For years, I have wanted to go camping at Kings Canyon National Park in California. It's an old park that is filed with giant sequoias and giant granite canyons. The jagged granite peaks and domes are classic Sierra Nevada picturesque. Hiking and back packing trails abound.
Sequoia National park is home to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states at 14,505 feet.
It's approximately 250 miles from where we live in the Bay Area and it always seemed too far and out of the way to camp there. I had it on my radar in March of 2013 to camp there with my boys while my wife was traveling abroad to visit her parents. Everything looked like it would work out until the weather took at turn for the worse and was extremely cold. No big deal because the way I figured, it was going to be warm enough in June for a group camping trip that I was planning.
Kings Canyon/Sequoia National Parks are far away from any major metropolitan area and is not frequented by a lot of visitors. We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and there was not another camper in the group camping area. By Friday night, only 3 of the 14 sites were occupied. This is a quiet park on most days with the exception of holiday weekends.
We stayed at Crystal Springs group campground. Most the campsites are on a slight incline, so it's hard to find areas that are flat enough to set up tents. We were fortunate enough to find 2 campsites side by side for our group of 30 people with level tent sites. 2 of the families camped in their vans. We opted to sleep in our REI Base Camp 4 tent on this trip rather than our van because we toted along so much extra gear and food for the group camping trip. It was rather nice to have more room to spread out in since we spent 4 nights here. The tents varied from Coleman to Eureka tents purchased at either Walmart or Costco. One young boy brought along a genuine U.S. Army issued canvass pup tent that had was put together with real buttons.
There is nothing remarkable about Crystal Springs Campground other than it's proximity to the rest of the park. I prefer campsites that are next to a running river, creek, or picturesque mountain lake. Crystal Springs is your garden variety forest campground. It's very functional. It's walking distance to Grant''s Grove Village which hosts a restaurant, visitors center, grocery store, gift shop, and showers. You can get to most points of interest in the park within an hour of travel time. The sites get plenty of shade and sunlight. Bear lockers are situated in every campsite. This did not sit well with many of the novice campers since most of the group did not have experience with bears. I took the bear warning signs serious and packed everything away not in in use. The rangers are usually strict in national parks and will issue tickets for leaving anything out that could smell like food.
We walked to Grant's Grove Village and passed by a lovely green meadow that makes the 5 minute walk a real pleasure. The grocery store is well stocked for a small store. The visitors center has helpful rangers, nice displays, and free park maps.
A heat wave hit us on the second day. It had to be in the upper 80's. We settled on a day trip to the lovely Hume Lake which has a nice sandy beach and cool breezes. We stayed the entire day at Sandy Cover. The kids loved playing in the water. A giant old log that has been floating in the Lake for at least 20 years entertained kids for hours. The nearby creek that fed the lake also was a source of fun for the kids.
The following day was equally hot when we drove King's Canyon Scenic Highway to Cedar Grove. We found a nice turnout next to the King River and sat in a shaded spot adjacent to the ice cold King River. The Kings Canyon Scenic highway is an amazing road the gives you scenic views all the way until you reach the end of the road. I made it almost to the end of the road and turned around because I had 8 additional hot and tired campers. While nobody was complaining, I thought it best to get all the ladies and kids back to our campsite after a day of swimming in the river.
My boys spent a few hours chasing and catching tadpole in the King River. Every national park that I have visited has always been a hit for my 2 young boys. All the young kids that were on this trip really enjoyed it.
The park boasts numerous hiking trails like General Grant Tree trail. We took a group of about a dozen people on this hike and enjoyed walking past the General Grant tree. It's a magnificent giant.
I highly recommend giving Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks a visit. I could easily spend a few weeks exploring this park because it's so beautiful and large. I plan on making a 5 day trip here in the fall to experience the beautiful fall colors. Early spring is another awesome time to visit and see the amazing water falls.