Recently I had planned and mapped out an entire trip to visit Yosemite (read more about that plan here). Some how I’d managed to skip right over all the alerts of the chaotic wildfires in the parks.
Maybe it was the excitement, maybe I’m just blind!
In any case, I had to make a back up plan!
I wanted to go to a National Park and I needed to be within a few hours of Lodi, California.
This was my back up plan and here’s how to do it better!
Tips to A Successful Half-Day Trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National park
The parks are a short 2 hours drive south of Yosemite and while you might be coming from varied directions, this particular trip started in Sacramento.
Total drive time was 4 hours which included 2 stops for gas (because I did not want to get below a half tank) and one stop for lunch.
Tip #1: leave as early as possible
Since I arrived at the Sacramento Airport at 11:40 AM and had to get a rental car, I did not leave the airport until 12 PM. My arrival time to the park: 4 PM. Sunset was at 7:53 PM, leaving me with nearly 4 hours of sunlight.
Tip #2: check traffic and weather conditions prior to your drive
Typically California traffic isn’t too bad compared to Houston traffic (and Im not even talking about Los Angeles), some how on this trip traffic was obnoxious. Unfortunately I left my navigation to Siri, who left me in a bind this morning as well and you would have thought I learned my lesson the first time, but here we are!
Tip #3: have your route pre-planned
A few days prior to leaving Houston, I’d set out a planned route of what stops and trails I had in mind to see/do. Siri took me to the Southern most entrance for Sequoia National Park which threw a small wrench in my navigational plans, but turned out to be for the best!
Tip #4: take the South Entrance from Sequoia and work your way up to Kings Canyon
Yeah, surprisingly working your way from South to North is a better route instead of coming in at Kings Canyon and working your way from the middle of the parks to the south and then back up again!
Lesson 1: if you get motion sickness, pack some dramamine because the roads in these parks are insane winding roads and often narrow. There is current construction bringing one road to one lane with a traffic light stop (could last up to 30 minutes in delay)
Lesson 2: DO NOT SPEED through the park, you could hit wildlife!
Lesson 3: If you want to See General Sherman without much interruption, take this route early (think just after sunrise).
Tip #5: Finding Trail Maps for this park is ridiculously difficult and you can only get a map when you get there.
I based my plan for trails on the NPS.gov site, which left much to the imagination! I had a list of hikes I wanted to try to get in, but found it was extremely difficult because 1.) I got there later than anticipated and 2.) had a hard time navigating the map that you receive at the entrance. Distance on the map was a major factor. Below I will provide you with the map I got:
Tip #6: It will take you 2 hours to get from Sequoia National Park (South entrance) to Kings Canyon.
Keep in mind this estimate is with minimal stops/ hikes (less that 30 minutes at 4 stops). To get back to Fresno from Kings Canyon (entrance) will also take 2 Hours. If you are planning a half day, be sure to remember this time frame from destination to destination. I half day could turn into a full day or even an over night trip very quickly!
Tip #7: Book in advance.
If you do plan to stay in the park, be sure to book your accommodations a few weeks in advance as the lodges/campsites in the park fill very quickly. There is also extremely little-NO cell service in the park (last minute bookings will likely never happen).
Tip #8: Pull over to any and all lookout spots.
Every lookout point has a new and exciting view point and varied elevations. If you can, catch sunset over one. You’ll thank me later!
The plan was to spend a few hours in Sequoia, sleep in the park then see Kings Canyon in the morning for a few hours before heading back up to Lodi. Since there weren’t any lodging options I had to exit the park to find a place to stay. The 2 hours exit of the park was the main reason for not going back in the morning. Had I gone back in, I would have spent another day to get into and out of the park!