Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is one of the best scenic drives in all of California. Located in Kings Canyon National Park, the drive is 50 miles long, and it traverses massive canyons, passes waterfalls, and follows a river. It should be on every California traveler’s bucket list. Do give yourself time to take the drive as it is more of a full day adventure due to how slow going it can be, here is all the information.
- 50 miles
- Lots of windy roads and significant drop offs
- Location: Kings Canyon National Park and Giant Sequoia National Monument
From Fresno, you will take Highway 180 up towards Kings Canyon National Park. When you make it to the park, there are only two roads to travel, one goes into Sequoia National Park, and the other goes into Kings Canyon. Highway 180 into Kings Canyon is the road you will take. It should be noted that most of the road is actually in Giant Sequoia National Monument, but people often confuse it with Kings Canyon (you cross into Kings Canyon near the waterfalls). So for this post, I am just including everything on the scenic byway, regardless if it is in Kings Canyon or Giant Sequoia. Here are some of the stops you can see in order as you drive into the canyon.
General Grant Grove
General Grant Grove is the first main point of interest you will get to on the drive, and it is an excellent introduction into the giant sequoias prevalent around the park. General Grant is the second largest tree in the world by volume, and the grove that surrounds it is impressive. There is a giant fallen tree you can walk through an old historic cabin and lots of big trees. Read more about it here.
Heading on from General Grant Grove, you will start going uphill, and at the top of the hill, there is an excellent overlook for a view west over the park. After soaking in the view, the drive will start heading downhill, and it will go downhill to the end of the road.
Hume Lake is about 15 minutes’ drive off the scenic byway. It is a beautiful and gigantic lake, so it is a pleasant drive if you want more to explore. It is also the only real spot you can see on this drive in the winter; the road is closed right past the turn for Hume Lake in the winter.
Views into Canyon
After leaving Hume Lake, the road is covered by trees, but it eventually opens up with massive views into the canyons in front of you. The first time I saw this, I was blown away, it’s that impressive.
You can also see the road below you, and you will realize that this is going to be a long adventure as you make your way down the winding road. There are many turnoffs in this section, so take your time and pull out often as you drive.
Once you make it to the bottom of the canyon, there is a privately owned cave that you can tour there called Boyden Cave. It has never been open when I have gone, so I haven’t gotten a chance to visit it. Let me know if you have in the comments.
The next main point of interest is Grizzly Falls. This waterfall is impressive, and it is easy to access with less than a tenth of a mile hike. There is also a picnic bench here if you want to eat some food and relax.
Kings Canyon Sign
After this, you will officially enter Kings Canyon again (first time since General Grant Grove) so you can take a photo with the sign if you would like.
Next, there is a small turnout for Knapp’s Cabin after the four campgrounds. This is a historic cabin from the 1920s that was used as a storage area for an eccentric wealthy businessman that had camping trips in the area every year.
Roaring River Falls
Roaring River Falls is the second of the two easy to see falls along the scenic byway. I think Grizzly Falls is more impressive, but both are unique and worth seeing. Roaring River was shorter, but it was “roaring” when we saw it. Plus, it only a third of a mile hike to the falls, if that.
This meadow is the last turn off before you get to Road’s End. Zumwalt Meadow is accessed via a half mile trail that takes you over an impressive suspension bridge.
The trail then follows the water with great views of the surrounding cliffs before arriving at the meadow. The meadow boardwalk was closed when I went, so I didn’t get to experience the trail. It was beautiful from what I saw, though.
Roads End is the last stop on the drive, and it is the official turn around point. Many people go there to park and hike into the backcountry of the park. I haven’t done that myself, but I would love to do it in the future.
It’s also an excellent place for a swim, and there are some stunning swimming holes there that you can easily walk to from the parking area.
That’s it for my time recommendations on what to do while driving Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. I hope you enjoyed this virtual drive and let me know what you think in the comments.