"HOME OF THE MOUNTAIN GODS - KCNP" Top 5 Page for this destination Kings Canyon National Park by mtncorg

Kings Canyon National Park Travel Guide: 117 reviews and 271 photos

Of the three Sierran national parks, Kings Canyon NP is probably the least-known. It also contains the highest percentage of wilderness. Only one road barely begins to penetrate the Park - CA 180 coming east from Grants Grove 38 miles to Roads End. From here, it is all uphill, rugged and beautifully wild. This being California, even with a lesser-known national park, it pays to plan ahead if you are hoping to visit even the backcountry. You need to get permits; to understand trail quotas; to comprehend camping procedures - which on certain trails (ie Rae Lakes Loop) can get downright complicated. You need to know either how to hang your food or keep bear canisters for your food in the backcountry. Gone are the times, like on my first backcountry foray atop the crest of San Gregornio, in Southern California, when a nearby Hispanic family got to play host to a pair of bears at 3 in the morning. the family had had a very proper dinner the night before and well ..... what bear doesn't enjoy tamales and leftover fajitas?

For all of the hundreds of miles of trail within Kings Canyon NP, most foot - and horse - traffic is concentrated in a few areas: the Rae Lakes Loop, Kearsarge Pass, the John Muir trail and Bishop Pass. Take another trail and you will have solitude. Entry points to the Park are limited to - though not inclusively - South Lake in the north (get there from the town of Bishop to the east); Onion Valley to the southeast (up from Independence); Roads End and Cedar Grove, both on CA 180 in the Park's southwest. From the west, you will start out hiking much lower and need a couple of days to be able to reach the high country along the Sierran crest. From the east, you can cross the crest in your first day, but you need to be careful gaining a lot of altitude intially. It is not a bad idea to do some dayhiking along the eastside first, before plunging in on a big backpack. Remember the climbers' adage: Climb high, camp low. Going straight to camp at higher than 10000 feet/3030 meters is a sure way to spend a restless night, something not needed with the level of physical exertions required at these heights.

Tourists not backpacking or hiking into the wild are, as I have noted, somewhat limited in what they can see here in Kings Canyon NP. An isolated section of the Park is centered just to the southwest of the main regions around the giant sequoias of the General Grant Grove. If you have not seen the trees of Sequoia or Yosemite - even if you have - these trees are truly mammoth in both size and age. Several dayhiking possibilities exist among these giants. In the main area of Kings Canyon NP, CA 180 reaches back 38 miles along the South Fork of the Kings River. You are at the bottom of one of the World's deepest canyons. If hiking from Roads End, you need to pick up permits at the Ranger Station in Cedar Grove. For hikers out of South Lake - Bishop Pass, you need to go to the White Mountain Ranger Station in Bishop; for Onion Valley - Kearsarge Pass, you go to the Mt Whitney Ranger Station in Lone Pine.

My tips are basically limited to long day forays into the Park from the eastside. Ahh, to live in this region and be able to devote the time involved in getting backcountry. But my home is a thousand miles to the north and looking at a map, I am always impatient to see as much of the Range of Light as I can - and the Sierra is a range that is comparable in length to the Alps of Europe. Long dayhikes have allowed me the chance to explore and nibble at a lot of the eastern Sierra on the short vacations I have spent down here.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Granite-walled valleys, cascading streams, green flower-filled meadows, daunting views from up high
  • Cons:Mostly a pack-in park; short season; campsites can be crowded with both people and bear; high altitude
  • In a nutshell:Sierra Nevada Protected in Primal Form
  • Intro Updated Aug 27, 2004
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Reviews (10)

Comments (9)

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Jun 2, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Wow, you're definitely on a level well above me. I can remember driving through this park, stopping to take a picture and wondering what lay beyond; now I know! Cheers, Ian

  • SteveOSF's Profile Photo
    Jun 9, 2008 at 3:53 PM

    Excellent page on one of my favorite National Parks.

  • mikehanneman's Profile Photo
    Sep 6, 2007 at 12:50 PM

    It is very impressive the way you hike into remote parts of National Parks. That allows people like me to enoy places I can't get to. Thanks or sharing the pics and info!

  • mikelisaanna's Profile Photo
    Aug 6, 2005 at 9:37 AM

    Great photos of the Kings Canyon backcountry. When our daughter gets old enough to do longer hikes, we would love to see it!

  • Andraf's Profile Photo
    Apr 28, 2005 at 9:26 AM

    Another California beauty for me to explore. Great page Mark.

  • giampiero6's Profile Photo
    Apr 19, 2005 at 6:13 PM

    Wow. Beautiful stuff and great experience to share!

  • sim1's Profile Photo
    Dec 19, 2003 at 4:01 PM

    Beautiful photos and great info! Kings canyon NP looks fantastic!

  • mrclay2000's Profile Photo
    Dec 10, 2003 at 12:59 PM

    Not a single tree in these pictures until the last one with the bear. Do I want to visit this park after all? Most assuredly, but getting choked with regulations is less than ideal.

  • sandysmith's Profile Photo
    Nov 30, 2003 at 3:19 PM

    excellent hiking/climbing tips and pics

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