Kings Canyon National Park: Tips and Packing List

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“In the vast Sierra wilderness, far to the southward of the famous Yosemite Valley, there is yet a grander valley of the same kind. It is situated on the south fork of the Kings River, above the most extensive groves and forests of the giant sequoia, and beneath the shadows of the highest mountains in the range, where canyons are the deepest and the snow-laden peaks are crowded most closely together.”

           – John Muir, 1891

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Kings Canyon is a national park that is often overlooked in favor of its more popular neighbor, Sequoia. Anyone who does that is really missing out though. Kings Canyon is a beautiful park full of amazing sights and natural wonders. Deep valleys with granite walls, towering sequoias, and a powerful roaring river running through it….there’s no doubt, Kings Canyon is an awe-inspiring park for sure.

The crowds can get intense though, and the weather can present some challenges. So here are my tips on what to do and what to pack in order to get the most out of your visit:

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Useful Tips

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  • Make sure to allow some time to explore the national forest area in between the two halves of Kings Canyon. There’s a lot of great hiking options there, plus a lake where you can rent boats!
  • The park is divided into two halves, Cedar Grove and Grant Grove. Make sure to visit both, and allow plenty of time to drive between the two (it’s a fairly long mountain road… roughly an hour or two).
  • Pack a swim suit! There are several points along the river that are safe for swimming, plus tons of surrounding lakes throughout the national forest.

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  • But stay out of the river in faster moving areas. The current is swift and deadly, and can be nearly impossible to get out of (seriously…people drown here every year). Enter the river only where it is mostly calm and shallow! Like in the above picture. Avoid areas like the picture below:

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Just kidding… obviously no one is dumb enough to swim in that. But for reals, don’t go in any of the rapids.

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  • Pack plenty of insect repellent and citronella candles (for back at camp). Where there is water, there are bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. Tiny little gnats that constantly swarm your face and get in your eyes. Repellent and candles won’t make them completely go away, but they sure help!
  • Dress in layers. The temperature can vary greatly depending on where you are in the park and the time of day. Jackets are a must! But so are tank tops.

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  • Bring everything you think you’ll need. There is a small general store at Grant Grove, but it is a long drive to the closest town. So if the general store is closed for the night or they don’t have what you need, you are shit out of luck.

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Weather

Historic Average Temperatures
Giant Forest, Lodgepole, and Grant Grove
Average high Average low Extreme high Extreme low
Jan 42°F
6°C
24°F
-4°C
68°F
20°C
-6°F
-21°C
Feb 44°F
7°C
25°F
-4°C
70°F
21°C
-4°F
-21°C
Mar 46°F
8°C
26°F
-3°C
76°F
24°C
0°F
18°C
Apr 51°F
11°C
30°F
-1°C
77°F
25°C
8°F
-13°C
May 58°F
14°C
36°F
2°C
83°F
28°C
13°F
-11°C
Jun 68°F
20°C
44°F
7°C
91°F
33°C
22°F
-6°C
Jul 76°F
24°C
51°F
11°C
92°F
33°C
34°F
1°C
Aug 76°F
24°C
50°F
10°C
94°F
34°C
28°F
-2°C
Sep 71°F
22°C
45°F
7°C
90°F
32°C
23°F
-5°C
Oct 61°F
16°C
38°F
3°C
82°F
28°C
11°F
-12°C
Nov 50°F
10°C
31°F
-1°C
96°F
36°C
4°F
-20°C
Dec 44°F
7°C
27°F
-3°C
73°F
23°C
-4°F
-20°C

*** Cedar Grove is closed in the winter due to frequent rock falls ***

(Info obtained from the NPS website)

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Packing List

  • GSI Percolator. No camp breakfast is complete without a fresh cup of coffee brewed over a campfire. This 12-cup percolator from GSI is one of my favorite things in the whole world. It’s tough enough to withstand direct heat from the fire, and it brews a great pot of coffee every time. It’s a camping must-have!

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GSI Percolator
  • Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent. There are seriously more bugs in this park than I can handle, especially on the Mist Falls trail. This is a great natural insect repellent to help protect you from all those nasty diseases bugs carry, and also just to help keep them out of your face while you’re trying to hike. 

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Repel
  • Aleader Water Shoes. River rocks can get really slippery, plus there’s all sorts of gunk in the riverbeds. Water shoes are a great option to make playing in the river safer and easier! These ones dry fast, have good traction, and provide plenty of cushioning for your feets. Plus they are available in 15 different colors!

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Aleader
 
  • Roxy Beanie. The temperatures can vary quite a bit here, with cold nights and mornings and warm afternoons. I always like to pack a beanie to keep my head warm during those colder hours. I love this fleece-lined beanie from Roxy! Stylish and super warm. But if this one isn’t your jam, there are tons of other Roxy beanie options out there!

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ROXY
  • Coleman Cool Weather Sleeping Bag. Having a sleeping bag to keep you warm during those cold nights is an essential. You don’t need to buy one of those expensive ones from REI though in order to stay warm! This one from Coleman is made for temperatures as low as 30°F, and is only around $30. Who says outdoors gear has to be pricey? And if you’re in the market for a bag with different temperature ratings or different features, they have plenty more to choose from.

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Coleman
  • Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven. When it comes to cooking over a campfire, cast iron is the way to go! I love the 12″ oven, because it is so versatile. Soups, stews, cobblers, meats, veggies… you name it, it can be cooked in this oven. You can even flip the lid over to use as a griddle! Meaning less dishes for you to pack.

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Lodge Dutch Oven
  • Burt’s Bees cosmetics and personal care items.  Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to let your beauty routines slide. Pack items that travel easily and multitask, such as these makeup removal wipes and BB cream with SPF from Burt’s Bees. Made with responsibly sourced, 99% natural ingredients and no animal testing, this is a company who’s products you can feel good about using out in nature!
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Burt’s Bees

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So there you have it! Really the only thing you need in order to enjoy your visit is a little bit of advance preparation. This is an easy park to visit, and you don’t need much to have a good time here and experience all the best things to see and do. So get out there and see Kings Canyon!

And be sure to check out all my other posts on Kings Canyon for ideas on what to see and do during your visit!

For additional information on Kings Canyon National Park, visit the official park website.

Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in Grant Grove, though many of the facilities have shorter hours during the winter season. Cedar Grove is closed for the winter.

Entrance fee is $30 per vehicle.


 

 

Author: Natalie Bates

LA-based freelance writer | Blogger | Craft beer drinker | Rock 'n roll girlfriend | Adventurer | Lover of tattoos, red lipstick, and popcorn | World traveler | Compassionate human | Photography enthusiast | Eco warrior | Celtic babe ❤️

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