A man walks down a steep stone stairway

Kirke Wrench

You are responsible for your safety.

Natural areas present hazards. Cold temperatures, icy or uneven ground, wild animals, biting insects, and changing weather all pose dangers. Rocks roll, trees topple, and limbs drop without warning. People create other hazards with campfires, traffic, snowplay, and poor decisions.

The National Park Service works to reduce risks, but your safety is in your own hands. Keep alert. Read warnings and ask a ranger for advice.

Falling Objects
Branches and entire trees may fall at any time. A pine cone falling from a great height can be dangerous. Rocks may tumble from above you. Watch for potential hazards while you are out exploring the parks.

Trees and branches have been falling frequently, possibly due to the drought and beetle damage.Branches may fall whether or not they appear dead, even when there is no wind, so avoidance is the safest response.

  • Don't linger under dead, cracked, or broken branches.
  • Watch/listen for falling trees! Run if you hear cracks or snapping from tree roots, trunks, or branches (know that sometimes there is no sound, and very little time to react).
  • Report falling branches or trees to a ranger.

Dangerous Rivers!
Most park deaths result from drowning in rivers. Many drowning victims were playing near rivers and unexpectedly fell in. Rivers present a far greater danger than lakes or pools. Surfaces may look calm, but strong currents often run below. Be cautious walking near rivers as rocks can be smooth and slippery or shift unexpectedly. Getting out of a cold, swift river is often impossible.

Air Quality
Ozone and other air pollutants are an increasing problem in the parks. Each day, the park issues an air-quality index forecast available in visitor centers. Ozone levels are highest from May-October and peak in late afternoons, and sometimes reach levels rated as unhealthy by state or federal standards and can affect respiratory systems. If the air quality index is poor, consider restricting your activities.

Carbon Monoxide
This odorless, colorless gas can be fatal. Never burn charcoal in closed spaces such as a tent or RV.

Plague, Hantavirus, and Other Diseases
Fleas on rodents can carry plague and deer-mouse feces can carry hantavirus. Avoid walking, camping, or allowing pets near burrows or other rodent activity. Do not feed or touch any wild animals. Tell a ranger if you see a dead rodent. For more information, visit the Center for Disease Control web page.

Biting Insects and Ticks
Ticks are common in foothill and Kings Canyon grasses; check yourself after a walk. Tuck your pant legs into your socks when you walk in these areas to help you to spot them before they get to your skin. Their bite is painless, but a small percentage carry Lyme disease. Remove them carefully with tweezers; seek a doctor's advice.

Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus and other diseases. Human illness is uncommon, but take steps to avoid mosquito bites. Effective repellents include DEET, IR3535, Picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus (Para-menthane-diol); learn before you come about how to use them safely and effectively.

Locations and numbers of insects vary by season and year to year. Be prepared!

This protozoan in lakes and streams causes intestinal upset. Iodine and other chemicals may not be as reliable as heat in killing bacteria and Giardia, but can be effective if used properly. Boil drinking water from waterways for at least 3 minutes.

Poison oak has leaflets in groups of three.
Look for leaflets in groups of three.


Poison Oak
This common shrub grows up to 5,000 feet in elevation. In fall, look for its red leaves and whitish berries. It's bare in winter, and has shiny leaves in groups of three in spring. If you touch any part of it, wash skin and clothes right away.

This life-threatening condition can occur year-round. Stay dry; snack often. If others don't respond to the need for warmer clothes or are stumbling, forgetful, or extremely tired and drowsy, get warm sugary drinks into them immediately. Get them into dry clothing, sleeping bags, and shelter. Keep an eye on children who are wet or cold from snowplay.

Mountain Lions
Cougars roam throughout the parks, but you are unlikely to see one. Attacks are rare, but be aware. Watch children closely; never let them run ahead. Cautiously move away if you find a partially buried animal carcass. If you see a cougar, convince it that you are not prey by trying to appear as large as possible. Don't crouch or try to hide. Don't run; that may trigger pursuit. Pick up children. Hold your ground or back away slowly while facing the cougar. If the cougar acts aggressively, wave your hands, shout, and throw stones or sticks at it. If attacked, fight back! Report any sightings.

A large rattlesnake coiled at the base of a tree
Rattlesnakes can be found at nearly any elevation in these parks but are most common in the foothills.

Donald Quintana


Found in much of these parks, rattlesnakes are especially common in the foothills and near water. Watch where you put your hands and feet! Do not harass or kill them; this is when most bites occur. Bites are rarely lethal, but tissue damage can be severe. If bitten, avoid panic and call a ranger or 911.

Wildlife Watching
These parks offer a great opportunity to see wildlife in their natural setting, but please remember that all animals here are wild. Watch from at least 75 feet (23 meters) away, or 150 feet (46 meters) away from more dangerous animals like bears. Go to the Watching Wildlife page to learn more about how to keep yourself and wildlife safe.

Trail Safety
The exhilaration and empowerment provided by wilderness is due, in part, to its unpredictable nature. Clear blue skies may greet you when you wake, but conditions can change quickly. Make sure you're ready for anything this wild environment might send your way, and review our Trail Safety information.

Lightning is common in central California where storms can start suddenly. As soon as you see dark clouds or lightning or hear thunder, move inside a large building or a vehicle (not a convertible). If safe shelter is not available, crouch down on the ground (don't lie down). Don't stand near large, solitary trees, and avoid being the tallest feature in an area, especially on ridges, on Moro Rock, or in meadows. Stay away from open water, wire fences, and metal railings which can carry lightning from a distance. Be aware that lightning can strike ahead of a coming storm, even when there is blue sky overhead.

Drinking Water
We test the 13 park water systems to ensure that they meet federal and state standards. Annual Consumer Confidence Reports are available. Water fountains and water bottle fill stations are located at visitor centers.

Keep Animals Safe
Pets are vulnerable to wildlife, ticks, and overheating in vehicles. Keep wildlife safe from pets, too.

Illegal Activities
Keep parks safe, natural, and free from illegal activities, including marijuana growing and fireworks! Report suspicious activities by calling 1-888-NPS-CRIME.

Weapons and Firearms in the Parks

Discharge of a firearm or weapon is prohibited within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. As of February 22, 2010, federal law allows people who can legally possess firearms under applicable federal, state, and local laws, to legally possess firearms in this park.

As of January 1, 2013, California law prohibits the open carry of any firearm within the parks. Persons otherwise permitted to possess firearms (in general) may possess a concealed firearm with a valid permit to carry a concealed firearm (CCW) from California. A CCW from another state does not apply.

Weapons (including, but not limited to, BB, Pellet and Paint Guns, Bow/Arrow, Slingshots, Bear Spray and other compressed gas irritant devices) are illegal to possess. Federal law also prohibits firearms in certain facilities in this park; those places are marked with signs at all public entrances. This also applies to concealed firearms with a valid CCW.

It is the responsibility of park visitors to understand and comply with all applicable state, local, and federal firearms laws before entering this park. As a starting point, please visit the State of California Penal Code web site (see Part 6 - Control of Deadly Weapons).

While the law allows visitors to possess firearms, it does not allow for the use of firearms in national parks and does not change existing hunting regulations. Hunting is not allowed in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Last updated: July 26, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271


(559) 565-3341

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