I heard this somewhere and I am not sure where, but Yosemite during summer weekends and especially during summer long weekends is like “Disneyland” – Super duper crowded!!!. If you are looking for a ‘Yosemite-like’ escape close to the bay area, a trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park can be extremely refreshing. Be it the majesty of the giant Sequoia trees or one of the most amazing drives through the Kings Canyon, these parks are definitely nature’s wonderland in the Sierra Nevada.
Sequoia National Park
If you are someone who is fascinated by anything that is “larger than life”, you should visit Sequoia National Park that is home to the largest living tree on the earth : The General Sherman tree. Take the Congress trail hike to view the gigantic and huge sequoia trees. Another tree worth mentioning is the Grant tree. The visitor center should be a good starting point to get an overview of the history of these trees. A lot of people who visit Sequoia National Park enjoy a fun drive through the Tunnel Log and the entrance to this log is crowded most of the times. Well, it wasn’t really a lot of fun driving through it, but I guess climbing on the top of the tunnel log and watching cars pass by was slightly more exciting for me. If you go to Sequoia, you should take the steep staircase to the top of Moro Rock to get a great view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It can get quite hot in the summers on the Moro Rock trail, so stay hydrated!
Although I have not been to Crystal Cave, I have heard a lot about it and would like to throw out the name in case you are interested in incorporating a visit to the caves on your Sequoia trip! If you are not a camping enthusiast, and are looking for a luxurious accommodation on your Sequoia trip in the park, Wuksachi lodge would be your best bet. Even if you don’t stay here, you could definitely stop by at the lodge for ordinarily good food :).
Kings Canyon National Park
If I had to choose a national park with the most scenic and breathtaking routes, Kings Canyon would definitely be high on my list. The reason I liked Kings Canyon so much is because it has been one of the least crowded national parks I have been to. You can pretty much have the roads and the abundant nature to yourself. And of course, the deepest canyon (its deeper than the Grand Canyon) !!! The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (approx. 50 miles) along the Kings River is a great way to view the park’s unparalleled beauty. If you are visiting Kings Canyon from Sequoia for just a day and are not planning on staying at any of Kings Canyon campgrounds, I highly recommend driving to the end of the park road “Roads End”. A lot of trails in the Sierra Nevada start from this junction so if you want to venture into wilderness and backpacking, the parking lot at ‘Roads End’ would be a good starting point :P. Kings Canyon is known for some of the prettiest waterfalls and you could take easy/moderate hikes to view these falls. Some of the famous falls are the Roaring River Falls and Mist Falls. For some water activities in the summer, you could visit the Hume Lake. For the camping enthusiasts, I believe they also have a campsite close to the lake.
I have been to Sequoia a couple of times now and I highly recommend spending more time at Kings Canyon. Not that a trip to view the largest trees on earth ain’t worth it!! I just think that Kings Canyon has the capability to change your perspective on how you look at nature and makes you appreciate it even more 🙂