Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park Visitation

Sequoia Visitation Graphs
Kings Canyon Visitation Graphs

Clearly more people come in the summer, but the parks are not deserted in the winter. While the road into Kings Canyon itself is closed, the Grant Grove section of the park is open all winter and gets most of the summer visitors (the drive to Fresno is easier than the drive from Bakersfield to Sequoia). The general decline in visitation to all parks has affected the totals for Kings Canyon more than Sequoia. Whether this is real or the result of data collection (i.e. based on which entry is used) is not always clear since many day visitors go to both parks. Kings Canyon, which includes Grant Grove has far more overnight accomodations (both cabins and camping) than Sequoia. Sequoia gets less than 1/3 the visitor traffic of Yosemite, but has fewer places to stay and fewer places for cars. Overall it ranks between the Klondike Gold Rush (Alaska) (which most tour ship passengers visit) and Arches (which, while beautiful, is a long way from anywhere).


Where to stay in Sequoia?

Sequoia National Park has eliminated the old (and poorly heated in the winter) cabin and motel facility in Giant Forest and replaced it with a modern (and more expensive) facility located outside of the Sequoia grove north of Lodgepole at Wuksachi Village (what you see of a "Village" is Wusachi Lodge, nearby employee housing constitutes the village). This helps preserve the Sequoia grove and is a great improvement for visitors. Mostly the campgrounds are first-come-first-served, but some require (or allow) reservations (at the usual campground reservation site). The large campground at Lodgepole now closes completely through the winter snow season but at least one campground in Grant Grove and another near the low elevation entrance to Sequoia is open all year. Both parks receive a lot of day usage, either local traffic from Fresno and Bakersfield or the usual tour groups, but 40 people on a bus is more efficient than almost any alternate method other than a bicycle. There are few cyclists in Sequoia because of the long climb.

How to not drive as much in Sequoia

Your visit and especially pleasent day hikes, are enhanced by using the shuttles around Giant Forest in Sequoia late May to early September (and over the winter holiday weekends). The park shuttles connects with the Bus to Visalia - up in the morning, return in the afternoon (currently $15 R/T). (The Grant Grove area is more compact and has fewer trails in its immediate area so less need for a local shuttle.) These shuttles operate starting in late spring -- after most of the snow melts and visitation increases. Giant Forest (museum) and Lodgepole Visitor Center (campground, parking) are the main transfers and provide ample parking. Using the shuttle makes the hike from Crescent Meadow to the Sherman Tree through the less crowded trails in the Giant Forest very easy.

The reconstruction of the road from the Ash Mountain entrance (i.e. Bakersfield and Visalia) continues. Just higher up the hill. The work on the current section will continue into 2012 with major delays (1 hour on week days -- road only open briefly on the hour, 20 min on weekends -- alternate 1-way traffic). Park News Page with traffic information. No RVs or trailers on this road.

Starting the winter of 2011-2012, the road between Sequoia and Kings Canyon (Wuksachi Lodge to Montecito Resort) may close with the first heavy snow. More recently, the wording implies that the road may be reopend if possible in the winter (but the winters since then have been dry with closures limited anyway). There have always been no facilities open on the road during the winter and not much traffic, though the road makes Wuksachi an option for an overnight stop between Los Angeles and Yosemite. Winter travel in the Sierra is always tricky, and can be impossible during and shortly after snow storms.

Where to stay in Kings Canyon?

Grant Grove has multiple lodges, cabins and campgrounds. Between the parks you go through the Sequoia National Monument, which has some accomodations and a lot of summer camps on the side roads. Visitation is no where near that of Yosemite, but there are fewer places to put people (either in the day or at night). Though lodges and campgrounds may fill up, it is not the constant year in advance problem you may face in Yosemite Valley. Most of my trips to these two parks have been for hiking, not driving through the parks and most times I never saw a sequoia (they don't grow in the eastern part of these parks). Additionally the Cedar Grove Lodge (roads end) is open in the summer. It is small and quiet. It is near the river.

Where to stay in Mineral King?

Mineral King offers camping and some lodging in the Silver City area. Since this area was reltatively recently managed as a National Forest the private developments (cabins and rentals) have stayed. The road to Mineral King is not as bad as some people would have you believe. It is just a long winding and somewhat narrow road without a lot of traffic, and includes a few unpaved sections that are reasonably smooth for dirt roads.

You may also be interested in Grand Canyon National Park.

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