Massive Sequoia Trees make way to epic canyon views. Add majestic waterfalls, winding scenic drives and amazing hiking trails, Mother Nature really shows off in this park! Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, here are all the best things to do in Kings Canyon National Park.
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Gah!! You’re going to loooove this park! One of the most underrated parks in the entire National Park System, Kings Canyon National Park is often overshadowed by it’s sister park, Sequoia.
But don’t believe for a second that Kings Canyon doesn’t have much going for it. You could spend an entire weekend (or more) exploring the hiking trails, sights and activities in the park and still want to come back for more!
Many people will do Kings Canyon and Sequoia in one day or the same trip. It’s totally possible, but in the battle of Sequoia vs Kings Canyon National Park, perhaps this guide will show you who really wins. 😉
This guide covers the park highlights and activities, how to get there, tips for the park and so on.
Let’s dive in!
Must-see video: things to do in Kings Canyon National Park
Where is Kings Canyon National Park?
Located in central California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Kings Canyon National Park is about an hour east of Fresno and immediately adjacent to Sequoia National Park.
By the way, I love using Discover Cars when renting a car because they get rates from all the big car carriers, for free. I typically save 10-30% using Discover Cars, which is awesome for a trip like this!
Map of the best things to do in Kings Canyon National Park
If you’re a visual person, this map will help you plan your time in the park. Pinch and zoom to see the best attractions and some underrated activities, too!
Note: because of the way that Kings Canyon National Park is laid out, some of the items on this list (including some along the scenic byway) actually fall into the Sequoia National Forest. It’s a protected land nestled between 2 arms of the Kings Canyon National Park boundary.
For the purposes of this list, they’re included as things to do in Kings Canyon National Park, considering the entrance fee required to access these activities.
Original inhabitants of the land
📍The land that makes up Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and the surrounding area was originally inhabited by the Paiute, Westerns Shoshone, Monache, Yokuts and Tübatulabal peoples. Unfortunately, they were forced out by white people in the 1800’s. Please be mindful when visiting this sacred area and treat it with respect.
Best time to visit Kings Canyon National Park
When planning a trip to Kings Canyon National Park, it’s important to think of season, day of the week and be aware of holiday congestion.
Kings Canyon by the season
- Spring can be one of the best times to visit Kings Canyon National Park. Although late spring is best, because the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway typically opens late April, and it’s one of the highlights of the park.
- During summer the park is fully open. There’s also a lot more visitors to the park, meaning longer lines and more traffic and congestion. Go during the week or arrive to the park early to avoid crowds.
- Fall is another great time to visit Kings Canyon National Park for all it offers. Definitely bring good bug spray because the mosquitos and gnats are at their worst, but with cooler weather and less crowds, the park can be really enjoyable during fall.
- During winter you’ll see a snow-coated landscape. The Sierra Nevada Mountains are stunning in the snow, and seeing the giant Sequoia Trees with snow on them is incredible. However you’ll encounter part of the park closed and limited services.
Although there’s not near as many visitors to Kings Canyon as there is compared to other parks, such as a trip to Zion with kids, it’s still important to be aware of crowds.
Avoiding peak travel days in the park means you’ll get to see more of it in less time because you won’t be waiting in lines as long or as much traffic.
Where to stay near Kings Canyon
This amazing national park has plenty of accommodations inside and near the park entrance. Whether you like to be submerged in nature or like a little more amenities in a hotel, here are a few options to consider if you don’t have arrangements made yet.
Camping near Kings Canyon
There’s a lot of options for camping in and around Kings Canyon National Park. If you want a spot on a weekend or during summer, be sure to book many week or months in advance! Also be sure to be bear aware while camping, always storing food in bear-safe containers.
Here’s a list of a few spots for RV and tent camping…
- Kings Canyon RV and Campground for RV and tent camping. Located along Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, it’s technically located within the Jennie Lakes Wilderness in the Sequoia National Forest. Super convenient!
- Canyon View Campground at Cedar Grove Village for tent camping. Within the park’s boundaries, this campground is close to Roads End with many hiking trails nearby.
- Sequoia Resort & RV Park is about 15 minutes away from the Kings Canyon entrance. It offers spacious RV campgrounds, laundry services and more.
If you’re not into camping or just prefer the comforts of 4 walls around you, here’s several convenient options for you. Fresno is the nearest city to Kings Canyon, or a stay in Visalia will get you close to the Sequoia National Park entrance.
Here are some convenient options…
- John Muir Lodge. Located in the heart of the park at Grant Grove Village, this quaint lodge is perfect for vacationers to the park from March through October. Book the season prior though, as the lodge sells out quickly!
- Sequoia Resort. Perhaps a perfect vacation rental close to the Kings Canyon entrance, this is perfect for couples, families or larger groups wanting multiple bedrooms.
- Wonder Valley Ranch Resort. About 30 minutes outside the park, this ranch offers many size options for various group sizes. The peaceful vibe on the ranch is perfect for a vacation, too!
What to pack for your adventure
If you’re not only wondering what to do in Kings Canyon but also what you’ll need, here are some essentials.
This national park is truly off the grid, with extremely little cell phone service and limited amenities. Be prepared with these items to make the best of your time!
- Layers! Regardless of the time of year you visit the park, you’ll want to pack layers. Sun hat and light clothing for summertime. Here’s my favorite light jacket and medium coat I wear when hiking.
- Satellite communicator. This is a crucial part of visiting national parks. It’s common to be the only one on some hiking trails and roads, so take a two-way satellite communicator as a safety plan when you don’t have cell phone service.
- Hiking shoes and socks. If you’re doing any of these trails, be kind to your body and wear proper gear. These are my favorite hiking shoes and moisture-wicking socks that have come with me on the best hikes in Mt Rainier, Glacier National Park hikes, and so many more hiking destinations.
- Trekking poles. There to assist you with inclines and declines, these trekking poles are my favorite. And bonus – they make hiking fun for kids, too.
- Hiking backpack. Carry all your gear with a backpack that works like magic, taking the weight off your shoulders. My husband and I love our Osprey backpacks and take them on every hiking adventure.
- Bear spray. Take this with you and have it on your body at all times. Bears are no joke, so learn bear safety and pack bear spray. This is the bear spray I took to Kings Canyon. Note: if you’re flying into the area, you’ll have to purchase it before going to the park because you can’t fly with it in carry-on or checked luggage.
- Bug spray and sunscreen. The flies, mosquitos and gnats can be relentless near bodies of water, especially late summer and early fall so wear bug spray. And of course, don’t forget about sunscreen, especially in the summertime.
- Water shoes. If you’re traveling to the park in summer or early fall, taking a dip in the water is so refreshing! Pack your water shoes and lightweight towel.
- Collapsible cooler. Perfect for road trips and scenic drives, this collapsible cooler will keep extra water and food cold during your time in the park. Folds down for easy storage and travel, too.
- Food and snacks. With limited options in the park, be sure to pack more than you think you’ll need, especially if you’re going hiking. High protein snacks like trail mix and beef jerky are great options!
And as always, make sure you have more than enough water. The water filling stations are open seasonally, so plan ahead. Fill a few reusable water bottles or your hydration bladder for your hiking backpack.
Geesh let’s get to it already…here’s the guide to the best activities in the park!
Things to do in Kings Canyon National Park
Oversized trees and canyons, waterfalls and hiking trails. So much to see and do in Kings Canyon. Let’s start with some of the park highlights!
1. General Grant Tree
When you think of massive Sequoia Trees, you’re probably thinking about a Sequoia National Park visit. But this sister park doesn’t have the tallest Sequoia tree – it’s home is in Kings Canyon!
In fact, there are 4 groves of Sequoia Trees in Kings Canyon, one of which is home to the largest Sequoia Tree in the world – General Grant Tree.
General Grant Tree stands at a massive 267 feet tall – and continuing to grow, this tree is certainly supersized!
The path to General Grant Tree is one of the most popular spots in the entire park, and for good reason. A fully paved and accessible path, the entire loop that takes you to the tree and neighboring trees is just 0.7 miles.
Kids especially love this area, as there’s quite a bit of interactive elements during the trail. Old cabins and yes, even a hollow Sequoia tree to walk through!
It’s a must see and one of the best things to do in Kings Canyon National Park!
2. Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (a favorite on this list of things to do in Kings Canyon National Park)
The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is a must-do in the park! Don’t just stop at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center and see the General Grant Tree.
Taking a drive through North America’s deepest canyon is a spectacular experience. There are many lookouts and things to do along the 50-mile drive, many of which are in this guide to the best things to do in Kings Canyon National Park.
Be sure to take your time, and allow 2 hours for driving the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. If you plan to hike or spend time in Hume Lake, add in extra time. To be safe, you could consider this a full day trip to see all the sights along the way.
Note: Kings Canyon Scenic Byway past Hume Lake closes for the season from mid-November through late April each year.
3. Panoramic Point Overlook Trail
If you’re looking for the best hikes in Kings Canyon, this is it. In fact, I’d barely consider it a hike. It’s more like a stroll on a paved hill! 🤣
Coming in at 0.5 miles with just under 100 feet of incline, this ‘hike’ provides minimal effort for spectacular views. The view at the top is beautiful!
The stunning Sierra Nevada Mountains are beautiful from Panoramic Point. You’ll see Hume Lake at a distance, which is fun, too.
Word of caution: the road to the parking lot is extremely narrow, and really only fits one car across. Be prepared to back up and rearrange as needed for traffic to and from Panoramic Point Kings Canyon.
4. Kings Canyon Visitor Center at Grant Grove
The Kings Canyon Visitor Center at Grant Grove is one of the first stops in the park for most visitors. It’s a spot for learning about the park offerings, grabbing a national park passport stamp, watch an informational video about the regions of the park, and more.
Talk with park rangers on road and trail closures. Kids will love looking through souvenirs and grabbing a snack to enjoy at the outdoor dining tables. There’s a restaurant and market nearby, too.
As the name suggests, this visitor center is located near Grant Grove, one of the most popular areas within Kings Canyon National Park.
Note: many amenities are offered seasonally during the warmest months of the year.
5. Roaring River Falls (a fun spot on this list of best things to do in Kings Canyon National Park)
On the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, between Roads End and the Cedar Grove Visitor Center is a waterfall just off the road. Round trip from the parking lot, it’s just 0.3 miles, so not really a hike at all.
And good news: the paved path is fully accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, making it a popular stop along the Kings Canyon Scenic Drive.
The Roaring River Falls flow the fullest during the spring and summer months, and it’s actually quite loud! You’ll definitely know when you’re approaching the falls from the road.
If you’re wondering what to do in Kings Canyon with kids, this is it! Kids and adults will like climbing and playing on the large boulders near the falls. Just use caution and stay out of the water, as it rolls very fast and ferociously down the rocks to the river body.
6. Roads End
Just like the title, Roads End is exactly what it says – the end of the road into the canyon of Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. So after you drive through the massive canyon walls for 50 miles and along the river on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, you’ll reach a dead end.
This is where you can explore a few features of the park, along with some spectacular views of the jagged peaks you’ll see throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Roads End has a ranger station, and basic amenities like restrooms, water bottle filling station and trash/recycling bins.
This area is popular as an access point for hiking trails that lead out of the canyon, like Mist Falls and Paradise Valley.
7. Mist Falls
If you’re looking for a fun waterfall hike that’s a bit of a challenge, then Mist Falls is for you!
Mist Falls is 7.8 miles total, with 875 feet in elevation gain, rated as moderate. The trail is mostly flat until the last mile leading to the waterfall, then the incline can get intense leading up to the 100-foot waterfall.
I didn’t get to complete this hike, but it’s on my list for my next visit to Kings Canyon. The waterfall views look so rewarding! Wear the right hiking boots and trekking poles for this one based on the length of the hike and terrain.
You’ll hike through various landscapes, from marshy grass to exposed granite and valley views, there’s so much to see here.
Note: this hike is notorious for seeing bears. Keep your bear spray handy.
More things to do in Kings Canyon National Park
Can you believe this list?! Such an incredible park. Let’s keep going to see what else there is to experience.
8. Zumwalt Meadow Trail (one of the easiest and best hikes in Kings Canyon)
Near Roads End in Kings Canyon National Park, the Zumwalt Meadow Trail is an easy stroll to see beautiful meadow views. Nestled near Kings River, this fun hike is an easy 1.5 mile walk through relatively easy terrain and a boardwalk.
Zumwalt Meadow Trail is nice on a hot summer day because it’s so shaded. The sounds of the river are incredibly soothing as you make your way along the trail, too. Just be sure to layer on the bug spray for this one, especially in late summer and fall.
There’s plenty of parking at the trailhead, which is a nice bonus.
Note: at the time of publication this trail is no longer a loop, but an out-and-back based on the parts of the boardwalk are washed out.
9. Knapp’s Cabin
Situated along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is a sign and pull off for Knapp’s Cabin. It’s this little one-room structure, built by a wealthy businessman in California in the 1925, George Knapp.
George enjoyed trips to this part of Kings Canyon for fishing and camping, so he built this cabin to store supplies prior to the establishment of the national park in 1940. It’s the oldest structure in the park, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The cabin is located near a pull-off and small parking area. You can even walk inside it, as it’s actually in great condition. The setting where the cabin is located is fabulous, with incredible views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
10. Cedar Grove Village and Kings Canyon Visitor Center
One of the main stops and best things to do in Kings Canyon National Park is to visit Cedar Grove Village. If you’re making your way through the canyon, this is one of the stops full of amenities.
You’ll find restrooms, an amphitheater for events and campground. Check out the Cedar Grove Market and Gift Shop for light snacks and souvenirs.
There’s even a Cedar Grove Hotel, one of the best options for staying inside Kings Canyon National Park.
11. Muir Rock (one of the most popular things to do in Kings Canyon National Park)
If you’ve ever heard the quote “the mountains are calling and I must go” by John Muir, then you’ll love this spot.
John Muir, one of the key people responsible for the establishment of the National Park System, once sat on this very rock, which is crazy to think of!
Muir Rock is located near Roads End, and is even possible for swimming during the summer when river levels are low. It’s a well-defined area with signs to park and see Muir Rock.
12. Lewis Creek Trail
If you’re looking for a trail that shows you a ton of scenery with a great challenge, then perhaps the Lewis Creek Trial is for you. Often used by backpackers, this trail is for the experienced.
The Lewis Creek Trail is 9.8 miles, and rated as difficult. There’s an overnight campsite located at 5.5 miles and requires a wilderness permit to be reserved in advance.
The Lewis Creek Trail goes past the beautiful Frypan Meadow and climbs through Kennedy Pass, at an elevation of 10,820 feet. It’s quite spectacular!
As with any of the hiking trails in Kings Canyon National Park, be sure to be prepared with the right gear and bear spray!
13. Hume Lake
This is one of those times where the things to do in Kings Canyon National Park actually deviates from the national park lines. Located along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, there’s a turn off to Hume Lake.
Technically located within Sequoia National Forest, Hume Lake has so many things to do in itself, you could base yourself here for a weekend of exploring Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
Activities at Hume Lake include kayaking and paddleboarding, fishing, hiking, biking and just enjoying being in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s also one of the best spots to stay in the area with pets, since it’s dog friendly!
If you want to stay overnight or rent gear, book it far in advance. It’s a popular spot for weekenders and those escaping the city, so be prepared for limited parking. Good thing Hume Lake is a very walkable area!
Kings Canyon National Park things to do – continued
You’ve seen hiking and scenic drives, big trees and fun little stops. Routing out this list with a few more of my favorite activities within the park.
14. Grizzly Falls (a favorite on this list of things to do in Kings Canyon National Park)
One of the most popular things to do in Kings Canyon National Park is a stop at Grizzly Falls. This scenic waterfall flows heaviest in late spring and early summer, and starts to dwindle down as the end of the snow is melting off the Sierra Nevadas.
Located 4.5 miles west of Cedar Grove Visitor Center, this is a great stop for a picnic lunch or to stretch your legs. You could spend 5 minutes or an hour here, enjoying the sounds and sights of Grizzly Falls.
15. Big Stump
These Sequoia Trees that have lived for thousands of years have met their greatest challenge: humans. With the creation of Sequoia National Park in 1890, it protected 6 groves of these giant trees.
Unfortunately, the Sequoia grooves within Kings Canyon weren’t yet protected as the Kings Canyon National Park wasn’t established until 1940. And because travel was difficult in the 1800’s, people didn’t believe trees as large as the Sequoias existed.
A giant Sequoia Tree measuring 16 feet in diameter was cut down and put on display in New York and London to prove their existence. Today, you can see the Big Stump in Kings Canyon National Park, which even has a ladder that allows you to climb on top of the stump.
16. Overlooks at Kings River
To see the river that’s helped to carve this canyon for centuries is pretty amazing. As you drive the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, at first you’ll see and hear the river from above.
As you descend more than 2700 feet through the canyon, you’ll be driving along Kings River at the base of the canyon, as you make your way to Roads End.
Along the way you’ll catch glimpses of Kings River, then the road will follow alongside the river. There are just a few stops to look at the river. If you can, spend a bit of time on the riverbank and let the sound of river water soothe your soul!
17. Boyden Cavern
This is a really fun activity, and one of the most unique things to do in Kings Canyon National Park. Located along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, you’ll want to plan this activity in advance. Unfortunately tours were sold out during my time in the park, so I’ll have to book it further out next trip!
A Boyden Cavern tour is 45 minutes to 1 hour, and takes you 750 feet into the cave. You’ll see stalagmites, stalactites, pendants and other cool sights within the cave.
Reviews show it’s kind of a steep walk up to the cave entrance, but it only takes a few minutes. You’ll want to wear good hiking shoes with traction, as the surfaces within the cave can be tricky to navigate.
18. Generals Highway (another must-see on this list of things to do in Kings Canyon)
Connecting Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, this highway is a must-do. Hopefully you have time to explore both parks if you’re in the area, and this highway is the way to see them both.
While many people visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon in one day, you’ll really want at least 2 days to see the highlights of each, even more if you can spare them.
Generals Highway is a must-do because of the variety of scenery you’ll get! From beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to driving just inches away from massive Sequoia Trees, this is a must-see!
19. Yucca Point Trail
If you’re up for an adventure, take the Yucca Point Trail down into the base of the canyon. This 3.4 mile out-and-back hike takes you deep into the canyon base, to the bank of the Kings River.
Witness amazing canyon views as you descend to the river, and a 3-tiered waterfall to top it off! Then, be prepared to climb the 1,122 feet back out of the canyon to return to your vehicle.
Be sure to wear proper hiking shoes and trekking poles for this one. Because it’s more remote and less traveled, carry your satellite communicator as a back-up. This trail is exposed and can be overgrown, so be sure to wear a sun hat, sunscreen, long pants and plenty of water.
Note: there’s only a few parking spaces near the trailhead. If it’s full, park further down the road (adding mileage to your hike) or come back after another activity on this list.
20. Ice cream at Kings Canyon Campground
This is a fun and unexpected stop in Kings Canyon. RV and tent camping is available if you’re looking to stay in an area with awesome canyon views. But that’s not why it’s included on this list.
You can get ice cream in the heart of Kings Canyon, along the scenic byway! So this is one of the best things to do in Kings Canyon National Park for kids or if you’re looking for a cool, refreshing treat on a hot day.
The Kings Canyon Campground has a little convenience store with snacks, ice cream and even gas. I wouldn’t recommend to fill up your tank as the prices are high, but if you just need a few gallons it’s a place for it.
21. Kings Canyon Overlook (another favorite on this list of things to do in Kings Canyon National Park)
Saved the best for last! This is by far one of the best things to do in Kings Canyon National Park!
The Kings Canyon Overlook is located along Generals Highway. If you visit Sequoia National Park then come to Kings Canyon, you’ll pass this overlook.
However, if you plant to just visit Kings Canyon, entering from Highway 180 from Fresno, you’ll want to add this to your itinerary. It’s located to the southeast of the main park entrance.
There’s quite a few parking spots and a sign indicating the overlook. Hop out of your vehicle and check out the views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Kings Canyon. Such a beautiful sight to see!
Things to do in Kings Canyon National Park
Well, there you have it! With so many amazing things to do in Kings Canyon National Park, this is one of my favorite California parks, and one worth spending some serious time in.
Where will you start? Hiking? Scenic drives? Massive Trees? Hope you had fun looking through this guide to help you plan your trip!
Let’s recap that list again, in a much quicker fashion…
What to do in Kings Canyon
- General Grant Tree
- Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
- Panoramic Point Overlook Trail
- Kings Canyon Visitor Center at Grant Grove
- Roaring River Falls
- Roads End
- Mist Falls
- Zumwalt Meadow Trail
- Knapp’s Cabin
- Cedar Grove Village
- Muir Rock
- Lewis Creek Trail
- Hume Lake
- Grizzly Falls
- Big Stump
- Overlooks at Kings River
- Boyden Cavern
- Generals Highway
- Yucca Point Trail
- Ice cream at Kings Canyon Campground
- Kings Canyon Overlook
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