Whether you have a day, a week, or even longer, here are some sample itineraries for visiting Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
It’s literally impossible to visit all three parks in the same day, so if you only have 24 hours to spend in the Sierras, chose a single park and enjoy one of these one-day itineraries.
Park your car and take the free shuttle to the Lower Yosemite Fall stop. From there, take the west trail through the forest and out to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall. If you visit in spring and early summer, you’ll be able to feel the mist of the fall on your face; however since the fall is filled by the snow pack, it’s usually just a trickle by the end of summer. Next, hop back on to the shuttle and head over to Sentinel Meadow, to explore the boardwalk trail which offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding granite faces. When it’s time for lunch swing by the El Capitan Picnic Area and enjoy a midday meal with the resident climbers that frequent the area. In the afternoon, pick up your car and visit Mirror Lake and Happy Isles, where visitors with placards can drive on the restricted park roads. Finally, top off your day at Curry Village, and gobble up a slice or two on the Pizza Deck.
Begin your Sequoia visit with a short walk to the General Sherman Tree — considered the largest tree in the world because of its volume. After that hit the Giant Forest Museum, just down the road. Don’t forget to take a gander at the massive Sentinel Tree — a “typical” sequoia — in front of the building. Then head on down the road to the Big Trees Trail, a 2/3-mile loop through Round Meadow that’s flanked by giant sequoias. Stop for lunch at the Pinewood Picnic Area, a favorite of the rangers, and one of the nicest picnic areas in the park. Then take an afternoon drive or bus trip (depending on the season) on the Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Road. Finally, head over to Lodgepole Market, pick up a beer (they have an impressive selection) and enjoy it on the adjacent patio.
Start your visit off with a stop at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center in Grant Grove, which offers a number of interpretive exhibits and includes an excellent film about the park. Next, head up to Panoramic Point for a commanding view of Kings Canyon National Park, with Hume Lake, Spanish Mountain and Mt. Goddard clearly visible in the distance. When it’s time for a bite to eat, stop at the new Grant Grove Restaurant, located near the visitor center. Conclude your day with a visit to Grant Grove — home of the 1,700-year old General Grant Tree that’s 268 feet high and 40 feet wide.
Follow the one day Yosemite itinerary, then check-in to a property in or near the park for the next few nights. On day two, head up to Glacier Point in the morning, enjoy a picnic lunch with a view of the valley, then explore Mariposa Grove in the afternoon. On the third day, take the Valley Floor Tour in the morning, then grab a quick lunch at Yosemite Valley Lodge. In the afternoon rent a handcycle and explore the valley bicycle trails.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon
On day one follow the one day Sequoia itinerary, then overnight at Wuksachi Lodge. Head over to Kings Canyon on day two, follow the Kings Canyon one day itinerary, and spend the night at John Muir Lodge. On day three, take the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway from Grant Grove to Cedar Grove, and stop for lunch along the way at the Grizzly Falls Picnic Area. Cap off the day with some afternoon hikes at Zumwalt Meadows and Roaring River Falls, before spending the night at Cedar Grove Lodge.
Follow the three day Yosemite itinerary, then spend the night at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite on day four. Head out towards Sequoia on day five, with a short detour along the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway enroute. Finally, follow the three day Sequoia and Kings Canyon itineraries to complete your week in the Sierras.
This ten day itinerary allows you to explore some scenic areas outside the parks. Just supplement the one week itinerary with a visit to some of these sights, and spend the night in a nearby gateway community.
- Visit Devils Postpile and Mono Lake, and then take a drive along scenic June Lake Loop. Spend the night in Mammoth Lakes.
- Take a ride on the Yosemite Mountain Sugarpine Railroad and spend the night in Oakhurst.
- Enjoy the scenic drive to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and spend the night at Evergreen Lodge. This route is especially nice in the late spring, when the wildflowers put on a spectacular show.
- Take a day trip to Hume Lake, and explore the accessible trail alongside the lake. Spend the night in the Sierra National Forest at Montecito Sequoia Lodge.
- Spend the day on scenic Tioga Road, and pack along a picnic lunch to enjoy by Tenaya Lake. Head back to Yosemite Valley or over to Mammoth Lakes for the night. Alternatively you can pitch a tent at one of the accessible campsites at Tuolumne Meadows Campground.