Welcome to the ultimate Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks 2-day itinerary for families!
In just two days, you can immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring beauty of towering sequoia trees, majestic canyons, and pristine wilderness. This itinerary has been created to ensure you make the most of your limited time, including the most popular attractions as well as lesser-known hidden gems.
From hiking to iconic landmarks like General Sherman Tree and Moro Rock to discovering hidden gems like Zumwalt Meadow, as well as epic activities like driving through a tree, and standing on a giant (and I mean enormous!) tree stump, every moment will be filled with wonder and adventure.
So lace up your hiking boots, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable experience in nature’s wonderland with this epic Sequoia and Kings Canyon 2-day itinerary!
Let’s start exploring!
Day 1: Discovering Kings Canyon National Park
On the first day of your adventure, it’s time to explore the wonders of Kings Canyon National Park.
Kings Canyon is the home to the largest remaining sequoia grove in the world. It is also home to the deepest canyon in the United States (if you thought the deepest was the Grand Canyon, you aren’t alone… but you were wrong!)
One of the best ways to explore Kings Canyon is by following the scenic byway. (Note that the road closes in winter, so make sure you are planning your trip in spring, summer, or fall!)
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
Begin your day on the scenic drive along the 50-mile Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, also known as Highway 180, at the Hume Lake Ranger Station.
Technically, the road takes 2-3 hours to complete, but you need to factor in much more time for all the stops!
There are several pullouts along the way, allowing you to stop and fully appreciate the beauty of this natural wonder.
One of those pull-offs is Kings Canyon Overlook, which actually overlooks Sequoia National Park. But the main reason to stop here is to see all the rock cairns stacked here – it’s a pretty cool, unique sight to see!
Big Stump Trail to Mark Twain Stump
Head east, and make your first major stop at Big Stump. Follow the trailhead to the impressive Mark Twain Stump. There are stairs to climb up onto the stump, so you can really appreciate the massive size.
Many people miss this spot, and when we visited, we were the only people on this trail, and I am so happy that we didn’t miss it because it blew our minds!!! Just look at how tiny they look on this trunk!
Walk through General Grant Grove
Your next stop is at General Grant Grove. Stop and walk along the General Grant Trail to see the General Grant Tree – the third largest tree in the world (2nd largest sequoia tree). It is also known as “America’s Christmas Tree”.
Along the trail, there is also the Fallen Monarch Tree that you can walk through the middle of. It was hollowed out by a fire, and fell more than 300 years ago.
See an impressive waterfall and have lunch
Back on the scenic byway, make the impressive 80-foot Grizzly Falls your next stop. It’s less than a half-mile hike to the falls, and there is a picnic table, which is the perfect place to stop for lunch.
Take in the beautiful views
Continue your journey to Zumwalt Meadow, a hidden gem filled with wildflowers. Here, there are beautiful views of the mountains and Kings River.
Turn around at Road’s End, where you will see Muir Rock, where John Muir gave speeches about the importance of protecting natural lands.
Where to stay in Kings Canyon National Park
As the day comes to a close, it’s time to find a place to spend the night. (Actually, I hope you aren’t like us, and you planned this ahead of time!)
Kings Canyon National Park offers a variety of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs.
However, there are many more options in the area if those don’t work for you.
The Grant Grove Village offers cabins and a campground near the iconic General Grant Tree.
For a more luxurious experience, consider staying at the John Muir Lodge, which offers comfortable rooms and a cozy atmosphere.
Several campgrounds are scattered throughout the parks, some being reservation-only. We, unfortunately, didn’t plan ahead and luckily found a camping spot at Big Meadow Campground.
Whichever option you choose (unless it’s a first-come, first-serve campground), make sure you book well in advance so you aren’t scrambling for a spot like we did!
Day 2: Exploring Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is a true gem of California, renowned for its magnificent sequoia trees, some of which are among the largest and oldest living beings on Earth.
This is one of our favorite National Parks because it just felt magical. Like, truly, you just felt like a tiny ant next to the amazing trees, and I cannot wait to go back and see more of this area! This is a park you have to see with your own eyes, because photos will never do it justice!
Visit the General Sherman Tree
Start the 2nd day of your Sequoia and Kings Canyon 2-day itinerary by visiting the awe-inspiring General Sherman Tree- the largest tree in the world by volume.
This is the most popular attraction at the park. There is usually a crowd around this tree, as well as a line for a photo op, so getting there first thing would be ideal to avoid major crowds!
There’s a parking lot at the start of the trail, but if you come on a holiday weekend, or almost anytime during peak season in the afternoon, expect to wait for a parking spot.
The trail to the tree is a paved, 1-mile loop with lots of stairs. There are benches along the way to take a little break if needed.
Standing in the presence of this majestic giant is a humbling experience.
Walk The Congress Trail
After you get a photo, take a leisurely stroll through the “Giant Forest” – home to thousands of sequoias – and just marvel at their sheer size and beauty.
The Congress Trail is a popular choice, offering a peaceful and scenic walk among towering giants. It starts near the Sherman Tree and is a paved 2-mile loop.
Explore the Giant Forest Museum
Next, head to the Giant Forest Museum to learn all about the park’s trees. Here, you also will learn the difference between California coastal redwoods and the giant sequoias, and how to identify trees.
If you have time, take an easy walk around Round Meadow, viewing the trail’s exhibits, which tell the story of the park.
Take a break for lunch
For pizza, sandwiches, or salads, head to the Wuksachi Pizza Deck.
If you’re not in the mood for pizza, The Lodgepole Café is a good spot to grab a quick meal. They serve burgers and hotdogs, grilled chicken or fish sandwiches, and salads, as well as vegan and gluten-free options.
Some of their items are grab-and-go, so they would be perfect to bring along with you for a picnic.
Visit Tharp’s Log
Tharp’s Log is a hollowed-out, fallen sequoia log in the Giant Forest. The log was made into a cabin in 1861 by Hale Tharp, which you can visit still today!
Hale Tharp was the first non-Native American to live in the Giant Forest, and he was visited here by John Muir in 1875.
Drive through Tunnel Log
On your way to Moro Rock, along Crescent Meadow Road in the Giant Forest, you can drive through a fallen giant sequoia tree!
Usually, there is a line of cars waiting for this photo op. To make it as quick as possible (so as not to annoy other visitors) when we got a few cars away from the tree, I jumped out and stood along the side of the road to get the photo. As they passed through, I jumped back into the car.
Hike to Moro Rock
For those seeking a more challenging adventure, consider hiking to Moro Rock.
This granite dome offers stunning panoramic views of the park. There are over 350 steps to the top, so it’s not particularly easy. There are handrails along the way, so it’s pretty safe, but you still have to keep an eye on your kids because the drop-offs are very steep.
The effort is worth it once you reach the summit and take in the views of the surrounding mountains and forests.
Plan for about an hour total to hike up and then back down.
If you find yourself here late in the day, it’s supposed to be a great spot to see the sunset (and sunrise as well!)
If time allows, continue your hike to Crescent Meadow, a picturesque spot known for its wildflower displays and resident wildlife.
Dinner at The Peaks Restaurant
The Peaks Restaurant is a good dinner option. They offer burgers, steaks, pasta, salads, and more! Expect to spend $15 to $40 per person on average here.
Sunset Hike to Sunset Rock
If it’s not already too late, and you’re feeling extra adventurous, take a hike to Sunset Rock for a popular sunset viewing area. It’s an easy 1.4-mile round-trip trail through a conifer forest.
Parking is limited, so think about taking the free shuttle from the Giant Forest Museum if you are visiting in peak season.
Where to stay in Sequoia National Park
After a day of exploration, it’s again to rest and recharge.
Because the parks are both connected, you could just stay both nights in the same place. But just in case, here are some other options.
Sequoia National Park offers several camping options, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature.
As stated above, Lodgepole Campground is a popular choice, offering easy access to hiking trails and the Kaweah River.
If you prefer a more secluded experience, consider camping at Dorst Creek Campground, nestled among tall trees and offering a peaceful atmosphere.
Remember to book your campsite in advance, especially during peak season!
Just .25 miles from the entrance of Sequoia National Park, overlooking the Kaweah River, is the Gateway Lodge. This is a pet-friendly lodge, and it also includes a restaurant on-site.
A bit farther away, but still less than an hour, the city of Visalia offers chain hotels and many other accommodations. This is the closest major city to Sequoia National Park.
Tips for visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
- Plan your visit in advance: Both parks are popular destinations, especially during the summer months. Make sure to check the park’s website for any closures, road conditions, or special events before your trip.
- Cell phone service is limited. Make sure you grab a map from a Visitor’s Center or download one for offline use from the National Park app.
- There is only one entrance fee for both parks – $35 per vehicle, or free with the America the Beautiful National Park Pass.
- Dress in layers: The weather in the parks can be unpredictable, with temperatures ranging from hot to cold. Dressing in layers will ensure you stay comfortable throughout the day. We visited during July, and wore jackets for a good amount of time!
- Stay hydrated and pack snacks: Exploring the parks can be physically demanding. It’s essential to drink plenty of water and have snacks on hand to keep your energy levels up.
- Leave no trace: Help preserve the parks’ natural beauty by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Pack out what you pack in and respect the wildlife and vegetation.
- Take your time and enjoy the moment: The parks offer so many natural wonders to discover. Take your time to soak in the beauty and create lasting memories.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are a nature lover’s paradise, offering a unique opportunity to witness the magic of Mother Earth.
This Sequoia and Kings Canyon 2-day itinerary provides a glimpse into the wonders that await you in these iconic parks.
Other posts you might enjoy:
- Ultimate Guide to National Parks for Families
- Complete List of Essential Road Trip Items for Families
- Surviving Death Valley in the Summer: Tips and Tricks
- America the Beautiful National Park Pass Guide
- Essential Road Trip Tips for Families to Stay Entertained and Sane
Pin this post for later!