RV length is 22 feet on Generals Highway and Crystal Cave Road (no trailers permitted on the latter). RVs and trailers are not permitted on Mineral King Road or Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Road.
Parking lots grace most major attractions, but these can fill up quickly in the summer. Some parking is permitted along the roadsides, but please don’t park your hot car on dry grass—you can set the park (and your car) on fire this way.
Several of the park’s roads close in the winter, though the Generals Highway remains open. Check the website or call 559/565-3341 for current road information.
When you approach the parks, you’ll be told by everybody and their little dog Spot that there’s no gas anywhere in Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Parks. And technically, that’s true. The Kings Canyon Lodge gas station sits on national forest land rather than inside the park borders proper. Two other stations sit in the national forest at Hume Lake (Hwy. 180, 11 miles north of Grant Grove) and Stony Creek (Generals Hwy., btwn. Lodgepole and Grant Grove).
Sequoia National Park provides free shuttle service (559/565-3341, www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/publictransportation.htm ) within the park May 21–September 1. The “green” route connects Giant Forest with the Lodgepole Visitor Center, the General Sherman Tree , and the Giant Forest Museum . The “gray” route connects the Giant Forest Museum to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow.