Kings Canyon National Park There are many factors to consider before scheduling a trip to Kings Canyon National Park, from peak crowd seasons and pricing to weather and park closures.
No matter what kind of activities you plan to partake in at Kings Canyon, we’ve outlined everything you need to know to plan the perfect trip.
Why You Should Visit Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon National Park is a massive park in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in eastern California. It spans over 450,000 acres, boasts eight waterfalls, and has hundreds of miles of trails.
Kings Canyon, along with Sequoia National Park, was built around old groves of sequoia trees to protect California’s best natural beauty for future generations.
Kings Canyon sees more than 400,000 visitors each year, but with Sequoia National Park (which shares a border with Kings Canyon), visitor numbers topped one million in 2020.
Visitors from around the world come to Kings Canyon to participate in various outdoor activities during all four seasons. Hiking is the primary reason visitors come to Kings Canyon.
Many trails afford hikers and backpackers spectacular views of sprawling vistas, waterfalls, and giant sequoia groves. Visitors can hike in the foothills or across the rims of mountains, and there are options available for hikers of every level.
The summertime in Kings Canyon has rock climbing, horseback riding, fishing, and more, in addition to hiking, camping, and other classic national park activities.
In the winter, many visitors come to the park for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. There are also designated ‘snow play’ areas where children can build snowmen, ski, sled, and enjoy the winter season.
Overall Best Time to Visit Kings Canyon National Park
While Kings Canyon is a gorgeous park that’s definitely worth the visit, some considerable limitations can make booking a trip difficult. The perfect time to visit Kings Canyon will depend on what you want to do while you’re there.
Late June, July, and August tend to be very crowded. Parking often fills up before noon, and campsites usually completely book up hours after the National Parks Service opens reservations.
While crowds can be intense and difficult to navigate, summer is the most popular season for a reason. The mountains have a short warm period, and even summer doesn’t get very hot.
Highs in June, July, and August usually peak in the 70s, making for a chilly hike, especially if winds pick up. So while summer is widely considered the best season to visit Kings Canyon and Sequoia, it’s also the most crowded and expensive.
If you want to avoid the summer crowds while visiting Kings Canyon, you’ll have to tolerate some colder weather.
September and June have highs in the mid-60s and get below freezing at night, but crowds thin out significantly. If you don’t mind a cooler visit, September and June are the best months to visit overall.
Cheapest Time to Visit Kings Canyon National Park
Passes, campground fees, and other prices associated with visiting the national parks remain the same regardless of when you visit, so you won’t save money if you plan to drive in and camp. Other costs, however, are negotiable for budget travelers.
The city nearest to Kings Canyon is Fresno, California. If you plan to book a hotel in Fresno while you visit the park, December and January have the lowest rates.
February and early November are close seconds in savings for lodging. If you have to fly in to see the park, the cost of plane tickets can be much more important than inexpensive lodging. February is the least expensive month to fly anywhere in the United States, and Fresno is no exception.
Overall, if you’re driving into Fresno and staying in a hotel, you can save the most money by staying in January or December. If you’re flying into Fresno and booking a hotel, February will save you the most money.
If you plan to visit the park to hike or camp and want to avoid winter weather, spring is the second cheapest time to visit the park. April and May often have days in the 40s and 50s, warm enough to enjoy most of the park’s hikes, even if evenings drop below freezing.
Least Busy Time to Visit Kings Canyon National Park
Like most outdoor parks, Kings Canyon visitor numbers drop off significantly in the winter. While the foothills remain relatively warm, higher altitudes are often snowy and below freezing in the park.
While winter is the least busy time to visit, it is also significantly limiting. While most of the park stays open as long as possible, portions of Kings Canyon and Sequoia close for months due to snow that impacts road conditions.
Additionally, many hiking trails and other activities shut down in winter, further limiting what you can see and do during your visit.
However, some unique activities are only available in the winter months. Some visitors like to come in the off-season to snowshoe or cross-country ski.
Others bring children to explore King Canyon’s designated snow play areas. Some drives remain open through the winter and offer fantastic views without the crowds that overwhelm the park in summer as well.
If you’re more of a warm-weather outdoors person but still want to avoid the significant congestion that Kings Canyon sees in the summer, you can visit in October or April.
These months can still be cold, but they’re not as freezing as winter. October, in particular, rarely has snow on the ground so you can hike most of the park without weather interference.
Worst Time to Visit Kings Canyon National Park
Every season in Kings Canyon National Park has benefits and drawbacks. The summer is crowded and congested, and traffic can be heavy, putting a damper on your trip, even if the weather is perfect.
In the winter, temperatures are below freezing, and sections of the park are shut down, limiting the activities available to visitors. In the spring and fall, temperatures typically fall below freezing at night, making camping difficult.
Spring has more moderate temperatures, but it’s always possible that a late-season snowstorm will blow through and close roads and certain areas of the park.
Fall also has its drawbacks; it’s a short season in Kings Canyon, and snowfall can stick around as early as October. In general, the best time to visit the park depends on what you’re looking to get out of your trip.
If you want to enjoy solitude or despise crowded tails, summer will be the worst time to visit. If you can’t stand the cold, winter is the worst time to visit.
Things to Consider
Kings Canyon National Parks is a favorite national park for many visitors, but before you book your trip, you should consider the following:
- Kings Canyon National Park is chilly for most of the year, especially at high altitudes. Even if you plan to visit in the summer, you’ll want to pack warm clothes for the evenings.
- If you plan a trip to camp or hike, check the park’s conditions before you head out to ensure that paths and campgrounds are open, especially in fall, winter, and spring.
- Remember that Kings Canyon National Park requires tire chains during certain special weather events, particularly in winter and spring.
- Most visitors to Kings Canyon National Park also try to see Sequoia National Park. If you want to make the most of your trip, make sure to leave time to explore both parks.
- Campsites and lodging in Kings Canyon National Park tend to fill up fast, so if you plan to try and get a first-come-first-serve space, make sure you have a backup plan in a nearby town or a private campsite.
Frequently Asked Questions
These are the questions most often asked by those planning trips to Kings Canyon National Park:
What is the best month to visit Kings Canyon National Park?
July and August are the best months to visit Kings Canyon for nice weather. The best balance of weather and crowds is spring and fall, including September, October, May, and June.
How many days do you need to see Kings Canyon National Park?
You will need at least two days to see the most iconic locations, but you can easily spend upwards of a week hiking and exploring different areas of the park.
Which is better, Sequoia or Kings Canyon?
Sequoia National Park has more sequoia groves and famously tall trees, but Kings Canyon has more vistas, waterfalls, and valleys. If you want to see sequoia groves, Sequoia National Park is your best bet.
Are there grizzly bears in Kings Canyon?
No, there are no grizzly bears in Kings Canyon National Park. However, there are black bears, so visitors should use caution to protect themselves and their belongings.
How many waterfalls are there in Kings Canyon?
Because of its location in the Sierra Nevada mountains and several rivers, Kings Canyon National Park has ten waterfalls.
What is the city closest to Kings Canyon National Park?
The city closest to Kings Canyon National Park is Fresno, California, which is about an hour’s drive. Many visitors also stay in Visalia, which is a smaller town, about an hour and ten minutes away.
Can you see Kings Canyon and Sequoia in one day?
You can see some of the best highlights of both parks in one day, but you should plan more time to explore the parks if you can so you don’t miss anything.
Do you need a car at Kings Canyon?
Most travelers to Kings Canyon will need a car to get to their trails and campsite. Once you are in Kings Canyon National Park, you can utilize the park’s shuttle service to get to trailheads and lodging locations.
What is the hardest national park to visit?
Three national parks are very difficult for most people to visit. These parks are Isle Royal National Park in Michigan and Dry Tortuga National Park in Florida, which can only be accessed by boat or seaplane, and Katmai National Park in Alaska, which can only be accessed by plane.
Are there rattlesnakes in Kings Canyon?
Kings Canyon National Park is home to lots of wildlife, some of which can be dangerous, including rattlesnakes and black bears.
So, When Should You Visit Kings Canyon?
Kings Canyon National Park is open year-round and has many great activities, no matter which season you decide to visit. Most people visit in the summer months, especially in July and August when all parts of the park are open.
Some visitors prefer to come in the winter to snowshoe or cross-country ski. No matter what kind of trip you want to have, the Park offers the perfect experience for every type of traveler!