Kings Canyon National Park is a national park in the southern Sierra Nevada, east of Fresno, California. The park was established in 1940 and covers 186,925 ha. It incorporated General Grant National Park, established in 1890 to protect the General Grant Grove of giant sequoias. The park is north of and contiguous with Sequoia National Park; the two are administered by the National Park Service jointly as the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Some of the highlights of the park include the Grants Grove (including the Fallen Monarch) and the Giant Forest (including the famous General Sherman Tree).
Kings Canyon National Park consists of two sections. The small, detached General Grant Grove section preserves several groves of giant sequoias, including the General Grant Grove, with the famous General Grant Tree, and the Redwood Mountain Grove, which is the largest remaining natural grove of giant sequoias in the world (covering 1,300 ha) and with 15,800 sequoia trees over one foot 30 centimetres in diameter at their bases. The park's Giant Sequoia forests are part of 81,920 ha of old-growth forests shared by Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This section of the park is mostly mixed conifer forest, and is readily accessible via paved highways.
The remainder of Kings Canyon National Park, which comprises over 90% of the total area of the park, is located to the east of General Grant Grove and forms the headwaters of the South and Middle Forks of the Kings River and the South Fork of the San Joaquin River. Both the South and Middle Forks of the Kings Rivers have extensive glacial canyons. One portion of the South Fork canyon, known as the Kings Canyon, gives the entire park its name. Kings Canyon, with a maximum depth of 2,500 metres, is one of the deepest canyons in the United States.
To the east of the canyons are the high peaks of the Sierra Crest, which attain an elevation of 4,343 metres at the summit of North Palisade, the highest point in the park. This is classic high Sierra country: barren alpine ridges and glacially scoured lake-filled basins. Usually snow free only from late June until late October, the high country is accessible only via foot and horse trails.
The parks are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, weather permitting.
Although technically they are two separate national parks, Sequoia and Kings Canyon generally operate as a single unit in many ways. One fee (US $5 per person or US $20 per private vehicle) allows entrance to both parks.
The parks are on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, and can only be entered by car from the west. The two main entrances are:
Both of these routes are winding mountain roads; driving speeds will be slower than usual and special conditions will apply in winter.
The parks are relatively distant from major cities and airports, and there is no public transportation to the parks, although there is a $15 round trip shuttle from Visalia. The park provides free in-park shuttle.
Food and shops are available at Grant Grove, Lodgepole, and Cedar Grove visitor centers. Overnight visitors should consider buying some food in advance on the way to the park.
Lodging is available at the Wuksachi Lodge in the Lodgepole area (Sequoia), in the John Muir Lodge and the Grant Grove cabins at Grant Grove Village (Kings Canyon) and at the Cedar Grove Lodge in Cedar Grove (Kings Canyon). Reservations are recommended. Cedar Grove closes for the winter in October.
In addition, a range of hotels and motels are available outside the park, including several lodges in the National Forest (on the road from Grants Grove to Cedar Grove) and motels in Three Rivers (on Route 198 near the southwest entrance).
Camping is the most common way to stay in the park. There are campgrounds available in all areas of the park, although the ones closest to main attractions may require reservations at peak times. All campers should be aware of the presence of bears, and should stow any unattended food in bear-proof containers as instructed by park rangers.
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