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In the parks, your options are fairly limited; the finite number of rooms and seemingly limitless number of peak-season visitors make for high occupancy and rates. And the fact that many of the parks' hostelries have historic designations means they might not fit some visitors' modern tastes.

For lodging information and reservations at Wuksachi Lodge in the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, call tel. 866/807-3598 or 801/559-4930, or visit www.visitsequoia.com. For information on Grant Grove, John Muir, or Cedar Grove lodges in Kings Canyon National Park, call tel. 866/522-6966 or 559/335-5500, or visit www.sequoia-kingscanyon.com.

In the gateway cities, there is more variety, from dorm-style hostels to luxury ski resorts. House-swapping is a possibility in many of the gateway cities, especially Visalia and Oakhurst.

With campgrounds scattered throughout these national parks and the nearby Giant Sequoia National Monument, you should have little trouble finding a spot to pitch your tent or park your RV. However, be aware that no RV hookups are available in the parks or monument, and full-service commercial RV parks in the surrounding towns are in short supply. Those who prefer "roughing it" in comfortable hotels will find a variety of options, both within and outside the parks, ranging from inexpensive mom-and-pop-style motels to historic bed-and-breakfast inns and delightful mountain lodges. As for food, there are quite a few choices, so you should have no worries about going hungry.

The three primary gateway communities discussed in this guide are all along CA 198. Visalia, centered on a charming downtown, is 36 miles from Sequoia National Park's Ash Mountain Entrance and the largest city in the area, with the most facilities. Closer to the parks are Lemon Cove, 11 miles from the park border, and Three Rivers, 7 miles from the park border.

Note: From several miles inside the Ash Mountain Entrance to Giant Forest, the Generals Highway is narrow and winding and not recommended for vehicles more than 22 feet long; these should enter the parks from CA 180.

In the Nearby Gateway Towns

Reliable chains in Visalia include the Holiday Inn, 9000 W. Airport Dr. (tel. 559/651-5000), which has rates of $89 to $139 double; and the La Quinta Inn & Suites, 5438 W. Cypress Ave. (tel. 559/739-9800), charging $89 to $169 double. A solid independent motel, the Lamp Liter Inn, 3300 W. Mineral King Ave. (tel. 800/662-6692 or 559/732-4511; www.lampliter.net), features cabin suites set off from a nice pool courtyard for $189 and double rooms for $74 to $99. Lodging options in Three Rivers include the Western Holiday Lodge, 40105 Sierra Dr. (tel. 559/561-4119), which charges $99 to $199 double; and the Comfort Inn & Suites, 40820 Sierra Dr. (tel. 800/331-2140 or 559/561-9000), charging $99 to $129 double. All have lower rates in the winter.

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.