There’s something magical about the National Parks of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia that draw people from all over the world to experience their beauty and grandeur.
From the majestic peaks of Yosemite to the deep canyons of Kings Canyon and the towering sequoias of Sequoia, these parks offer a unique and unforgettable experience for everyone.
Explore the wonders of these parks, including breathtaking views, spectacular wildlife, and a wealth of recreational activities for all ages.
Overview of the road trip to Yosemite.
Three National Parks can be seen along this scenic road through California’s heart: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia. Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are actually just next to each other, and their entrance fees are the same!
Starting at one end and ending at the other, the journey takes about 12 hours. Between flying into San Francisco and out of Los Angeles, you visit Modesto, Fresno, and Bakersfield.
Notes on the itinerary
Flying into LA and out of San Francisco is as easy as reversing course on any of our road trips. It would be a good idea to check both directions to see which flights are the cheapest.
There is absolutely a cheaper direction, and if the direction doesn’t matter to you – this is an excellent way to save money.
During our trip to San Francisco, we rented an SUV and dropped it off at LAX before flying home.
Whenever we buy an SUV (we are a family of 5) we usually go for the larger one over the midsize one. We can easily fit all of us and our luggage in a vehicle that costs a couple of hundred dollars more and is much more comfortable to drive in
We decided to fly to San Francisco International Airport to start this trip. Flights to this airport are available through almost every carrier, and tickets weren’t outrageous.
The trip to Yosemite would take us three hours, so we decided to stay the night in San Francisco.
It would have been possible to swing the trek on the same day if we had been able to fly into the city earlier in the day. As a result, we stayed the night in a mid-priced hotel and prepared for our trip East the next day.
You should spend the night at the Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge if your flight gets in early enough. You can’t go wrong with either of these places that embody the city.
A 170-mile drive is required to reach the next location (~3 hours).
Yosemite is about a three-hour drive from San Francisco.
About halfway through the trip, you can stop in Modesto, CA for lunch. There are easy and short trails at Jamestown’s Goodwin Dam Recreational Area for those looking for a bit of exercise.
There is a national park in Yosemite
Facts about Yosemite National Park
- April, May, June, and September are the best months to visit
- The business is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
- For a seven-day period, the entry fee is $35 per vehicle
Within its nearly 1,200 square miles of land, Yosemite National Park is known primarily for its majestic waterfalls, but you will also find deep valleys, sweeping meadows, and ancient giant sequoia trees that are scattered throughout.
If you are going to this park, stay inside the park as it is quite far from any urban areas. The park will be less crowded, you’ll be able to stay late, and you’ll spend less time driving.
The Yosemite Hospitality Company manages the lodging inside Yosemite National Park, which includes simple tent cabins at High Sierra Camps and deluxe rooms at Yosemite Lodge
There is the Ahwahnee. Spring through fall and during holidays, reservations are strongly recommended 366 days in advance.
It may be a good idea to stay in Yosemite West, CA, or Fish Camp, CA if you’re okay with driving – or if there’s nothing available inside the park.
The area does have a few great Airbnbs, but they are all a good hour or more away from the main entrance of the park where you can stay.
There are many places to see and trails to hike in Yosemite that will easily fill multiple days if you wish to spend several days exploring this area. One of the most iconic features is El Capitan, but there are also many other places to discover.
The floor of Yosemite Valley offers views of El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls. El Capitan is the feature that actually launched the National Park Service over a hundred years ago. This valley also has several trail starting points, including the Mist Trail, which is popular.
The Four-Mile Trail, which is just under 5 miles one-way, also offers a great view of the valley at Glacier Point.
Yosemite is also recognizable for its Half Dome, located near the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center farther into the park.
A 15-mile round trip hike spanning multiple trails is the only way to access this enormous granite dome. You must obtain a permit from the park to hike this trail, which is not for the faint of heart.
There are 115 miles (2.5 hours) between the next location and this one.
About halfway through, you will pass through Fresno, CA, on the way to Kings Canyon National Park.
You can see giant Sequoia trees at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Fish Camp, CA.
The trees are impressive regardless of how many of them you see once you get to Sequoia National Park
National Park of Kings Canyon
Facts about Kings Canyon National Park
- The best months to visit are August, July, June, and April
- 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
- The entrance fee is $35 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. Sequoia National Park is included
Often overlooked by visitors to Yosemite and Sequoia, Kings Canyon is one of the lesser-known parks in the area. Thanks to the fact that Sequoia and Kings Canyon are so close to each other, even the entrance fee covers both parks!
You can stay in Miramonte or Pinehurst, which both offer an impressive number of Airbnbs. There are two beautiful lodges in the park, the Wuksachi, and Montecito-Sequoia Lodges, but they fill up quickly.
The Cedar Grove Lodge and Grant Grove Cabins are also nearby, so if you are not able to find an available unit, there are plenty of options in the area.
The Generals Highway is my favorite part of Kings Canyon National Park. Toward the top of the highway, we spent most of our days exploring Kings Canyon.
We will leave the majority of that route for later since it is the road we will use to travel down to Sequoia.
It is best to enter Kings Canyon via the Big Stump Entrance, which is located right next to Pinehurst in the center of the park.
After you pass this entrance, you will find the 1,700-year-old General Grant tree (the second-largest tree by volume in the world) and the Kings Canyon Visitor Center.
Once you’ve entered the park, head north on route 180 to the 35-mile-long Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. If you are driving east from Cedar Grove Village, do not forget to stop at Canyon View.
Roaring River Falls, North Grove Loop, and General Grant Tree Trail are some great hiking trails. Families should not attempt trials on their own.
There are more moderate trails like the Mist Falls Trail (8 miles round trip), Buena Vista Peak Trail (4 miles round trip), and Big Baldy Trail (4.4 miles round trip).
There is a 52-mile drive to the next location (~1.5 hours).
The distance between them may make it difficult to visit all the best sights of both in one place, even though they are so close.
The Generals Highway connects the two parks, and it takes about 2 hours to travel between them (63 miles).
You may need an entire day to make your way through this route if you are switching between Kings Canyon and Sequoia lodges.
I found the two parks just barely too far apart to stay in one place and visit both. Instead, we stayed two nights at each park to fully experience them!
Route 245 towards Citro is an alternative and slightly faster route. The General Highway ends up being about half an hour shorter, but you will miss out on its amazing sights.
National Park of Sequoias
Facts about Sequoia National Park
- May, June, September, and October are the best months to visit
- 365 days a year, 24 hours a day
- The entrance fee is $35 per vehicle, valid for 7 days. Access to Kings Canyon is included
You should have come down General’s Highway if you followed our itinerary, and visited Sequoia National Park after Kings Canyon.
You should stop, along the way, at the General Sherman tree, which is the largest known tree on earth. Make stops along General’s Highway and take the entire day to travel.
There is no better entrance to Three Rivers than through the Ash Mountain Entrance, so take your time and dedicate your whole day to it.
The Ash Mountain Entrance to Sequoia National Park is only about a 13-minute drive from Three Rivers, CA, which is about a 7-mile drive (11 km) away.
In this area, you can find plenty of Airbnb options, however, there is also a handful of hotels and motels within walking distance of each other.
There is a Silver City Resort within the park, but it fills up fast, so you will need to find another accommodation unless you plan several months ahead.
If you can’t find a spot at the park’s entrance, consider Visalia, CA, about 40 minutes south.
Our first day at Sequoia was spent exploring the southern part of General’s Highway again since there was so much to see along the route.
It was well worth the $18-$5 admission fee (depending on age) to explore the Crystal Cave, one of more than 200 natural caves in the park.
Along the way, you should also stop at the Giant Forest Museum and Moro Rock.
When it comes to hiking in Sequoia National Park, there are two easy trails that can be enjoyed by the whole family, the Big Trees Loop near the Museum and the Cold Springs Nature Trail.
Located at the Potwisha Campground, the Marble Fork Trail winds its way up a strenuous trail to the breathtaking Marble Falls.
There is a location 206 miles away (~4 hours).
The next day, we’ll travel to Los Angeles from Sequoia National Park. About halfway down, this 4-hour drive bisects Bakersfield, CA. Find some grub and beer at Lengthwise Brewing Company and stretch your legs at The Park at River Walk.
Also Read: National Parks of Yosemite