The Best 1-week National Park Itinerary for Yosemite, Kings Canyon, & Sequoia

Tunnel View

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It’s been a while since I posted a travel guide because it felt weird promoting travel while most of the world was in quarantine. As the world begins to reopen I’ve been thinking about the safest way to travel in a time of uncertainty, Hopping on a plane seems premature so road trips and outdoor adventures will be moved to the top of my bucket list for a while.

You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t visit Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks while visiting Yosemite. My strategy for extended hiking trips is to alternate days with hard and easy trails to give my legs a break between the tough hikes. With that in mind, I have put together the perfect itinerary for enjoying all three parks in one week.

Day 1: Travel Day

Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport offers the best combination of affordable airfare and reasonable drive time. With a rental car, it’s still 3 hours to Yosemite, so the first day is dedicated to travel.

We stayed in an adorable little Airbnb 15 minutes outside the gates of Yosemite. Terry was the most hospitable host who cooked us dinner, served us wine, and gave great advice. It was exactly what we needed after a long day of travel. I cannot recommend this Airbnb enough!

For $55 off your first trip click here.

Yosemite National Park

Day 2: Mist Falls

More like drenched falls. You WILL get wet so come prepared with waterproof gear and moisture-wicking clothes. Mist Falls is gorgeous and is the adult version of running through the sprinklers.

Difficulty:

Moderate to hard – the climb to Mist Falls is moderately hard with lots of wet stairs, but doable. For an extra challenge, make your way up to Vernal Falls.

Length:

Mist Falls out and back: 3 Miles
Vernal Falls Loop: 7.5 miles

Please enjoy this short video featuring Mist Falls’ namesake! This video was taken with a phone as my camera was packed safely in my Osprey Daylite Plus which kept my pride and joy bone dry.

Pro Tip: Don’t know how to tell if your gear is 100% waterproof? Create a seal around the material and your mouth and blow. If you can feel the air on your hand on the other side, it’s not 100%.

Day 3: Quick Hikes

Each of these hikes are flat and a mile or less (except Mirror Lake which is a flat 3). I recommend utilizing Yosemite’s very efficient bus to drop you off near all the main points of interest, If you don’t manage to hit all of these lookout points, just add them the morning you leave for Kings Canyon. You won’t need all day at Kings Canyon, so that morning is a great buffer zone for fitting in the things you missed.

Mirror Lake | Swinging Bridge | Lower Yosemite Falls Vista Point | Bridalveil Falls | Glacier Point | Tunnel View

Day 4: Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

Yosemite Falls is a tiered waterfall; the bottom half of which you’ll see on the Lower Yosemite Falls Vista Point and is a much less strenuous way to see the iconic falls. If you’re looking amp it up a bit, try the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail. Though steep, you’ll be rewarded with views of Yosemite Valley and mist from the falls.

Difficulty:

Hard – Very Steep Incline

Length:

  • Columbia Rock: 2 miles round trip
  • Base of the upper falls: 4 miles round trip
  • Top of the Falls: 7 miles round trip

King’s Canyon National Park

Day 5: Drive the King’s Canyon Scenic Byway

The drive from Yosemite to Kings Canyon is about 2 hours and is equally as stunning as the parks themselves. Without stopping the scenic byway (from Grant Cove to Copper Creek Trailhead) takes about an hour each way. How long you stay at each of the 25+ lookout points is the real deciding factor in how long this highly underrated detour will take.

Sequoia National Park

Day 6: Giant Forest Trail

Start on the Giant Forest Trail and meander your way to the various points of interest in the area – Bear Hill Trail, Hanging Rock, Moro Rock, Auto Log, and Tunnel Log. The trails in the area converge several times so it’s not critical to stay on the same path.

Difficulty:

Moderate- There are steep inclines to access some of the view points, but there are also long periods of flat terrain.

Length:

This is a “choose your own adventure” kind of hike. It can range from 3-7 miles depending on how many of the points of interest you include.

Day 7: General Grant and Big Trees Trail

General Grant - Sequoia National Park

General Grant is the World’s largest tree by volume and it’s hard to imagine the magnitude of that until you see it yourself.

Can you spot Jason in this photo? I’ll give you a hint, he’s tiny and waaaaay down at the bottom.

Difficulty:
Moderate – The way down is easy, it’s getting back up that’s the problem.

Length:
1 mile

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