Being labeled by John Muir as “a rival to Yosemite,” Kings Canyon National Park has a lot to live up to. It does so in grand style. With the deepest canyon in the nation (hence, the park’s name), the largest grove of Sequoia trees still in existence, and rock formations not unlike Yosemite, Kings Canyon on any scale is a land full of excesses. It is partnered with neighboring Sequoia National Park but stands on its own as a natural gem within the national park system.
Kings Canyon, the country’s fourth national park, encompasses stunning landscapes and exhilarating activities for all to enjoy. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, mountaintop experiences, and rushing rivers, this is a true nature lover’s park. Come to revel in the solitude of the high country and absorb wildlife and wilderness in the country’s deepest canyon.
Why Visit Kings Canyon National Park in an RV?
There are only two roads in Kings Canyon, but they both lead to campgrounds that allow RVs. Having your home with you on this trip would be advantageous after a day of hiking or fishing.
Come back to your own kitchen, fry up the trout you reeled in earlier in the day, and then enjoy an evening around the campfire. You can view spectacular night skies and retreat to your own bed to rest up for tomorrow’s adventures!
When to Visit Kings Canyon National Park
The park is open year-round. There are a number of activities offered in every season, from hiking to snowshoeing and rock climbing to cross-country skiing. The weather can vary and change quickly throughout the park. As you change elevation, the temperature can fluctuate by 20 to 30 degrees. You could easily see spring flowers in the foothills and then snow in the Giant Forest all at once.
Kings Canyon National Park in the Spring
Spring in the park sees the most precipitation with temperatures ranging from 64 degrees to 79 degrees.
Kings Canyon National Park in the Summer
Summers are often hot and dry with very little rain and an average temperature of 95 degrees.
Kings Canyon National Park in the Fall
Temperatures drop drastically from 90 degrees at the beginning of fall to 65 degrees as December approaches.
Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter
Winters are typically mild and wet with low-hanging clouds and temperatures in the 50s.
Where to Stay
Kings Canyon has seven campgrounds. Six of them accept RVs but none of them have hookups, so be prepared to boondock.
- Grant Grove campgrounds (3) are open year-round
- Cedar Grove campgrounds (4) are open from early spring to late fall
Staying Outside the Park
- Lemon Cove Village RV Park: Located in Lemon Cove, CA, about 35 minutes from the Foothills Visitor Center.
- Sequoia RV Ranch: Located in Three Rivers, CA, about 20 minutes from the Foothills Visitor Center.
- Sequoia RV Park: Located in Dunlap, CA, about 30 minutes from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center
Invest in a Good Sam Membership and save 10% on nightly stays at Good Sam Campgrounds.
How to Get Around Kings Canyon National Park
There is only one way in and one way out of Kings Canyon and that’s California Highway 180 from Fresno. It will bring visitors into or out of the park. However, if traveling from Sequoia National Park, Highway 198 will bring you to Highway 180 and then into the park.
The roads are winding and steep in places, and in winter snow chains may be required. Once inside park boundaries traveling is simple. You will first pass through Grant Grove and then Cedar Cove. The road ends with a loop around Kanawyers.
Places to Go
Kings Canyon is full of unique places to visit and stop for a while. You could spend several days trying to hit everything, but here are some of the highlights to consider.
Grant Grove Village
This small community within the park’s boundaries houses the King Canyon Visitor Center, a market, a restaurant, and several lodging options.
General Grant Tree
It’s known as the nation’s Christmas tree. This Sequoia is over 3,000 years old, 270 feet tall, and 107 feet in circumference, making it the second largest tree in the world.
Cedar Grove Village
Located at the bottom of Kings Canyon, Cedar Grove has its own Visitor Center and a market and snack bar, along with wi-fi.
An alpine setting within the Cedar Grove region, this bucolic meadow is guarded by towering granite domes with Kings River running through it. There is a self-guided tour showcasing the grandeur of this lush setting.
Things to Do in Kings Canyon National Park
Not only are there tons of locations and destinations you should hit inside the national parks, but there are plenty of activities and things to do while visiting. Here are the most popular options.
With only two roads in the park, hiking is truly the best way to experience Kings Canyon. There are hundreds of trails with varying degrees of difficulty, here are a few:
- Big Stump Trail: 2 miles round trip
- Redwood Canyon Trail – Hart Tree Loop: 3 miles round trip
- Big Baldy Trail: 4.5 miles round trip
- Zumwalt Meadow Loop: 1.5 miles round trip
- Mist Fall Trail: 9 miles round trip
Two stables for horseback riding are located within the park at both Cedar Grove and Grant Grove. You can cover more territory in less time on horseback if you choose.
Hume Lake is a great place for boating with both kayak and canoe rentals available.
Fly fishing on Lewis Creek, Bubbs Creek, or Hume Lake requires a permit, and the park also offers fishing guide services.
Various opportunities to rock climb in Kings Canyon include everything from boulder hopping to technical climbing at Chimney Rock and Tehipite Dome. However, Chimney Rock is closed from April through August because of the nesting location for peregrine falcons.
There are several campgrounds within the park boundaries. None have hookups and all but one allows RVs. The campsites have various lengths to accommodate different-sized vehicles. Backcountry camping permits are also available for overnight hikers, which we highly recommend if you’re looking for a true adventure.
What to Bring and How to Prepare
Since Kings Canyon offers several options for lodging, campgrounds, restaurants, picnic areas, and more including a post office and designated laundry and shower areas, there isn’t much you need to bring with you. However, a few things to consider are:
- Jacket. Dress in layers to accommodate the changing temperatures throughout the day.
- Water bottle. Refill at various locations throughout your visit.
- Backpack. The park offers amazing views of nature and wildlife through backpacking.
Brief History of Kings Canyon National Park
Several Native American tribes lived in the region that became Kings Canyon National Park. Because the Sierra Nevada Mountains run through the middle of the park, natives hunted and collected acorns in lower altitudes, avoiding the mountains during winter seasons, but they did not establish permanent villages in the high country.
They did, however, create trade routes from the Owens Valley in the east to the Central Valley of what would later be California.
Fur trappers wandered through the area but kept to the lowlands, and by 1849 when gold rush fever escorted miners into California, one traveling miner is credited with discovering the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park. Soon after, exploration of the surrounding lands brought logging operations to these magnificent forests.
When Europeans began to arrive in the area during the 19th century, the local tribes settled in General Grant Grove. By 1862, most natives were completely wiped out by a smallpox epidemic carried by the new settlers.
The 1870s ushered in government survey crews after the discovery of the General Grant Tree, and moves were made to protect the area. Not all the logging stopped, but John Muir heard of the valley’s grandeur, and he became instrumental in calling for preservation.
By 1880, all logging was suspended. It took 10 more years for the region to become General Grant National Park. Its boundaries were far smaller than today’s existing park.
Within 50 years a need arose to expand the park and protect the surrounding land from the city of Los Angeles. Rapid growth there required more resources, and LA sought to build hydroelectric dams on the rivers to the east of General Grant National Park. Officials introduced legislation to place the disputed land within the existing national park.
So, with the addition of 400,000 acres, the region was renamed Kings Canyon National Park, and the rivers and wilderness were preserved.
Have you ever wanted to go to the Kings Canyon National Park? Leave a comment below.
Shelley Dennis is a travel photographer and writer who threw caution to the wind and gave up most of her belongings to travel the country in an RV. Her trusty sidekick for this lifetime adventure is her Golden Retriever, Sully. You can find them both at www.PhotoTrippingAmerica.com