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{travel} Kings Canyon & Yosemite National Park in 3 Days

  Friday, July 14, 2023 at 7:30 AM   |    Post a Comment     Tagged:,,, 
Photo fun at the California Tunnel Tree.


Earlier this year, my husband and I went to California for a week. It was my first time visiting so I had a lot of places to check off. Our trip started with a day in Los Angeles, a day at Universal Studios Hollywood, two days at Disneyland and our last 3 days was spent visiting a couple National Parks.  It was the end of April, meaning there was lots of melting snow creating rivers on the paths. While the parks are certainly less busy this time of year, and not boiling hot, there's more of a chance of certain areas being closed due to road conditions. That was true of many of the areas we would have visited had there been more time to explore.


Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Our original plan was to visit the General Sherman Tree at Sequoia National Park so I chose an airbnb just outside the main entrance of the park in Three Rivers. Unfortunately the roads were damaged during Winter and were not repaired in time for our visit so most of Sequoia National Park was closed. The decision was made  to drive the extra hour and a half to Kings Canyon National Park to Grant Grove to see the second largest sequoia, General Grant!


We only spent a couple hours in the park before heading back to our airbnb for a relaxing day ahead of our visit to Yosemite National Park. After arriving back in Three Rivers it was time to head to Casa Mendoza for a delicious dinner of tacos and a chimichanga followed by Three Rivers Yogurt for a frozen yogurt. The next morning started with a stop at Sequoia Coffee Company for breakfast before driving to Yosemite.


Yosemite National Park

Yosemite was the the most anticipated part of our trip. It was sad limiting our stay to two days, but it ended up being plenty of time to see the highlights. We didn't do any of the crazier hikes, but saw the major landmarks. A couple days before our arrival my mom was texting me in a panic because she heard the park would be closing on Friday evening due to massive snow melts and expected flooding. We were arriving Thursday morning and leaving Saturday. Fortunately, it was Yosemite Valley that was closing and we were staying in the upper area at Tenaya at Yosemite.


Day One

We arrived just after noon on Thursday and weren't sure we'd have enough time to see anything but decided to drive down to Yosemite Valley anyway to try and see as much as possible before the park closed the following night. We hadn't done much research before the trip because Christian wanted to play it by ear and not have a set schedule. I didn't realize you could see most of the sights just by driving through and parking for quick stops. I thought there would be more time-consuming hikes involved. You can certainly hike to get better views of each landmark, but that wasn't a high priority for us.

On the way down from Tenaya Lodge we stopped at Tunnel View for a viewing of El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome in the background. Because of the time of year Horsetail Fall was also visible! It is made up of snowmelt and water run-off so isn't visible in the warmer months when the snow has melted. In February it actually glows red like fire, but you have to catch it at just the right time.

We also drove down Southside Drive to the Bridalveil Fall Parking Area and Swinging Bridge Picnic Area for more gorgeous views! There are numerous hikes and trails you can also use to get closer to the falls. We didn't have a ton of time so we opted to forgo more strenuous hikes. And, because of the time of year, many of the areas were still closed due to Winter conditions.



We had wanted to check out The Ahwahnee, but they were only letting visitors in with Valet parking. Instead, we drove over to the welcome center to get some ice cream and headed back to our lodge to have dinner at Jackalope's Bar & Grill.


Day Two

On Friday we stayed in the upper area of Yosemite and visited the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequioas. Once again, since it was earlier in the year, shuttles from the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza to the Grove weren't running. This was our one major hike of the trip. To beat the crowds we got to the welcome center around 8am to start the two mile hike to the Giant Sequoias.  It was pretty chilly out, which was kind of nice. It meant we didn't get super hot and sweaty on the hike up, but still got a workout.

Upon arrival at the grove, there weren't many groups. We had the area mostly to ourselves a majority of the time. Next up was walking by the Fallen Monarch, Bachelor and Three Graces and the Grizzly Giant. Nothing can prepare you for seeing these trees in person. It is truly awe-inspiring.


There was one point where we traded taking photos with people at the California Tunnel Tree, but after they left we spent a blissful 15+ minutes alone admiring the tree and having a blast taking photos. 

By the time we headed back down the 2 mile trail around 10:30am-ish, it was already getting hotter, and more groups were heading up the trail. I definitely recommend arriving as early as possible to beat the heat and crowds.


After our strenuous morning, we headed to Smokehouse 41 in Oakhurst for a delicious barbecue lunch. It was so juicy, flavorful, and delicious! This is definitely a recommended stop if you have time. After lunch we visited a little antique center - Good Ol' Things Collectibles, Josephine's General Store, and The Courtyard Shops. I ended up buying a couple old Disney World cups because I can never escape Disney, ha ha. Dinner was a quick (and delicious) pizza from the Tenaya resort's Timberloft Pizzeria. It was actually closed during our trip but they were making the pizzas for takeout in the hotel's "mini food court".



I would be remiss to not show the reality of the drive up to the parks, there were a LOT of areas full of burnt trees. On the one hand, fire is good for sequoias because they actually need that to grow. We learned when visiting the General Grant tree that fire on the forest floor causes the Giant sequoia cones to dry out, open and release their seeds. Fire also thins out the trees so the survivors get more sun. But too much fire, however, is obviously not good. The parks sometimes do controlled fires (which we passed) but I believe much of the damage we saw on the way up to the park was due to wildfires. I found an article that explains what happened in fires last year.


The following morning it was off to San Francisco for our flight back to Christian's Mom in Missouri and enjoyed a few hours exploring. If Yosemite hadn't closed the valley, this wouldn't have been possible, so I was almost glad to have that excuse to leave early. Silver linings.

About Closet Fashionista

Loves to get bargains on clothes and is obsessed with Harry Potter and Disney. By day she is a freelance graphic and web designer. She also has a slight obsession with movies.

You can also find her on the web at her Harry Potter and Matthew Lewis fan sites.

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