Central California,  Sequoia and Kings National Park,  Trip Report

Trip Report and Guide – Sequoia and Kings National Park

Trip Report and Guide – Sequoia and Kings National Park May 2018

30 second review: The weather did not cooperate with us so we had to leave early. But from the little we saw this is a definite alternative to the overcrowded Yosemite Valley. There are also the opportunities to do a bit of off-roading to get even further away from crowds with the same Sierra Nevada setting.

Fees: Park entrance fee is $25; or you can get an Annual Pass for $80. Campgrounds within the park vary by location but are generally $18-$22 per night. Alternatively, you can camp off the many nearby National Forest Roads.

Amenities: There are 5 main areas you can stay. Within Kings Canyon you first pass Grant Grove, then further into the canyon is Cedar Grove. Within Sequoia you have the Foothills, Lodgepole, and Mineral King (which is at the end of a turn off near the Foothills area). All have flush toilets and water except Mineral King which has vault toilets.

Showers are located within the Lodgepole and Cedar Grove locations.

Markets/Restaurants: Lodgepole, Grant Grove, and Cedar Grove all have markets and grills in case you forgot to bring something or want a special treat/want a break from cooking a meal. To the north of Lodgepole is Wuksachi Village where you can eat at The Peaks restaurant.

Gas Stations: There are numerous signs indicating NO GAS IN THE NATIONAL PARK! That being said, Sequoia National Forest bisects Sequoia and Kings National Park, and right in the middle of the General’s Highway is Stony Creek where you can in fact gas up.

If you want even more information you can read the Park’s visitor guide. It is a bit dense so read carefully.

Offroad Difficulty: No offroading required to get to the trailheads here. There are plenty of off-roading opportunities but none are within the National Park. Unfortunately the main access road, Big Meadows Road (14S11), was still closed for the winter when we visited so we didn’t get to explore, but a good resource can be found here. There are numerous, easy, difficult, and expert trails in the area so you can choose your comfort level. Most trails start at either Hume Lake, Eshom Campground, or off Big Meadows Road.

Is Sequoia and Kings National Park Good For Kids? Ava loved the trees and especially the Kaweah River that ran through Lodgepole campground and adjacent to the Tokopah Falls trail. In terms of hiking, the big attraction trails have been made accessible (i.e. paved over) which does make them easy for small children. There are a ton of trails in the area that we simply didn’t have enough time to explore but of what we did see I think it’s a great place for kids.

Maps: Here are the maps for Tokopah Falls as well as the trails we wanted to go on Muir Grove, Little Baldy and Mist Falls




 

Day One: We got a bit of a late start when our alarm didn’t go off (user error) but were on our way in no time. The idea was to leave at 2 am so that Ava could sleep the whole way…which in retrospect would have worked, instead Ava was a bit cranky the last hour of the drive. Some of that might have been due to the windy road and elevation gain though.

Our first stop was to grab a first come first served campsite at Lodgepole campground and set up camp.

Amazing location and surroundings. The only downside is how close you are to your neighbors. On the bright side the river is loud enough to provide some white noise to help you sleep.

 

Then it was off to Moro Rock. Clouds rolled in so we didn’t get our view but the hike itself was fun and a bit of a work out. This wouldn’t be a good hike for kids unless they’re in a carrier of some sort like we did.

Start of the trail. Only about 15 minutes to the stop if you don’t stop. Easier said than done with a 20+ pound kid on your back.

 

Ava wanted to give it a go herself.

Next it was off to check out the largest tree in the world, The General Sherman. The tree as well as the surrounding forest is definitely impressive, but the trail itself and the connecting Congress Trail are all asphalted over and you can see the highway from most of the trail which takes you out of the element. That being said, the paved trail makes it easy for little ones to get around since there’s stable ground.

There it is! I think technically it’s the most voluminous tree in the world rather than thickest or tallest. Impressive either way – just look at the people at base for perspective.

 

Another view of the General Sherman. Pictures can’t do it justice – even in person it’s quite hard to comprehend just how large it is.

 

While being in the forest sure is pretty, the paved road, and the nearby highway to the right of this picture take you out of the moment. I would recommend checking out one of the other nearby sequoia groves instead.

 

Another view along Congress Trail. We spotted a marmot in some fallen tree down the slope to the left.

Once we got back to camp it was time for dinner! We were camping with friends and it was their night to cook. Our friend has clearly been watching too much Masterchef and blew our mind with an amazing salmon dish.

The chef working on our Camp Chef Everest stove which has been one of our best purchases to date.

 

Literally one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

Day Two: The next day we let Ava wander the camp site and play with the pine cones and rocks before heading out for our big trip of the day. Tokopah Falls starts right across Log Bridge in the Lodgepole Campground which makes it easy access if you’re staying within the campground. There’s also a large parking lot nearby where you can start with a less than 5 minute walk to the start of the trail.

One of the many Stellar Jays we saw in the campground.

 

Along Tokopah Falls trail the views are endless. This is one of the first clearings where you can see the Sierra Nevada’s trademark granite walls.

 

Further on the trail you will start to see a unique rock feature. Using Gaia GPS I was able to determine we were seeing “The Watchtower.”

 

Another gorgeous view along the trail where The Watchtower has revealed itself more as well as the Kaweah river.

 

After what was a very pleasant hike we finally can see Topokah Falls. The last part of the trail is an ascent through a rock field – which would have been way more fun if I didn’t have Ava and her backpack strapped on!

 

This little guy was running around in the boulders.

 

Once you get through the boulder field you get an unobstructed view of The Watchtower, which I thought was just as impressive to look at as the waterfall.

 

Another view of The Watchtower as it leads into the valley.

 

About 180 degrees around is Tokopah Falls.

I really wish the weather had worked more in our favor. Our original itinerary called for going to Little Baldy, Muir Grove, and then to head up to Kings Canyon to explore Zumwalt Meadow and then hike up to Mist Falls.

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