giant sequoia tree roots

One Day in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

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Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks cover over 1,300 square miles and are known for their giant redwoods and sequoias. These trees can live up to 2,000 years and reach heights of over 300 feet!

No wonder people flock from all over to visit these two parks!

One of the biggest questions people ask is: “Can you see Sequoia and Kings Canyon in one day?”

The answer is YES!

Want to know how you can visit both of these National Parks in one day? Keep on reading! This post recounts how my friend and I saw Kings Canyon and Sequoia on our drive back from Yosemite.

(Make sure you read the FAQ section at the end to help you plan your visit!)

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase through a link, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read full disclosure here.

"one day in sequoia & kings canyon national park" written below 3 pictures from the parks

One Day in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Driving through Kings Canyon and Sequoia was a last-minute decision for us, so we weren’t able to plan well and ended up missing some awesome sights.

Don’t be like us!

Plan your visit with Fodor’s National Parks of the West book and Moon’s Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon Travel Guide.

Driving Through King’s Canyon National Park

wooden sign hanging from wooden post saying "Kings canyon national park"

Kings Canyon National Park Map

map of sequoia and kings canyon national parks with red lines depicting the roads

General Grant Tree

Coming down from Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon was first on our list. After making a quick stop at the visitor center, we hiked the easy 0.5-mile paved Grant Grove Trail loop to see the General Grant Tree!

green map of general grant tree trail with dotted green line outlining the trail

Pictures definitely do NOT do these giant trees justice.

I had seen plenty of photos of the massive trees in these parks. But it wasn’t until I was face to face with them that I was able to appreciate their true size and beauty.

large tall sequoia tree with wooden sign in front saying "general grant"

Coming in at 267 feet tall and roughly 29 feet wide, the General Grant Tree was named after Ulysses S. Grant in 1867. This tree is HUGE and it was practically impossible to get the entire tree in one photo without being far away and getting a ton of people in the photo.

Fallen Monarch

Fallen Monarch and the Gamblin Cabin are also on the Grant Grove Trail. Fallen Monarch is a hollow, fallen sequoia that settlers and Cavalry horses used long ago. The Gamblin Cabin is a replica of a pioneer cabin used for Cavalry storage. Being able to walk through part of a hollow tree makes you realize how massive these trees can get!

hollowed out fallen tree with vertical wooden posts as if to hold it up

Panorama Point

For great views of Kings Canyon, next head to Panorama Point. The Panoramic Point Trail is about 0.4 miles and is, as the name states, a great panoramic view of the park.

green trail map of panoramic trail. blue dotted line depicts the trail

Big Stump

Coming back east then south on Hwy 180, there is an easy/moderate 1.5-mile trail called Big Stump Loop. This trail has a huge tree stump that is a great photo opportunity.

trail map of big stump loop. blue dotted line depicts the trail.
Screenshot of Big Stump Trail taken from the REI National Park app.

Unfortunately, we missed this since we didn’t have much time to plan ahead. Driving back through these two National Parks was a random, last-minute decision. After hiking the short trail to General Grant Tree and seeing a few viewpoints (we were on a time constraint), we continued on Generals Highway on into Sequoia National Park.

Related: How to Spend a Day Driving Through Joshua Tree National Park

Driving Through Sequoia National Park

wooden sign with native american face on left sign. sign reads" Sequoia national park"

Sequoia National Park Map

map of sequoia national park. red lines depict the roads. symbols show where bathrooms, telephone, campsites, etc are located

General Sherman Tree

First up in Sequoia was the General Sherman Tree, which is over 270 feet tall and 36.5 feet wide! It’s weird to think that my entire townhome could fit into the base of this tree.

The trail to see General Sherman Tree is easily marked. It is also paved and wheelchair accessible. The trail has several interesting ecology signs and displays along the way.

Although it was only 0.8 miles, it was quite a steep hike back up the paved trail. The trail has benches along the way for stops and rest breaks. Which was perfect since I had blisters all over my feet from hiking Upper Yosemite Falls. 

sherman tree trailhead sign: wooden sign with white letters hanging from wooden post
tall sequoia tree

The line to get a picture in front of the General Sherman Tree was insane long!!! We opted not to wait, and to just zoom in on the tree from a different angle. Which worked out nicely because from farther away, I was able to get the entire tree in the shot!

Giant Sequoias

Also on the trail was a cross-section of a giant sequoia that was quite impressive in width.

cross section of a giant sequoia. two girls standing with arms spread out to display the width of the tree

Moro Rock

Unfortunately, we missed the turnoff for Tunnel Log (the log you see people driving through). Maybe next time. Also, as you are driving towards the south entrance of the park, you can see Moro Rock. This is a nice, different view after looking at gigantic trees all day.

You can hike to the top of Moro Rock via the strenuous Moro Rock Trail (near Tunnel Log). It has over 400 stone steps and I’ve heard it has a very rewarding view. However, after basically hiking stairs for 3-4 hours straight on the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, this was not on our list of things to do during this trip.

dome shape rock surrounded by trees

The trail down to the General Sherman Tree and the easy Big Trees Trail were the only trails we hiked in Sequoia National Park. We were tired from our Yosemite endeavors and were limited on time because we had to be back in San Diego that night.

"How to Visit Yosemite National Park in TWO Days" on a light blue background

Even though we didn’t get much time to hike, driving through King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks was definitely worth it. These parks are not near as “fancy” as Yosemite. There were not many places to eat or shop (other than the visitor center & a few lodges). And many of the toilets along the scenic stops were pit toilets.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon FAQs

When do the parks open?

The entrances to the parks are open 24/7. The hours of the visitor centers vary by season, so check before you go!

What is the best time of year to visit?

If you want to be able to see as much as possible, opt for late spring through fall. Certain roads are commonly closed during the wintertime due to snow. That being said, it is beautiful when covered in snow!

What are the nearest towns?

The Kings Canyon visitor center in Grant Grove is about 1hr 15min from Fresno and about 1hr 20min from Visalia.

The Sequoia National Park visitor center in Three Rivers is a little over 30min from Visalia and is a little over an hour from Fresno.

How much does it cost to get into the parks?

  • $35/ car
  • $20/ foot or bicycle
  • $30/ motorcycle

Each pass covers both parks and is valid for 7 days.

  • You will definitely want to wear good shoes when walking these trails. Pine needles were everywhere!! I literally live in my Asics and switch to my Salomon boots when doing longer hikes.
  • Bring a camera with a wide-angle lens! Trying to capture these insanely tall trees proved to be quite difficult! I love my Canon Rebel T6 with my Sigma Art Series 24-105mm lens.
  • Of course, bring plenty of snacks and water.
  • If you are visiting during cooler weather, you may want to bring a light jacket. The shade under these giant trees can feel cool.

Hope you enjoyed reading about this trip!

Here are some more pics of those giant trees (and a large pine cone!):

woman standing between two large redwoods
woman standing in the opening of a giant sequoia tree with large roots
large sequoia behind wood fence
General Grant Tree
tall pinecone

What’s your favorite hike in Sequoia and Kings Canyon? Let me know in the comments below!

Make sure you read about my trip to Yosemite National Park and my hike to Upper Yosemite Falls!

Want another California National Park you can visit in one day? Check out my post on Joshua Tree!

I hope you enjoyed reading about my one day in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks! If you liked it, share it!

melissa of dogwoods & driftwood travel blog
"how to spend a day driving through sequoia national park" with a picture of the national park sign

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  1. How long did you spend between the two parks? We too are adding this on as a last day excursion to an already long trip. Just wondering how long the drive (without much hiking) is just to say we drove through. Thanks!

    1. Yes that’s basically what we did! I would say expect to spend 4-6 hours in the parks, depending on how much you like to pull over, take pics, do short hikes, etc. From Grant Grove Village (in Kings Canyon), driving through to Sequoia and exiting near Three Rivers is a 1hr 45 min drive. Hope that helps!

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