Yosemite, Kings Canyon & Sequoia Ntl Park in 7 Days

Hey Guys!

Since, I don’t have any trips officially scheduled until April, I thought I would do something a little different.

I have compiled a few itineraries that I’ve not been able to use yet because we’ve had to cancel a few of our trips due to all of the COVID restrictions.

So, I thought I would go ahead and share my itineraries with you all in case some of you were interested in planning a trip to any of these places.

I’ll start off with Yosemite.

This itinerary also includes Kings Canyon National Park & Sequoia National Park.

Yosemite no longer requires a reservation to enter the park.

However, read more here about the dates that do require a reservation.

The closest airport for Yosemite is Fresno.

We were going to be flying on Southwest Airlines.

I love that I can change my ticket for free and take 2 checked bags for free so I use them as much as I can when we travel.

Tip: I just applied for their Southwest credit card and received 75k reward points, You have to make $3k in purchases in 3 mons time but I applied right before Christmas so I had my points pretty quickly. 75k points should easily get you two or more free flights.

After arriving to Fresno and picking up our rental car, we had planned on stopping at a nearby grocery store to pick up a cooler along with water, snacks and other stuff to make lunches in case we weren’t close to any restaurants or stores when we were out and about.

Tip: Prior to leaving for your trip, have a list made out of things you will need so you don’t waste time in the store

Click here for grocery stores in Fresno

We would be staying in El Portal at the Yosemite View Lodge.

The hotel is located approx. 2 hours from the Fresno airport.

Read reviews here

Tip: On the way from Fresno to the hotel, you could stop at Mariposa Grove. Here you will find a grove of Giant Sequoias. This is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite and is home to over 500 mature giant sequoias. Don’t miss the tunneled out tree. For a trail map of the grove click here. Plan on spending 2-4 hours here….read a detailed blog about it here.

Tip: Just a few yards west of the El Portal Market and gas station, turn north onto El Portal Road, and you’ll see a number of well preserved artifacts.  Just to the left, you’ll see Yosemite Valley Railroad caboose #15 and the Hetch Hetchy Railroad #6 engine.

Yosemite View Lodge is the closest hotel to Yosemite’s Arch Rock Entrance. It’s located approx. 30 mins from Yosemite National Park.

Click here to find other lodging in El Portal

Click here to book lodging inside the park

After getting checked in, you could head into the park to watch the sunset at Tunnel View or head to Glacier Point Road or hike the Mist Trail since it’s a one way trail from 9 am – 4 pm.

The Glacier Point Road is open to cars approximately late May through October or November, depending on conditions. You can also take a shuttle up to Glacier Point.

The drive to Glacier Point Road from the hotel will take approx. 35 mins. The drive to Glacier Point will take approx. 1.5 hrs.

Glacier Point is an overlook with a commanding view of Yosemite Valley & Half Dome. The road ends at Glacier Point and it is a short walk to the viewpoint.

Tip: Click here for a permit to hike Half Dome

Click here for day hikes along Glacier Point Road & click here for hikes in Yosemite

That’s it for Day one!

DAY TWO:

Today, we will be driving the Tioga Pass Road

Tip: On this stretch of road you will only find one gas station, and the gas prices are not cheap. I recommend that you fill up your tank before you go onto Tioga Road.

Tioga Road is a wonderful scenic byway 64 miles long connecting Big Oak Flat to Lee Vining. The travel time without ever stopping (from Crane Flat Campground to Lee Vining) is about 1.5 hours, but it’s very difficult that you don’t make at least one stop!

We will be making these stops along the road:

1. Tuolumne Grove – Located 30 mins from the hotel – Tuolumne Grove is a giant sequoia grove – there are only 7-8 sequoia trees here so you may want to skip if you are going to Sequoia Ntl Park – Read reviews here

2. Olmsted Point – 45 mins from the 1st stop or 1 hr 15 mins from the hotel if you choose not to stop at the Tuolumne Grove – There’s a gas station 7 mins from here – views of the northern side of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, and a view of Tenaya Lake can be seen here
3. Tenya Lake – 5 mins from last stop – This lake may be the most beautiful of all Yosemite’s lakes. It’s a mile long and bordered on three sides by granite peaks and domes.
4. Tuolumne Meadows – 10 mins from last stop – One of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada, Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet has been also among the most visible to past pioneers, and present visitors and scientists.
5. Lunch at Tuolumne Meadows GrillSee the Post Office – 5 mins from last stop – Could also stop at the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center – If you don’t want to eat here, drive 30 mins heading to Mono Lake and eat at Whoa Nellie Deli – there is also a gas station here
6. Mono Lake -35 mins from last stop – (other possible stops: Mono City & Bodie State Historic Park & Ghost Town 1 hr from Mono Lake – From Mono Lake, you are 2 hrs from the hotel
7. Mammoth Lakes – 35 mins from Mono Lake – Maybe ride the gondola  – if you include this stop, it would make for a very long day as it’s 2 hrs from Bodie State Park – From Mammoth Lakes, you are 2.5 hrs from the hotel and Bodie State Park is 2 hrs 45 mins from the hotel
8. Head back to hotel – From Mono Lake you are 2 hrs from the hotel

Click here & here for 10 great day hikes along Tioga Pass Rd

Click here for tips and a detailed guide on driving the Tioga Pass Road

DAY THREE:

Today, we will be entering the park early to beat the crowds and lines of cars waiting to get in!

When I say early, think 6-7 am!!

This park is VERY crowded so always get an early start…especially, if you’re not staying inside the park.

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If you visit during the summer, have plenty of water because it is hot! Make sure you wear good shoes and socks and wear a hat and sunscreen!

Tip: Download the Gypsy app to help guide you through the park

Click here to read about entrance fees & reservations

Click here & here for the best things to see/do in Yosemite

Click here for maps of the park

Yosemite has 5 different entrances:

  1. Hetch Hetchy Entrance (open year-round, limited hours in winter)
  2. Big Oak Flat Entrance (open year-round)
  3. Arch Rock Entrance (open year-round)
  4. South Entrance (open year-round)
  5. Tioga Pass Entrance (closed ~November-May)


From the hotel, you will be entering in the park from the Arch Rock Entrance.

Entering through Arch Rock is the fastest way to get to Yosemite Valley from outside the park. It is about a 25 minute drive from point to point.

The most popular views to the Arch Rock entrance is Inspiration Point, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, views of El Capitan and Glacier Point.

When entering through Arch Rock, Bridal Veil Falls can be seen as you are driving into Yosemite Valley.

Our first stop will be Glacier Point. The drive takes approx 1 hr from Tunnel View & 1.5 hrs from the hotel.

Tunnel View is approx. 30 mins from the hotel.

After arriving to Glacier Point, we will hike to Sentinel Dome which is 2.2 mi round trip.

Here you will have 360 degree panoramic views and see the fallen Jeffrey pine, formerly one of the most famous trees in the world.

Next you will hike to Taft Point. This hike is also 2.2 mi round trip.

It’s a 45 min walk from Sentinel Dome to Taft Point.

Tip: The parking lot for Taft Point shares the trailhead with Sentinel Dome and often fills up, so parked cars tend to fan out along the shoulders of Glacier Point Road, effectively adding another 16 miles of parking. 

Tip: You can park at Washburn Point, which is 7/10th of a mile from Glacier Point parking lot and then walk between the Washburn and Glacier Point.

Click here for more hikes on Glacier Point Rd

After these two hikes, drive back down to the valley and park and take the shuttle.

If you choose the shuttle, click here to see the stops they do.

You can also drive the valley loop and do stops along the way.

However, the traffic in Yosemite can be horrible and you may find yourself sitting in traffic jams! So, I highly recommend if you can find parking, you grab it and don’t move until you are ready to leave the park!

Click here and here for tips on driving and parking in Yosemite

The valley is only seven miles long and one mile wide, so it can easily be explored by bike, as well. Throughout the route, incredible views abound.

To rent a bike click here

The stops you can do if you drive or bike are:

1. Hike 2 miles round trip to Mirror Lake – the trailhead is located 15 mins by car from Yosemite Valley.

2. Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead – 20 mins from Mirror Lake – this is an easy 1 mi loop hike – near the Lower Falls Vista Point, you can scramble along some rocks and reach a beautiful swimming hole. It’s called the Lower Yosemite Falls Plunge pool.

3. Cooks Meadow Loop – 20 mins from your last stop – an easy 1 mile loop

4. Hike Mist Trail if you haven’t done that yet – it’s a 3 m round trip hike or you can continue to Nevada Falls and that will be 7 mi round trip

5, Hike to Bridal Veil Falls.…it’s 1/2 mi round trip hike.

6. Check out the Yosemite Valley Chapel – built in 1879 it is the oldest structure in Yosemite

Click here for other hikes you can do and click here for a comprehensive guide on things to do and see in Yosemite Valley

For places to eat, click here & for 30 very useful tips click here

After making your stops, stay in the park to watch the sunset.

Note: After researching this more, I think it’s best to enter the park and do your stops in Yosemite Valley first and then drive up to Glacier Point to avoid the traffic in the valley

Click here for a 2 day itinerary for Yosemite

Tip: Click here to read about places to swim in Yosemite

This ends day 3!

DAY 4

Once again, you want to arrive very early to beat the crowds and find a parking space!

Enter the park and stop and get pictures of Tunnel View.

Tunnel View is the view that Ansel Adams made famous and is a must stop for any first time visit to Yosemite Valley. No hiking is required, you simply park at one of the lots and make your way to the vista. This spot can be very popular in summer, so try to arrive early.

Tip: Try to get lodging inside the park – it makes it a lot more convenient.

We will continue driving the Valley and making stops along the way.

Once again, you may want to consider renting a bike or taking the shuttle.

Today we will make the following stops:

*Just skip the stops you have already done

1. Bridal View Falls Viewpoint and trailhead – There is a small parking lot that has limited spots on both sides of the road and is located just before the road enters Wawona Tunnel – the trailhead is 20 mins from the hotel – the trail is 2.2 miles round trip
2. Next, you will come to Tunnel View parking lot – from here you can hike to either Artist Point or Inspiration Point. Don’t miss the nearby Pohono Bridge that was built in 1928 – Artist Point is 2 mi round trip & Inspiration is 2.6 mi r/trip…both hikes start at the Tunnel View Parking lot – Artist Point trail is a 2 min walk from the parking lot and Inspiration Point trail starts at the same trail – Artist Point is the easier trail of the 2 – Read more here about these hikes
3. Cathederal Beach Picnic area – a great spot for top to bottom views of El Capitan reflected in the Merced River. It’s also a nice place to photograph the day’s first light on El Capitan, which starts about 20 minutes after “official” sunrise’. – 25 mins from hotel
4. Yosemite Valley Chapel – the oldest structure in Yosemite –  built in 1879
5. Sentinel Bridge – Sentinel Bridge provides a breathtaking view of Half Dome and its mirrored reflection in the Merced River, especially during the alpenglow. – 5 mins from last stop by car – Sentinel Beach & Swinging Bridge – Sentinel Beach is a popular destination in the park, with amazing sights from the nearby Swinging Bridge -Bring a raft or rent one and float down the Merced during. Start at the Stoneman Bridge and take in the sights down the river to the Sentinel Beach Picnic Area.
6. Mirror Lake if you haven’t already hiked it – 2 mi round trip or 5 mi loop around the lake – 10 min drive from last stop
7. Lower Yosemite Falls Vista Point – parking lot here – 1 mile loop – very easy walk on paved walkway – 5 min drive from last stop – from here you could hike the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail (11.5 mi for the full loop or 7.2 mi for the half loop) – also at this stop, don’t miss the Indian Village of Ahwahnee
8. Upper Yosemite Falls Trail – a strenuous 7.5 round trip hike
9. El Capitan Bridge to capture beautiful reflection shots – 20 mins from your 1st stop & the El Capitan Meadow – watch rock climbers climbing El Capitan
10. Valley View – located on Northside Drive after you pass Bridal Veil Falls & before the Pohono BridgeYosemite Valley view is a lookout spot & parking lot with sweeping views of El Capitan peak & the valley, plus picnic tables – Right before Valley View is the Devil’s Elbow where you get views of El Capitan and the Merced River – swimming can be found here too
 
Click here for the 32 best views in Yosemite & Click here for the 27 best hikes in Yosemite
 
Tip: Near the Sentinel Bridge stop, you will find The Four Mile Trail …you can take this trail to Glacier Point. There is road access at both ends of this trail, so you can hike one way and take a shuttle back. Another popular hike is taking the trail from the Swinging Bridge past Yosemite Lodge and picking up the Yosemite Falls trail.

 

If time permits you could drive to see the historic Wawona Hotel. It’s located 45 mins from Yosemite Valley View.

The Victorian-era Wawona Hotel was originally established in 1856. Situated 27 miles from Yosemite Valley on Highway 41, this National Historic Landmark is near the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and the Pioneer History Center.

You could have lunch or dinner here or at the beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel or the more laid back Yosemite Valley Lodge.

Watch the sunset in the park….click here for the best places to watch the sunset.

DAY 5

Arrive super early to avoid the crowds & to catch a sunrise in the park.

Click here for the best places in the park to see the sunrise

Hike to Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail.

Read a very detailed blog on the hike here

Tip: The trail is a one way trail from 9 am to 4 pm

This hike is 7 mi round trip and strenuous. There are 600 stairs to climb!

Tip: You can also take the John Muir Trail to the top of Vernal Fall (via the Clark Point cutoff) and the top of Nevada Fall, or combine the Mist Trail and John Muir Trail into a loop. See map.

Check out other areas or places that you may not have gotten to yet.

Click here to see more hikes in the park & here for other areas in the park to see

You could add Mariposa Grove to this day if you didn’t stop on the day you arrived.

Hikes you can do in Mariposa Grove include the 2 mi round trip Grizzly Giant Loop, the 0.3 mi Big Trees Loop, & 2 other longer hikes. Plan on spending 2-4 hrs here.

Don’t miss the fallen monarch and the California Tunnel Tree in Mariposa Grove!

Note: You could take one day from Yosemite Valley and add in Hetch Hetchy – click here for hikes in Hetch Hetchy

DAY 6

Today, we are checking out of our hotel and heading to John Muir Lodge at Kings Canyon.

You will want to get started super early as this will be a long day!

Click here for maps, directions and other important information for this drive.

The drive to John Muir Lodge is approx. 3.5 hrs from the Yosemite View Lodge.

Once you arrive, enter the park at the Big Stump Entrance off of Hwy 180.

Tip: Your first stop could be the Big Stump Trail – this is s a 2 mi loop trail.

Kings Canyon has two main sections – the General Grant Grove & the Cedar Grove/Zumwalt Meadows area.

Once you enter the park, drive to the Kings Canyon Visitor Center located in Grant Grove Village or head straight to the General Grant Tree parking area.

The General Grant tree trail is an easy ⅓-mile loop that features other named trees and the Gamlin Cabin.

The General Grant Tree is the second-largest tree in the world, standing 267 feet tall, and nearly 29 feet wide at the base. The tree is 3,000 yrs old.
 
You can also visit the historic Gamlin Cabin and the Fallen Monarch along this 1/3 mile paved trail. North and west of the Kings Canyon Visitor Center 1 mile.

 

Your next stops will be the following in this order:

1. Exit Grant Grove & hit 180 and drive to the Kings Canyon Panoramic Point – 10 mins from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center
2. Next stop would be Hume Lake – 30 mins from last stop
3. Head back to 180 and drive the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway – this is 50 miles long
4. Stop at Junction Viewpoint – located along the Scenic Byway – 20 mins from Hume Lake
5. Make a stop at the Canyon Viewpoint
6.  Stop and hike 0.1 miles to Grizzly Falls – 80 ft waterfall – after this stop would be Knapps Cabin if you wanted to make a quick stop to see the oldest cabin in the park – built in 1920 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
7. Next is Roaring River Falls – 0.3 mi r/trip on a paved trail – 15 mins from Grizzly Falls
8. Zumwalt Meadows – can hike the Zumwalt trail  that’s 1.5 mi r/trip – 5 mins from last stop

After this stop, you will come to Roads End. It is the official turn around point. Many people go there to park and hike into the back country of the park.          

It’s also an excellent place for a swim, and there are some stunning swimming holes there that you can easily walk to from the parking area.                   

Tip: If timer permits, you can stop at the Boyden Cavern. You’ll reach its parking lot at mile 19.5 on the bypass. Stop for an hour and enjoy a guided tour through this unique geological underworld. This stop would be after the Junction Viewpoint.

Read a detailed blog post on this drive here

Drive 1 hr back to John Muir Lodge and check in.

DAY 7

Today we will be driving 30 mins to the nearest entrance to Sequoia National Park via the Generals Hwy.

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Click here for important information to know before visiting the park & click here to download the park’s official app

There are no reservations required to enter Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

When entering Sequoia National Park via Generals Highway, your first stop will be Tunnel Rock.

A fallen granite boulder balances above the road and though vehicles can no longer drive under the rock, it’s still a great photo op as visitors are welcome to walk under or climb atop the rock!

Next, drive and park at the Giant Forest Museum and walk the Big Tree Trail loop. This is  a one mile loop trail and is a 7 min walk from the parking lot.

This is a very popular trail. Give yourself approx. 30 mins to explore the trees in this area.

The museum is located approx. 1 hr from the John Muir Lodge.

Get here early as the parking lot only accommodates 240 vehicles and fills up quickly!

Next, you will drive 10 mins to the General Sherman Tree Car Park (put that in your google maps app)

Parking for the Main Trail is off the Wolverton Road (between the Sherman Tree and Lodgepole); just follow signs. The trail runs half a mile down to the tree. It has a few stairs and is paved.

The General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest tree, measured by volume. It stands 275 feet tall, and is over 36 feet in diameter at the base.

Next, drive 15 mins to drive through the Tunnel Log.

Tunnel Log is on Moro Rock / Crescent Meadow Road in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park.

Next, you could stop at the Auto Log. This is a 15 min walk from Tunnel Log or a 3 min drive.

Next, would be Moro Rock.

The trailhead to Moro Rock is located 15 mins from Tunnel Log parking area.

This large granite dome is a spectacular geologic feature that can be enjoyed from above or below.

A concrete and stone stairway leads over 350 steps to the top of Moro Rock.  You will have incredible views from the top of the rock!

In the summer, there are free shuttles that run from Giant Forest Museum to the Moro Rock parking area.

On weekends, the road closes to private vehicles and shuttles are the only way to reach Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. On weekdays, the road remains open, but the small parking area may fill quickly. 

Next, you will hike the 1.5 mi loop Crescent Meadow Trail.

This is located about approx. 5 mins from Moro Rock and you must take the shuttle during the summer.

If you do this hike, don’t miss seeing Tharp’s Log.

Hale Tharp built this cabin in a tree back in 1861 making him the first non-Native American to live in the Giant Forest. John Muir stopped here in 1875, the same year he named this grove “The Giant Forest.”

Next, you would drive approx 10 mins from the General Sherman Tree car park to hike the Tokopah Falls.

Drive past the parking area for General Sherman. From there, you will reach the turnoff for Lodgepole and can follow the road back to the large parking area they have near the Lodgepole campground bathrooms.

This is a 1200 ft waterfall! The hike is an easy 4 mi round trip hike.

If time permits, you can add on Crystal Cave but you will need to purchase tickets and they sell out quickly!

The cave is located 1.5 hrs from the John Muir Lodge.

That ends our time in California!!

Click here for a one day itinerary for Kings Canyon & Sequoia

Click here for a 2 day itinerary for Sequoia

Click here for a 1 day itinerary for Kings Canyon

Click here & here for tours in Yosemite

Click here for camping in Yosemite

Thanks for reading!

I hope this helps you plan your trip to Yosemite, Kings Canyon & Sequoia!!

 

 

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