If you’re sick of sweating or just plain bored, escape the summer heat and take a trip to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Only an hour and a half away, you can be in cooler weather in no time.
More than just mountains, there are activities for everyone from milkshake lovers to cave explorers. And of course, there are the famous trees. Admission to the park is $30 dollars per vehicle (but if you have a 4th grader make sure you get a free pass).
Here’s a list of things for the whole family to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.
1. See Ancient Trees
Obviously this is a requirement. The giant sequoias are a true national treasure. Check out General Sherman, who is the world’s oldest tree. He’s also 275 feet tall and still growing. And he’s not the only giant general in the park. General Grant is also nearby. The General Grant tree is officially the nation’s Christmas Tree. Then there’s the excitement of the Tunnel Tree, where you can drive your car through a giant sequoia. Finally, you can find fun and easy tree-centric hikes like the Chicago Stump hike.
2. Climb to Buck Rock for An Amazing View
Okay, this one is a steep climb, and I am afraid of heights. But if you’re brave, you can see breathtaking views from a fire lookout perched at the top of the rock.
Built in 1923, it’s still a working fire lookout to this day. It’s open seven days a week in good weather, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during fire season (AKA right now). It’s an interesting piece of working history and you can’t beat the scenery. Additionally, there is the Annual Buck Rock Open House on September 3. This event has a blessing of the rock, a BBQ, and other festivities, all at the base of the rock (no climbing required). For more information, contact the Buck Rock Foundation here.
3. Take A Crystal Cave Tour
This is one you have to plan ahead for, and it requires tickets. Crystal Cave is a slightly strenuous hike for people 13 and older. It’s well worth the trip to see what total darkness looks like, as well as some interesting cave formations. For this trip you’ll need good shoes and even a light sweater. That’s right—cave temperatures can be around 50 degrees. If that sounds like heaven (because it’s SO HOT RIGHT NOW) grab a tickets here.
4. Swim In Sandy Cove
Perhaps a beach trip isn’t the first thing that crosses your mind when you think of the mountains, but Sandy Cove has a nice swath of space perfect for beach towels and picnics. It’s part of Hume Lake and it has a giant sequoia log in the water that people climb. Ten Mile Creek feeds into the Cove and there’s an easy 2.6 mile path around the area called the Hume Lake Trail.
5. Paddle, Fish or Swim Around Hume Lake
Hume is a gorgeous lake nestled in the mountains, and it’s very popular. One of the unique things about it is the Christian Summer Camp that graces one of its shores. The camps add to the crowd but they also adds to its amenities. For example, there’s a boat house where you can rent a paddleboard, kayak, canoe or even a rowboat. Alternatively, you can bring your own boat or even a trendy pineapple shaped pool float (regular floats work fine too).
This is also a good place to get your tank refilled, both for your car and yourself because there’s a gas station and a snack shop. The Snack Shop serves up ridiculously thick milkshakes, a perfect way to end a day of hiking or swimming. Finally, the lake is stocked with trout if you want to try your hand at fishing.
6. Gain Altitude On A Granite Dome
Buck Rock isn’t the only granite dome in the parks. Moro rock is another nice way to incorporate a stair workout in your adventure. Happily, this 350-step hike has handrails, and from it you can see the Great Western Divide. Other granite domes include Little Baldy (full of wildflowers and steep switchbacks) and Big Baldy (which gently slopes up). If you’re looking for an easy granite dome to tackle, the Sunset Rock trail is mostly flat and leads to a nice spot to watch the sunset. Of course, if you’re a rock climber and you want the opposite of flat, check out tips for rock climbing in the parks here.
7. Take A Horseback Ride Through The Park
If you want to have someone else carry you through the national parks, try a horse. Reserve a spot at one of the parks’ two riding stables. You can choose from trips ranging from an hour to pack trips several days long. There’s a wide variety of destinations, from a trip to the General Grant tree to pack trips along Rae Lakes Loop. Advanced reservations are highly recommended, so click here for more information.
And there you have it: seven different ways to keep yourself entertained and to enjoy the epic wonder of the Sierra Nevada. If you want to find out more tips and information, check out the National Park Service website here. A map of the parks is located here. If you’re looking for some motivation to go camping, check out my post “Just Go Camping Already—You Know You Want To.”
Have you been to Kings Canyon and Sequoia national parks this summer? If you have a favorite location that I didn’t include in this list, drop it in the comments.
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