My wife and I visited Azalea Campground July 22nd through July 24th, 2011 (Friday-Sunday) for a quickie stay. We drove 8+ hours from San Diego, CA on Friday night and arrived at around 12:30 AM, rolling into the campground to the delight of 2 roaming deer. We selected campsite number 80 something (sorry, can't remember exactly). It was set up against a huge rock on the left and the dense tall grass and then forest on the right. All I can say is WOW, it was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo worth it. We were only there for 2 days and drove back Sunday evening another 9 hours but dang, this is GOD's country man, and we filled our two days with hiking and exploring and were barely even at the campsite. I will quickly share about the campsite and then more importantly about the area.
It's my opinion that it really doesn't matter which campground you stay at in this area. All the campsites are awesome. Of course some are a bit further away from the road and have certain amenities (Azalea had flushing toilets and sinks which were nice). Most of the sites are first come first serve that we researched before our trip. And I read that they are usually super crowded and have lots of families, ie Lodgepole, so if that's what you're seeking then you are set. However I like it a bit more private and separate. In other words, in our time at our site at Azalea, we rarely saw a car passing by, and we couldn't see any cars from our site. All we could see were the beautiful trees, and 1 distant tent. Granted there were probably hundreds of people there, we had our privacy. A nice touch. I recommend doing a bit of research before you go, and the key is to just get there earlier in the day so you can drive around and get the lay of the land, checking out a few sites if you like, and then choosing.
Or just take my recommendation that Azalea ROCKS. It does certainly rock for these reasons: mainly because it's it's SUPER CENTRALLY LOCATED to both Sequoia National Forest and the famous General Sherman Tree to the East and the (in my opinion) even more impressive King's Canyon National Park to the West, and it's 2 minutes drive from the General Grant tree (which is just as cool as General Sherman by the way), it's got flush toilets, is a bit more private (although it does have some sites that are closer to each other if you are going in a group and that is what you seek - I'm sure all the campgrounds have a mixture of each of these qualities, that's why it really doesn't matter where you stay, just get there early enough to find your special place...), Azalea is super close to the King's Canyon visitor's center where there's a restaurant, supplies, visitor center (get a map from here for free and ask them where to go, super helpful), and other conveniences, it's directly across the road from another campground that has pay showers (which we used one night - bring quarters 1 quarter per 3 mins).
We originally decided to visit this area of California to see the humongous trees which were super impressive and amazing, however we fell in love with King's Canyon National Park. I highly recommend a drive down into the canyon (deeper than the grand canyon), and a hike along most of the trails along the way, awesome Grizzly Falls right off the road, and be sure to drive all the way to the end to Mist Falls area. The drive is breath taking, with amazing views of a raging river right next to the road. If you are into hiking and relatively fit, I recommend hiking to Mist Falls (approximately 4.5 miles in (2 hours if you're hummin), and 2 hours out. It's a bit strenuous but very doable and not a difficult hike (we saw little kids walking it with parents). My wife and I are in are mid to late 30's and all we do is walk once a night for a few miles as far as exercise, and are relatively fit and injury free. It was a toughie on us but it was soooooooooooooooo worth it. Someone shared with us a secret about the hike, when you get to the sign that says Mist Falls, congratulate yourself with a pat on the back, however don't stop there. Keep hiking about 5 minutes up to another spot where you can catch a better view and take pics on a huge slab of rock (be careful it's a bit slick even when not wet), and then keep going about 5 minutes up the trail and keep your eyes peeled for a little tiny trail on the right about 15 feet long that leads out onto a rock that is literally a few feet from absolutely raging water falls, you can go out on the rock and enjoy the view, it's totally safe. My wife and I had lunch out there and just enjoyed the beauty of nature. The picture is from this view at the top of Mist Falls trail I speak of. Be sure to bring plenty of water and wear comfy shoes, hat, sunglasses, sunblock etc.
We drive down to Hume Lake on the way back to Azalea which was definitely worth it, and got an amazing burger at the little restaurant right on the lake. Great value and awesome taste, along with a milkshake!!!
I have to say that camping and hiking in "bear country" kept us a bit on edge, not to mention the rattle snakes, but as long as you're smart with all the precautions of keeping EVERYTHING THAT HAS A SCENT in the bear box at your campsite, and keep your eyes peeled, you'll be fine. We did see a rattle snake along the trail as well but don't let this stop you. Be watchful and enjoy the scenery and you'll be fine. I did read that if you have small children, walk close to them and put a little bell on their bag to alert any animals that you are coming. They're more scared of us than we are of them.
FYI, we drove up the 245 which was super windy and fun in our mazda rx-8, however wouldn't be fun in a truck for example. And we then drove back through Sequoia National Park down the 198 I believe it was which was a pretty drive. There was construction on the mountain that we had to wait for 20 minutes. You will be so impressed by the views here though that no matter what happens, you will enjoy yourself. Bottom line, you will LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE this area of the world and be greatly rewarded. We are supremely grateful for having had the opportunity to experience Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks. Enjoy!!!
Arrive early in the day light to scout out the area and find your special campground!
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.