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.
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 had 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 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.
Why Visit Kings Canyon National Park in Your 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, frying up the trout you reeled in earlier in the day. Then enjoy an evening around the campfire, viewing spectacular night skies, and retreat to your own bed to rest up for tomorrow’s adventures!
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. Here are some of the highlights.
Grant Grove Village
This small community within the park’s boundaries houses the King Canyon Visitor Center, a market, 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 2nd 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
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 you visit. Here’s a look at 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 just 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
- 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 so choose.
Fly fishing on Lewis Creek, Bubbs Creek or at Hume Lake requires a permit, and the park also offers fishing guide services.
Hume Lake is a great place for boating, with kayak and canoe rentals available.
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 it is 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 recmommend if you’re looking for a true adventure.
When to Visit Kings Canyon National Park
The park is open year round. There are a number of activities offered in any season, from hiking to snowshoeing and rock climbing to cross country skiing. If a winter trip sounds enticing, there are several lodges within Kings Canyon that make it possible to snowshoe right outside your door.
Where RVers Can Stay
Kings Canyon has seven campgrounds. Six of them accept RVs but none have hookups, so be prepared to boondock.
- Grant Grove campgrounds (3) open year-round
- Cedar Grove campgrounds (4) open from early spring to late fall
Getting to and 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 very simple. You will first pass through Grant Grove and then Cedar Cove. The road ends with a loop around Kanawyers.
Mother Nature Approved
Kings Canyon, as the country’s fourth national park, encompasses stunning landscapes, exhilarating activities and places Mother Nature on show for all to enjoy. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, mountain top 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.
Have you ever wanted to go to the Kings Canyon National Park? Leave a comment below.