KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK is probably one of my favorite national park destinations to venture to from Los Angeles. It’s a tucked away gem ideal for backpacking, swimming, hiking, and camping within driving distance of approximately 4-5 hours from Los Angeles. Kings Canyon National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, which it shares with Sequoia National Park to the south and Yosemite National Park to the north, and is an ideal escape for any adventurer seeking a scenic refuge away from the bustling city.
There are a plethora of hikes within this national park to explore and it’s tough to narrow down the list. During this epic weekend trip, the group of us decided on MIST FALLS for it’s incredible vistas and low(ish) mileage. It’s approximately 8-miles round trip and teleports you to a lush, dense forest unlike any other. Also, your chances of spotting wildlife are definitely guaranteed, and there’s even a high possibility of spotting black bears along the way. Be sure to read up on REI’s helpful advise on backpacking in Bear Country here and, if you do spot one, be smart and keep your distance.
PRO-TIP: You want to have plenty of bug spray on hand as mosquitos are definitely present throughout the entire hike, especially if you're hiking closer to sunset.
Mist Falls is also a great way to experience Paradise Valley, which is one of the main corridors within the canyon. There are several vista points along the trail that showcase the incredible beauty of the area. You can also do overnight treks further into the valley if you’re truly looking to experience Kings Canyon in the best way possible.
A full list of all the hikes to enjoy within the national park can be explored here.
Car camping (when you drive your car to a campsite and camp near the car) is fairly simple within Kings Canyon during the warmer months and there are ample campsites within the park that offer both reserved and first-come, first-served sites. Reserved sites are helpful if you’re able to plan your trip far in advance (sometimes close to 6 months at some national parks) or are considering over a holiday weekend. There are two main sections with various campgrounds within Kings Canyon: Grant Grove Area (closest to the entrance at an elevation of 6,500 feet) and Cedar Grove Area (around an hour from the entrance at an elevation of 4,000 feet).
The CEDAR GROVE AREA is within minutes from most of the main hikes and also located near the Kings River so, if you’re lucky, and get a site near the river, it’s a peaceful soundtrack to have in the background while sitting around the campfire. Keep in mind, Cedar Grove is much further from any services compared to Grant Grove; however, Hume Lake has a gas station and small market if any last minute supplies are needed during warmer months. Lastly, you want to arrive as early as possible during the summer season since the campsites fill up quickly in the first come, first served campgrounds. The later in the day on a weekend you arrive, the less likely you'll find a spot.
PRO TIP: Early morning Friday's tend to work best for me when trying to grab a campsite; however, this may not always work on holiday weekends.
Apart from the hikes, Kings Canyon offers outstanding swimming opportunities when the river is calm. It’s crucial to be aware of the dangers of swimming in the river and only select spots that allow you to enjoy it safely. As a much more reasonable option there’s HUME LAKE, which is an idyllic place to enjoy swimming along with other watersports such as paddle boarding or kayaking. There are plenty of enclaves around the south side of the lake to relax near while also being easily accessible if you park in the main camp parking lot. Hume Lake is technically not part of the national park; though, it’s a wonderful location to lie by the water on a hot day. It’s also part of a camp that is used for various activities throughout the year.
Have you been to Kings Canyon National Park? If so, share your tips and/or suggestions below in the comments section.
Till the next adventure.
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