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Say you’re looking to maximize the amount of National Parks you see in the California area. In that case, you can’t go wrong by hitting 3 National Parks and going from Sequoia National Park to Yosemite National Park. Included, and often unmentioned is Kings Canyon National Park. This guide will take you from Sequoia to Yosemite, but obviously, you can do what we did and go the other direction, Yosemite to Sequoia. Either way, you’re going to see the largest trees in the world and enjoy expansive scenic vistas and varied hikes.
We visited Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks in the summer of ’22 as part of a senior trip for my son. We actually did many more of the California National Parks, and this part of our journey was one of our favorites.
Our Itinerary included 3 nights in Yosemite and 2 nights in the Sequoia National Forest, situated between Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
How to get from Sequoia National Park to Yosemite National Park
Our road trip in California began in San Francisco. The Golden Gate city is probably your best for starting and ending this trip. While Sequoia is also an easy 200-mile 4-hour drive from Los Angeles, you’re likely to get better round-trip flights from San Francisco. And San Francisco is less than 200 miles from Yosemite where it’s nearly 400 miles to Los Angeles.
Regardless of where you fly in, I would recommend you have some sort of vehicle to travel between the parks. While you might find tour companies that can take you to all of them, having your own vehicle allows you the freedom to stop and hike or sightsee where you wish.
You can find the best prices on rental cars here.
Alternatively, my favorite option is the campervan we rented from Escape Campervans. We were able to camp relatively cheaply in the nearby National Forests. Plus, with the campervan, minimal setup is required. You can literally just roll into your site and be cooking your meals within 10 minutes of arriving.
How far is Sequoia from Yosemite?
From Sequoia National Park to Yosemite National Park you can take one of two routes, depending on what you want to see and the time of year. It does depend on if you’re starting out on the Sequoia side or the Kings Canyon side of the parks. I would also recommend taking highway 41 out of Fresno for a somewhat straiter drive into the park.
I use Roadtrippers to plan my routes. because Roadtrippers shows you the various waypoints you want to see, it’s helpful to plan a route that may have many stops. Plus, if you have an RV, you can enter your dimensions to avoid length and height restrictions. I pay for the Pro Plan so that I may add more than 5 waypoints. You can get $5 off here with my code BTR5QTP.
Yosemite National Park has 4 different entrances. From Sequoia, the quickest route is the south entrance. It’s about 144 miles and an average of 3 hours drive. The main attractions in the Yosemite Valley are another 27 miles or 50 minutes drive inside of the park.
What to do in Sequoia National Park
General Sherman Tree
Assuming you’re starting off in Sequoia, the most famous tree is the General Sherman Tree. It is the world’s largest tree by volume and wow, is it impressive. It is over 36 feet in diameter and 275 feet tall.
Here’s the impressive thing about sequoia trees. Did you know that sequoias are burn resistant? These trees are thousands of years old. As in, can you imagine that this tree was here in the time of Christ, just starting out? Thousands of years old.
This means, that during any wildfire, they survive. You can see scorch marks and these giant trees will burn if the fire is too powerful. It is both sad and powerful to drive through these wildfire-ravaged areas and still see sequoias standing tall.
The General Sherman Tree is along a paved trail, so it is accessible. It is a decent slope uphill back to the parking lot, but there is also a shuttle at the end of the main trail.
I highly recommend venturing into the rest of the Giant Forest as more trails lead off the paved path, in order to wander more of the sequoia groves filled with hundreds of mature giant sequoia trees. Look for Congress Trail and Big Trees Trail.
While we didn’t get to Moro Rock ourselves, it’s another must-do in the Sequoia National Park. This granite dome overlooks the park and climbs 300 feet in elevation. Don’t worry, there are stairs!
Giant Forest Museum
Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the Giant Forest Museum and visitor center as well. We love doing guided talks with the National Parks rangers and had done 2 sequoia-related talks at the time of our visit. However, this small but mighty museum showed just where all the sequoias grow, how tall they are in comparison, some history of the area, and what you can do to preserve the groves.
What to do in Kings Canyon National Park
Moving north along the scenic drive of Generals Highway, you travel between Sequoia and Kings Canyons National Park. These parks are often considered one national park since they share a border in some areas. However, this drive takes you through Sequoia National Forest.
In King’s Canyon, you’ll find the Grant Grove, with General Grant, the second largest tree amongst the largest trees. This is another easy hike, taking you to some picturesque mountain views.
I found the welcome center in Kings Canyon to offer more amenities such as a general store, a small restaurant, and gift shops.
Kings Canyon offers higher elevations than Sequoia, and some of the easy hikes led to massive sprawling views of the canyon. While it is named a canyon, it does not feel like the Grand Canyon you may be used to. It appears to be more mountains and valleys.
If you have limited time, you might be asking should I go to Yosemite or Sequoia National Park? Of course, that depends. Sequoia Kings Canyon feels more secluded and with that comes fewer crowds. You can still get mountain vistas, stunning trees, and loads of hikes and guided tours that the national park service is known for. That said, you can see sequoia trees in Yosemite, so even if you choose that one, you won’t miss out on these wondrous trees. More on that below.
Where to stay in Sequoia Kings Canyon area
I would highly recommend staying in one of the parks’ campgrounds, giving you early access to the features of the parks without the added drives.
Cedar Grove campgrounds are near the welcome center and open seasonally.
We stayed in Sequoia National Forest campgrounds between the parks.
While you can stay one night in the parks and see and do everything in the area. We stayed two nights, amongst the tall pines, and enjoyed a relaxing stay at the end of our vacation.
What to do in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is one of the top visited national parks in the United States. It’s so popular in fact, that if you plan a summer visit, you need a reservation in order to limit the number of people in the park at any given time.
Located along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada, Yosemite is home to iconic massive granite mountains. A full in-depth coverage of Yosemite National Park would fit in its own separate blog post. However, my favorite highlights include:
- Upper Yosemite Falls – Which I climbed the full 4-hour route up and 4 hours down.
- Lower Yosemite Falls – a much easier walk, paved, with striking views of the lower half of the falls.
- Half Dome – which you can see from many points along the Yosemite Falls Trails.
- Yosemite Valley – the main attraction with meadows museums, visitors center, and busses to easily transport you through the central valley area. Trust me you’ll want to take the bus when you can as the parking lot fills up
Heading north from Sequoia National Park to Yosemite National Park you’ll also come across the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Yosemite, plus the groves mentioned earlier, are the only places where you’ll find these mature giant sequoias. Mariposa is home to the Grizzly giant, the oldest tree in the Mariposa Grove.
Since your reservations in the park are good for 3 days, I would recommend spending the full three days. During those three days, you can do a couple of hikes, visit the museums, dine at the lodge, and get in a guided tour or two from the park ranger.
Where to stay in Yosemite National Park
If you can get reservations, consider staying in the Curry Village part of Yosemite. You can find every type of accommodation from tent cabins, to standard rooms at the motel. Nearby is also the Ahwahnee lodge for a more upscale lodge experience. There is also camping in the Sierra National Forest surrounding the park.
Reservations were tough to come by when we were searching, but I did stay at a tiny campground just 25 minutes from the valley. I found Indian Flat RV Park by using Campspot. It wasn’t the fanciest, but it was by far as close as we could get and that was more important.