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Kings Canyon National Park - A Complete 180


Kings Canyon National Park was truly a park I knew nothing about. I knew it was lumped in with Sequoia National Park and basically connected. Administratively, they ARE connected as Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks or SEKI for shorthand. 

Route 180

We got extremely lucky for our visit as well. Route 180, the route that takes you as far into the park as you can go, was closed for quite some time, all of 2023 in fact. It was severely damaged during winter storms in the area. At the time of us booking the trip, there was no guidance as to when or even IF the road will open for the 2024 season. We figured we'd just wing it and find some cool hikes anyway if it didn't. AMAZINGLY, 180 opened from Hume Lake all the way to Roads End two days prior to us arriving to the park. In fact, I had to find this out via the National Park website, because even on the day we were there, google still listed the road as closed! Another example of why you should check the NPS website before visiting a park!

I'm almost glad Google still listed 180 as closed because I almost feel like a lot of people weren't aware it reopened. We got to the park fairly early, so there weren't many people around, but as the day progressed, it barely got any busier. We only saw a handful of people on the trails. It was quite nice, really! There is another road, Crystal Cave Road, that is still closed for 2024 though. That would've been neat to see, but we'll absolutely take what we can get!. 

Roads End

Speaking of Roads End...The Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Route 180 within the park) simply terminates not even half-way into the park. Much like several hikes you may encounter, it's an out and back type of road. I believe this was done on purpose to limit the amount of car traffic through the part, to instill more a wilderness and conservation aspect to the park. Kings Canyon is a lot like North Cascades National Park in that way. Most people never truly hike in the North Cascades NP. They hike in the Ross Lake National Recreation Area or other areas in the North Cascades Complex. But to truly hike on North Cascades trails you have to hike out to them. Kings Canyon is a lot like that too. There are definitely some short hikes you can do within the boundary of the park right off of route 180. But some of the most incredible and visually rewarding hikes at Kings Canyon require more of an effort. You have to hike out to them in the wilderness, likely backpacking and camping in the process. Since we only had a day to see the sights of the park, we didn't do too many trails, but we got to see all of the park along 180 which was great!

Kings Canyon -- Buena Vista Trail

Most of Kings Canyon National Park is directly north of Sequoia National Park, but there is a small segregated piece of Kings Canyon NP jutting off of the northwest corner of Sequoia National Park as well. I'm not sure why the border is designated as such, but since we were coming from the Sequoia NP area we hit up this area first on our trip into the park. 

Buena Vista Trailhead Sign


We did the Buena Vista trail which provided some beautiful sights! Mountains, tons of wildflowers, and lizards. Oh the lizards. Every step we took, lizards scattered at our feet. So many lizards!

Trees and Rocks Buena Vista Trail
Cool tree and rocks!

Wildflowers along the rocks
Beautiful wildflowers dotted the rocks on the hike up!

Snow on the sierras
Despite the recent heat, there's still snow on some of the peaks!

Top of buena vista trail
We made it to the top! It's so quiet and beautiful up here! And somehow I all of a sudden got 5G service. Bzz Bzz. A ton of notifications on my phone came pouring in. I think I'll ignore them for now. Look at these views. It's only about 400 feet of elevation gain from the trailhead. A super beautiful and easy morning hike.

Buena Vista Trail
Sweeping views from the top! Unfortunately, since it was still morning, the foggy layers haven't burned off yet, which means less visibility. Cool nonetheless!

A rock hanging off the edge of buena vista
Almost reminds me of hanging rock at Sequoia!

Buena vista trail top
I could've sat up here all day! The weather was perfect, the air was crisp. Now we have to venture down into the canyon, where temperatures will surely increase as we head down.

Into the Canyon


heading down into the canyon
Heading down into the canyon. We can see the air temperature quickly increasing on the car's thermometer!

Kings River and Canyon
Kings River cutting through the canyon. Pictures don't do justice with how massive and impressive this looks in person!

River in the canyon
Man I just want to jump in, it's getting hot

Grizzly Falls Picnic Area
We're not quite in the National Park lands yet, but we stopped for some waterfall action at Grizzly Falls in the Sequoia National Forest!

Grizzly Falls
Playing around in Grizzly Falls. There was a small breeze causing constant mist in the air. Beautiful way to cool off now that we were in the valley of the canyon and it was starting to get hot.

In the canyon we did another hike which consisted of the Roaring River Falls, The Roaring River Trail, and connected to the Zumwalt Meadows trail. Only about 10 minutes into the trail we noticed a pretty big shelf of gray clouds start to move in. As time went on we started noticing some pretty tall cumulonimbus clouds forming as well. I'm like...seriously? It's CA, how unlikely are we to get rained on? I was a little bit worried about getting caught in a storm but we continued on and finished our hike. It thankfully didn't rain at all, but there were a few rumbles of thunder. Who am I kidding, I used to stand outside in thunderstorms taking it all in. I guess I'm just crazy. 

Roaring River Falls
Roaring. Roaring River Falls. That is aptly titled. Especially today. I wasn't sure we were even at the right spot, because this looked so different from pictures I've seen online. No, we were in the right spot, the water was just absolutely RAGING. It was hard to hear anything else but the roaring of the falls. Pretty awesome sight! I wouldn't want to get caught in that!

Roaring River Falls
More like Raging River Falls?

Roaring River Trail
There's the gray cloud shelf moving in from behind the mountain!

Roaring River Trail
This is a cool little trail though!

Sugar Pine Pinecone
The biggest pinecone I've ever seen. Today I Learned -- Sugar Pines have huge pinecones!

burned trees and a rock
Big rock and burned trees on the trail

Roaring River Trail Beautiful
Absolutely amazing. Beautiful scenery.

Roaring River Trail
Roaring River indeed! Walking along it on the trail

Crossing the river
Now we're crossing the Roaring River

Clouds are moving in
The clouds are starting to take over!

Zumwalt Meadows Trail
Officially linked up with the Zumwalt Meadows trail. Hobbling over some rocks and boulders.

Zumwalt Meadows Trail
The clouds have almost fully taken over! Rumbles of thunder in the distance. At least I don't need my hat anymore!

Zumwalt Rocks

Zumwalt Meadows
Zumwalt Meadows. Unfortunately the trail is no longer a loop, since the river damaged part of the trail. Out and back it is then.

Zumwalt Meadows
The meadows from a higher vantage point

Burned Log Lizards
Lizards chilling on a burned log

beautiful orange wildflowers
Heading back out of the park chilling by the river. Stunning orange flowers!

Quick River
That river was flowing fast!

General Grant Tree Kings Canyon
And last but not least before we head out for the's the General Grant tree! Second largest tree in the world!

Leaving kings canyon
Goodbye KC!


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