One of the most majestic and unique lands I have ever seen, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are what dreams are truly made of. The two separate parks are conjoined twins situated beside one another, sharing one admission and totally different personalities – both worth exploring! If you only have one day to spend in this area make every minute count.
If you’re staying in Three Rivers like we did, stop off for a hearty breakfast at Antoinette’s Coffee & Goodies [41727 Sierra Drive, Three Rivers, CA]. On certain days they open at 5:30 AM, perfect for an early start to the day. Even at the crack of dawn this homey joint was filled with locals all enjoying their coffee and conversation. Warm service and fast fresh food set the tone for a lovely day. Bacon egg and cheese on a pretty darn good bagel, a nice little surprise side of fruit, and an iced coffee with coffee cubes – I’m hooked!
Grab some baked goodies and snacks to nosh on throughout the day between hikes because you won’t find many food options in the park. With a full belly ready for adventure head up the road to the park, grab a map at the visitor’s center and be on your way! There is one main road that goes in and out of the park, and a lot of stops along the way.
Make your first stop Moro Rock for a short hike you won’t soon forget. Getting in nice and early there was barely a soul about and we had this dazzling path to ourselves.
After parking we headed up the stairs, a quarter of a mile to the summit. Fresh in the morning it was a breeze galloping up the short steep path, but my oh my when I got to the top it took my breath away.
Panoramic views as far as the eye can see, pristine natural beauty. All of that for a ½ mile round trip jaunt? Unbelievable, but believe it. And the day just started. Next up continuing on the road is a trip to the Big Trees Trail. This trail doesn’t contain any of the famous giants, but it’s a must see all the same. The walk is 2/3-mile loop around the most picturesque meadow imaginable.
Immediately we looked in every direction to see where mama-bear was, but she was nowhere in sight. After a quick (and admittedly foolish) snap of a picture we cautiously went on our way in high alert. Our story ended well as we are both unharmed, but it is always important to be informed on how to act in a bear encounter. Keeping with the extreme trend of the park, next on the list was a visit to General Sherman 2,200 years old and the largest tree, by volume, in the world. A short and scenic one mile round-trip walk through the woods and you will be viewing the legendary general.
If you stop looking up for a quick moment, which can be hard in this forest full of giants, and take a look at the ground you will find something quite curious. Pinecones bigger than your head are scattered all around!
Of course, you’d think, with a massive tree comes a massive pinecone. But fun fact, you’re wrong! These huge pinecones actually come from the sugar pines, and sequoias produce little teeny pinecones. Who knew. After all these little appetizer hikes we were ready for a real deal. Driving way down the road straddling the border between Sequoia and Kings Canyon is the Big Baldy Trail, a quiet and off the beaten path four miles round-trip moderate trail. We were digging the different scene here – less big trees more small little flowers, exposed rock, and lizards.
I was so loving this change of pace and excited to get my hike on that I walked into a disaster. I heard the buzzing before I saw all the bees, but for whatever reason kept on going. Before I knew it was amidst a swarm, right on the path, and panicking. I got stung once on my ankle, but thankfully that is all in what could have been a much worse (even deadly) situation. We decided to turn back as much as I hated to do. The path was so beautiful I would still recommend it, perhaps you would have better luck than I did. Just make sure to listen to your senses, wear long pants tucked into your socks, and if you hear the sound of a swarm just turn around. After cleaning my ankle we strapped my boot tight and kept on with the day, albeit slower. After cruising awhile we made it to General Grant, the other fantastically famous tree now well over the border into Kings Canyon and into the afternoon. The trail is only 2/3-mile round trip so we walked down the crowded path and gazed at the second largest tree in the world.
Now with my ankle quite swollen it was a perfect time for the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. This long wildly winding drive will have you ooh-ing at the views and ahh-ing at the sheer drops into the canyon. You will make your way from the top of the mountains to the canyon floor and there are a plethora of stop off points along the way to capture these prized moments forever.
Thankfully for me these 75-foot falls were only a two-minute walk from the road – just my speed at the time. The falls were loaded with people climbing up and cooling down in the pools on hot day. We found our own little spot on a rock and soaked our feet. The ride back was long and peaceful, there is an old school gas station on the byway that adds to the fun of the drive, keep an eye on your gas tank! It was a magical day in a truly wild setting, I wouldn’t change a thing on my day spent in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.