Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

After our Yellowstone trip we fell in love with the National Parks.  We immediately started planning our next National Park trip and picked Yosemite as the destination.  I spend a fair amount of time researching and planning and always look for what else is in the area of our destination to round out the trip.  Yosemite and Sequoia are about four hours apart so we decided to stop at Sequoia on our way to Yosemite.

The drive to Sequoia was not as exciting as some of our other road trips but that’s probably because we have driven to California many times.  This was a two day drive and Los Angeles was our halfway point.  We stayed at the KOA in Pomona.  This KOA was a little different than other KOA’s we have stayed at as it was an asphalt wonderland.  I was not expecting that but we still had a good time.  The first time we stayed here we stayed in a one room cabin but on our trek home we stayed in the two room cabin.  It’s only like $10 more for the two room cabin and you get an extra set of bunk beds!  Best $10 I have ever spent.  I don’t know about you but my kids always fight over who gets the top bunk.  We make it fair, one kid gets top bunk one night and the other kid gets top bunk the second night, but the kid that gets top bunk the first night always feel like they won the lottery and the other kid is cranky.

On our way out of LA we made two stops.  First was the American Girl Place for Little Miss.  This was her first time in an American Girl Place and she was beyond excited.  Pure excitement is one of the best things in life.  Abigail (Little Miss’ AG doll) got her hair styled, ears pierced and she got a little sister, Ashley.

The second stop, detour, trek way out of our way, was for me.  I wanted to visit Babycakes NYC.  I love the Babycakes cookbooks and was so excited to be able to walk into their bakery and taste their gluten free, vegan goodness.  I may or may not have eaten most of this box myself in a relatively short period of time.  Looking at this box makes me wish I was there right now.

Sequoia National Park

The sequoias literally took my breath away the first time we drove through the forest.  I will probably never forget how I felt looking up at the trees for the first time.  It was a magical moment.  I know that sounds lame but I’m lame like that.  We stayed at the Wuksachi Lodge and the accommodations were very nice.  I would definitely stay there again.  The only thing I would say about the lodging is that the parking lot is down the hill from the actual lodge.  There are hotel luggage trolleys for use if you can find them but they are much harder to find during popular times of the day.  There is a driving path that will get you closer to the entrance but it is only for handicap use.  Another note on the lodging, there are no elevators.  If that is a problem for you I would suggest arranging first floor accommodations when you make your reservations.  We were on the third floor and being that I have an overpacking problem, moving in and out of our room was a little tiring.

A tip on packing:  We used to pack by person.  Each family member would have their own suitcase but we found that we were spending a lot of time packing and unpacking the car on road trips.  We now pack by location so that we do not always have to take everything out of the car.  At each lodging destination we take out the necessary suitcase for that stop and everything else stays in the car.

Sugar pine cone

Years ago the road used to go under this rock.  That is no longer the case but you can walk under the rock now, or climb to the top of it if that is your preference.

The boys took the short walk to the top of Moro Rock.  Little Miss was not thrilled about the short, steep 1/4-mile staircase on the side of a rock overlocking the canyon below so she and I stayed behind.  According to The Husband, the views are spectacular.

The hike up Moro Rock.

The view from the top of Moro Rock.

The walk to the General Sherman Tree is only 1/2 mile but it is a steep 1/2 mile.  The walk is completely worth it though.  The path is paved so you could take a stroller although there are a few steps.  Just know you’ll be getting a good workout.  The kids didn’t have a problem going down but coming back up we stopped frequently.  General Sherman is the largest tree in the world by volume and is 275 feet high.  Pictures do not do the tree justice.

General Sherman

Family Picture at General Sherman

Tunnel Log

The Tokopah Falls Trail is 1.7 miles and is an enjoyable walk.  The trail follows along a river and there is a waterfall at the end.  We did not make it to the end because it started sprinkling and we decided to turn around but it felt like we walked the majority of the trail.  We just didn’t get to see the waterfall at the end.

Stellar Jay

The Grant Tree Trail is about 1/3 mile through a sequoia grove and is home to the Nation’s Christmas Tree.  In 1926 President Coolidge gave the tree that name after someone overheard a little girl comment that the tree would make a wonderful Christmas tree.  This is a picture of some other trees in the area.

We ate several times at the Wuksachi Lodge Dining Room and I would suggest making reservations early in the day.  The dining options in Sequoia are somewhat limited and since this is the nicest restaurant it fills up quickly.  The first night we arrived in Sequoia were not able to get in until 8:30pm.  That made for two cranky kids.  In attempt to change things up one night I made reservations for the Wolverton BBQ.  The food was good and the setting was very nice but it was crowed.  We ended up sitting at a table with a bunch of strangers and everyone was crammed in at each table.  I don’t think anyone in my family was happy with the seating arrangements but we made it work.  If dining with strangers is not your thing I would not recommend the Wolverton BBQ.  If it is your thing you’re in luck!

Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon and Sequoia are fairly close, only an hour or two drive between the two. The only way to get to Kings Canyon is through Sequoia which I presume is why they are always lumped together when you see reference to them.  There are caves in both Sequoia and Kings Canyon.  We heard rave reviews of the Crystal Cave tour in Sequoia but we didn’t get our tickets early enough for the time we wanted and the tour filled up.  This particular day we were headed to Kings Canyon so we decided to attempt the Boyden Cave in Kings Canyon rather than take a later tour at Crystal Cave.  We have a lot of caves in Southern Arizona and Boyden Cave is by far my favorite cave.  The formations are incredible.  There is a short, steep walk (I am noticing a trend in this part of the country) up to the entrance of the cave but it’s worth it so just do it.  I would highly recommend stopping at either cave, or both, if you are in either area.  That red stuff below is cave bacon!  I have heard about it many times on other cave tours but have never seen.  I thought it was a myth.  Turns out it is real!  (It is not actually red, they put a red light behind it, but the stone does look like bacon with a light behind it.)

Boyden Cave

One of our favorite stops in Kings Canyon was Grizzly Falls.  The falls is a very short walk from the parking lot and is worth a stop.  The kids and I spent a fair amount of time playing in the water below the falls.  The falls lands on rocks and runs into a shallow river so it is perfect for kids.

Grizzy Falls

The Zumwalt Meadow trail is 1.5 miles through a gorgeous mix of scenery.  If you look at the picture below the trail basically goes around the edge of the meadow.  We started out going to the left and walked through a shaded path in the trees.  Towards the end we were walking among very large boulders, up and down small sets of stairs.  This trail would not work well for strollers but kids could definitely handle it.  We walked this trail in the afternoon and a portion was in the sun so make sure to bring water and a hat.  Kings River is nearby so we cooled off in the icy cold river after we were finished with our walk.

Horse tails – these were everywhere. I love the bright green.

We did not spend enough time in Sequoia and plan to go back, hopefully sooner rather than later.  There is so much more we want to do and see.  I recently learned of a backpacking trail into one of the sequoia groves where you can actually sleep underneath the trees and I am seriously considering learning to backpack.  If you have been backpacking in Sequoia I would love to hear your feedback.

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