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

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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.

The General Sherman Tree

See the biggest tree in the world on the Congress Trail

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

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. The quarter-mile climb up steep granite steps leads to a 6,512-foot summit and impressive views of the southern Sierra Nevada.

Tokopah Falls

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. Looming 2,000 feet above the valley floor are the polished granite walls of the Watchtower, marking the trail’s end.

Zumwalt Meadow Trail

Enjoy the tranquility of the Zumwalt Meadow Trail

The easy, 1.5-mile Zumwalt Meadow Trail affords excellent views of the South Fork Kings River and surrounding cliffs, including the 8,435-foot North Dome and the 8,478-foot Grand Sentinel, 2 granite monoliths scoured by glacial abrasion. The trail leads to a small bridge and passes American Indian bedrock mortars, small marshes, and verdant vegetation.

The meadow is believed to have formed when a rocky ridge, called a moraine, was deposited by a glacier. It dammed the river, which silted up and formed the level expanse that is now the meadow.

The Fallen Monarch

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. 

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Visit a branch for the free1 Sequoia & 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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