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Kings Canyon National Park

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Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California Kings Canyon National Park

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Introduction

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).

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Geography

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.

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Sights and Activities

  • Grants Grove is a grove of giant Sequoia trees at the west entrance to the parks. General Grants Tree is Proclaimed as the Nation's Christmas tree. Fallen Monarch is a fallen sequioia tree inside which you can walk. It is just next to General Grants tree.
  • Giant Forest is a collection of groves at the center of Sequoia a few miles south of the main Visitor Center, including the General Sherman Tree, the world's largest (by volume and weight) tree. The areas centers around a museum, and the grove can be seen along a 2-3-kilometre looping trail. The parking area is 0.6 kilometres uphill from the grove, so those who may not be able to easily walk back up the trail may want to arrange for a pickup from the main park road.

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Opening Hours

The parks are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, weather permitting.

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Cost

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.

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Getting There and Around

By Car

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:

  • Route 180 east from Fresno. This enters the parks at Grant Grove and divides there to go either northeast to the main part of Kings Canyon or southeast to Sequoia. This is the recommended route from Northern California, and from Southern California if one intends to go directly to Kings Canyon.
  • Route 198 northeast from Visalia. This enters Sequoia from the south, and is the recommended route from Southern California. This route is not recommended by the park for long vehicles such as RVs. On 20-kilometre stretch from Potwisha Campground to Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia Park, advised maximum is 22 feet. Maximum length limit on the Generals Highway is 40 feet for single vehicles, 50 feet for vehicles plus a towed unit.

Both of these routes are winding mountain roads; driving speeds will be slower than usual and special conditions will apply in winter.

By Bus

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.

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Eat/Drink

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.

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Sleep

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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This is version 2. Last edited at 9:30 on Mar 10, 15 by Utrecht. 4 articles link to this page.

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