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Please suggest best route & itinerary

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San Jose, California
posts: 25
reviews: 57
Please suggest best route & itinerary

We are 4 adults traveling from San Jose, planning to start on Saturday early morning and returning by Sunday night. We've booked our accommodation at Lazy J Ranch Americas Best Value inn, Sierra Drive, Three Rivers. I have few questions regarding the route to take and the itinerary.

1. Is it better to head to Kings Canyon first by 180 and then go to Sequoia later in the day?

2. We are planning to go to Crystal Cave and Crescent meadow at Sequoia. Is it still worth going to Boyden Cavern and Zumwalt Meadow?

3. Apart from General Grant Tree and Roaring River Falls, what other places do you suggest at Kings Canyon? How is Canyon view? Any other must see easy trails?

4. We will be covering General Sherman, Crescent Meadow(I believe tunnel road and auto log are in this trail), Crystal Cave and maybe half way through Moro Rock.

Is this itinerary doable? We would like to headout of the park by 1-2pm on Sunday.

San Diego...
posts: 8,337
reviews: 29
1. Re: Please suggest best route & itinerary

For the most scenic drive, enter Kings Canyon National Park on Highway 180, and drive the Generals Highway through the parks to Sequoia. But if you are staying in Three Rivers, that will mean you drive down out of Sequoia NP to Three Rivers on Highway 198 that day then the next morning driving back up the same road to the parks again. I don't see any other way to do it, though, if you only have one night, are staying in Three Rivers and want to see both parks.

With the limited time you have, I think you can fit only one of the cave tours in. Choose either Crystal Cave or Boyden Cavern. You don't have time for both. Moro Rock has about 400 concrete steps to go up it. I think it's only worth it if the air is clear, then you have a good view of the mountains.

The drive down to Kings Canyon is scenic and the canyon itself is scenic, and the trail around Zumwalt Meadow is flat and relatively short (about 1 hour). That area looks like a miniature version of Yosemite Valley except without any waterfalls. Canyon View is really just a turnout along the road that allows you to a view down the canyon. Grizzly Falls is right next to the road, though I don't know how much water is there now. Roaring River Falls is well worth the 5-minute stroll from the parking area.

I would leave the parks via the Highway 180 entrance and then go back on to San Jose.

Los Angeles
Destination Expert
for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
posts: 10,260
reviews: 87
2. Re: Please suggest best route & itinerary

Since you'll be driving 189 anyway (it is the most awesome way to enter the park - with the same stand of trees that TA uses to illustrate its SNP page), might as well use 180 to enter and exit. I wouldn't go down into Kings Canyon, I'd stop at Grants Grove, and then head over towards Sequoia, perhaps hitting Redwood Canyon (still, quiet and a nice hike) or perhaps stopping to explore Dorst Creek (you don't have to do the whole trail to the Muir stand there, but you could stretch your legs and see some great granite and sparkling creeks).

You should go to the Lodgepole Visitor Center, but also visit Lodgepole Creek at the beach near the bridge (near Tokopah Falls trailhead, which is also a nice hike) just to see the clarity of Sierra water, see the little fishies and the many the kinds of birds, squirrels, chimpmunks and others who are attracted to the waterside. You can eat at Lodgepole or grab picnic supplies (there's no starred dining there - but if you want a nicer meal, Wuksachi Lodge is very good, it's just before Lodgepole).

Sequoia is beautiful at dusk. Round Meadow is an easy place to spend the near-twilight hours before heading down to Three RIvers (to sleep by the roaring water). It's at least an hour to Three Rivers (there's construction on the road, it won't take too long to get through it, but be aware it's one lane and light-controlled at one point, or at least it was the last I heard). Be careful driving in the dark, as that's when the deer and bears are likely to be out. Keep your eyes peeled!

Get tickets for Crystal Cave at Lodgepole for early the next day and do that first. It can be very warm at the elevation where Crystal Cave is, so it's nice to do it earlier. Crescent/Log Meadow should be your next stop - hike to Tharp's Log and just enjoy some of the side trails. If you didn't see General Sherman tree the day before (or even if you did), you can then either climb Moro Rock, wander through the deepest part of the Sequoia forest near the Meadows, or stop by the History Center (parking is across the street, to your left as you drive up from Three Rivers). The History Center is a valuable stop for many reasons. First, it has a really big tree of its own and some interesting information about the Sequoias. Second, the parking lot is in a large stand of old growth Seqouias and you can just choose your own spot to enjoy. You can walk out on Beetle Rock and see a similar view to what you see from Moro Rock - but with no effort, and maybe watch the lizards and squirrels and anyone else who happens to be there (bear, deer, chickarees, marmots). Round Meadow is nearby this parking lot.

From the General Sherman parking lot, you should walk the Congress Trail (if the trams are running, you may not be able to drive all this - but there is a stop at General Sherman and another at Crescent Meadow - you can walk in between those two points and see Tharp's Log - just follow the Congress Trail until the sign points you off to Tharp's Log). It's like walking back in time.

If it's hot, you may want to head back to Lodgepole (to the beach which, unless signs are up, is safe for entry into the water - near the bridge). It should be fairly low this time of year. It is a great way to chill - and again, have a picnic.

I think that's all you're going to have time for. If you really want to see Kings Canyon, you're going to have to cut several things out of your Sequoia itinerary (you're already missing Wolverton Meadow, the Tokopah Falls hike, Little Baldy, Big Baldy, the trail to the Muir stand outside of Dorst and much else that is not only off the beaten path - but out of the car). So, unless you want to spend all of your time in the car, I'd skip Kings Canyon and leave it for a time when you're staying in Kings Canyon or along the 180.

Los Angeles
Destination Expert
for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
posts: 10,260
reviews: 87
3. Re: Please suggest best route & itinerary

P.S. Yes, tunnel log and auto log are on the way to Crescent Meadow and both are worth a stop. The only problem is that right now, I believe the road is closed to regular cars and there's only a shuttle going from the History Museum (you could easily walk to tunnel tree and/or auto log from the Moro Rock stop though). The tram should take you slowly by the huge tree near auto log with the biggest exposed root system I've ever seen (I think the tree itself dates to about 600-800 BC, which is amazing, I think there's an interpretive sign giving its age).

San Jose, California
posts: 25
reviews: 57
4. Re: Please suggest best route & itinerary

Thanks for the detailed reply @sunrisesandiego and @LeBiscuit D. It is very informative and that's why I love TA community so much! :) Will use the information you gave to decide my trip plan!

5. Re: Please suggest best route & itinerary

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