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9 Best Campgrounds at Kings Canyon National Park

Dec 1, 2017

A land of giant sequoias, rushing rivers, and beautiful canyon scenery, Kings Canyon National Park is a magical place for camping. If you are here simply to wander among the huge trees, you can find beautiful campgrounds that offer easy access to the towering wonders of both Kings Canyon and adjoining Sequoia National Park. But, if you are looking to escape the crowds or hike remote trails, you'll also find extraordinary camping opportunities in the far reaches of the park.

View of Kings Canyon from Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
View of Kings Canyon from Kings Canyon Scenic Byway | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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The park is divided into different sections. In the Grant Grove area are three campgrounds well positioned for visiting the sequoias. The elevation here is around 6,500 feet, and the temperatures are much cooler than the surrounding valleys. If you head deeper into the park, you'll find three very nice campgrounds towards the end of the 26-mile Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 180), in the Cedar Grove area. This road takes some time to drive, so if you are only coming to enjoy the trees, this is not the best option. However, if you are interested in enjoying longer hikes through alpine areas, this is a great alternative. Campgrounds here are incredibly scenic, with pine trees and mountain scenery. This area is set at an elevation of 4,600 feet, and temperatures are warmer than the Grant Grove Area. It's perfect in the spring, when the higher elevations are still a bit cool. This road closes in winter, so you will have to wait until it opens before you can access these campgrounds.

Between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove, the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway leaves the park for a considerable distance. In this area, outside of the park boundary, are a couple of camping areas that can serve as nice alternatives to camping in the park. Of particular note are Hume Lake and Princess Campgrounds.

1 Azalea Campground

Azalea Campground
Azalea Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Located in the Grant Grove area, the Azalea Campground is arguably the most beautiful campground in the park and perfectly located for exploring the giant sequoias. Sites are spread around huge boulders and set at the base of towering pines, including sequoias. Trees are spaced enough to offer plenty of light, and campsites are large enough that you can drag your camp chair into a sunny or shady spot. The sites are a good distance from each other and generally offer plenty of privacy, particularly given the hilly terrain. A walking trail from the campground leads to the famous General Grant Tree, the largest sequoia in Kings Canyon.

Azalea Campground, located at 6,500 feet, is open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis, with 110 campsites. Facilities include flush toilets and running water. It can accommodate tents and RVs but does not have hookups or dump stations. Nearby is Grant Grove Village, where you'll find a store with a modest selection of groceries, a restaurant, coffee, showers, and a few other amenities.

2 Crystal Springs Campground

Crystal Springs Campground
Crystal Springs Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Directly across from the road leading to General Grant Tree and Azalea Campground is the short road to Crystal Springs Campground. This campground also offers a convenient location in the Grant Grove area and is similar in nature to Azalea Campground, with huge pines, rolling hills, and a similar elevation. Trees here are more densely packed in some areas, so, while sites are large, they feel a bit more confined by the forest. This is a smaller campground with only 36 first-come, first-served sites, and it's only open during the summer months, generally from July to September. It also has additional mid-size group sites, which are reservable and can accommodate up to 15 people. The campground has flush toilets and water.

3 Sunset Campground

Sunset Campground
Sunset Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Another great choice for easy access to the sequoias is the Sunset Campground. This is the largest campground in the Grant Grove area, offering 157 first-come, first-served campsites and two reservable group sites. Despite the large number of sites, it's well laid out and does not feel like a huge campground. As with Azalea and Crystal Springs, this campground is also located at an elevation of 6,500 feet and set below large pines, including sequoias, sugar pines, fir, and cedar. From here you can walk to General Grant Tree, just one mile away.

4 Moraine Campground

Moraine Campground
Moraine Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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At the end of the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (highway 180), in the Cedar Grove area, are three beautiful campgrounds, and a fourth that is reserved for groups. The most picturesque of these is Moraine Campground. From many of the sites, the granite canyon walls can be seen over the tops of the mid-sized pines that dominate the campground. Campsites are well spaced and offer a mix of sun and shade. Pine needles carpet the ground and scent the air on hot and sunny days.

This is the largest campground in the area, offering 120 first-come, first-served sites, and is open to tents and RVs. The elevation here is 4,600 feet, much lower than campgrounds in the Grant Grove area, but it is only open when the road is passable, which is generally from mid-April to mid-November. Facilities here include flush toilets only, but showers are available at nearby Cedar Grove Village.

5 Sheep Creek Campground

Sheep Creek Campground
Sheep Creek Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Sheep Creek Campground is the first campground you come to in the Cedar Grove area. Trees here are larger than those at Moraine Campground, so views of the canyon walls are more obstructed, and the amount of light falling on campgrounds is reduced. Nonetheless, this is still a lovely campground with a true forest setting and ample space between sites. The South Fork of the Kings River runs through the campground, and the sound of rushing water gets louder as you move farther down the gently sloping terrain, away from the road.

As with the other campgrounds in the park, this is a first-come, first-served campground and features flush toilets. This campground has 111 sites and opens later and closes sooner in the season than Moraine.

6 Sentinel Campground

Sentinel Campground
Sentinel Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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The smallest campground in the Cedar Grove area, Sentinel Campground is located just off the highway, on the road leading over the bridge to the Cedar Grove Visitor Center. Sites on the periphery of this campground are fairly open and sunny, but the interior sites are dominated by huge and densely packed pine trees that block most of the light, meaning campsites are mostly shaded, with patches of light filtering through here and there. With a distinct lack of vegetation at ground level, privacy is limited, but the sheer number of large tree trunks do block some of the surroundings. Views are almost non-existent, but the trees, standing like majestic pillars, have their own unique charm.

This campground has 82 sites, flush toilets, and is generally open from late-April to late-November. Campsites here are first-come, first-served most of the season but can be booked from mid-August to late-September.

7 Hume Lake Campground

Hume Lake Campground
Hume Lake Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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If you are looking to camp near the shores of a peaceful lake, you can't go wrong with Hume Lake Campground in Sequoia National Forest. This is a popular spot for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. On a hillside just back from the lake, this quiet campground offers a nice alternative to the larger and busier national park campgrounds. Hume Lake is located off highway 180, about 3.5 miles down the narrow and twisty Hume Lake Road, and just under 10 miles in total from Grant Grove Village.

The elevation here is just over 5,200 feet, and the surroundings consist largely of pines, including sequoias and Jeffrey pines. A 2.5-mile hiking trail circles Hume Lake, and opportunities for biking can also be found in the vicinity. The campground has more than 100 sites, and those closest to the lake offer partial views of the water. Facilities include flush toilets, and each site has a picnic table and fire ring.

8 Princess Campground

Princess Campground
Princess Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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Located on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway near the Hume Lake Road Junction, six miles from Grant Grove Village, this campground is set off on its own, in Sequoia National Forest. It's a generally quiet area and offers plenty of privacy, with an "away from it all" feel. The pine trees here are smaller than those at the other campgrounds in Kings Canyon, but the campground is dotted with the stumps of giant sequoias, remnants of the logging days, that dwarf tents and make RVs look like toys.

The campground is set at an elevation of 5,600 feet, and although it is not in a particularly convenient location for exploring the major hiking trails or the sequoias, it's an option for times when the main campgrounds are full or you are just looking for some quiet camping. Hume Lake is only a few miles away from here. The primitive campground features 88 sites, 19 of which are tent-only, and facilities consist of vault toilets. Fire rings are provided at each site.

9 Convict Flat Campground

Convict Flat Campground
Convict Flat Campground | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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This five-site campground is for those who really want to get away from other campers, are looking for a warm or hot place to camp, and don't mind rustic facilities. Large, private sites are set among sprawling deciduous trees in a well-shaded cove off highway 180, on the way to Cedar Grove, about 19 miles from Grant Grove. The elevation here is about 3,000 feet, much lower than other campgrounds in the vicinity. As a result, temperatures here are generally warmer and can be quite pleasant in spring and fall, and hot in summer. Since this highway is closed in winter, Convict Flat Campground is only accessible during the summer months. The campground is suitable for tents and small to mid-sized trailers or RVs. Facilities consist of vault toilets.

Camping Details

All campgrounds within Kings Canyon National Park provide food storage lockers at individual sites. These are where you are to store your food at all times, unless you are preparing your meal. Bears are a real problem in the park, and these lockers are the solution to this ongoing issue. Improper storage of your food is enforced and can lead to fines.

Reservations can be made through the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks website.

Where to Stay at Kings Canyon when Campgrounds are Full

  • Hotels in the Park: For convenience and a true sense of place, you can't beat John Muir Lodge, located right at Grant Grove Village. Open beams and a stone fireplace in the common area give this year-round lodge a wilderness charm, but rooms are modern and comfortable. Rates vary considerably throughout the year but are very affordable in the shoulder seasons. At the far end of the park, at Cedar Grove Village, is the more rustic, and seasonally operated Cedar Grove Lodge. If you want to stay in this area of the park, where there is incredible hiking, but don't want to camp, this is the place. Set along the river, among tall pines, this small lodge offers basic but comfortable rooms with balconies. You can purchase meals from the hotel's snack bar. Be aware, this lodge is located 35 miles from Grant Grove Village along a curving canyon road. Montecito Sequoia Lodge & Summer Family Camp is an all-inclusive, year-round lodge catering to families and visitors to the park. It's located in Sequoia National Forest, between Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks.
  • Hotels near the Park: About 35 minutes from Grant Grove, off Highway 180, is the Branded Calf B&B. This lovely rural property features rooms with ensuites, nice outdoor spaces to relax, and a truly homey feel. If you are looking to save money on accommodation, consider staying in the Fresno area and day tripping to the park, which is a little over an hour away. Some good options here include the DoubleTree by Hilton Fresno or the Courtyard Fresno. Both of these offer large, comfortable rooms and suites and an on-site pool and restaurant. A good budget option here, also offering a pool, as well as free breakfast, is the La Quinta Inn Fresno Yosemite.

More Ideas for Outdoor Adventures in Central and Northern California

Beach on Lake Tahoe
Beach on Lake Tahoe | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
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For more great camping options in the vicinity, see our article on the Best Campgrounds in Sequoia National Park. If you like what you see in these parks, be sure to check out Redwoods National and State Parks, where you'll find beautiful hiking trails through towering redwoods and some spectacular campgrounds. Nearby Yosemite National Park is a must-see. For more ideas on this park see our articles on the Best Hikes in Yosemite, Things to Do in Yosemite, and Best Campgrounds in Yosemite. In summer, you may also want to consider a stop at Lake Tahoe to hit the hiking trails near South Lake Tahoe and camp in the lakeside and forest campgrounds around the area.

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