San Francisco to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park
San Francisco to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
Some of the world’s tallest trees and deepest canyons can be found just a few hours outside of the bustling city of San Francisco. With Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon adjacent to one another, this is the perfect opportunity to explore two separate national parks in the same unforgettable trip! Roam through the towering sequoia trees of the Giant Forest, explore the beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and maybe even spot black bears in the distance. To help get you started, we’ve put together the ultimate four day, San Francisco to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks road trip!
Travel time from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park
This itinerary follows a round-trip route to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, starting and ending at the Escape Campervans in San Francisco. The drive would take just over 9 hours (484 miles) to complete without stopping, and we recommend spreading it out over four days.
From San Francisco, you can either take I-5 S to CA-198 E, or drive down CA-152 E most of the way. The distance in miles for both routes is about the same, so we recommend checking the traffic conditions before you hit the road.
TOTAL MILES: 484 miles
TRAVEL TIME: 4 days, driving 9 hours, 9 minutes.
Best Time of Year for a Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park Road Trip
Summer: This is the best time of year to visit both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. From June through September, all campsites are open and weather conditions are ideal for hiking, sightseeing, and possible black bear spotting. However, summer is also wildfire season, so be sure to keep an eye on any fire safety warnings leading up to your trip.
Spring: If you don’t mind gambling a bit with the weather, avoid the summer crowds by visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon in late spring or early fall.
Fall: Weather can get a bit unpredictable in the late fall with heavy rains. If your California road trip is later in autumn and you don’t want to risk unexpected weather interruptions, you may consider a coastal road trip down to Big Sur instead.
Winter: Both Sequoia and Kings Canyon are enchanting in the winter when the massive sequoia trees are draped in blankets of snow. This is also a great time to visit if you want to take part in any winter activities, like snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. Of course, these colder months come with their own set of challenges, including road closures and closed campsites. If you do visit during the winter, the foothills region of the park has milder conditions and contains a year-round campground.
Preparation for a Sequoia and Kings Canyon Camper Van Road Trip
To make sure that your trip goes off without a hitch, we recommend planning ahead and ensuring that you have everything you need before hitting the road. From gathering supplies to choosing the perfect van for your trip, these are our best tips for keeping your camper van road trip as stress-free as possible!
Campsites: There are 14 campgrounds between both parks, many of which allow for reservations up to 4 months in advance. Even with so many campgrounds, during the peak season, it can be hard to find available spots inside the park. While dispersed (or free) camping is not permitted inside the national parks, it is allowed in nearby Sequoia National Forest. This can be a great alternative if you’re traveling last minute and struggling to find availability.
Food and Supplies: Before hitting the road, make sure you’ve gathered all your necessary camping essentials. We’ve got tons of extra add-ons to choose from, so you’re sure to have everything you need on hand. Because this itinerary crosses through two national parks, grab a National Parks Pass to save on fees, along with a solar shower since many of the campgrounds have minimal amenities. Snow chains will also be a must-have if you’re traveling anytime from late fall through early spring.
Phones and Chargers: Since your smartphone serves as your GPS, camera, and means of communication, keep it fully charged. A portable charger will be essential since, otherwise, you won’t be able to charge your phone when your camper van is turned off.
Printer Maps: Both parks are known for having spotty cell service, and some campgrounds don’t get any reception at all. For this reason, make sure you pick up a free Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks map when you arrive. Whether you’re looking for your next campsite or searching for your trailhead, a physical map will definitely come in handy!
Which Campervan is Best for a Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Road Trip?
San Francisco to Sequoia and Kings Canyon Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Drive from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park
Your adventure begins at the Escape Campervans in San Francisco! After picking up your campervan and loading it up with any necessary gear, you’re ready to hit the road. Have your road trip snacks ready because today you’ll spend plenty of time behind the wheel. The drive from San Francisco to Sequoia National Park is about 230 miles and takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete. We promise the long drive will be well worth the effort once you’re cruising through vast fields of giant sequoia trees!
Camper Van Friendly Campsites near Sequoia National Park
Potwisha Campground– Sequoia National Park, California 93262:One of the only year-round campgrounds inside the park, this campsite requires advanced reservations, and can be booked up to four months in advance. Because this campsite is located in the foothills, it usually remains snow-free in the winter, though often requires fire restrictions in the summer.
Lodgepole Campground– 47050 Generals Hwy, Three Rivers, CA 93271:Centrally located inside the park, this site is open from late April through November, and reservations must be made in advance. Lodgepole Village is nearby, which features showers, laundry facilities, a market, and the free Sequoia Shuttle in the summer, making this a very convenient campsite.
Stony Creek Sequoia– Sequoia National Forest, CA: This campground is found just outside of the park in Sequoia National Forest and sits on the gorgeous Hume Lake. The site typically operates from May through September, and reservations can be made up to 6 months in advance.
Pro Tip: While dispersed camping is not permitted in Sequoia National Park, it is allowed in many areas of Sequoia National Forest, which is located nearby. Keep this in mind if you’re struggling to find available campsites inside the park!
Day 2: Explore Sequoia National Park
Wake up early so you can begin exploring before the crowds roll in (especially during high season). If you’ve camped inside the park, then you’re already off to a great head start! Fuel up with breakfast under the looming sequoia trees, strap on your hiking boots, and get ready for a day of jaw-dropping scenery, unfathomably tall trees, and maybe even some bear sightings!
Places to Visit in Sequoia National Park
Big Trees Trail- This gentle, 1.2-mile loop is a perfect way to stretch your legs if you’re not ready for a more strenuous hike. Get up close to the giant sequoias and keep an eye out for the abundance of wildlife in the area.
Tunnel Log- Located on Crescent Meadow Road in the Giant Forest, this fallen tree is one of the most iconic sites in the park. The enormous sequoia fell in 1937, and a “tunnel” was carved out of the log the following year. Cruise to this classic landmark with your campervan, and pause for a quintessential photo beneath the tunnel.
General Sherman Tree- You can’t come to Sequoia National Park without paying a visit to the world’s largest tree! Measuring 275 feet tall and more than 36 feet in diameter, it’s truly a sight to behold. The soaring tree is located in the Giant Forest and can be accessed by two different trails.
Crystal Cave-Give your neck a break from looking up at towering sequoias to explore the park’s breathtaking marble cave. A half-mile trail loops up to the majestic cavern, where visitors must take a guided tour in order to visit.
Places to Eat Near Sequoia National Park
The Peaks Restaurant $$– 64740 Wuksachi Way, Sequoia National Park, CA 93262:This is one of the few restaurant options inside the park and is especially popular for its central location. Open year-round and featuring stunning views, they serve casual American cuisine made from fresh, local ingredients.
Riverview Bar and Grill $$– 42323 Sierra Dr, Three Rivers, CA 93271: Take in jaw-dropping views as you sit on the banks of the Kaweah River from this restaurant’s patio area. In addition to delicious cuisine, they also serve locally brewed beer on tap and have live music performances every Sunday in the summer.
Ol Buckaroo $$– 41695 Sierra Dr, Three Rivers, CA 93271: This casual diner serves up Americana dishes in a renovated saloon and tavern from the 1940s and ’50s. Choose to enjoy your meal in their dining room, stunning sunroom, or on picnic tables in their expansive backyard area.
Day 3: Drive to Kings Canyon National Park
After packing up your campervan, it’s time to explore Sequoia National Park’s stunning neighbor, the adjacent Kings Canyon National Park. The two breathtaking parks are connected by part of the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, a 50-mile route along Highway 180. Considered to be one of the most picturesque drives in all of California, be sure to leave extra time to admire the stunning sights along the way.
Once you arrive in Kings Canyon National Park, you’ll be met with striking canyon walls lined by granite, awe-inspiring landscapes, and slightly fewer crowds compared to Sequoia. The park is known for containing the second deepest canyon in all of North America, which reaches a height of 8,200 feet! Once you’ve settled into your next campsite, you’ll have plenty of new sights to explore (along with more giant sequoias, of course).
Things to Do in Kings Canyon National Park
General Grant Tree- Found in Grant Grove and reached by a short trail, this is the second-largest tree in the world. The enormous tree is truly mesmerizing, though it’s worth trying to hike there early, as this is one of the most popular sites in the park.
Panoramic Point- This beautiful overlook provides unparalleled views of Kings Canyon. Reachable by a 0.5-mile paved trail, take in the breathtaking vista of the Sierra Nevada mountains, framed by looming sequoia trees in the foreground.
Mist Falls Hike- This 8-mile hike is moderately strenuous, though you’ll be well-rewarded with impeccably gorgeous views. Not only does the hike lead to a breathtaking waterfall, but the entire trail is met with extraordinary landscapes.
Places to Eat near Kings Canyon National Park
Baker Mountain House $$– 48711 CA-245, Badger, CA 93603: Located outside of the park, this rustic restaurant is the perfect spot to relax after a day of hiking. Their outdoor patio offers scenic mountain views, and their menu features a variety of burgers, sandwiches, and vegetarian & vegan options.
Clingan’s Junction Cabins & Coffee $$– 35591 E Kings Canyon Rd, Yokuts Valley, CA 93675: Fuel up with a hearty breakfast sandwich and delicious coffee at this charming cafe. They also have an extensive menu of sandwiches if you prefer to stop by for lunch.
Campervan Friendly Campsites near Kings Canyon National Park
Azalea Campground– Grant Grove, CA 93633: This year-round campsite inside the park must be reserved in advance, aside from the winter months when it becomes first come, first served. Keep in mind that the campground is sometimes closed due to safety and weather conditions.
Sunset Campground– Generals Hwy, Hume, CA 93628: Typically open from late May through September, this site is the largest inside Kings Canyon and reservations must be made in advance. This campground offers food storage lockers, flush toilets, and a year-round camp store.
Hume Lake Campground– 64144 Hume Lake Rd, Hume, CA 93628:Located outside of the park in the Sequoia National Forest, this spot is situated just beside Hume Lake and is a prime spot for fishing, swimming, and hiking. The campsite is open from May through September, and reservations must be made in advance.
Day 4- Kings Canyon National Park to San Francisco
Sadly, your Sequoia National Park road trip comes to an end today. After an early wake-up and enjoying a filling breakfast, pack up your campervan one more time and say your goodbyes to the land of giants. The drive back to Escape Campervans in San Francisco is about 3 hours and 30 minutes, or 207 miles. Enjoy the last few hours in your campervan, and remember to keep your designated drop-off time in mind.
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Why Rent a Campervan for a Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park Road Trip
Compact & mobility: Because Escape Campervans are so much smaller than a typical RV, they are much easier to maneuver- especially on the winding mountain roads of these national parks. You’ll have much more freedom to access remote areas of the parks, as well as an easier time finding available parking and camping spots.
Easy to Drive: A traditional RV can be quite intimidating if you’re not used to driving such a large vehicle. Our campervans are similar in size to larger family vehicles, making the learning curve far less steep. Because this itinerary has you spending long periods of time on the road, feeling safe and comfortable while you drive is extremely important.
No Need for Electric or Sewer Hook-Ups: Many of the campgrounds in these two parks offer very basic facilities and do not have any hook-ups available. While this would pose a problem with a traditional RV, our campervans are designed to be self-contained and don’t require any electric or sewer hook-ups.
Versatility: Our extensive list of optional add-ons makes our campervans fully customizable, so you’re guaranteed to have exactly what you need for your dream road trip! Plus, our unique designs add the perfect pop of color to make your adventure (and photos) extra exciting! Just wait until you snap a photo under the Tunnel Log with your vibrant campervan!
Convenient: Since you’re packing in a lot of sightseeing in only four days, we don’t want you wasting any time setting up tents or dealing with the logistics that come with a traditional RV. With Escape Campervans, your kitchenette and bed are already set up and ready for you. With everything you need right at your fingertips, you have that much more time to focus on making the most of your campervan road trip!
For all the above reasons, renting a campervan in San Francisco from Escape Campervans is the best way to go for your Sequoia National Park road trip. The added convenience and mobility will allow you to spend more time immersing yourself in nature, and less time worrying about finding a suitable campsite!
Reserve With Escape Campervans
Now that you’ve discovered the immense beauty of both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, all that’s left is to book your dream campervan. Embark on the ultimate campervan road trip as you cruise through California’s captivating scenery, trek through bear country, and sleep beneath looming sequoia trees. Click the link below to reserve your Escape Campervan and get ready to set out on the adventure of a lifetime!