Kings Canyon National Park

Exploring a National Park has got to be one of my favorite things to do. I love being outdoors in general, but there’s something special about national parks. I mean, there’s a reason why they’re national parks, right? So, when we had a whole day of nothing but exploring whatever we wanted at Kings Canyon NP (in California) at whatever pace we wanted, we could hardly contain our excitement. After bidding farewell to Sunset campground and thoroughly being impressed with Grant Grove, we left the area and headed east on Generals Highway (CA SR 180) down to the canyon area of Kings Canyon. We had a few stops in mind, but mostly we were going to leave it up to….,well, us.

Kings Canyon Scenic Byway

They weren’t kidding when they gave this road a scenic byway designation because, man oh man, the scenery on this road is incredible. Seriously, don’t blink. Unfortunately for the driver, though, it’s hard to take your eyes off the very windy road to take a long look. Thank goodness there are plenty of turnouts and pullouts to stop and take it all in. There were only about three times when we pulled off at a turnout to let other cars pass us, but for the most part we had the road to ourselves and traveled down at a leisurely pace. Then there were the countless other times we pulled off just to stare in awe. Take your time on this road and take it all in.

Meadow near Princess campground
Mountains near and far
See the road winding its way down to the canyon

Kings River

The road eventually reaches the canyon floor and travels parallel to the Kings River. By this time, my family is telling me to stop saying “wow” all the time. The water is flowing fast this year, so much so that you can hear it thundering down in some places.

Fast moving Kings River
Boyden Caves was closed, but this was the walkway into the cave
You could hear the thundering of the water traveling down as you drove by. Β White water river rafting anyone?

It was another hot day and the temperatures kept creeping up as we descended into the canyon. Thankfully, there were a number of shady pull-outs right next to the river.

Shady spots to stop along the river
We did a lot of jumping in and out of the campervan to take pics

Grizzly Falls

Grizzly Falls is a pretty little waterfall, but since this waterfall was right off the small parking area, this place felt very congested. You really couldn’t sit and watch the waterfall without hearing everyone else’s conversation. So, after a few snapshots, we moved on.

Grizzly Falls

Moraine Campground (one of the campgrounds in the Cedar Grove area)

We already had a campsite reservation at Lodgepole that night, but we always like to check out campgrounds for future trips. All of the campsites in this area are first-come, first-serve so we could have technically stayed there that night if we wanted to (but I wasn’t about to lose the Lodgepole campground reservation that I got 6 months ago). We found a site that was next to the river to see if it was worthy of an overnight stay. Most of the river sites (but not all) were taken, but many other sites were open. This was during the week on a Monday, so I’m not quite sure what the weekends look like. We liked that you could hear the river from the site although you had to climb down an embankment to reach it.

Zumwalt Meadows Hike

The Zumwalt Meadows hike, a 1.5 mile loop hike that takes you around Zumwalt Meadows was what we were ready for next. It was getting pretty hot midday, but miraculously, the clouds came right over the canyon and covered up the sun for the rest of the afternoon. It even rained for about 20 minutes to make things feel fresh and newly “washed.” We snagged one of the last spots at the Zumwalt Meadows parking lot and just prepared ourselves mentally for crowds since this place is a big draw. The short rainfall seemed to deter some families with small kids, and those that did start hiking, went just to see the meadow and turned back. This left the rest of the trail pretty empty. Oh, this place with the granite cliffs, mountains everywhere you look, lush green meadow, crystal clear river has the “it” factor. You stare out at the scenery around you and nod your head in agreement that Kings Canyon is a national park. Yup.

Looks like some storm damage
Sheer granite cliffs along the Zumwalt Meadow hike
Meandering river paralleled the hike for much of it

Up until the bridge we were walking with many people around us. However, about a quarter of a mile later it thinned out considerably. We decided to walk the meadow loop in the counter clockwise direction because we were excited to walk through the granite rocks.

The view from the bridge, a little glimpse of what was to come
Hiking through the granite rock section
The granite rock section was my favorite part of the hike
Seeing bits of the meadow as we made our way through the rocks
Zumwalt Meadow
I mean really! The lush green meadow and granite cliff combination – wow! (again)
Nature’s ability to awe and inspire
Hi litttle campervan, we’ll be back soon (gives you an idea of the scale of these cliffs)
Zumwalt Meadows as viewed from the boardwalk (a very popular place, many people just walk to here and back)
The boardwalk is on the lower right hand side of the photo

Roaring River Falls

Since there is only one road into and out of Kings Canyon, if you miss a stop on the way to the canyon, you have another chance to stop on the way back. We tried to stop at Roaring River Falls on the way to Zumwalt Meadow, but the parking lot was completely full. So we made another attempt on the way back and sure enough there was plenty of parking then. After a quick walk up to the falls, we sat down on some boulders and just watched and felt the power of the waterfall as it roared down. This waterfall was true to its name!

There are many big boulders for sitting and admiring the falls
I could sit here and look at this view all day

We had to shave a day off of our itinerary due to work obligations, preventing us from exploring more of Kings Canyon, but we had a good dose of what the park was like. I feel satisfied after having had a wonderful day of exploring and filling our heads with memories of the stunningly picturesque Kings Canyon National Park. So, even if you only have a day like we did, you can really experience the park and even get a hike in. If you have more time, the backcountry area is supposed to be phenomenal.

It was getting to be that time when you start thinking about setting up your next campsite and cooking dinner, so we headed back up the canyon to Lodgepole campground in Sequoia National Park where we had reservations. Since my husband drove down to the canyon, I drove back, and I’m not gonna lie, driving that road was very scary at times. BUT we made it back up to the Kings Canyon Visitor Center safe and sound, and after treating ourselves to an ice cream bar from the market we were good to travel the rest of the way to Lodgepole. Kings Canyon is so worth that drive though!

I’m going to continue with our Sequoia National Park explorations and our bear incident in the next post… πŸ™‚ Thanks for sticking around this far!

If you’re interested, check out our explorations and camping experience at Sunset Campround (Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks) and at Lodgepole campground (Sequoia National Park).

15 replies to “Kings Canyon National Park

  1. I was waiting for this adventure as you close summer. Yes. Wow. Pics are great and the journey is an outing I join in my mind. Not sure we were in this area. Stunning. The drive would be tough but the sites worth it. As schools start there are probably less crowds. The area can be warm. Imagine a fall scene. Thanks again for the travel adventure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed walking the Zumwalt Meadows Loop very much. I love those granite cliffs. Like you, we didn’t get a chance to explore much of Kings Canyon the last time we were there. Hopefully someday we will.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. King’s Canyon is wonderful. I’ve been twice… first time we got snowed out and ended up driving N to wine country. Second time several of us backpacked the Rae Lakes Loop over about a week. There were active forest fires burning -kind of scary seeing open flames across the valley, yet beautiful sunsets. We saw black bears and beautiful backcountry 24/7. Stayed at Rae Lakes a couple of days then crossed Glenn Pass at 12,000′ and headed down and back toward the lodge a few days away. You can read about it and see pictures on my blog if interested. Thanks for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

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