Planning a trip to California’s national parks? With massive Sequoia trees and incredible views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, you’re going to have a great time. But in the battle of Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park – who wins?
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That’s a great question! Which national park is worthy of your time? Whether you’re traveling as a family, couple, solo or with friends, there’s so much to consider!
With awesome hiking opportunities, waterfalls, canyon views and larger-than-imaginable trees, you really can’t go wrong. Any season in these parks are magical, and considering they’re some of the best national parks to visit during summer, consider them to be busy especially during peak travel season.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are right next to each other, connected by the Generals Highway. They are 2 separate parks (although managed together), and both worth visiting.
But seriously, one of these parks HAS to win in the battle of Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park!
Let’s dive in.
Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon has expansive views of an impressive canyon, meanwhile Sequoia National Park features larger groves of incredible Sequoia trees. Of course there’s views of Sequoia trees and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in both parks, but in a battle of Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park, each are unique in their own way.
Let’s see who wins this epic battle by breaking the parks down by category. This will help you determine a winner based on what you’re looking for in a park, and it will ultimately help you decide which to spend more time in.
Must-see video: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
📍Note: the land that makes up today’s Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks was originally inhabited by the Paiute, Westerns Shoshone, Monache, Yokuts and Tübatulabal peoples. They were forced out by white people in the 1800’s. Please be mindful when visiting this sacred area and treat it with respect.
Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Parks: best scenery
Let’s first compare the 2 parks on the overall best scenery.
You absolutely cannot talk about visiting these national parks without talking about the oversized Sequoia trees! Standing next to one of these giant trees really puts it into perspective the massive size.
Fun fact: both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks have groves of Sequoia trees!
You’ll get more groves of Sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park (6 vs 4), so if the trees are what you’re looking for, then Sequoia is right for you.
If you’re looking for incredible scenic views beyond a tree right in front of you, then consider Kings Canyon. Massive canyon views greet you from many areas of the park, and areas that don’t require hiking to find them. If impressive, expansive space is what you’re looking for, then Kings Canyon is right for you.
In this comparison, it’s a tie. It really depends on what you want to see and do in the parks.
If you love epic scenery, then you definitely need to check out the battle of Maui vs Kauai – so stunning!
Kings Canyon National Park highlights:
- General Grant Tree (tallest Sequoia Tree in the world)
- Kings Canyon (deepest canyon in the US at 8,200 feet)
- Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
- Boyden Cave
- Zumwalt Meadow
- Hume Lake
- Multiple waterfalls and river views
Sequoia National Park highlights:
- General Sherman Tree (largest tree by volume in the world)
- Moro Rock with 360 degree views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains
- Generals Highway
- Tunnel Log
- Crystal Cave
- Giant Forest Museum
- Crescent Meadow Road
Both parks offer unique and similar features, but honestly they’re both worth a visit! It’s possible to do Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in one day, but you definitely won’t see everything these incredible parks have to offer.
In this comparison, it’s another tie!
Best hikes: Kings Canyon vs Sequoia
Hiking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park: this category is a tough one to rate!
If we’re going by the number of visitors who take a hike/walking path to see something cool, then the Giant Forest Loop Trail in Sequoia beats the General Grant Tree Trail in Kings Canyon. Both of these are paved walking paths that are family friendly, and fully accessible by wheelchairs.
If you’re going by the highest reviews on the ‘most popular’ non-paved hike in each park, then the Tokopah Falls Trail in Sequoia National Park wins. Coming in at 3.8 miles and ranked as moderate, this waterfall hike is best done in spring or early summer, when you’ll see the most flowing water.
The most volume of reviews of any trail in Kings Canyon is the Mist Falls Trail. This moderate hike comes in at 7.8 miles and is known for bear sightings in addition to a gorgeous waterfall. Be sure to pack your bear spray!
In this category of Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia wins by simply volume of visits and reviews.
Pricing: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
The entrance fee is the same for both Sequoia and Kings Canyon: $35 per vehicle per park.
Although if you’re planning to visit Yosemite, Channel Islands, Redwood National Parks or literally any other national park within a 12-month timeframe, you’ll want to get an America the Beautiful Pass.
My family uses our pass every year, like when we visited Zion with kids, checked out all the things to do in Glacier National Park, spent one day in Arches, and so many more adventures!
Although these parks are right next to each other, they’re separate and both require their own entrance fee.
In this category, it’s a tie!
Let’s break this category down based on how easy it is to get to each national park, then how accessible it is to navigate within of these parks.
How to get to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Kings Canyon National Park is about 1 hour from Fresno, California.
The Kings Canyon entrance on Highway 180 is the main entrance, and is a straight shot from Fresno, California. If you’re looking for a hotel near the park, this is a great spot to stay overnight.
The 2nd entrance to Kings Canyon is from the south on Generals Highway, which also happens to be connected to Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia National Park is about 45 minutes from Visalia, California.
The southern entrance to Sequoia National Park is from Highway 198/Sierra Drive. If you want to stay near Sequoia National Park, this is the town you’re looking for.
The 2nd entrance to Sequoia National Park is from the north part of the park on Generals Highway, which is closer to the Kings Canyon entrance and Fresno, California.
In this category, it’s a tie!
Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park – accessibility within the parks
Both parks have many areas that are wheelchair accessible and great for strollers. Let’s start with one of the main attractions in both parks…
In Sequoia, the path to General Sherman Tree is fully paved. During the summer, the entire lower parking lot is for handicap parking. However, if you have a stroller you’ll have to take it down the 212 feet and back up, mostly on steps. The other seasons both parking lots are generally open to everyone.
In Kings Canyon, the path to General Grant Tree is fully paved from start to finish. There’s an area where kids (and young-at-heart adults) can climb through these giant Sequoia trees, which is not paved or ADA complaint. However this trail is fully accessible with a large parking lot.
The Generals Highway and Kings Canyon Scenic Byway both offer views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains with pull-outs along the way. Kings Canyon seems to have more stops than Sequoia.
Parking lots seem to be structured better within Kings Canyon, likely because the trees are less dense in this park so it certainly feels like it’s more convenient access to visitor centers and other amenities.
In this category, Kings Canyon wins!
Which is more family friendly – Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park
Another difficult category to rank these 2 in the battle of Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park!
If you ask my kids which park they liked better, they’d say Sequoia, but it’s likely because they’ve spent more time in that park.
One of our favorite hikes in either park was Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park. At just 0.5 miles round trip, the ‘hike’ is really just 350+ steps to the top of a granite dome.
With spectacular panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this hike is a must-do for families. Just watch young kids closely because the cliffs are no joke.
Sequoia offers family-friendly activities like Crystal Cave, and kids love climbing trees in the Giant Forest near the General Sherman Tree. My kids also loved the Tunnel Log, where you can drive through a Sequoia tree. If you go on a weekend during the summer and the shuttles are running, kids can stand underneath the tree for a photo opp. So fun!
There’s also plenty of things to do for kids in Kings Canyon. The trail leading to General Grant Tree is full of interactive opportunities for families. Checking out the Gamlin Cabin and climbing through fallen Sequoias were the highlights.
The short walk to Roaring River Falls or Grizzly Falls are perfect for kids, too. Hume Lake is a great spot for families, where older kids can enjoy sand volleyball or kayaking and paddleboarding on the lake.
For families, both parks are truly great, and it’s a fun spot to do things on your family bucket list – like hug a giant tree! If your kids are impatient and are too young to fully appreciate amazing road trips like adults do, then the drive through Sequoia is better for them, because most of the park’s top activities are more condensed and a quicker drive.
The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is stunning, but kids might just find it boring as it does take at about 2 hours to complete.
In this category, Sequoia wins!
Congestion and crowds
The NPS counts visitors to both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, so official counts aren’t really helpful here.
Based on congestion during the parks, I’d say Sequoia National Park is much more crowded. They even offer (ahem, require) a shuttle for some areas during the summer months on the weekends due to overcrowding.
Spending time in both parks, the lines were longer and parking lots filled quicker at Sequoia vs Kings Canyon.
As with most national parks, if you want to avoid crowds, go in the shoulder season – and avoid the peak summer travel season, especially weekends.
Over the years, I’ve learned by hiking in Mt. Rainier, visiting the Mighty 5 during an Utah national parks road trip, seeing epic waterfalls in Glacier National Park, and many more adventures, that getting to the park early and visiting during the week are the best ways to avoid the crowds.
In this category, Kings Canyon wins!
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park in 1 day
Alright so we’ve compared Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park on many levels. And to be honest, they’re both great parks! While it’s best if you have 2-3 days to see the parks, sometimes that isn’t possible. Here’s a suggested itinerary if you want to see both parks on a quick visit.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon in 1 day
- Start in Visalia and drive up Generals Highway to enter the park.
- Visit the General Sherman Tree first, since it gets really super busy.
- If you have time and are up for it, hike the Congress Trial to see more of these giants!
- Next hike Moro Rock because the views are awesome and it also gets really busy.
- Crescent Meadow is next; drive through the Tunnel Log, go on a hike and enjoy the views.
- Head to the Lodgepole Visitor Center for a picnic lunch, or grab a light lunch there. Be sure to check out the Giant Forest Museum.
- Next drive Generals Highway north to Kings Canyon. This is likely the peak of day so work your way backwards to avoid crowds.
- Drive all the way through the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway to Roads End and witness the massive canyon along the way.
- Check out Muir Rock, Zumwalt Meadow or hike to Mist Falls.
- Hit the restrooms and take a snack break at Cedar Grove Visitor Center and Village.
- Make your way back up the canyon and to Hume Lake. If you’re hungry and have time, grab some ice cream at the Hume Lake Snack Shop.
- Continue on Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, turning off to visit Panoramic Point. This road is narrow and it’s a short 0.5 mile hike to this epic viewpoint.
- Lastly, take the General Grant Tree Trail to see the largest Sequoia Tree and the grove of Sequoias.
- Exit the park via Highway 180 and head to Fresno for accommodations.
Whew! That’s a long day with lots of driving! It’s doable, but much more enjoyable with more time. 🙃
Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park – who wins?
Alright have you decided which of these amazing parks wins in your opinion?
To be honest, you can’t really go wrong! Both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have amazing scenery, complete with waterfalls, Sierra Nevada Mountain views and of course, Sequoias!
I hope this guide helped you decide where to go and that you have an amazing time exploring these parks!
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