This Wildly Underrated California National Park Is An Uncrowded Alternative To Yosemite

If you love the distinctive landscape of Yosemite National Park, you should plan your next trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Anyone looking to make the most of an America the Beautiful National Park Pass could easily include these parks on the same road trip, as they're only a few hours apart — but if you don't have time to see them all, there's an argument for skipping the iconic Yosemite for its less famous neighbors.


While they have similar landscapes, which makes sense considering how close they are to each other, Yosemite is considerably busier than Sequoia & Kings Canyon. According to statistics from the National Parks Service, in 2023, Yosemite saw almost 4 million visitors, while Kings Canyon had around 645,000. Even the marginally more popular Sequoia National Park, which is run by the same administration and has joint admission, had only around 981,000 visitors (and considering these parks are only minutes away from each other and cost of admission covers both, the vast majority of those visitors were probably the same people on the same day). 

Sequoia & Kings Canyon aren't just a less impressive alternative to Yosemite, though — this setting is home to some of the tallest trees on the planet.


See awe inspiring giant sequoia groves

Like California's otherworldly Redwood National Park, one of the biggest draws to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks is the trees. These parks are some of the only places in the world to see giant sequoias, and you can find these unbelievably large trees growing amongst the pines in around 40 spots throughout the parks. The most exciting might be Kings Canyon's Grant Grove (pictured) which has some of the most massive giant sequoias in the world growing close together, and includes the staggeringly large General Grant Tree, which is 267-ft tall and believed to be anywhere from 2,000-4,000-years-old.


Equally impressive is the aptly named Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, where you can find more of these towering titans than in any other place on the planet. It is also home to the single largest sequoia, known as the General Sherman Tree, which is almost 275-ft high. That's taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Arc de Triomphe, and almost as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

Explore the highest peaks and the deepest caves

When you explore Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, you'll have the opportunity to take in some of the most incredible scenes California has to offer. In Sequoia, you can see Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous U.S. (though be warned — this climb is one of those National Park treks that's only for the experienced.) If you're hoping for incredible views, Kings Canyon Overlook is a fantastic choice. From this elevated spot not far from Grant Grove, you'll be able to enjoy a sweeping look at the land below, and get a real sense of how incredible the canyons and mountain tops in this park truly are. The rough cliffs covered in dark pine forest disappearing into the foggy horizon is not a sight to be missed.


For an experience like no other, you might prefer to head down, not up. While it won't give you the bird's eye view that the outlook can, Boyden Cavern in Kings Canyon takes you into the chilly depths to admire stalactites and stalagmites. In Sequoia, you can sometimes explore the beautiful white marble cavern known as Crystal Cave, which looks almost like the halls of an ancient palace.