We arrived in Kings Canyon National Park after five days in Yosemite. Yosemite is one of the most visited National Parks in the USA. What most people don’t realize, is that south of Yosemite are several of the most gorgeous places in the country, that receive a fraction of the number of visitors. This means the roads are less crowded, you can walk trails without having to dodge bikes or wait for people to let you pass by, and campsites are more serene and less often full.
Just south of Yosemite are Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, along with several specific groves of Sequoia trees deemed national monuments. The majority of the parks are at altitude, with most of the good campsites above 6000ft. We camped for three nights in Kings Canyon NP at 7500ft!
The weather was hot and super dry down in Kings Canyon, and we saw very few cars on the road while we were there (though it was mid-week and early in the summer season). The canyon itself was idyllic and not to be missed. Since we are traveling with Duke and Spike, we take turns going on adventures while one of us hangs with the dogs. It’s a relaxing routine. While we would prefer to go on hikes and bike rides together, there is something nice about sitting at a scenic overlook or picnic area with the dogs, reading or just watching things go by. It is forced down-time and something we actually look forward to now.
We found a great rest area at the base of a waterfall to hang out at while we took turns riding the Kings Canyon Road all the way to the end and back. The scenery was full of native old growth trees, occasional meadows dotted with wildflowers and a strong flowing creek lining the entire canyon floor. The road quality was pretty good, but our lack of cycling fitness meant the twenty mile round-trip ride (with plenty of rolling hills in both directions)…left us whipped, and with sore backsides!
We packed up our campsite and visited two of the largest trees in the world, the General Grant and General Sherman Giant Sequoia’s! They are separated by an eighty mile road that winds its way through old growth forest dotted with larger than life trees.
The General Sherman tree is deemed the largest tree in the world as measured by total volume. Some trees are taller. Others are wider. But General Sherman has more overall mass of wood than any other. It is almost two thousand years old and some of its branches are thicker than you are tall!
The most amazing part of Sequoia NP is driving around and seeing the big trees dotted throughout the forest. Their cinnamon colored bark and larger than life appearance defy imagination.
From here we wound our way south, aiming to drive up the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range. This was a spur of the moment decision, that ended up being one of the highlights of our trip so far. Neither of us thought there was a lot to see in the Eastern Sierra’s (we were very very wrong!) but excessive heat in the Utah National Parks (Bryce Canyon, Arches, Zion, Canyonlands) meant that we wanted to bide our time in more temperate zones. We thought about driving up quickly to Mammoth Lakes or Tahoe, not expecting much to see along the way….just bland desert highways and bald hills. We were in for a big surprise.
More on our Eastern Sierra adventures in the next few posts.