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Going off camping and exploring in a national park is always fun and memorable. For many, if not all outdoorsy people visiting national parks is just a right of passage. A “been there, done that, need to go again” if you will.
But what about once you have a kid or kids?
Some think they need to wait years before hitting the big trails and parks again. I’m here to tell you, that’s simply not true! In fact, we did a big camping trip for my son’s 1st birthday.
So, without further babble, here are fun things to do in Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP with family or littles.
Kid Friendly Hikes in Sequoia National Park
Looking for a view over the valley? Then hike to the top of Moro Rock, and by hike, I mean climb stairs. 350 steps to be exact!
Don’t worry, this short hike sounds intense but it really isn’t. I think what gets most people is the change in elevation, especially if you are not used to it.
The climb is safe enough for the whole family since there are handrails and barriers along the way. I will say there are a few spots that are quite narrow so it is a one person at a time deal. But nevertheless, completely doable even for novice hikers.
Heck, I climbed this trail with my son on my back and had no issues whatsoever.
The best way to get to this trailhead is by shuttle. The shuttle will pick you up at the Giant Forest Museum (which don’t forget to check it out!)
This same shuttle that takes you to Moro Rock will also do a drop off at Crescent Meadow while passing tunnel tree as well.
Each of these trails can be accessed only by shuttle during the summer and weekends, to prevent overcrowding. Outside these time frames you can drive straight to the trails, but even then parking is limited, so shuttles are still the best option.
** FYI- Moro Rock is closed during the winter. Steps and snow are not a good combination
This is another must see during your visit to Sequoia National Park. Since the same shuttle that takes you to Moro Rock also drops off at the meadow, I would recommend doing both within the same day.
Crescent Meadow is an easy 2 mile hike on level gravel and dirt paths. So another one the kids can easily handle and explore.
What makes this meadow special is the abundance of wildflowers that bloom during the spring and fall. In some areas the pink blooms are so thick, the trees almost appear to be surrounded by pink carpet.
Most of the trees are towering lodgepole pines with a few sequoias throughout. You can actually hike passed the 2 mile loop and take a trail spur to go see Chimney Tree and Tharp’s Log.
Chimney Tree is a sequoia tree that died in a fire, but the hollowed outside remains. Big enough to where you can take a look from the inside. Tharp’s Log is actually a cabin built out of a fallen sequoia, another fun look into the past of explorers.
Sherman Tree Trail
This is probably the shortest trail in the park. From the parking lot, it is only ½ a mile with stairs down to the tree itself.
Why is this a must do trail? Well, the General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest tree! Not to mention it is just a little over 2,000 years old. If those stats don’t impress you, the tree in person will.
(ok, ok so I may be biased since I am a total nature nut, but trust me on this…take the time to go see it!)
After you have finished oohing and ahhing over the General Sherman Tree, head over to the Congress trailhead.
This is considered a moderate hike at a distance of 2.7 miles, but the paths are level and easy. So another family friendly priority in my opinion. Congress trail is probably the most popular trail amongst visitors, so avoid the crowds by going early in the morning or evening.
We went around 5 in the afternoon and had the trail mostly to ourselves. Which allowed plenty of time for fun photos! Most people just stop at the Sherman tree, snap a pic and leave, so taking time to explore further will pay off.
You might also be lucky to encounter one of many deer that hang out in this area.
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Hiking Kings Canyon
There is plenty to see and hike within Kings Canyon, but since we were traveling with a 12 month old, we stuck the easy but amazingly scenic stops.
Kings Canyon is a short but breathtaking drive from Sequoia, in fact, the price of entry includes both parks since they are pretty much seen as one.
First on our canyon tour was the trail for Zumwalt Meadow. The trail is only a 1.5 mile loop, so nothing too strenuous.
Most of the hike is fairly flat surface except for when you get to the mountainside. Here is where you will have to cross over some fallen rocks and small boulders. But nothing extreme.
There are several scenic spots of the meadow along the trail. But the best photography spot is from the boardwalk that spans across the meadow.
Unfortunately, it is currently gone due to heavy flooding from rains and snowmelt. But you can still walk out part of the way to snap some panoramic photos or just sit and take in all the beauty of the meadow surrounded by giant mountains.
Don’t let this deter you from doing this trail. There is still plenty to see and explore. Including climbing some decent sized boulders and wildlife spotting.
Ok, so if you want to be technical, this one is not actually a hike. I’m sure I have walked further from my truck to the entrance of Target before.
Seriously, the “hike” is less than .1 miles…roundtrip. So since it is such a short walk, why not do it.
It makes sense to do Grizzly Falls after Zumwalt Meadows because the falls is on the left side of the road coming back from the meadows, making parking that much easier.
You can walk right up to the falls if you don’t mind getting wet. I found the best view to be right by the trees, you just have to be quick on snapping before people get into your shot.
General Grant’s Tree
The General Grant Tree is the second largest tree (by volume) in the world. It was also declared the National Christmas Tree. This trail loop is a nice easy paved distance of .3 miles.
Along this trail, you will also come across the Fallen Monarch, which as you guessed is a fallen sequoia.
Where To Camp In Sequoia and Kings Canyon
There are 14 campground areas to choose from within the national parks, some are first come first serve basis, while others require a reservation.
However, of the 14 campgrounds, only 3 are open year round. Price per site is $22.
If all sites are full, you can also camp within the National Forest of Sequoia. It’s only a few miles west of the National park border.
We reserved a campsite at the Stony Creek campgrounds in the National Forest so we did not have to hassle with the first come first serve situation inside the national parks.
It turned out to be such a perfect site too! Our site was located right next to the creek as well as a hillside. Which meant we had plenty of private space between us and the next camper.
Not much of a camper? Stony Creek Village has lodging, a general store, and gas station. The lodge also has public showers for a small fee.
Know Before You Go
Sequoia and Kings Canyon is beautiful at any time of year, but that can also mean certain trail or road closures.
Always check the official National Park website, they always post current conditions and closures as well as predicted weather for the parks. If you plan on going during winter make sure you pack tire chains. Some roads require them!
We camped the first week of July and it was decently crowded. The best thing we did was to take advantage of the bus systems they provide within the park. Also planning out your day as far as which hikes you plan on doing makes a difference.
Shuttle times are pretty continuous with the last one typically being 5pm. Want to beat the crowds? Wake up and hit the trails earlier in the day.
When it comes time to hit the trails, don’t forget to take the right gear for day hiking! Even with a trail under a mile, it is better to have the right things with you than not.
Not sure what to pack? I have a post on that too! See if you’re prepared by referencing my list here.
Entry Fees / Permits
Admission to Sequoia and Kings Canyon is $35 per vehicle (good for 7 days). If you plan on visiting more National Parks in the same year, then purchase an annual pass instead. The cost is $80, but it gives access to all National parks and National Wildlife Refuges within the US.
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