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Kings Canyon Camping (Epic Guide) 6 Campgrounds, 5 Hikes, Weather

Posted in: Where to Camp, Where to Hike

Heading on a camping trip to Kings Canyon National Park? In this post, you'll learn about Kings Canyon camping, including hiking, weather, attractions, and the best campgrounds. Plus photos, videos and resources.

Kings Canyon camping

Table of Contents

Kings Canyon Camping (Visitors Guide)

6 Kings Canyon Campgrounds

Kings Canyon National Park is one of the oldest national parks established by the National Parks Service (NPS) in the western United States. It originally opened as a way to protect some of the giant sequoias in the area from the logging companies that frequently tore down those trees.

Fights between the NPS and those logging companies led to problems with the boundaries of the park. Even President Franklin Delano Roosevelt stepped in to call for the NPS to extend the park's boundaries, which led to Kings Canyon absorbing other areas in California.

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Kings Canyon is located north of Sequoia National Park and has many of the same features.

In this Kings Canyon camping guide, you'll find out which campgrounds are the best and what you can do in and near the park.

Kings Canyon National Park sign

Kings Canyon National Park Map

3 Campgrounds inside Kings Canyon

1. Azalea Campground

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: 110
  • Elevation: 6,500 feet
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $18
  • Features: Flush toilets, running water, restrooms, on-site parking, showers, azalea blooms
  • Services: Ranger programs, food storage lockers, trail to General Grant Tree, walking distance to the Columbine Picnic Area
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Big Stump Entrance: 3.5 miles
  • More info: Azalea Campground

You'll find the Azalea Campground in most Kings Canyon camping guides because it's one of the parks most beautiful campgrounds.

The azalea shrubs produce gorgeous flowers that release a delightful fragrance as they bloom.

This campground does not accept reservations and can open quite late in the season, which is why you should check the site before your trip.

Depending on the snow, the campground may not open until June or July. As long as access is available, certain sites are open from November through April for winter camping.

Azalea is close to a trail that leads to the General Grant Tree and the Columbine Picnic Area.

Don't forget to bring a map that shows hiking trails.

2. Sunset Campground

  • Dates: Depends on weather
  • Number of Sites: 159
  • Elevation: 6,500 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $22 for single sites, $40 for group sites
  • Features: Restrooms, running water, dumpsters, camping fee kiosk, group sites available, accessible sites offered, flush toilets, pay phones
  • Services: Food storage lockers, ash removal stations, recycling bins, on-site parking, close to the General Grant Tree and Giant Forest
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Big Stump entrance: 3 miles
  • More info: Sunset Campground

Located just three miles from Highway 180 and the main entrance to the park, the Sunset Campground is the best place to watch the sunset each night.

It's also one of the park's largest campgrounds and offers options for tent and RV camping. Two group sites open in the late spring and close in the early autumn. You'll need to reserve these sites in advance.

As with other campgrounds in Kings Canyon, the open season can vary based on weather conditions. For example, Sunset Campground did not open until the beginning of June due to the harsh winter in 2019.

If you visit outside of the busy season and the campground is open, you can pay at the on-site kiosk without making a reservation.

3. Sheep Creek Campground

  • Dates: May 29 – October 16
  • Number of Sites: 111
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: No
  • Cost per night: $18
  • Features: Flush toilets, pay phones, laundry facilities and showers less than 0.25 miles away, running water, dumpsters, registration kiosk
  • Services: Recycling bins, food storage lockers, extra food storage available, on-site parking, located right on Highway 180, ranger programs
  • Accessible sites: No
  • Distance from Big Stump entrance: 32 miles
  • More info: Sheep Creek Campground

Though Sheep Creek Campground is further away from the main entrance than other campgrounds, it sits right on Highway 180. You can follow this road around the park to reach the campground. Its location also makes this campground a little quieter than some of the others in the park.

Sheep Creek opens each year at the end of May and remains open until the middle of October. Though you cannot make reservations, you can pay at the on-site kiosk and check-in to secure your spot before exploring the rest of the park.

Sheep Creek offers ranger programs during the summer season.

Kings Canyon wildlife

Kings Canyon wildlife

3 Campgrounds Near the Park

1. Dorst Creek Campground

  • Dates: June 19 – September 25
  • Number of Sites: 222
  • Elevation: 6,800 feet
  • Reservation System: Yes, not required but recommended
  • Cost per night: $22 for single sites, $40+ for group sites
  • Features: Pay phones, flush toilets, RV and tent sites, two group sites available
  • Services: On the free Sequoia shuttle line, ranger programs, food storage lockers, picnic tables, fire pits, close to amphitheater and Lodgepole Village
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Big Stump entrance: 15 miles
  • More info: Dorst Creek Campground

Instead of staying in Kings Canyon, you can stay in Sequoia National Park at Dorst Campground.

This campground is a stop on the Sequoia shuttle, which is a line that takes visitors around the park for free. Eight of the campsites are accessible, and several of the sites can accommodate large groups.

The campground has a peaceful environment that features large sequoias and other plants around each site. It has a large parking lot that provides access to both the amphitheater and a nearby trailhead.

You'll also find that most sites are just a short drive from Lodgepole Village, which has a deli, shop, showers and laundry facilities.

2. Three Rivers Hideaway

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: Unknown
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $30-$49 for RV sites, $30 for tent sites
  • Features: Full hookups, tent sites, cabin rentals, dump station, flush toilets, free showers, can accommodate vehicles of 60 feet, laundry facilities
  • Services: Free WiFi, fire ring, grill, some shady spots, pets allowed, close to Sequoia shuttle and boat rentals, near whitewater rafting trips
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Big Stump entrance: 46 miles
  • More info: Three Rivers Hideaway

Three Rivers is one the last towns that you'll pass when heading to Kings Canyon National Park from the west.

It's home to Three Rivers Hideaway, which is a campground that offers full hookups for RV travelers and sites with partial or no hookups. You can also camp in a tent or a vehicle and rent one of the cabins at the campground. The cabins can accommodate between two and four guests.

All the available campsites come with a grill and fire pit and provide you with some shade and free WiFi access. The campground is close to a stop on the Sequoia shuttle line, whitewater rafting trips and boat rentals.

3. Blackstone North RV Park

  • Dates: Open Year Round
  • Number of Sites: Unknown
  • Elevation: Unknown
  • Reservation System: Yes
  • Cost per night: $43-$50
  • Features: Laundry facilities open from 9 am to 9 pm, security guards on-site, gravel and paved sites available, picnic tables, shady and green spaces
  • Services: Pets allowed, water and sewer included in price, trash removal available, weekly and monthly rates offered, metered electric, free cable and WiFi
  • Accessible sites: Yes
  • Distance from Big Stump entrance: 58 miles
  • More info: Blackstone North RV Park

With low and affordable rates, it's not surprising that so many people stay at the Blackstone North RV Park. You can stay for just one night, but discounts are available for those who stay for a week, month or longer.

The price that you pay includes free access to cable and WiFi as well as water, sewer and trash removal. All sites feature metered electric to ensure that you only pay for the power that you use.

This campground is a great choice for those who want to stay near Kings Canyon National Park but plan on visiting other local attractions too.

More reading: 6 Must Have RV Gadgets and Gizmos

General Grant Kings Canyon

General Grant, Kings Canyon

5 Local Attractions in Kings Canyon

1. Giant Forest

  • Type of attraction: Museum/outdoor attraction
  • Distance from Ash Mountain entrance: 16 miles
  • Cost: Free
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: Museum tours, Round Meadow, giant sequoias
  • More info: Giant Forest

The Giant Forest is one of the top attractions in Sequoia National Park and one you shouldn't miss when visiting Kings Canyon. Located in the forest is a museum of the same name, which NPS established in 1928.

The museum is open in the summer and offers free tours. You also have the chance to see the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest tree in the world.

2. Moro Rock

  • Type of attraction: Outdoor landmark
  • Distance from Ash Mountain entrance: 18 miles
  • Cost: Free
  • Skill level: Easy to moderate
  • What you’ll see/do: Moro rock, rock steps, mountain landscapes, panoramic views
  • More info: Moro Rock

Sequoia National Park is also home to Moro Rock, which is one of the most beautiful granite domes in the world. The 350 steps leading to the rock have handrails along the edges to keep visitors safe.

As the elevation is high and the air quality is low, the hike to the top can be too rough for some people. If you make it down the whole trail, you'll see some of the park's best views.

3. General Grant Tree

  • Type of attraction: Outdoor landmark
  • Distance from Ash Mountain entrance: 54 miles
  • Cost: Free
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: General Grant Tree, giant sequoias, hiking trails, wildflowers, plants, some animals
  • More info: General Grant Tree

The General Grant Tree is the world's second largest tree behind the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. A paved 1/3 mile trail picks up at the trailhead, runs directly to the tree and then loops back around to the parking area.

You will see lots of flowers and wildlife along the trail, and you have the option of going further when you pick up any of the connected trails.

4. Grant Grove Stables

  • Type of attraction: Horseback riding
  • Distance from Ash Mountain entrance: 56 miles
  • Cost: $40-$75 per person
  • Skill level: Beginner to advanced
  • What you’ll see/do: Horseback riding, General Grant Tree, Dead Giant Loop, Lion Meadow, North Grove
  • More info: Grant Grove Stables

If you love horseback riding, you'll want to stop by the Grant Grove Stables in Kings Canyon National Park. The stables offer short 60-minute tours and longer tours that last for two hours.

Your trip takes you around Dead Giant Loop and some of the meadows in the park as well as General Grant Tree before returning you to the stables. The stables accept reservations.

5. Foothills Visitors Center

  • Type of attraction: Visitors center
  • Distance from Ash Mountain entrance: 1 mile
  • Cost: Free
  • Skill level: Easy
  • What you’ll see/do: Artifacts, exhibits, history of the park, pick up books and permits
  • More info: Foothills Visitors Center

For backcountry and wilderness permits, you need to stop by a visitors center such as the one in the Foothills area.

This center has a number of exhibits and displays that let you learn about the park's history and pick up brochures on things you can do during your trip. The center also shows films about the park and offers books for sale on the park.

Kings Canyon hiking

Hiking Zumwalt Meadows, Kings Canyon National Park

5 Best Kings Canyon Hikes

1. North Boundary Trail

  • Distance: 3.55 miles
  • Skill level: Moderate to hard
  • Features: Connects to other trails, rough terrain, dirt trail
  • What you’ll see: Gamlin Cabin, General Grant Tree, Grant Grove, Vermont Log

At 3.55 miles long, the North Boundary Trail is one of the longest in Kings Canyon National Park. As it lacks any paved portions, this is a rough trail to follow too.

You'll want to make sure that you have good boots and that you follow the markers to stay on the trail. It moves through the Grant Grove and takes you by landmarks such as the Vermont Log and Gamlin Cabin.

If you plan on hiking in Kings Canyon, it's a good idea to pick up a hiking guide book to toss in your backpack.

2. Hart Tree and Fallen Goliath Loop

  • Distance: 8.3 miles
  • Skill level: Moderate to hard
  • Features: Rough terrain, dirt trail, high elevation, uneven spaces
  • What you’ll see: Fallen Tunnel Tree, Redwood Canyon, Fallen Goliath, Hart Tree, Buena Vista Peak

The history of this trail dates back to the early days of the park and lets you pass by and through landmarks that show the effects of the logging industry on the trees.

You'll walk through the Fallen Tunnel Tree, which is an old sequoia that fell down. The NPS only recommends this trail for more experienced hikers because of the steep elevation trails and rough terrain.

3. Dead Giant Loop Trail

  • Distance: 2.25 miles
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Features: Connects to Sunset Trail and others, trailhead close to Azalea Campground, packed ground
  • What you’ll see: Sequoia Lake Overlook, fallen sequoias, Dead Giant, YMCA camp

If you can handle the 2.25 miles on this trail, you can use it to visit the Sequoia Lake Overlook, which looks out over the water below. It gets its name for the Dead Giant, which is a large felled tree that the trail crosses.

As this trail has packed ground with a hard surface, most visitors won't have any issues following and completing it.

4. General Grant Tree Trail

  • Distance: 0.8 miles
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Features: Handrails, packed ground, shady areas
  • What you’ll see: Lincoln Tree, General Grant Tree, Gamlin Cabin, Fallen Monarch

The General Grant Tree Trail is one of the easiest trails in the park, you can finish in an hour or two.

It features a cut that lets you move through the Fallen Monarch and a packed surface that keeps you from stumbling. This trail lets you get closer to the General Grant Tree than any other trail and connects to some of the other paths in the park.

5. Panoramic Point Trail

  • Distance: 0.5 miles
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Features: Overlook area, low elevation, conveniently located trailhead, close to Big Stump entrance, dogs allowed, mountain bikes permitted
  • What you’ll see: Hume Lake, Eagle Peak, Mount Goddard, Kettle Dome, North Palisade

You can see a large portion of Kings Canyon National Park when you reach the end of the Panoramic Point Trail. This trail ends at an elevated space that looks out over Hume Lake and the surrounding park.

You'll have the chance to see different landmarks such as North Palisade and Kettle Dome. This is one of the only places outside of the park's campgrounds where you can take your pets.

Here are 20 easy hikes in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.

When to visit Kings Canyon

More reading: The Best Places to Camp in the United States

Kings Canyon Weather: When to Visit

Best Time to Visit Kings Canyon

Many people looking through this Kings Canyon camping guide will want to visit in the summer. Rangers working for the NPS are on hand to lead tours and guide visitors on trips through the park.

You can also check out any of the hiking trails that interest you and visit all the top attractions without the snow getting in your way. Spring and fall can also be a good time to visit. Though spring is when the animals begin coming out and the flowers start blooming, fall is when the crowds die down.

Avoid the Crowds

When you visit Kings Canyon in the summer, don't be shocked if you see dozens of cars waiting at the entrance and even more people walking through the park.

To avoid some of those crowds, consider planning your trip in September or October. Though temperatures in Kings Canyon are still pretty high, the crowds begin dropping. You should keep in mind that the nights can be cooler than you might expect.

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Best Weather in Kings Canyon

The hottest temperatures reported in Kings Canyon climbed over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

Those high temperatures usually occur in the height of the summer, though high temperatures can continue through the end of September. Winter brings the coldest temperatures, with an average of 34 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius) in January.

The temperatures can fall even lower in December. If you want to experience the warmest temperatures, plan on visiting Kings Canyon in June through August.

Reasons to Visit in Spring

If you aren't sure when to visit Kings Canyon National Park, consider a springtime trip.

Many of the animals living in this park hide during the winter and hibernate until the temperatures rise again. Those animals start peeking out of their homes and coming down from the mountains in April. This is also when the flowers and plants begin blooming.

You can see the wildflowers from April through June. The park also recommends springtime visits because the snow and ice melting on the mountains creates some of the most beautiful waterfalls around.

Some of the trails and campgrounds in Kings Canyon close in September and October before reopening in April. Spring is a great time to visit the park if you want to camp and see animals and flowers.

Winter Camping in Kings Canyon

Azalea Campground in the area called Grant Grove Village is one of the only campgrounds in Kings Canyon open in the winter.

You can also stay in the Potwisha Campground, which is close to Ash Mountain. If you plan on visiting both national parks during your trip, you might consider staying in the Pear Lake Winter Hut.

More reading: Sub-Zero Winter Camping Guide

This hut offers comfortable accommodations and provides you with some basic appliances as well as a place to escape the cold and snow. You can ski or snowshoe to the hut, but the park recommends making a reservation to make sure that it's available.

Some of the winter activities you can enjoy in Kings Canyon include snowshoeing, skiing, cross country skiing and winter drives. Kings Canyon also has a few snow play areas.

Sequoia National Park weather

If you're traveling from abroad, you should consider some international travel / health insurance. Medical attention in the United States can be very expensive.

Kings Canyon National Park FAQ

Is Kings Canyon a national park?

Kings Canyon is a national park. Formerly called General Grant National Park, the NPS established it in 1890.

The park is part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and sits in two California counties: Tulare and Fresno. Kings Canyon also shares a natural border with Sequoia National Park.

What is Kings Canyon National Park known for?

Grant Grove is just one of the features visitors know and love about this national park. That grove is home to the General Grant Tree.

A second grove called Cedar Grove is another popular landmark. Many know this park for its large number of sequoias.

Are Kings Canyon and Sequoia the same park?

Due to their close proximity, many think that Kings Canyon and Sequoia are the same park.

They are actually two different parks though that each offers their own attractions and activities. But it's possible for visitors to go back and forth between the parks on a trip.

What is General Grant Tree?

The General Grant Tree is the second largest tree in Kings Canyon. It has a volume of more than 46,00 cubic feet and bears the original name of the park.

Who was General Grant? He was a Union general who helped the North win the Civil War and later served as the President of the United States for two terms.

How large is Kings Canyon National Park?

Kings Canyon measures 461,901 acres in size. A large portion of that park is Kings Canyon itself, which is 1,600 meters deep.

There are several rivers in the park as well as other natural formations, including tall mountains and deep valleys.

What animals are in Kings Canyon?

Some of the animals you might come across when visiting this national park include coyotes and badgers.

Black bears are another type of dangerous animal found in the Kings Canyon area. Other common animals you might see include bighorn sheep, opossums, deer and wolverines.

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Does Kings Canyon have bears?

The American black bear lives in a number of regions in the western United States, including this national park.

You can use bear spray to stay safe when you encounter one in the wild. Experts generally recommend that you stay on the trail and avoid hunting areas for the bears.

Bears in Kings Canyon National Park

Here are 8 tips to keep bears away while camping.

What time does Kings Canyon park close?

Though Kings Canyon does not close, some of its entrances shut down in the winter.

The visitors center in the national park is open from 9 am to 4:30 pm during the slow winter season and from 9 am to 6 pm during the peak summer season.

What is the closest airport to Kings Canyon?

There are two airports that are just a short drive from the park. You can fly into Fresno Yosemite International Airport or arrive via the Visalia Municipal Airport.

Kings Canyon National Park offers driving directions for those coming to the park from nearby airports.

Where do I enter Kings Canyon?

Highway 180 allows you to enter the park from California or Nevada. You'll need to take the Big Stump entrance, which is roughly 60 miles from Fresno.

The Ash Mountain entrance on Highway 198 allows you to enter the park through Sequoia National Park.

How many entrances does Kings Canyon National Park have?

There is only one entrance on Highway 180 to Kings Canyon National Park.

The only other entrance is on Highway 198 and sends you to the park through Sequoia National Park.

You can also reach Kings Canyon with a trip through Yosemite National Park.

Which Kings Canyon entrance is best?

Picking the best entrance is easy because Big Stump is the only one that lets you enter the park directly.

This entrance is four hours from San Jose, six hours from Lake Tahoe and less than three hours from Yosemite National Park.

Is there cell service in Kings Canyon?

While you can bring your cell phone with you to the park to take photos, you won't get much reception.

The park has limited cell phone reception in its lodges. You'll find limited WiFi access within the park too.

Can you drive through Kings Canyon National Park?

You can drive through the national park and follow roads that take you through both Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

One of the best roads is the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. It covers more than 50 miles of Highway 180 and takes you to the Cedar Grove.

What should you not miss in Kings Canyon?

While the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is a must see, there are other attractions you will want to add to your itinerary, including Buck Rock Lookout and Crystal Cave. If you have more time, you should spend a few hours or more in the sequoia groves too.

Where can I hike in Kings Canyon?

As it takes you right up to the stump of the same name, the Big Stump Trail is one of the top hiking trails in the park.

You should head to the visitors center when you arrive and pay a small fee to pick up a hiking guide, which outlines all the trails in both parks.

Do I need hiking boots for Kings Canyon?

You really should plan on bringing hiking boots before heading to Kings Canyon.

Though some of the hikes have paved trails and are easy to navigate, others have some potential hazards along the way. Hiking books give you more traction on those trails.

Don't forget to bring your GoPro – it makes a great hiking camera. With the right attachment, you can film your drive, hike, and fishing adventures.

How many miles of trails in Kings Canyon?

There are hundreds of miles in trails in Kings Canyon.

As the NPS lists both Sequoia and Kings Canyon trails together, it's hard to know how many are in each one. You'll find some trails that connect and move through both parks too.

Kings Canyon National Park camping

Camping at Kings Canyon National Park

Can you camp at Kings Canyon?

Camping in Kings Canyon is easy because this national park has campgrounds in five areas.

You'll also find group sites that you can reserve for a crowd and wilderness/backcountry camping.

Most of the campgrounds offer some amenities for visitors too.

How much does it cost to camp at Kings Canyon?

The cost of camping at this national park ranges from $15 for wilderness and backcountry camping to $22 for most of its campgrounds.

Group sites cost up to $70 but have space for 15 to 50 people. You can easily afford the cost when you split it among your group.

What is the best Kings Canyon campground?

Azalea Campground might be the best one in Kings Canyon because you can wake in the morning and see the wildlife right outside your tent or RV.

There are more than 100 campsites available and amenities such as drinking water and flush toilets.

Do you need a permit to camp in Kings Canyon?

You only need a permit to camp in the park if you opt for backcountry or wilderness camping.

The park charges $10 for the permit and $5 for each person using the site. All other campgrounds are either first come, first serve or accept online reservations.

Does Kings Canyon allow dogs?

Kings Canyon allows dogs in all picnic areas and in most campgrounds, but you cannot take your dogs on any of the park's trails.

Dogs must remain on leashes of no more than six feet in length, and you cannot leave your pets unattended.

Does Kings Canyon have water?

There are plenty of places in Kings Canyon where you can get the water that you need.

You can check with each individual campground to see if there is running water or drinking fountains/tap water available. The park also has some drinking fountains scattered around popular areas.

Here are 5 ways to purify river water for drinking.

What is the best time to go to Kings Canyon?

The best time to go to Kings Canyon is in the summer because you can visit all the attractions, some of which close for the winter.

All the hiking trails and campgrounds are open during this season too. The only downside to a summer trip is that you'll see quite a few crowds.

Kings Canyon campgrounds

Your Turn

Which area are you planning to visit on your camping trip to Kings Canyon? Have an insider tip to share? Or maybe a question? Join me in the comments!

Meet the Author

Dena Haines

Dena Haines is co-editor of GudGear - and is working to make it the best resource for outside gear. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with Bryan and Dena.

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