The top 5 things to do at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks


The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is the largest tree species in the world, and visitors can be surrounded by these towering giants at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

The 2 parks are in the southern Sierra Nevada range. Sequoia National Park dates to 1890, when it was established to protect sequoia groves from the timber industry; Kings Canyon National Park was founded 50 years later to preserve the peaks, meadows, granite domes, and glacial canyons of the nearby backcountry.

Today the parks are administered jointly, with a single entry permit granting access to both. Together they offer visitors a wide cross-section of Sierra landscapes, with elevations ranging from 1,200 feet to more than 14,000 feet at the peak of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 states. We look at 5 can't-miss sights that any visitor should see.

June 2023 Update

Because of severe winter storms, many popular parts of Sequoia National Park are only accessible via Highway 180 and the Kings Canyon/Big Stump Entrance Station. This includes access to the park's most popular attractions like the Giant Forest, Wuksachi Lodge, and Moro Rock. Additional access via Highway 198 and the Foothills Entrance Station is estimated to be available starting July 1. 

For more details and the latest reopening date estimates, visit the Current Conditions page on the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks website.

The General Sherman Tree

1. See the world's biggest tree in the Giant Forest

This self-guided, 2-mile loop begins at the world's largest tree, the General Sherman Tree. Estimated to be 2,300–2,700 years old and with a maximum diameter of 36.5 feet, this living giant is the perfect landmark to start your visit.

From there, the Congress Trail leads past some of the park's finest stands of giant sequoias into the middle of the Giant Forest. Round-trip walking time is approximately 1 hour. Notable sights along the trail include the House Group, a cluster of several magnificent sequoias; the Senate Group; the President Tree; and the General Lee Tree.

Man standing on Moro Rock

2. Hike to the top of Moro Rock

This granite monolith at the end of the Giant Forest Plateau overlooks the canyon of the Kaweah River's Middle Fork. If you enter Sequoia National Park from Highway 198, you'll probably see it from the road long before you read its base. 

A quarter-mile trail built in 1931 by the Civilian Conservation Corps climbs up steep granite steps, leading to a 6,512-foot summit with impressive views of the southern Sierra Nevada.

Tokopah Falls

3. Watch water cascade over Tokopah Falls

Tokopah Valley is a stunning U-shaped glaciated gorge. Lateral moraines, which were deposited when the glacier receded, are visible along the sides of the valley when hiking. A clear view of the 1,200-foot cascading waterfall is available about 1.5 miles into the hike. 

The falls are most impressive in late spring and early summer. Another impressive sight looming 2,000 feet above the valley floor is the polished granite Watchtower, which marks the trail’s end.

Round Meadow Trail

4. Learn about the lifecycle of seqouias on the Big Trees Trail

The easy, 1.2-mile Big Trees Trail circles the Round Meadow. Here visitors can learn how sequoias go from humble beginnings to towering goliaths—the mammoth mature sequoias are stunning and easy to pick out, but their younger neighbors blend in surprisingly well with the rest of the forest.

When do sequoias begin to take on their "giant" attributes, and why? And why aren't there any trees in the meadow's center? Interpretive displays along the trail dive into the science behind the big trees. If you're lucky, you might also see yellow-bellied marmots going about their business at the meadow's edge.

For a longer visit, the Giant Forest Museum is a short walk away, as are great views from Beetle Rock and Sunset Rock.

The Fallen Monarch

5. Go for a stroll on the General Grant Tree Trail

A fine stand of giant sequoias is visible from the General Grant Trail, a wheelchair-accessible 0.3-mile loop through the center of the grove. The main attraction is the General Grant Tree, one of the largest of the giant sequoias and, since 1956, a living memorial to U.S. servicemen and women. It's nearly as tall as the General Sherman Tree and actually has a slightly larger base diameter.

Other highlights along the trail include the Fallen Monarch, once used as both a dwelling and a corral; the Gamlin Cabin, built in 1872 by 2 woodcutters; and the Centennial Stump, the remains of a mammoth sequoia that was felled and shipped to the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition for display. 

Check park conditions before visiting: Conditions at National Parks can change without notice. Be sure to check the latest information about conditions on the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks website when planning a trip.

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks AAA map cover

Visit a branch for the free1 Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks map

Looking to get the most out of your trip? AAA's Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks folding map is a perfect resource for planning. Find points of interest, local campgrounds, activities, lodging, and more, along with information about park rules and how to get around.

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Whether you're looking to book a stay at Sequoia's Wuksachi Lodge, rent a car for your drive into the Sierra, or reserve a guided National Parks tour package, see how AAA can help you plan, book, and save on your next vacation.

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