The largest living organism in the world is a 4-hour drive from Los Angeles.
So is one of the deepest canyons in the US, multiple 1000ft waterfalls and innumerous jumping rocks, swimming holes and natural waterslides. If you haven’t been, or haven’t been in a while, visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is the easiest way to experience John Muirian levels of natural majesty when you’re short on time.
If you subscribe to the Los Adventures formula of national park exploration—go early, go hard and always have wine—then seeing the best of the parks and finding time to lounge on the lake is attainable in 3 days.
Los Adventures Agenda: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
Los Adventures Camp-Cookery Tips:
- Bring bottles of cold brew coffee. You're not going to find a Stumptown in the park.
- Have granola for breakfast. It cuts down on clean up and gets you on the trail sooner.
- Make your cocktails home. Whip up a big batch of negronis and bring in a mason jar.
- Sneak healthy greens into your dinner by wilting tons of spinach in baked beans.
On Friday, our goals were 1) get camp set up 2) lounge on Hume Lake in our donut floats. We got into the park a little later than we would have liked due to some impromptu photo stops and multiple grocery stops (need cold brew. See tip #1). It didn’t end up affecting our lake time though because we are such minimal campers. Our site was ready to go in under 20 minutes.
Hume Lake sits between the two sections of Kings Canyon National Park, conveniently down the road from the Princess Campground. While crowded around the entrance and main beach (there’s a sleep-away camp here), drive just beyond the camp mess-hall for easy parking and hiking paths down to the water’s edge.
Kings Canyon National Park
Although 9.4 miles long, the Mist Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in Kings Canyon due to relatively gentle grade (1000ft elevation gain), breathtaking views of the granite canyons and the giant waterfall that gives the trail its name. Having a no-cook breakfast (see tip #2) helped us get on the trail early so we could avoid some of trail traffic.
The best part of the trail might be how it ends. After sweating it up for hours, the hike concludes at Muir Rock. We dropped our packs, pulled on our swimsuits and jumped into clear, aqua water of the South Fork River.
Then it was back to Hume for more lake lounging. In a stroke of pure genius, we washed out the lidded plastic cups from our iced coffees and filled them to the brim with ice and grenache rosé. Totally nailed the lake lounging thing.
Situated just off the stretch of road that connects the two sections of Kings Canyon, Princess Campground is the perfect home base for exploring both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. In addition to its central location, it takes reservations, so you can book a roomy spot well in advance of the summer season. We stayed in spot 49, which had enough room for at least 4 more tents and backed up to the Indian Basin Grove Interpretive Trail that runs through a giant sequoia stump meadow, adjacent to the campground. AKA easy access for golden hour photo-taking.
Tokopah Falls Trail
Our final day was spent in Sequoia National Park. We packed up fast so we could get to the Tokopah Falls Trail before the crowds. It’s immensely popular – the trailhead starts in the Lodgepole campground, the gradual gain of 600ft is accesbile to all fitness levels and the trail follows a meandering stream through to the base of the 1,200ft falls. The views along the way are just as gorgeous as the falls – sheer granite cliffs, dense pines and the occasional yellow bellied marmot wandering through the underbrush.
Sequoia National Park
We wanted to end our trip with the big trees. While seeing General Grant and General Sherman are must-see attractions if you’ve never been the park before, it’s not worth battling the crowds for an encore visit. Instead, walk the Big Trees Trail to see the less famous, but just as impressive giant sequoias.
Los Adventures has been in bear country a lot. With our weekly treks into the Angeles National Forest and vacations in Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Great Smokies, you’d think we’d seen our fair share of bears. But – we’ve only ever seen them wild in Sequoia. We spotted a small black bear foraging in a mountain meadow on the way into the park. We were ecstatic. So you can imagine our delight when two more bears wandered onto the Big Trees Trails a few yards in front of us. I’d say that’s a pretty good way to end a long weekend.
Giant sequoias, granite peaks and tons of swimming holes - could Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park get any better. Here are picks for the best places to swim in and around Sequoia National Park.
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