When you arrive at the parks, be sure to get a copy of the park newspaper for the latest information on facilities and activities. Depending on how much time you have, here are a few activity suggestions.
Be sure to check with the current edition of the park newspaper for additional ways to safely experience these gigantic landscapes. View accessibility information. Check schedules for free ranger-led nature programs and activities.
If you have only a few hours:
Entering via Hwy 198: Stop in Ash Mountain at the Foothills Visitor Center to learn about California's fascinating and diverse oak chaparral ecology. (In North America, only the Central American rainforest has a richer array of plants and animals than California oak chaparral.) Stop at the Giant Forest Museum. From the main parking lot, walk down to the General Sherman Tree, the largest living tree on earth. Allow 20 minutes each way for the walk plus your time at the tree.
Entering via Hwy 180: Stop in Grant Grove Village at the newly redesigned Kings Canyon Visitor Center and see the orientation film. Take 20 minutes to see the General Grant Tree in Grant Grove or an hour to see the General Sherman Tree in Giant Forest. Stop at the Museum in Giant Forest.
Either direction: Allow at least two hours for the drive time between entrance stations on the Generals Highway loop (red road on map at left)—plus at least another two hours for your activities.
If you have a day:
Entering via Hwy 198: Stop in Ash Mountain at the Foothills Visitor Center and buy your ticket for a Crystal Cave Tour. Allow at least two hours drive time on the Generals Highway loop from one entrance station to the other—plus 3 1/2 hours for the cave tour. Cave tours start in early May.
Entering via Hwy 180: Stop in Lodgepole Village at the Visitor Center and buy your ticket for a Crystal Cave Tour. Allow at least two hours drive time on the Generals Highway loop from one entrance station to the other—plus 3 1/2 hours for the cave tour. Cave tours start in early May.
Either way: If you prefer to stay outside, go on a ranger walk. In Giant Forest, stand among the giant sequoias on the Big Trees Trail. Or in Lodgepole Village, walk up to Tokopah Falls. If you're hankering for more, in Giant Forest look for wildlife big and small around Crescent Meadow. Once the snow melts in Giant Forest (usually by May), climb Moro Rock or hike out to Eagle View.
If you have a couple of days:
Entering via Hwy 198: On your way up to see the General Sherman Tree near Wolverton and the Giant Forest Museum, stop at Hospital Rock to see the Native American pictographs and grinding stones.
Entering via Hwy 180: Hike into Redwood Canyon (just south of Grant Grove Village), home to the world's largest grove of sequoias. Ski until the snow melts, then hike or drive the road to Panoramic Point (just east of Grant Grove Village). Stand in awe of snow-mantled High Sierra.
Either direction: Ask at a visitor center for a Junior Ranger Program booklet. Camp in one of park's open campgrounds. Attend campfire programs. Hike the Congress Trail in Giant Forest or Big Baldy Trail 8 miles east of Grant Grove Village.
If you have a week or more:
Spend a few days exploring one of the more remote parts of these spectacular parks.
Take Hwy 180 into the Kings Canyon—a stunning mountain drive that usually opens in mid-April—and visit Cedar Grove Village. From Grant Grove Village to the Kings Canyon, allow 1 1/2 hours each way plus however long you stay.
Or take The Mineral King Road to Atwell Mill or Mineral King—usually open by Memorial Day. From Ash Mountain, each way allow 1 1/4 hours to Atwell Mill and 1 1/2 hours to Mineral King—plus however long you stay.
Better yet, stop at one of the visitor centers for a wilderness permit to see the splendid wilderness of these parks.
For additional activity ideas, check the park newspaper or ask at one of the visitor centers.