8 Best Hikes in Kings Canyon National Park

View of the valley on the best hikes in Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park is home to stunning hikes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Often called “Little Yosemite Valley”, Kings Canyon has must-see views, plenty of waterfalls, and panoramic vistas.

The best way to explore Kings Canyon National Park is on a hike. Whether it’s a stroll through a meadow or a multi-day backpacking trip in the Sierras, you’re sure to experience the park’s natural beauty. 

This guide covers the eight best hikes in Kings Canyon National Park, ranging from easy to strenuous hikes. In this post, you’ll find everything you need to know for hiking in Kings Canyon, from getting to the park to tips for the best hike possible!

Are you looking for more ideas for your trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon? Check out these posts!

Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip:

  • Best Time to Visit: Summer is the best time to visit both these national parks. From June to September, all park roads are open and the weather is perfect for hiking. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, consider visiting in May or October instead.
  • Where to Stay: If you’re looking to stay in the park, you’ll have plenty of lodges and campgrounds to choose from. I recommend Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia or Cedar Grove Lodge in Kings Canyon. Outside the parks, book a spot nearby The Parks Inn Bed & Breakfast.
  • How to Get There: The closest airport is in Fresno, California. You can also fly into San Francisco or Oakland, both 4 hours away. Use Skyscanner to browse flights and find the best price.
  • How to Get Around: The easiest way to get around both Sequoia and Kings Canyon is in your own car. Use Discover Cars to browse deals on rental cars or rent an RV or campervan with Outdoorsy.
  • Don’t Forget: Be sure to get an America the Beautiful National Park Pass ahead of time. This $80 pass is valid for 12 months and get you into all 400+ national park sites (including both Sequoia and Kings Canyon.)

Getting to the Kings Canyon National Park Hikes

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Kings Canyon National Park lies in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California, just north of Sequoia National Park. You’ll find Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Oakland airports about 5 hours away from the park.

The closest airport to Kings Canyon National Park is in Fresno, just over 1 hour away from Grant Grove Village. Most major airlines, including Delta, American, United, Alaska, and Southwest, service Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT).

I like to use Skyscanner to compare flight prices to multiple airports and find the best price. Once you find the perfect flight itinerary for you, Skyscanner redirects you to book with the airline directly, so you don’t miss out on any frequent flyer points! Search flights on Skyscanner now.

You’ll also need a rental car to get to and around the park if you’re flying. I like to use to Discover Cars find the best deals on rental cars. It allows you to search across multiple rental companies to find the lowest price. You’ll find all the major retailers like Avis, Hertz, and Enterprise, plus budget companies like Budget, Sixt, Dollar, Thrifty, and more. Search rental car prices with Discover Cars now.

Mountain peaks in Kings Canyon National Park on a hike

Kings Canyon National Park Entry Fees

Entry to Kings Canyon National Park requires a fee. You have a few options:

  • America the Beautiful National Park Pass
    • Best deal if you plan to visit multiple parks in the next year
    • Valid for 12 months
    • Admits you to all 63 national parks, plus 400 more monuments and sites
    • Able to purchase online in advance to save time at the park
    • Cost: $80
  • 7-Day Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park Pass
    • Valid for seven days for both Sequoia and Kings Canyon parks
    • Can be purchased at the entrance station upon arrival
    • Cost: $35
  • Annual Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park Pass
    • Valid for 12 months only for Sequoia & Kings National Park
    • It only makes sense if you plan on visiting Sequoia or Kings Canyon more than once in the next year
    • Can be purchased at the entrance station upon arrival
    • Cost: $70

Visiting multiple national parks in the next year?
The America the Beautiful National Park Pass gets you into 400+ national park sites, including all 63 national parks, for a full 12 months!
>> Get yours before your trip for only $80 here.

Where to Stay Near Kings Canyon Hikes

Kings Canyon National Park offers a mix of both lodges and campgrounds inside the park. You’ll find several lodges and campgrounds in the Grant Grove area, closer to Sequoia National Park. In the Cedar Grove area, you’ll find the Cedar Grove Lodge and several campgrounds deep into Kings Canyon.

View of Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park

If you wish to stay inside Kings Canyon National Park, you can choose from these lodges:

If you’re looking to stay outside of Kings Canyon, consider these options instead:

Staying outside the park will be more budget-friendly; however, it adds at least a 1-hour commute to Kings Canyon National Park. I recommend these spots near the park:

Sheep Creek Campground in Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon National Park also offers seven campgrounds inside the park. Many of these campgrounds provide excellent access to the park’s most popular trailheads. 

For more details, check out my post on camping in Kings Canyon National Park, as well as this post on the best campgrounds in Sequoia National Park nearby.

What to Pack for Hiking in Kings Canyon National Park

  • Hiking Backpack and the 10 Essentials | It’s essential to carry safety gear every time you hike. Be sure to pack the ten hiking essentials and bring a hiking backpack with plenty of room for water and extra equipment.
  • Trekking Poles | These are a great way to reduce the impact on hikes with lots of elevation gain or when carrying a heavy backpack. I have the REI carbon fiber poles, a perfect lightweight set for any kind of hike.
  • Hiking Boots | You’ll want sturdy, comfortable hiking boots or trail shoes with solid traction. Don’t forget to break in your boots before your trip!
  • Merino Wool Socks | Always opt for merino wool socks. They might be a bit expensive, but they will last a long time, keep your feet dry, and protect you from blisters.
  • Headlamp | If you plan on hiking for sunrise or sunset, you’ll need a headlamp to keep you safe when walking in the dark. I highly recommend the Black Diamond Storm headlamp.
  • Layers | Pack moisture-wicking hiking shirts and warm fleece layers to keep you comfortable all day.
  • Sun Hat and Sunscreen | Many trails are unshaded, so it’s essential to protect yourself from the sun. Of course, sunscreen is necessary, but a sun hat will go a long way towards protecting you from sunburn too.

Looking for more tips on what to pack for your trip? Check out my guides on the best hiking gear, what to pack for a road trip, and essential camping gear for all my favorite gear picks and tips to make packing for your trip a breeze!

Tips for Kings Canyon National Park Hiking

  • Kings Canyon National Park charges an entry fee. However, to save time when entering the park, you can use the annual national park pass. The pass gets you into both Kings Canyon and Sequoia, plus 400 more national park sites. Get your annual national park pass here for only $80.
  • Cell service is limited in most areas of the park. Be sure to download your lodging reservation details or take a screenshot before arriving at the park. For hikes, I highly recommend AllTrails Pro to download your hike details and navigate without cell service.
  • Kings Canyon National Park is in black bear country. Protect wildlife by giving plenty of space if you do come across them. Also, be sure to make plenty of noise on less crowded trails to alert animals of your presence. You can read more here about bear safety in Kings Canyon.
  • Pets are not allowed on hiking trails and cannot be left unattended. Read more about pets in Kings Canyon National Park.
  • Backpacking in Kings Canyon National Park requires a wilderness permit. You can get this permit up to 6 months in advance via Recreation.gov. Day hikes do not require a permit.
  • Kings Canyon National Park offers a few restaurants and markets for eating in the park. You can stop in at these spots for a quick bite between hikes or pack a lunch instead.

Best Easy Kings Canyon Walks

Kings Canyon National Park has plenty of easy hikes just off the main scenic drives. To see Giant Sequoias, choose hikes in the General Grant area of the park, closer to Sequoia National Park. For waterfalls and canyon views, choose hikes in the heart of Kings Canyon near Cedar Grove and Road’s End.

General Grant Loop Trail

General Grant Tree, one of the best hikes in Kings Canyon National Park

The General Grant Tree is one of the world’s largest trees, slightly smaller than the more popular General Sherman Tree. It’s also called “America’s Christmas Tree”, a phrase coined by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926.

The trail starts in the General Grant Tree parking lot and loops just under a mile, past the General Grant Tree, Fallen Monarch, and the historic Gamlin Cabin.

Zumwalt Meadow Trail

View of mountains from Zumwalt Meadow in Kings Canyon National Park

Zumwalt Meadow runs along the Kings River and towering granite walls of Kings Canyon. The trail follows the river over a suspension bridge, offering views of the river and grassy meadow.

The trail used to loop through the meadow but flooded in 2019, and the path washed away. So today, the view outside the field provides scenic river views, perfect at sunset.

Roaring River Falls Trail

Cascades at Roaring River Falls Trail in Kings Canyon

One of the most easily accessible waterfalls in Kings Canyon is Roaring River Falls. You can reach this waterfall on a short walk from the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway parking area. The trail is paved, making it one of the few handicap-accessible trails in the park.

Panoramic Point

View of Kings Canyon mountains from Panoramic Point

For a beautiful scenic drive and 360-degree views of Kings Canyon National Park, don’t miss Panoramic Point. While not a long hike, the short walk up to the viewpoint is worth it. You can see for miles (on days when visibility is good) and overlook prominent peaks in the Sierras and Hume Lake below.

North Grove Loop

North Grove Loop Trail in Kings Canyon National Park

Only steps from the General Grant Trail, the North Grove Loop gets significantly less traffic. The quiet trail winds through a grove of giant Sequoias, past meadows, and creeks. 

The North Grove Loop is the perfect hike for those looking to explore the Sequoias without the crowds found at General Grant Tree or General Sherman Tree.

Read More: 18 Best Hikes in Sequoia National Park

Best Moderate Kings Canyon Trails

If you’re looking for more of a challenge, these moderate trails are longer and require more elevation gain. But with the extra challenge, you’re rewarded with incredible views of both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

Mist Falls

Mist Falls hike in Kings Canyon National Park
Trail to Mist Falls in Kings Canyon National Park

Mist Falls is one of the most popular day hikes in Kings Canyon National Park. The 8-mile trail passes through sandy exposed areas and shaded woods before climbing up to Mist Falls.

The hike provides stunning views of the granite walls of Kings Canyon, surrounded by pine forests. While mostly flat, the trail does climb roughly 600 feet up to Mist Falls about halfway through the hike via switchbacks.

If you only have time for one hike in Kings Canyon, make it Mist Falls!

Big Baldy Ridge Trail

  • Area of Park: General Grant Village
  • Distance: 6.0 miles
  • Elevation: 1,473 feet
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Read more on AllTrails
View from the top of Big Baldy hike in Sequoia National Park

The trail to the summit of Big Baldy takes you to 360-degree views. You can overlook both Sequoia National Park to the south and Kings Canyon National Park to the north from the top. Don’t miss views of Castle Peak, the Great Western Divide, Alta Peak, and Sawtooth Peak!

While the hike does provide a bit of challenge with elevation, it is not a strenuous hike for average hikers. In the early summer, you may even spot some wildflowers along the trail!

Read More: 18 Best Hikes in Sequoia National Park

Best Backpacking in Kings Canyon

The best way to experience the true beauty of Kings Canyon National Park is with a trip into the backcountry. There’s no better hike to experience the wilderness here than the Rae Lakes Loop, a renowned multi-day trek.

Rae Lakes Loop Trail

  • Area of Park: Cedar Grove Village
  • Distance: 39.1 miles
  • Elevation: 7,670 feet
  • Time: 3 to 5 days
  • Read more on AllTrails
Rae Lakes reflects the mountains in Kings Canyon National Park

Rae Lakes Loop is one of the most popular national park backpacking trips. Over 3 to 5 days, hikers travel to Mist Falls, Paradise Valley, and several alpine lakes. Parts of the trail merge with the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail.

Most hikes travel the Rae Lakes Loop clockwise, heading to Mist Falls first before visiting Paradise Valley. This route spreads out the elevation and makes for a more leisurely hike.

Hiking the Rae Lakes Loop requires an advance permit, reservable via Recreation.gov. Unfortunately, due to snowfall, the Rae Lakes Loop is only passable from about mid-June to mid-fall.

Nearby Hikes in Sequoia National Park

If you have more time to spend in the Kings Canyon area, I highly recommend making a trip to Sequoia National Park. Only a short drive from Grant Village, you can find some excellent trails along the Generals Highway, including:

  • General Sherman Tree Trail
  • Big Trees Trail
  • Alta Peak Trail
  • Big Baldy Trail
  • Congress Trail
  • Crescent Meadow
  • Moro Rock Trail
  • Tokopah Falls Trail

Check out this post for more on the best hikes in Sequoia National Park.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Kings Canyon Hikes

How many trails are in Kings Canyon?

There are over 50 Kings Canyon National Park trails, ranging from easy to challenging, multi-day hikes. Of course, there are plenty of day hikes to occupy your time in Kings Canyon, but the natural beauty in Kings Canyon is on the many strenuous backcountry trails.

Are there grizzly bears in Kings Canyon?

There are no grizzly bears in Kings Canyon. The only bears found in Kings Canyon are black bears. For that reason, bear spray is not allowed in Kings Canyon or Sequoia National Parks. That said, bear safety is still of utmost importance – proper food storage is key to keeping you and the bears safe.

Is Kings Canyon open for hiking?

The Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park is open year-round for hiking. However, the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon is only open seasonally from Spring to Fall for camping as the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is closed in the winter.

Final Thoughts on Hiking Kings Canyon National Park

There’s no shortage of beautiful hikes in Kings Canyon National Park. Whether you’re looking for an easy 1-2 mile hike or a backcountry multi-day adventure, this guide has suggestions for you!

These are the eight best hikes in Kings Canyon National Park:

  1. General Grant Tree Loop
  2. Zumwalt Meadow
  3. Roaring River Falls
  4. North Grove Trail
  5. Panoramic Point
  6. Big Baldy Ridge Trail
  7. Mist Falls
  8. Rae Lakes Loop

Are you looking for more ideas for your trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon? Check out these posts!

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Best hikes in Kings Canyon National Park Pinterest pin

Want to share your thoughts, tips, and advice with me and other readers? Have questions about your trip? Head down to the comments section below!

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