Southwest Trip: Day Nine – Kings Canyon National Park
Despite the nasty weather, we enjoyed our first Sequoia experience, but we were eager to leave the higher altitude to enjoy dryer, warmer weather.
The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located in close proximity to one another, which makes it a common practice to visit both parks during the same trip. That was exactly our plan.
The drive from Sequoia to Kings Canyon is less than 100 km, but it took us three hours to complete because of the thick fog and zero visibility that made driving the narrow, mountain roads extremely tricky and unpleasant.
Although the drive was treacherous, we were not worried about the weather because I knew that Kings Canyon is at a much lower altitude. We were certain it would be drier and much more pleasant there.
But we had one more pressing issue to solve. Once again, we did not have a place to camp overnight. The day we dedicated to exploring Kings Canyon was the first day of Memorial Weekend in the United States, which meant all the campgrounds had been booked months in advance. Even campsites higher in the mountains where rain and cold weather made it hardly usable and most likely unenjoyable were packed.
Plus, since you cannot camp in non-designated areas in any National Park, we had very limited options for wild camping between the two parks.
In the end, the internet community helped us find a spot for the night. Visiting freecampsites.net, I found references to a free campground located near the entrance of Kings Canyon National Park. It is located just off the side of the road on the beach of the Kings Canyon River. Since you cannot book the campground online, very few people know about it.
When we entered the campground around noon, we could not believe our eyes—all eight campsites were vacant, and the campground was completely empty. We grabbed the most secluded spot and drove through Kings Canyon and hiked in the park for the rest of the day.
It was not our first visit to the Sierra Mountains, so we knew about the high chance of encountering bears in the mountains. Normally, bears do not pose a danger to people since the only reason they usually approach tourists is to steal food. All hikers and campers must be aware of the issue and know how to minimize the risk of a dangerous encounter by properly storing their food, especially at night.
Apparently, Kings Canyon has a high concentration of bears because we have never before seen such preventative measures. There are signs posted everywhere with instructions on how to deal with food while camping and hiking. The general rule is that you cannot leave any food unsupervised further than an arm’s length or it could be stolen by bears.
When you enter the park, park attendants give all visitors a short lecture on bears. Every campground is equipped with metal food boxes and a mandatory rule that campers store their food in the boxes every night. Nearly all the food boxes are deformed by deep scratches made by the bears foraging and trying to claw their way into the boxes for food.
You can also rent smell resistant food canisters that make it possible to hike in the canyon without attracting bears or other animals.
The problem was that our campground did not have any metal food boxes nor were there any park attendants to ask if the campsite was located in a dangerous area.
We stored our food in our cooler and drug it 50 meters away from the campsite. We also decided to sleep in the car.
Nothing happened that night and we found our food intact the next morning.
We only had one day to explore Kings Canyon, which was enough to fall in love with the park. Now, it is definitely on our to do list for our next trip. The plan is to spend three to four days hiking in the mountains. We certainly plan on bringing scent-proof backpacks for an even safer hike.