Last Updated on June 7, 2024

While most Californians know about Sequoia National Park, they don’t talk as much about its neighbor, King’s Canyon. This underrated park holds the steepest peaks and valleys of California, filled with ancient giants and vast wilderness. It’s a real hidden gem for hikers, as the preserved terrains make for fantastic trails all through the year. Like we did with Sequoia, this guide will talk about the best trails for hiking in Kings Canyon National Park.

 Highway 180 is the main route into King’s Canyon, though there may be seasonal closures around the Cedar Grove area depending on your time of visit. Be sure to check out the road conditions before heading out!

Best Trails for Hiking in Kings Canyon

Grant Grove

King’s Canyon is split into two main parts: Grant and Cedar Grove. Grant Grove, while being smaller, is also the most dense and visitor-friendly area in the park. There are a lot of paved trails and active rangers here, making it an ideal place to start hiking in Kings Canyon. 

When following the trails, don’t forget the seven Leave No Trace principles. King’s Canyon National Park is unique for its extensive preservation efforts, so let’s make sure future generations can enjoy the trails as we can today!

General Grant Tree Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 0.7 miles, around 15 minutes

  • Highlights: The General Grant Tree, the Fallen Monarch, Gamlin Cabin

If you’re driving into King’s Canyon through Highway 180, this trail will be one of the first you can take early on. The trail’s starting point is right next to the General Grant Tree parking lots. The asphalt path loops counter-clockwise to the General Grant Tree, the Gamlin Cabin, and the Fallen Monarch.

General Grant Tree
General Grant Tree

It’s an easy path through the most iconic landmarks King Canyon has to offer. The trail is named after the General Grant Tree, the biggest tree in the park and the second biggest in the whole world. For scale, the tree is 267.4 feet tall, which is only 40 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty. 

Honoring its size and age, the tree has been an important part of American history for decades, becoming the Nation’s Christmas Tree in 1926 and the only living National Shrine in 1956. You can see it peaking out from the canopies from far beyond the trail.

Gamlin Cabin

Later on down the line, you’ll find the oldest structure ever built in these sequoia forests–the Gamlin Cabin. The cabin was moved and reconstructed several times since it was built in 1877, but the materials have remained exactly the same. It’s a nice place to rest and learn about America’s colonial history along the trail.

The Fallen Monarch
Woman standing in front of Fallen Monarch in the King's Canyon National Park.
Fallen Monarch

Near the end of the loop, you’ll find a number of fallen sequoias trees back at the entrance of the grove. Some of these are unnamed but still quite amusing to walk through. The biggest and most fantastic of the bunch, however, is the Fallen Monarch Tree.

This gigantic sequoia was hollowed out by a fire before falling to the forest ground. What were once its roots now burst out in a fire-like shape over its hollowed entrance. 

Apparently, the brothers who built the Gamlin Cabin once sheltered in this giant tree trunk before building their cabin. This dead king also housed an old saloon and lodge before it was preserved as a natural attraction in the park.

Trees around the Fallen Monarch

Big Stump Loop

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 1.6 miles, around 40 minutes

  • Highlights: Mark Twain Stump

The Mark Twain Stump at the end of the Big Stump Trail in Kings Canyon National Park.
Mark Twain Stump

One of the quieter trails you can take in the park, this loop explores the remaining stumps of fallen giants. You’ll find many stumps and some burnt trees along the way, along with the giant trees that still stand tall after so many decades.

The loop refers to the giant stump left over from the fall of the Mark Twain Tree. Back in 1891, the army cut down this humongous tree, leaving behind a 16-foot wide stump. 

The story goes that accessing the sequoia groves was difficult for common folk back in the 1890s, so most people couldn’t believe trees could grow that tall. To show the common people these trees existed, the army spent over 13 days slowly chopping this giant down to show it off to people all the way in New York and London. 

Now, the giant stump of Mark Twain stays as a reminder to preserve and appreciate the fantastic giants all around us. It’s definitely an underrated trail for hiking in Kings Canyon.

Buena Vista Peak Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Distance: 1.98 miles, around 1-2 hours

  • Highlights: Panoramic views of Sierra Crest and Kings Canyon, Buena Vista Peak

Woman standing while looking over the horizon of Kings Canyon National Park from Buena Vista Peak.
Buena Vista Peak

This one to two hour trail climbs up the summit of Buena Vista, just a couple miles south of Grant Grove. It’s one of the most captivating shots of King’s Canyon by far, and a rewarding experience for braving the elevation. You can also expect a lot of dense forests, blooming wildflowers and tall granite cliffs along the way.

Boyden Cavern Tour

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 10 minutes to the cavern, 50 minutes through the cavern

  • Highlights: Boyden Caverns

Boyden Cavern
The Tour

While not a traditional trail for hiking in Kings Canyon, the Boyden Cavern is a must-see location for nature lovers and adventurers. The trail leads down a steep plane for around 10 minutes, before reaching the mouth of the King’s Gate.

From here, you’ll need a pass to book a tour through the Boyden Caverns. You can get one ahead of time through the website, but which tour to choose is up to you. 

A normal walking tour is around $19 and can get quite busy during peak hours, so I’d recommend getting there at an earlier time. If you want to enjoy the tour in complete privacy with friends, you can also book a private extended walking tour for $45. 

The Cavern

The caverns here are uniquely gorgeous, even compared to other caves in California. The stalactites and stalagmites have a smoother structure and form odd shapes, like wedding cakes or Christmas trees. The tour takes you through all the most interesting structures and how they formed over 100,000 years ago, and it’s just a fantastic little educational trip.

When you try to leave the cavern, don’t forget to take the adventure trail! It’s a pathway through a narrow canyon that goes into a small river. You’ll want to bring some waterproof boots while heading out, but the view of the canyon outside is absolutely amazing. 

Hume Lake Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 2.8 miles, around 1 hour

  • Highlights: Hume Lake, wildlife in the forests

View of the trail to Hume Lake

Hume Lake lies right in between the western Grant Grove and the vast eastern wilderness of Cedar Grove. It’s a fantastic highlight of the park with cool waters and a thriving ecosystem beyond it. The trail itself is also well-kept, and there are a lot of benches near the lake to rest or enjoy the scenery.

Interested in exploring the lake further? There are lots of boats along the pier that you can take out to paddle into the waters. It’s a fun way to spend the afternoon with family especially, and the waters are always calm and relaxing.

The boats along Hume Lake

Cedar Grove

Note that Cedar Grove may be inaccessible during seasonal closures around Highway 180. You can check out more information while checking the conditions of Highway 180.

You’ll be able to access Cedar Grove by driving through Highway 180, further east into the wilderness of King’s Canyon. Compared to Grant Grove, Cedar has a much more rugged feel to it. It’s the more thrilling part of hiking in Kings Canyon, and rewards explorers with gorgeous views of nature. As such, be prepared with some basic supplies like water, food, first aid, and proper changes of clothes while exploring this area.

Roaring River Falls Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 0.3 miles, around 7 minutes

View of the Roaring River Falls from up close, with a woman standing by the pool.
Roaring River Falls

This straightforward trek down a paved path leads to one of the most photogenic waterfalls in King’s Canyon. Flowing from the park’s wild and untamed canyons, this waterfall roars out of a small crack in the stone walls, giving it its name. There are lots of swimming holes to dip into around here, too!

You can also explore the granite stone structures around the waterfall. There’s plenty of tree shade to admire the beauty of the scenery around here.

You can see the behind the scenes of this picture on my reel.

Grizzly Falls

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 0.1 miles round trip

Grizzly Creek Falls, Kings Canyon National Park

Perfect for a quick stop, Grizzly Falls is an beautiful 80-foot waterfall easily accessible from the parking lot. It’s a great spot for a picnic, especially in the spring when the water flow is strongest.

Mist Falls Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Distance: 8.5 miles, 4 hours

Mist Falls Trail

While it takes a warm hike to get to this massive waterfall, the cool spray of water is sure to refresh you by the end. Most of the hike is low-elevation and only rises near the end to take steps up to the Mist Falls. 

Overall, it’s a fun trail for intermediate hikers looking for an extensive and rewarding walk while hiking in Kings Canyon. 

Just keep in mind that you’ll want to prepare for both the hot weather on the trail and the cool air around the waterfall. If you have the whole day to visit, I’d recommend starting before sunrise to avoid the heat at noon. Bring some sturdy boots or other stable footwear too, as the stones around the waterfall can get slippery later on. 

Zumwalt Meadow Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 1.5 miles, around 26 minutes

  • Highlights: the Zumwalt Meadow, Kings River

The Zumwault Meadow is a wide expanse of open grassland looking over the surrounding granite mountains and the nearby Kings River. This trail begins just along the side of King’s River, before crossing over and trekking up hills along this path.

It’s one of the most popular nature-watching spots in King’s Canyon, as many wild animals flock to the open fields to find food and shelter from the elements. So don’t be surprised if you come across a few marmots and deer along the way!

Best time to visit and stays


While the park reaches its peak visiting times during the summer (June to August), there’s a lot to keep in mind during the warmer seasons. Longer hikes like the one to Mist Falls can be more challenging in that climate, and hiking paths can get quite crowded. The pleasant weather still makes for a lovely trip around the mountains, but there are other times you can visit as well.

Considering the temperature and crowds, fall is a good time to visit. Most of the park will still be open just before the second Monday of November, and the weather is cool enough to make most long hikes quite relaxing. Spring is also quite nice, but remember that most roads will be closed due to seasonal road repairs.

I do think the best times to visit are still late June and early July. Around this time, summer hasn’t gone into full swing, and many of the waterfalls in the area are still quite full. It’s a gorgeously lush period to be in the park!


There are plenty of lodges near the park, allowing for prolonged visits there. Here are just some of the more popular stays:

  1. Wuksachi Lodge: One of the bigger lodges here, this stay is only around 30 minutes away from Hume Lake and Kings Canyon’s bold wilderness. It holds around 102 rooms and various facilities for events in the area. If you plan to visit Cedar Grove, this lodge is a perfect place to rest before hiking through the forests.

  2. John Muir Lodge: A traditional lodge with the same old-fashioned charm and attitude from the past, this lodge has some of the comfiest accommodations in the park. It’s only 4 minutes away from Hume Lake and holds around 36 cozy rooms for families and hikers.

Bonus: Scenic Byway

Woman looking over the cliffsides beside Scenic Byway in Kings Canyon National Park.
Scenic Byway

While not necessarily a hiking path, you’ll inevitably drive through Scenic Byway to get around King’s Canyon. It’s a gorgeous road built along the park’s cliffs, and it feels amazing to drive through.

It also has spectacular views and vistas from far above and runs through Grant Grove to Cedar Grove. It even goes through the adjacent Sequoia National Park! 

View of the park from Scenic Byway

As a whole, Kings Canyon is much bigger and more fascinating to explore than most people give it credit for. While you can easily explore both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park in a single vacation, it’s important to appreciate the differences between the two. Hiking in Kings Canyon is always an interesting experience. Its trails can be a little more rugged and diverse, but just as worthwhile as hiking in Sequoia.

Do you love exploring in California? I created an interactive map just for you! Check out my California Travel Map with over 500 pins of the best spots and hidden gems for California Travel!

Kings Canyon National Park isn’t the only underrated national park in California. If you’re looking for a park with stunning views of volcanic peaks and caves just two hours away from San Francisco, check out my guide through Hiking Pinnacles National Park.