Originally founded in 1890 as General Grant National Park to protect giant sequoia trees, the park was later expanded and renamed to the Kings Canyon National Park in 1940. The park is located in the southern Sierra Nevada near Fresno, California. Kings Canyon offers rugged glacier-carved valley that more than a mile deep with beautiful features that include many 14,000-ft peaks, swift-flowing rivers and some of the world’s largest and oldest giant sequoia trees. Beside the many vista points down the long canyon winding canyon drive, Kings Canyon National Park boast countless long and scenic backpacking trails for those hungry for days in silent with nature’s peaceful landscapes.
We were extremely lucky with our visit at Kings Canyon because we had the chance to drive through the largest part, the later expanded part of the park, of Kings Canyon on the last day before the road was closed for the winter season. Although the park is opened year round, the vast majority of the park is closed for the winter due to unpredictable weather, so please check with the nps site and plan ahead.
Overall the park provides is both friendly for those who like to drive and especially for those who like to hike. One of the most famous hike at Kings Canyon is the Rae Lakes Loop that starts at the end of the drive down the canyon. This is a 41.4 miles loop with over 6,000-ft of elevation climb to a breathtaking view of Rae Lakes. If you plan to do this hike during the summer, please make sure you make reservation through the nps site because permits are limited.
Scenic Drive through King’s Canyon
Kings Canyon Drive - Driving through Kings Canyon was like go through a 5 hours stop and go rush-hour traffic afternoon. Every mile seems to have a must stop vista point. Although our visit was in the dryer season for the park and most of the waterfalls have dried up, the entire drive down and up the canyon was exciting and picturesque. The winding roads and colorful rocks that fenced the drive on Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is definitely worth a day trip.
Roaring River Fall - While down the canyon we stopped by the Roaring River Fall for what that was supposed to be a 30 minutes lunch break but became an hour relaxation lunch spa experience. Since it was the dryer season, we were able to hike closer to the water and allow the soothing sound of cold glacier water falling on the smooth rocks relaxes our minds while we enjoyed our scrumptious lunch.
King’s Canyon WaterFall
Roaring River Falls
roaring River FaLLS
We stayed at Azalea campground and found a beautiful fist come first serve campsite. Azalea campground is open year round is in the part of Kings Canyon that was initially the General Grant National Park. The campground is about 1 mile from the visitor center, hotels and cabins, restaurants, gift shop, and post office. This campground is surrounded by giant pine trees and situated next to the second largest standing sequoia in the world, General Grant. If you are camping during the weekend, please plan to come early to snatch a campsite because the campground can fill up quickly.
Closest Cities to the Park:
The closest airport is the Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (FAT), which is about 65 miles south of the park, which equates to a 1½-hour drive.
Recommended Length Stay: At least 3 days if you’re just planning to drive around the park, and at least 5 days if you’re planning to do some backcountry camping and hiking.
Would we be back? Absolutely when Harvey is older and can backpack with us for more than 3 hours.
For more photos, they can be found here.