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In Sequoia & Kings Canyon, start your search at the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/seki, which provides the most up-to-date information on the park, lodging, hikes, regulations, and the best times to visit. Much of the same information, plus road conditions, is available by phone (tel. 559/565-3341). Lodging information is available from DNC Parks & Resorts at Sequoia, P.O. Box 89, Sequoia National Park, CA 93262 (tel. 866/807-3598 or 801/559-4948; www.visitsequoia.com), and Sequoia-Kings Canyon Park Services Company, P.O. Box 907, Kings Canyon National Park, CA 93633 (tel. 866/522-6966 or 559/335-5500; www.sequoia-kingscanyon.com). You can get a variety of books and maps from the Sequoia Natural History Association, 47050 Generals Hwy. #10, Three Rivers, CA 93271 (tel. 559/565-3759; www.sequoiahistory.org). For information on the gateway cities, contact the Visalia Convention & Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 2734, Visalia, CA 93279 (tel. 559/334-0141; www.visitvisalia.org), and the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce, 42268 Sierra Dr., Three Rivers, CA 93271 (tel. 877/530-3300 or 559/561-3300; www.threerivers.com).

Access/Entry Points

You can access the Big Stump Entrance (Kings Canyon National Park) via CA 180, and the Ash Mountain Entrance (Sequoia National Park) via CA 198, both from the west. Continuing east on CA 180 also brings you to an entrance near Cedar Grove Village in the canyon itself, which is open only in summer. See the "Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks" map and the "Highway Access to the Parks" map to orient yourself. To access the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park, take the steep, twisting Mineral King Road (closed in winter) off CA 198, just a few miles outside the Ash Mountain Entrance.

Visitor Centers & Information

The parks have three major visitor centers open year-round, some seasonal facilities, and a museum. Make one of these facilities your first stop so you can buy books and maps and discuss your plans with park rangers. Call tel. 559/565-3341 or visit www.nps.gov/seki for information.

In Sequoia National Park, the largest visitor center is Foothills Visitor Center (tel. 559/565-3135), just inside the Ash Mountain Entrance on CA 198. Exhibits here focus on the Sierra Foothills, a biologically diverse ecosystem.

About 15 miles farther on CA 198 is the Giant Forest Museum (tel. 559/565-4480), housed in a historic building and offering extensive exhibits on giant sequoias.

Lodgepole Visitor Center (tel. 559/565-4436) includes exhibits on geology, wildlife, air quality, and park history. It's located 4 1/2 miles north of Giant Forest Village. The center is closed weekdays in winter, but it may be open on weekends.

In Kings Canyon National Park, the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, in Grant Grove (tel. 559/565-4307), includes exhibits on logging and the role of fire in the forests.

Open in summer only are Kings Canyon's small Cedar Grove Visitor Center (tel. 559/565-3793) and Sequoia's Mineral King Ranger Station (tel. 559/565-3768), where you can get backcountry permits and information.

Fees

It costs $20 per motor vehicle ($10 per individual on foot, bike, or motorcycle) to enter the park for up to 7 days. Camping fees range from $12 to $20 a night in the park. The Sequoia & Kings Canyon yearly pass, which allows unlimited entry into the park but does not cover camping fees, sells for $30.

Regulations

In Sequoia & Kings Canyon, there is a 14-day camping limit from June 14 to September 14, with a maximum of 30 camping days per year. Check campsite bulletin boards for additional regulations. Some campgrounds close in winter. Pets are allowed in campgrounds, but they must be on a leash and are not allowed on any trails.

The most important warning in Sequoia & Kings Canyon, which cannot be repeated too often, is that this is bear country, and proper food storage is required for the safety and health of both visitors and the resident black bears. In addition, rattlesnakes are common, so be careful where you put your feet and hands. In the Foothills area, check your clothes frequently for ticks; poison oak is another hazard.

The roads in the park are particularly steep and winding. Those in RVs will find it easiest to come by way of CA 180 from Fresno.

Special Permits & Passes

American parks and monuments are some of the biggest travel bargains in the world. If you plan to visit a number of national parks and monuments within a year, buy an America the Beautiful -- National Parks and Federal Interagency Annual Pass for $80 (good for 365 days from the date of purchase at nearly all federal preserves). Anyone age 62 or older can get an Interagency Senior Pass for a one-time fee of $10, and people who are blind or who have permanent disabilities can obtain an Interagency Access Pass, which costs nothing. All passes are available at any park entrance point or visitor center. While the Interagency Senior and Interagency Access passes must be purchased in person (to verify age or disability), Interagency Annual Passes are also available online at http://store.usgs.gov/pass.

You'll need a backcountry permit to camp overnight in the wilderness sections of these parks. Reserving a permit costs $5, plus $5 per person in Yosemite and $15 per group in Sequoia & Kings Canyon; it's a good idea to reserve one in advance during the high season. For permits in Yosemite, call tel. 209/372-0740 or stop by any Wilderness Permit Station. In Sequoia & Kings Canyon, call tel. 559/565-3766. Information is also available online at www.nps.gov/yose for Yosemite or www.nps.gov/seki for Sequoia & Kings Canyon.

Elsewhere in the parks, the usual permits and regulations apply. All anglers 16 and over must have valid California fishing licenses.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.