15. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Days: Have completely lost track!

We left smoggy LA, delighted to be heading back to nature. Ed had booked a campsite for 6 nights in the Sequoia National Forest and we intended to use this as a base to visit both Sequoia and its neighbour, Kings Canyon National Park.

It was an easy 3 hour journey from LA and our campsite was lovely. Since it was in a forest it offered plenty of trees for hammock hanging. Plus a wonderful pine smell.


This was our first experience of having to use a bear box. Bears are active in the area so it’s essential to store all foods, cooking equipment and scented products, like toothpaste, in the bear box. This is a large metal box with a special kind of latch that bears can’t open. If bears get used to human food and raid campsites they become a threat and must be destroyed….”a FED bear is a DEAD bear”. If there is no available food at the campsites it deters the bears from bothering to invade.

On the first day we hiked along a raging river and up to a stunning waterfall. We were surprised to see there was still a fair amount of snow in evidence….



Next day we went to take a look at The General Sherman Tree (and saw the mileometer tip over the 4000 mile mark on the way!) The General Sherman is biggest tree in the world. Some Redwoods are taller but they are skinnier so the General wins on overall volume. It  is 275 feet tall and is said to be around 2,000 years old. Some other Sequoias are older – up to 3,200 years – but obviously the seed that became The General Sherman landed in a very fertile spot with just the right growing conditions – enabling it to grow to such a size relatively quickly!


We took a walk around the Sequoia forest and admired the rest of these beautiful, giant trees.





The next day we explored the Meadows area which were extraordinarily beautiful. The grass was incredibly green and lush.





It’s a favourite area for bears so we were on the look out – sadly – or perhaps fortunately all we saw was what we thought was some bear poo!


We loved the “log cabin” built by the first white settler in the area – it was quite literally a cabin IN a log!



Our last challenge in Sequioa was the climb up Moro Rock. 400 steps.



At an elevation of 6725, the views were stunning.






It was only once we were actually in Sequoia that we realized that Kings Canyon was a 90+ minute drive away. But we heard from the park rangers that the far side of canyon was really beautiful and well worth a visit. So we decided, rather than just do a day trip, that we would pack up and depart Sequoia a day early to go to camp a few days in Kings Canyon.

The drive to the Canyon was stunning – a twisting, turning road down, down, down. There was a 12 mile section which was entirely downhill – I would loved to have jumped out of the car and onto my bike to speed down but sadly I had a flat tire!



As we descended we were amazed by the power of the Kings River as it rushed through the canyon. The river was at its highest recorded level with a record flow rate of 14,000 cubic feet per second. Record breaking snow over the winter – 50% more than normal – has created an incredible amount of melt water this year.



We planned for a lovely hike & picnic in the canyon floor. As we were setting out from the ranger station we saw a sign warning of huge numbers of rattle snakes currently in the area. In a flash, Ed, Izzy and JJ unanimously voted that I should be the one to lead this hike. What a surprise! Up until this point I have always ambled along at the back, taking a thousand photos! (hence my pics of everyone hiking are normally taken of their backs!!)


Luckily I did not step on a snake.




We found some rather large pine cones!


And a deer crossed our path…


We particularly enjoyed how few people there were in Kings Canyon. Because it’s a bit of an effort to get there it does not get very crowded. During our 2 hour walk we saw a sum total of 10 people. We felt like we had the place to ourselves – bliss!

What Ed Says: After numerous parks I still find it amazing that every National Park is so strikingly different and individual in their own right. I guess this is probably the reason why they were made National Parks in the first place! The trails around Sequoia and particularly the Meadows are stunning and offer the best chance of seeing bears…..however we did not! Kings Canyon is also so different and worthy of a few days. We did have one hiccup on the solar set up. Due to the camp site in Sequoia being very shady (those darn big trees) we were not generating enough power during the day. This meant that while out we would run the freezer on the car battery. This was all well and good – until we got to Kings Canyon. One morning I tried to start The Beast but the starter motor would not engage! I rapidly removed all devices from the charging sockets and shut the A/C down which gave enough to fire up The Beast. We are now a little more cautious when leaving the freezer running on the car battery…lesson learnt.
One great design feature I love with the Toyota is a master switch which turns off all the lights – so the battery can’t get drained – even if a door is left open by mistake or the kids  leave a light on!


 Next Destination: Yosemite National Park, California.