It’s hard to believe it’s already been two summers, but yes, two summers ago the kids and I explored Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California. Along with Yosemite National Park, these three parks make up the Majestic Mountain Loop in California.
Known for groves of giant sequoia trees, these National Parks are a must to explore with kids. Plan to enter from either the Ash Mountain Entrance of Sequoia (stay in Three Rivers) or the Big Stump Entrance of Kings Canyon (stay in Fresno). Take a look at 10 things you must do on your visit to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.
1. Stay Near the Park Entrance. We started at Sequoia National Park, so we stayed at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Three Rivers. It’s the closest town to the Ash Mountain Entrance and Foothills Visitor Center. It’s 20 miles from the park entrance and the Comfort Inn & Suites is one of the only hotels outside the park.
2. Hike the Big Trees Trail. Once inside Sequoia National Park, you’ll of course want to see as many giant sequoia trees as you can, so the place to go is the Big Trees Trail. It’s an easy one-mile loop. Start at the Giant Forest Museum and cross the street to the paved trail.
3. Go on a Crystal Cave Tour. I’ll admit, we did not go on a tour of Crystal Cave with a cave naturalist, but it is quite amazing to think that you’ll find both huge sequoia trees above ground and incredible stalactites and rock formations below ground. Book tickets online and be sure to bring along a jacket.
4. Visit with Generals Sherman & Grant. Located at Sequoia National Park, the General Sherman Tree is said to be the largest giant sequoia tree in the world. You may also want to go next door to Kings Canyon National Park to see General Grant, the second largest giant sequoia tree in the world.
5. Attend a Ranger-Led Program. As always, attending a ranger program is a must. You and your kids can learn about wildlife safety, geology, history and native animals. Pick up the park newspaper when you arrive or go online ahead of time to check out the schedule for the day(s) you’ll be at the park(s).
6. Become a Junior Ranger. My kids love earning badges and patches at various national parks through the Junior Ranger program. You can pick up a free activity booklet at any visitors center inside either park. There’s also an online WebRangers program.
7. Attend the Dark Sky Festival. The night sky at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is well-known for being one of the best places in the country for seeing the stars. If you can, plan a visit for late-July to coincide with the annual Dark Sky Festival for constellation tours and plenty of kids’ activities.
8. Stamp Your Passport. Getting stamps in my Passport to Your National Parks is always my favorite part of a national park visit. Keep your eye open for cancellation stamps at every visitor center. You’ll also want to buy the official park sticker to add to your passport.
9. Drive Through a Tree. If you’re looking for the opportunity to drive through a tree, you’ll find it at Tunnel Log at Sequoia National Park. It’s a car tunnel that goes through a giant sequoia tree that fell over the road in 1937.
10. Be Impressed by Grizzly Falls. Just off the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, you’ll want to hike a short, easy trail to Grizzly Falls, a 75-foot waterfall. As with most waterfalls, it’s best viewed in the spring following the winter thaw when there is plenty more water going over the falls.