Guys. I finally did it. I upgraded my existing Zion National Park pass to an America the Beautiful pass, which honestly, I had no idea was possible. Yep, I’m starting this post off with a #protip: you can essentially use an existing NPS pass to cover the cost of the America the Beautiful pass. i.e. My annual Zion pass was worth $50, so I only had to pay $30 more. Since I went on a road trip there back in December, the pass is only valid till end of December 2017, but I’ll just make the investment and grab another for 2018! NPS <3
And that is how I entered Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park last week. With the America the Beautiful pass. I booked a site at the Buckeye Flat Campground roughly 6 months in advance. It’s a popular riverfront site, so had to plan far far far ahead. And finally, last weekend, the time arrived.
Day 1: Kings Canyon NPS
A few days before our trip, boyfran and I decided to extend our time there and grab a last-minute site inside Kings Canyon NPS. Thankfully, there was a PERFECT site available (site #36) within the Sunset Campground. It’s located right next to the Grant Grove Visitor Center and is famous for the epic sunsets you can watch from your site. Apparently, it was temporarily closed for awhile for tree removal due to some beetle infestation (sadface). Good for us though because the site and bathrooms were pristine. Brand new picnic tables and super sweet flushable bathrooms. Back when I was a tiny child camping the great outdoors, we had to do the business on top of a stinky hole with wooden walls surrounding you. Let’s just say I fully embraced the flushable toilets during this past trip.
Watching the sunset over the nearby mountains left me without words. I’ve seen a lot of sunsets during my travels, but sitting there on top of a granite boulder, listening to the soft hum of buzzing bugs, chirping birds, and rustling leaves… it was magical. For a moment, as the sun dipped behind the range, everything was quiet. I totally channeled my inner John Muir in that moment. Sigh.
Kings Canyon. Honestly, it’s pretty comparable to Yosemite, just without the millions of people and traffic. Now, Yosemite is still my favorite park (at the moment), but Kings Canyon features massive granite faces, waterfalls, meadows, and wildlife.
With the recent rains and massive snow dumps up in the Sierras, the rivers were roaring and very unsafe to enter. So we just looked at rivers and waterfalls in awe from afar.
And of course the Sequoias. Oh….. Sequoias. They’re some of the oldest living species on earth and just incredibly massive. I almost cried seeing them for the first time. Their red color is striking and their size is mindblowing. You feel so small and humbled. These guys have survived thousands of years of human brutality and mother nature’s wrath. They also have the most interesting fuzzy texture. Fun fact: they grow from wildfires! They’re like phoenix trees! Their unique bark makes them fairly resistant to fire and their cones open up from the heat of fires. So on each Sequoia tree, you’ll notice where they’ve been burned.
We saw a bunch of redwoods, too. Love those guys.
Places Visited Inside Kings Canyon National Park:
- Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
- General Grant Tree
- Roaring River Falls
- Grizzly Falls
Day 2: Sequoia National Park
The views along the whole Generals Highway is beeeaaaauuutiful. And pretty difficult to drive. It features a million switchbacks and the average speed is around 10mph. But it’s worth it!
That day, there were a million ladybugs flying around. At first, I was freaked out because I had no idea what these red bugs were. Upon closer inspection, I realized that they were just harmless ladybugs! So cute. Some landed on us as we were walking around. Had to make sure we didn’t take them home. Wish I was able to take a photo, but I was focused on not squishing them with my giant human feet.
As we drove to our next campsite, we needed to grab some more ice and provisions. Luckily, Lodgepole Visitor Center is centrally located between the two parks and has a market, ice cream (got it two times during this trip), handmade food, public showers, an informative visitor center, and parking to ride the shuttles. It’s also a campground and probably where I’ll try to camp next time around.
At the Lodgepole Visitor Center, we were able to book a late afternoon tour for the Crystal Caves. Totally worth it! I’d recommend booking online ahead of time, though.
Once we arrived at Buckeye Flat Campground, we set up camp and started making the fire. We bought this super handy grill grate from a Korean grocery store to grill some meats. Mmm. Pork belly.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t hang out at the river. It was just way too intense. There were also a million mosquitoes. You do not want to see my face right now. I look like a teenager going through a major acne phase. But overall, it was a nice site. The drive in was pretty tough, though. It’s a super narrow road that barely allows two cars to pass and it’s also pitch black at night. I recommend getting there before the sun sets.
Day 3: Stroll through Giant Forest
We went to go see the famed General Sherman Tree (and the tourists surrounding it). It was cool… but we wanted to see more. To avoid the tourists, we decided to venture through the forest along Congress Trail. And I’m so glad we did. We saw tons of giant Sequoias, redwoods, moss, creeks, waterfalls, and…. A BLACK BEAR! Oh man. I was so excited. Obviously, we all kept our distances, but we were able to watch it splash itself with cold water in the nearby creek. So nature. Unfortunately, I don’t have a good photo of the bear because I was so far away. Trust me! I saw one!
Towards the end of the day, we climbed up to Moro Rock. Pretty high climb up a granite staircase. People were huffing and puffing on their way up. The views were epic and we were able to see our campsite down below and the snow peaked Sierras in the distance.
Places Visited Inside Sequoia National Park:
- Crystal Cave
- Giant Forest (Congress Trail)
- Moro Rock
Overall, another successful National Park trip. Can’t wait to venture to another. I’m hoping we can head North or East to see Glacier National Park or the Grand Tetons… one day!