Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks sit next to each other in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of the San Joaquin Valley, and boast many of the world’s largest trees by volume.
Named for its groves of giant sequoia trees, Sequoia National Park, has 40 different sequoia groves — some with tens of thousands of trees. From warm foothills to cold alpine peaks, the park also has a stunning marble cavern, historic Native American sites, historic buildings, and miles of stunning trails.
Here are the six best things to do at Sequoia National Park for families and kids:
01. The Foothills Visitor Center
The Foothills Visitor Center has exhibits about the Sierra Foothills ecosystem and human history, a bookstore and gift shop with souvenirs, maps, and books, first-aid services, and public restrooms. The visitor center also provides information on the area’s hiking trails along the Kaweah River and its tributaries. Most trails are accessible year-round.
02. Tunnel Rock
Tunnel Rock is a big balanced rock that caps a tunnel over the road. It was closed to vehicle traffic in the mid-1990s as cars and SUVs have just gotten too big to pass through it. Today the main road bypasses the tunnel and it’s now a tourist attraction.
03. Hospital Rock
Hospital Rock is a large quartzite rock adorned with ancient pictographs. It is the easiest place in Sequoia National Park to see authentic Native American pictographs and nearly 50 historic mortars where the Potwisha ground acorns into flour.
04. General Sherman Tree Trail
The main attraction in Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest is the General Sherman Tree. It is not only the largest living, single stem tree in the world, but the largest living organism, by volume, on the planet. The General Sherman Tree Trail is a fairly easy, 0.8 mile, scenic, out and back trail with benches and a rest area available for those who need a break or just want to take pictures!
05. Lodgepole Visitor Center And Market
At the Lodgepole Visitor Center, chat with rangers about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, get information about trails, watch a short video, and learn more about the natural and human history of the southern Sierra Nevadas. The visitor center sells books, maps, educational materials, souvenirs, and even bear canisters, and provides first-aid services and accessible restrooms.
06. The Giant Forest
Sitting 6,000 feet above sea level in California’s western Sierra Nevada, Giant Forest is a large sequoia grove, set on a rolling plateau between the Marble and Middle Forks of the Kaweah River in Sequoia National Park.
07. Crystal Cave
Crystal Cave is an ornate marble cavern polished by a subterranean stream that features dramatic chambers, striking formations, rare minerals, and unique animals. To reach the entrance of Crystal Cave, you have to hike a half mile downhill, dropping 320 feet in elevation. The steep trail is paved but has stairs, uneven ground, and steep drop-offs.
08. Beetle Rock Trail And Vista Point
Located just across Generals Highway from Giant Forest Museum, Beetle Rock is the most accessible dome in Sequoia National Park. It is a huge, flat expanse of granite that offers breathtaking 270 degree panoramic views of the surrounding Sierra Nevada foothills. Beetle Rock is the perfect spot for a picnic and a great place for kids to play.
09. Climbing Moro Rock
Moro Rock rises to 6,725 feet elevation but to reach the top, you only have to climb the last 300 feet. Moro Rock Trail is a 0.25 mile, steep, narrow, out-and-back trail that totals 0.5 mile. To climb the trail from start to summit, you’ll climb 400 stair steps and traverse a few narrow ledges with intense drop-offs!
10. Drive Through Tunnel Log
Tunnel Log is a carved opening through a fallen tree that fell across the road in 1937 and was cut through to make a visitor attraction in the summer of 1938. When it fell, the tree stood 275 feet high and was 21 feet in diameter at the base.
11. Crescent Meadow
Crescent Meadow is a High-Sierra meadow lined with towering sequoias and dotted with a few dozen fallen trunks. Known for it’s summer bloom of wildflowers, Crescent Meadow was called “the gem of the Sierra Nevada” by John Muir. The Crescent Meadow Loop Trail is a 1.8 mile trail that starts at the south end of the parking lot and circles Crescent Meadow.
12. Tharp’s Log
Tharp’s Log is a home built inside a fallen Sequoia — fifty-five feet of the log’s seventy-foot length had already been hollowed by fire. A stone fireplace and chimney, door, and window exist at the wide end along with a small shake-covered cabin extension. Inside you can see his old bed, table, and bench.
13. Big Trees Trail
Big Trees Trail is an accessible, fairly flat, 1.3 loop trail that circles Round Meadow in Giant Forest. It features trail side exhibit panels that interpret the natural history and ecology of the sequoia grove and is VERY busy from May through November.
14. Giant Forest Museum
The Giant Forest Museum, located in the historic Giant Forest Market building, has museum exhibits on giant sequoias, information about Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park, a bookstore and gift shop, and access to several interpretive forest trails.
15. Sequoia National Park Shuttles
In the summer months, from late May through Early September, accessible free shuttles run throughout the Giant Forest and Lodgepole areas of Sequoia National Park. Free shuttles may be also available in the Giant Forest area during winter holiday periods — Thanksgiving weekend and around December.
The Sequoia Shuttle runs from the neighboring towns of Visalia and Three Rivers, up Highway 198 to Giant Forest Museum during the summer for $20 per person for a round trip ride and park admission.
Know Before You Go
- The Ash Mountain Entrance Sign at Sequoia National Park was constructed in 1935 by Civilian Conservation Corps craftsmen and added to the National register of Historic Places in 1978.
- Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are basically treated as the same park — even the National Park Service combined both parks into one website.
- The combined area of these two parks is 865,952 acres with most of that area being wilderness backcountry.
- The parks are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Occasionally, winter storms will close roads leading into the parks until they can be plowed.
- Admission fees are good for seven days and both parks. They are $35.00/vehicle, $30.00/motorcycle, $20.00/individual entry on foot or bicycle, $15.00/person for a non-commercial group.
- There are five free admission days: the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the first day of National Park Week, the National Park Service Birthday, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
- Visitor centers, ranger stations, and a museum offer opportunities to explore the nature and history of these parks, watch park films, and get trip-planning information. Park stores within visitor centers offer books and other products related to the park.
- Weather varies a lot by season and elevation, which ranges from 1,370 feet to 14,494 feet. Bring layers and be prepared!
- Cell service is not available in most areas. You may get service in Grant Grove and at the Foothills Visitor Center. WiFi is available at the Foothills Visitor Center, the Grant Grove Visitor Center, and in the lobby of Wuksachi Lodge.
- Pets are not permitted on any trails at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In campgrounds and picnic areas, pets must be kept on a leash of no more than six feet at all times.