Have you ever wanted to explore some of the largest trees on this planet or quite possibly one of the most beautiful canyons in the world? Well that all exists within two bordering national parks. The United States has one of the most extreme terrains ranging from enormous deserts, swamp filled lands as well as some of the most beautiful waterfalls in all of the world. We are lucky because most of the beautiful features our country provides us have been protected within our national park system. Well, having been to more national parks than I can count Kings Canyon and the Sequoia National Parks provided some of the most beautiful sights and moments I’ve had in the outdoors.
Driving up the mountains, approaching Sequoia National Park, I was getting super stoked. Making my way through the foothills covered in wildflowers mixing with the air changing to that crisp mountain air I knew it would be hard to leave this wonderland. Anyways, getting to the gate to the national parks nice and early promised a long day of exploring an unfamiliar territory.
If you don’t know what the Sequoias are you’ll most definitely see by my photos in this post. I can’t even explain the monstrosity of these things, I mean, the second tallest tree in the world is located just near the park entrance. This grouping of Sequoias named the General Grant Grove happens to be named after the world famous General Grant tree named after Ulysses S. Grant hitting an amazing 267 feet tall from the ground up. Not to mention being 107 feet around at the base this thing can’t be captured in just a photo to show its powerful presence but, hopefully I can give you the most realistic vision and feeling of being within feet of the General Grant Grove.
After visiting these trees, I went to find a campsite and got lucky enough to grab one just near this beautiful grove of Sequoias at the Azalea Campground. After paying for my site and setting up some campsite essentials I jumped back in the car and went straight for Kings Canyon. Always remember when being in these bear populated areas to keep all food out of your car and either in a bear box if in a campground or hanging up in the trees a little distance from your car. Let’s get back to the adventure. Not knowing what to expect, as I thought it would just be another canyon in the mountains that our country claimed to be a national park, I was more than pleasantly surprised when I broke out of the trees to see some beautiful Sierra Nevada peaks filling the sky further than my eyes could see.
Making the twisty mountain road down I stopped plenty of times to capture the beauty that truly left me speechless. With giant Sierra Nevada peaks surrounding the sides of the canyon, I couldn’t wait to get down this steep mountain road and into the canyon floor to really feel how massive these mountains are. Realizing these mountains are only within 5 hours of my home I knew this place would be a constant local spot to enjoy some giant trees and spectacular snowcapped mountains.
Once I started approaching the bottom of the mountains I realized that I was in King’s Canyon and it started to become something that was totally unexpected. A steep and jagged, mountain lined canyon with an absolutely beautiful river at the bottom carrying plenty of fresh water from melting snow on the surrounding mountains. It’s not a gentle river either it was a fast, loud and violent that I’m sure would be a blast to fly down if you are an experienced rafter.
Making my way through the twisting canyon road at the bottom I crisscrossed over the river multiple times getting plenty of beautiful views peering up at the mountains towering over me. I was amazed at how quickly they ascended from the canyon bottom. Coming towards the end I stopped to take a photo of the canyon behind me and had another park visitor tell me there were bears ahead and to be careful. After snapping the shutter a few times I decided to continue on and find what else this canyon had to offer and boy did it give me even more spectacular moments.
Coming around the corner I hit traffic. Not traffic because of too many visitors but it seemed like everyone in the canyon was currently out of their car and pointing their phones and cameras towards a meadow on the right. I knew exactly what was happening, I slowly approached the vehicle filled road and started looking out into the meadow and that’s when my heart stopped. Seeing a bear cub walking along a log I reached into the back seat and grabbed my camera and switched over to my telephoto lens. Knowing momma could be close by I didn’t want to get out of the car but having this been my first bear sighting in the Sierra’s I jumped out of the car to join the other photographers along the roadside. After pointing my camera out towards the bear cub I noticed another bear, not momma but yet another baby making its way along the tree line at the far end of the meadow.
Capturing this moment was surreal. Most of you have probably seen a bear and probably have bear stories of your own which is totally rad. But getting to have the opportunity to capture these beautiful wild animals just existing in their home I was to the point of tears when I returned back to the car. Having that moment pass I let the babies explore their home and find bugs within the logs. While driving along the canyon walls I noticed something behind me standing in the middle of the road. It was large and dark, I thought it was just a car coming around the corner, but it wasn’t. It was momma, she was huge.
Once I realized she was a bear and not another park visitor I turned around because this was something I couldn’t miss capturing. Once I got to where I saw her cross the road I slowed down and started scanning through the trees to see where she had gone. She hadn’t gotten far being only about 30 feet from the road I knew to stay in my car as I knew to respect the boundaries of getting too close to such a powerful animal. Getting to watch her walk along the edge of the river and through the trees I decided she probably had enough of my stalking so I continued on through the canyon.
This road leads to somewhere called the road’s end which explains itself, the road ends. Turning around and heading back towards the Sequoias I had a few spots in mind to capture while the sun was just hitting that ever so loved golden hour. With such a beautiful canyon I knew this would be something special and an imprint into my adventure driven mind. I ended up making my first stop at Grizzly Falls, seeing it from the road, tucked back into a little corner of the canyon it was an awesome spot and a power waterfall for not being enormous.
Setting up my tripod, turning the dials to hit the settings I thought would be appropriate and attaching my remote shutter release I knew I was ready to take my lens cap off and snap a shot before my lens became coated with the mist from the crashing water. I snapped a couple shots in one spot and attempted to get some a little closer but ended up being completely soaked from the amount of water flying through the air. Assuming I would have some keepers from the bunch that I took I hiked back down to the car and checked them out and boy was I stoked.
Knowing I was running out of daylight I set my camera back down and started back through the canyon checking Grizzly Falls off the list. Getting through the canyon floor I started ascending back up towards the Sequoias but still had a few amazing spots I marked as I was making my way down the canyon. Hitting these spots I captured some shots that I couldn’t even put into words. These were some shots I knew I would be very proud of as this enormous canyon had so much detail. Between the crashing water below, the steep canyon walls and the sun bouncing off the colorful rock covered canyon walls this made it for one of those picturesque moments.
Needing time to finish setting up camp for the night I booked it up the canyon back to the Sequoias and to Azalea Campground. Ending off the day and the time that I had to explore this beautiful area I knew this was just a beginning to many adventures in this area to come.
I hope you all get the chance to experience these parks. These were only segments of each park, there are all kinds of hikes and other roads to explore throughout Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park. Located just south of Yosemite National Park you know this place has got to be special and I honestly think it should be just as popular as the world-renowned Yosemite National Park. Stay tuned for my first part of the trip hitting Yosemite just before I came through Kings Canyon and the Sequoias.
Happy adventures everyone, thank you for reading.