Do you have a park newspaper that's available online?
Many of your questions will be answered in our park newspaper, the Visitor Guide. Look here for important phone numbers, opening/closing dates, camping, lodging, dining, shopping, showers, activities, attractions, front-country hiking trails, wilderness permits, food storage, safety, road construction delays, where to find gasoline, vehicle length advisories, shuttle service, a park map, and more.
What will the weather be like during my visit?
Check forecasts for different areas of these parks before you leave home to help you plan your trip. Bring the proper clothing, hiking, or camping gear for the area, elevation, and season of your visit. Check current conditions for details about different areas of the parks.
When is shuttle service available?
Ride our free shuttles in the park, or ride into the park from nearby cities for a small fee! Park shuttles generally operate in Sequoia National Park from approximately late-May through early September, and during the winter holiday season on a limited schedule. A new free shuttle service is also operating in Kings Canyon National Park.
How can I visit Crystal Cave?
Crystal Cave tours are offered by our partners, the Sequoia Parks Conservancy.
Are the bears safe? Will I see them during my visit?
These parks are home to several hundred black bears, but no grizzly bears. If you'd like to see one, head out on park trails. Meadows are usually a good place to catch a glimpse of a bear. Bear incidents are extremely rare, though bears have been known to damage vehicles to get to food. To minimize thie risk of damage to your car, store your food properly, don't feed them, keep a safe distance, and pick up all trash.
Are there any park features and facilities that are accessible? Is assistive listening equipment available for park films?
Get detailed information about the accessibility of park facilities and features.
Is it a good idea to bring my dog or other pet?
Know the rules for pets in the parks, and in the surrounding national forests - they're different in each area.
Do you offer ranger programs?
Schedules for ranger programs are posted online. When you get here, you can also check visitor center and campground bulletin boards for activity schedules.
What are safety issues that I should know about?
Your safety is your responsibility. Learn about the hazards you may encounter in natural areas.
Will my cell phone work?
There is no cell service in many areas of these parks. Designate a contact person at home to communicate through. It's best to use printed maps of the parks for the most reliable driving directions.
Where can I find gas, electric vehicle charging stations, and emergency vehicle services?
There are no gas stations or repair shops inside the park boundaries, though gas is sold on nearby national forest lands. Depending on your vehicle and connection, electric vehicle charging may be available at some park lodges.
Do I need a permit for an overnight backpacking trip into park wilderness?
Yes, a wilderness permit is required.
Do you restrict campfires at certain times of the year?
Fire restrictions begin when fire danger increases - including limits on campfires, barbeques and smoking.
What is the difference between national parks and national forests?
When you visit these parks, you'll probably enter both national park and national forest lands. Some rules vary between National Parks and National Forests.
Can I bring a weapon or firearms into the parks?
Weapons (including, but not limited to, BB, Pellet and Paint Guns, Bow/Arrow, Slingshots, Bear Spray and other compressed gas irritant devices) are illegal to possess. Discharge of a firearm or weapon is prohibited within Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks.
Can I use marijuana during my visit?
Possession or use of marijuana and other controlled substances inside the national parks is prohibited. While California law provides for limited possession and use of marijuana it remains an illegal drug under federal law, which is enforced within the park.
How long does it take to drive through the park?
Give yourself plenty of time. To drive only the Generals Highway from the southern entrance to the northern entrance, allow at least two hours plus whatever time you plan to spend outside of the car. If you plan to visit Cedar Grove or Mineral King, allow quite a bit more time. It is possible to drive for more than four hours and still be within the parks. For example, the drive time between the southern Ash Mountain entrance and Cedar Grove is 3.5 hours. Many park roads are closed in winter. Our driving map and area maps can help you plan a driving route through these parks.
What are park roads like?
Be prepared at any time of year for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. The Generals Highway ranges in elevation from 1,400 feet (425 meters) at the southern Ash Mountain entrance to about 7,200 feet (2200 m) at Little Baldy. Mineral King Road is even higher at 7,600 feet (2,320 m). Rugged terrain makes for narrow, steep, and very curvy roads and highly variable weather. It can be warm in the Foothills while it is snowing at higher elevations. Drive slowly, use low gear, and watch for signs of engine and brake overheating on steep switchbacks. Avoid grass fires by parking cars only on paved turnouts. There is a vehicle length advisory of 22 feet (6.7 meters) on the 12 narrow miles of the Generals Highway from Potwisha Campground to Giant Forest Museum.
Where can I see Mt. Whitney? Can I climb it?
Actually, you cannot see Mt. Whitney at all from park roads, which are all on the west side of the park. The Sierra Nevada mountains have an unusual double crest running north-south at the southern end of the range. Since Mt. Whitney is on the eastern crest, the peaks of the Great Western Divide block views of the eastern crest from the west side of the park. Mt. Whitney is most easily seen from the Owens Valley, east of the parks.
If you're willing to climb to the top of Alta Peak (11,200 feet high; a strenuous but exhilarating day-long hike from Wolverton or Giant Forest), you can see the top of Mt. Whitney over the Great Western Divide (weather permitting).
A permit is needed to climb Mt. Whitney, and the permit process depends on where you begin your hike.
Is there a post office in the park?
Yes, there is a post office at Grant Grove Village.
Are there places to buy food?
Most areas have food services that include a market, restaurant, deli, or snack bar. Many services are closed in winter.
How serious are the problems with air quality?
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks periodically experience some of the worst air quality in the National Park system. Warm afternoon winds-particularly on sunny summer days-bring valley ozone and other particulates up the canyons into the mountains. Ozone levels are highest from May to October, peaking in late afternoon. These peaks sometimes reach "unhealthy" levels by state and federal standards and can affect respiratory systems.
Are sequoia trees really the largest living things on earth?
It depends on how you define largest living thing. Some claim that the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is the largest living thing on earth. Others claim that an aspen grove covering more than 100 acres in Utah holds that title because the trees all appear to share the same root system. But it might be argued that these are colonies of clones rather a single organism.
Some claim that a large Armillaria bulbosa fungus, whose mycelia permeate more than 30 acres of forest soil in northern Michigan, is the largest living thing. (An even larger cousin of the Armillaria bulbosa fungus makes its home in a forest in Oregon.)
But if you restrict your definition to single-trunked trees, then the General Sherman sequoia tree in Giant Forest holds the title as the largest living specimen on earth. It is 275 feet (83 m) tall with a massive trunk 36.5 feet (11.1 m) in diameter and 109 feet (33 m) in circumference at the base. Even more remarkable is the fact that at a point 120 feet (36 m) in the air the trunk of General Sherman is still 17 feet (5 m) in diameter.
It is estimated to have a volume of 52,500 cubic ft. (1,486.6 cubic meters). In lumberman's terms, this one tree probably contains 630,000 board feet of lumber. (A board foot is 12 in. x 1 in. plank that is one foot long.) That's enough to build 120 average-sized houses. In fact, a single giant sequoia may contain more wood than is found on several acres of some of the finest virgin timberland in the Pacific Northwest. The trunk of General Sherman alone weighs nearly 1,400 tons. That is roughly equivalent to 15 adult blue whales, 10 diesel-electric train locomotives, or 25 military battle tanks!In just one year, an average mature giant sequoia tree adds enough wood to make a sixty-foot tall, three-foot diameter oak tree!
How many of the park's caves can I visit?
The caves in these national parks formed in marble, which is metamorphosed limestone. Most caves, such as Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, are limestone caves. So far, over 200 caves have been discovered in the parks. Some contain creatures found nowhere else on earth. It is said that, even if there were no sequoia trees here, these parks would be a national treasure based on the caves.
Because caves are delicate and dangerous places, only Crystal Cave is open to the public for tours. Boyden Cavern, on national forest land near Cedar Grove, is currently closed.
Since the mission of the parks is to protect sequoias, why do you deliberately set fires in sequoia groves?
For its first seven decades, the parks tried to put out every fire in the sequoia groves. But during those seventy years, the parks learned something startling. Sequoias are well-adapted to natural fire. In fact, they need fire to reproduce. Periodic fires help to create an ideal habitat for young sequoias to grow by removing competing trees and duff, leaving a bare mineral soil for sequoias to grow. We have an active fire management program in these parks that works to protect the health of our ladnscapes and the safety of people who visit and work here.
Managing the Parks
Where can I learn about the General Management Plan for these parks?
The Record of Decision for the "General Management Plan (GMP) & Comprehensive River Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)" was finalized at the end of 2007. You can review the entire GMP, other park plans, and the planning process on our park planning web page.
Who is the superintendent of Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks?
Superintendent Woody Smeck is in charge of both parks. He, and all park employees, work for the National Park Service, which is in the U.S. Department of the Interior.
How can I get a job in the parks?
A variety of permanent and seasonal jobs are available in these and other national parks.