Travel to California


864,118 acres. Surrounded by National Forest lands in east-central California, and southeast of Yosemite, these two jointly-administered National Parks enclose some of the most magnificent scenery of the High Sierra. Included is 14,495-foot Mount Whitney, highest mountain in the lower 48 states.

Most of the region consists of wilderness, with lofty snow-capped peaks and steep-walled canyons, rivers and lakes, and streams with waterfalls. Among the canyons is 8,000-foot-deep Kings Canyon, said to be the deepest in the United States, with the South Fork Kings River flowing through.

There are many stands of giant sequoia, including the 2,500-year-old General Sherman Tree, believed to be the largest tree on earth, along with virgin forests of mixed conifers, oak woodlands, mountain meadows, and areas of chaparral. Among the wildlife are mule deer, black bear, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, coyote, and bobcat.

Activities: These two National Parks have over 800 miles of trails for hiking and backpacking, including sections of the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail (see entries page 113), which coincide. Difficulty ranges from easy to strenuous. High trails may only be snow-free from July to October.

Many trails are suitable for horseback riding, and cross-country skiing is available on some trails in the winter. Bikes are not permitted in the backcountry. Fishing is possible at lakes and streams. Hunting is prohibited.

Camping Regulations: Backcountry camping is allowed in most regions. A wilderness permit is required, and available at ranger stations. A fire permit is necessary as well in order to have a campfire. In some areas camping and campfires are prohibited or restricted to designated sites, especially near lakes.

Quotas are in effect for the number of backpackers allowed to enter daily at each trailhead. Advance reservations may be made by mail. Reservations are taken as of March 1 each year for all dates through the summer.

Whenever possible, campsites should be located at least 100 feet from water sources, and out of sight of trails and other campers. Avoid camping in meadows or on other vegetation.

For Further Information: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Three Rivers, CA 93271; (209)565-3307.

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