The area of Kings Canyon spans Fresno and Tulare counties. The park was founded in 1890 and was initially named General Grant Park. The name change occurred when more land, including Kings Canyon, was added to the park in 1940. This land added an incredible canyon to the majestic stands of giant sequoias to the park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Kings Canyon National Park provides visitors access to diverse wildlife, natural features, and some of the world’s tallest trees. Experienced hikers find some challenging trails at this park, but that’s not all this park offers. Many spectacular views are accessible, especially along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.
- Location: 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271
- Entrance Fee: $35.00 for vehicles.
- Getting There: Highway 180; fly-in at Fresno International Airport.
- How Long to Stay: 5-7 days; pass valid for seven days.
- Best Time of Year: Late Spring
Is It Worth Visiting Kings Canyon National Park?
One of the best reasons Kings Canyon National Park is worth the visit is the value of your entrance fee. You can use your vehicle, individual, or motorcycle pass across Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and Hume Lake District of Sequoia National Forest.
Both parks contain giant sequoias, some of the tallest trees globally. Kings Canyon is home to the second-largest tree globally, named General Grant. Ride the scenic byway and stop off for sights of wildlife and birds among the giant groves.
Visitors hike from the Grant Grove and Cedar Grove areas on day hikes ranging from highly accessible to rugged.
Kings Canyons is worth the visit, with two distinct areas to explore. Cedar Grove opens from spring to fall, offering a range of hiking from level meadow passages to extreme summit hikes that will take all day.
Grant Grove opens all year round, with some closures due to the weather. People take days exploring each area. Visitors should consider spending a few days in both and might want to add Sequoia National Park to their itinerary.
Kings Canyon National Park Facts
- Age: 1890
- Size: 461,901 acres.
- Named After: The mile-deep Kings Canyon.
- Weather: Warm summer Mediterranean; hot-summer Mediterranean.
What to Do in Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon’s unique landscape makes it an irresistible place to explore and watch wildlife in the park. Visitors learn about this park from visitors, and young travelers participate in the Junior Ranger Program. Lots of options await you at Kings Canyon National Park, such as:
- Grant Grove
- Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
- Watching for Wildlife and Birds
Highlight: General Grant, the world’s second-largest tree.
The Grant Grove region of Kings Canyon provides sights of giant sequoias, including General Grant. Multiple trails for hiking start in this area, though in recent years, some have been closed due to fire damage. This area of the park also hosts some great places to stay. The forested area can also be visited in winter, unlike more remote parts of the park.
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
Highlight: Roaring River Falls
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway takes visitors through the park but offers more than getting people from one place to another. The road has many scenic points and trailheads to stop and explore along this gorgeous stretch of highway.
Watching for Wildlife and Birds
Highlight: Huge variety of animals and birds inhabit the park.
Rare species like Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep and California condors can sometimes be found in the park. If you’re lucky enough to see one of these or other endangered species, let a ranger know about your sighting.
Other creatures in the park are easier to spot. Black bears roam the park along with mule deer and pikas. For the best chance at seeing wildlife, walk quietly on park trails and stay alert for any noises you may hear. Remember to keep a distance away when viewing wildlife.
Reptiles can be found throughout the park as well. Species from pond turtles to rattlesnakes can be found in different park regions. In total, twenty-one species of reptiles reside in the park.
More than two hundred bird species inhabit the park. The bird in this park shares the sky with seventeen species of bats. Look to the sky as the sun sets to catch a glimpse of these creatures.
How to Spend a Day in Kings Canyon National Park
We recommend making the most of the drive through the park for a one-day visit. A tour of the scenic byway takes people through a mountainous landscape with giant trees and plenty of hiking opportunities.
During the morning, check out the Grant Grove area of the park. The first stop is in Grant Grove Village. Check out the Kings Canyon Visitor Center. Here visitors learn about the different park regions and watch a 15-minute movie about the park.
After leaving the visitor’s center, take Grant Tree Road to the General Grant Tree Trail parking area. The paved trail offers sights of notable points like the Gamlin Gabin and the Fallen Monarch, a toppled giant sequoia.
This short path takes people to General Grant, an enormous tree that President Coolidge designated as the Nation’s Christmas tree.
Follow Panoramic Point, just a fifteen-minute drive from Grant’s Grove. Visitors find the Panoramic Point Overlook after a short but moderately challenging hike. From this point, you’ll see the mile-wide Kings Canyon, national forest lands, and mountain peaks.
Head back to Grant Grove Village, where you’ll stop at Grant Grove Restaurant to grab a bite to eat. This spot opens at 11:30 am and serves American food in a casual setting where you can eat outdoors. Despite serving American classics, this restaurant’s menu includes vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.
In the afternoon, head back to Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, which will provide exquisite views as you make your way to the Cedar Grove region of the park. This ride will talk about an hour. In this park region, we recommend the Roaring River Falls trail. Take this paved trail less than a mile long to see a stunning waterfall.
Continue further on the scenic byway to the Zumwalt Meadows Trailhead. Less than a mile long, Hike this trail to see the vast meadows along the Kings River and head through wooded hills.
This will be the last stop of the day, giving you time to head out of the park or to some of the nearby accommodations.
When Is Kings Canyon National Park Open?
Kings Canyon National Park is technically open 24 hours a day. However, certain roads close during the winter or inclement weather. The Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon is inaccessible during the winter.
- Year-round camping and lodging available in Grant Grove
- Road closures due to winter weather
Can You Drive to Kings Canyon National Park?
But bear in mind Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, the only route into the canyon, closes seasonally past the Lake Hume turn-off. Inclement weather also causes additional closures.
Most visitors access the park heading east on Highway 180 from Fresno. Many visitors take Generals Highway to Kings Canyon from Sequoia National Park.
- Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
- Highway 180
- Generals Highway
Where to Stay in Kings Canyon National Park?
Two types of lodging are available year-round in the park, though snow tires may be required in winter. This includes the John Muir Lodge and the Grant Grove Cabins. The Cedar Grove Lodge on the eastern side opens from spring to fall. Other lodges operate outside the park, but the best options are within the park.
- John Muir Lodge
- Grant Grove Cabins
- Cedar Grove Lodge
You’ll have to head out of the park to stay in a more traditional hotel setting. Most options are within two hours of the area.
- Hampton Inn Visalia
- Comfort Inn & Suites Sequoia Kings Canyon
- Best Western Exeter Inn & Suites
Kings Canyon provides seven campgrounds in two different areas of the park. Most are open from spring to fall, but Azalea Campground in the Grant Grove area stays open all year. All the park campgrounds offer beautiful views of the natural landscape.
- Azalea Campground
- Canyon View Campground
- Sheep Creek Campground
Kings Canyon National Park FAQ
What are the dangers in Kings Canyon National Park?
Drowning is the most frequent cause of death in Kings Canyon. Rivers going through the park have strong currents and are quite cold, making it difficult to navigate even for strong swimmers.
Kings Canyon has much wildlife that can threaten visits when proper precautions are taken. Bobcats, mountain lions, black bears, and rattlesnakes live in the park. So watch your step, secure foodstuffs, and stay alert to stay safe.
Mountain terrain can be challenging, whether hiking or driving in the park. Areas recovering from fire damage can be hazardous due to falling trees. Remember to watch out for poisonous plants too.
Can you drive through Kings Canyon National Park?
If you intend to drive through the park to reach the other side, no. You can drive through the park, but the road ends, and you’ll have to turn around.
Kings Canyon’s roads are mountainous but provide beautiful views on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 180). Parts of the route close around mid-November and open the last Friday in April.
Where do you fly into Kings Canyon National Park?
Visitors can use several airports to fly into Kings Canyon National Park. Many people fly into the Fresno Yosemite International Airport. From Fresno, the trip to Kings Canyon National Park is about fifty miles from the park entrance on Highway 180.
Other visitors fly into the Visalia Municipal Airport. Driving from this location takes about an hour and a half to arrive at a park entrance on Highway 198 for Sequoia National Park.
This road continues as Generals Highway north through the park, eventually leading into Kings Canyon National Park.
- Directions & Transportation
- Cedar Grove Trails
- Grant Grove Trails
- Visitors Centers
- Watching Wildlife