There are numerous camping opportunities both within and surrounding Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. Brief descriptions of individual campgrounds follow.
It's important to remember that, when camping in this area, proper food storage is required for the sake of the black bears in the parks as well as your safety. See local bulletin boards for instructions.
Note: You'll need a wilderness permit to stay overnight in the backcountry.
Camping in Style -- The luxury Sequoia High Sierra Camp (tel. 866/654-2877; www.sequoiahighsierracamp.com) in Giant Sequoia National Monument looks to one-up its Yosemite counterparts in terms of upscale "roughing it." For $250 per person, you get 330-square-foot bungalows with plush furnishings and three "California-cuisine-style" meals a day. Guests can choose to drive to a trail head and hike 1 mile or take an 11-mile trail to get there. For about $350 double (meals included), a less tony -- but still quite civilized -- option is the Bearpaw High Sierra Camp (tel. 866/807-3598; www.visitsequoia.com), an 11-mile hike from Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park proper. Bearpaw is open June through September; Sequoia stays open into October.
In Sequoia National Park
The only campgrounds in the national park that accept reservations are Dorst Creek and Lodgepole (tel. 877/444-6777; www.recreation.gov), which take them up to 6 months in advance; the other campgrounds are first come, first served. Additional information on the national park campgrounds (but not reservations) can be obtained by calling the general Sequoia & Kings Canyon information line at tel. 559/565-3341.
The two biggest campgrounds in the park are in the Lodgepole area. The Lodgepole Campground, which has flush toilets, is often crowded, but it's pretty and not far from some spectacular big trees. Nearby backcountry trails offer some solitude. Close to the campground are a grocery store, restaurant, visitor center, children's nature center, evening ranger programs, and gift shop. From Giant Forest Museum, drive 5 miles northeast on the Generals Highway. Dorst Creek Campground, located 14 miles northwest of Giant Forest via the Generals Highway, is a high-elevation campground that offers easy access to Muir Grove and some pleasant backcountry trails. It has flush toilets and evening ranger programs. Group campsites are also available here by reservation.
In the Foothills area, the small Potwisha Campground has well-spaced sites tucked beneath oak trees along the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River. The campground has flush toilets. Note that it does get hot in summer here. From the Ash Mountain Entrance, drive 3 miles northeast on the Generals Highway to the campground entrance. The Buckeye Flat Campground, which is open to tents only, is also set among oaks along the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, and although it also gets hot in summer, it is among our favorites due to its scenic beauty. It has flush toilets. From the Ash Mountain Entrance, drive about 6 miles northeast on the Generals Highway to the Hanging Rock Picnic Area. From here, follow signs to the campground, which is several miles down a narrow, winding road. South Fork Campground is the smallest and most remote campground in the park, located just inside Sequoia's southwestern boundary. It is set along the South Fork of the Kaweah River and has pit toilets only. From the town of Three Rivers, go east on South Fork Road 23 miles to the campground. The campground is free November through April.
The two campgrounds in the Mineral King area are open to tents only -- no RVs or trailers. Atwell Mill Campground is a small but pretty campground near the East Fork of the Kaweah River, at Atwell Creek. It has pit toilets. From Three Rivers, take Mineral King Road east for 20 miles to the campground. Cold Springs Campground, which also has pit toilets, is a beautiful place to stay -- it's just not very accessible. Once you get here, however, you'll be rewarded with beautiful scenery. It's also a good starting point for many backcountry hikes, as it's near the Mineral King Ranger Station. From Three Rivers, take Mineral King Road east for 25 miles to the campground.
In Kings Canyon National Park
All of the campgrounds in Kings Canyon are first come, first served only (reservations are not available), and all have flush toilets. Additional information can be obtained by calling the general Sequoia & Kings Canyon information line at tel. 559/565-3341.
In the Grant Grove area, there are three attractive campgrounds near the big trees: Azalea, Crystal Springs, and Sunset. All have a nice woodsy feel, are close to park facilities, and offer evening ranger programs. To get to them from the Big Stump Entrance, take CA 180 east about 1 3/4 miles.
Several pleasant campgrounds lie in the Cedar Grove Village area, all accessible from CA 180, and all fairly close to the facilities in Cedar Grove Village. Sentinel, the first to open for the season, tends to fill up quickly. Moraine is the farthest from the crowds. Sheep Creek, located along picturesque Sheep Creek, is generally open on an as-needed basis.
Outside the Parks
The U.S. Forest Service operates a number of campgrounds in Giant Sequoia National Monument, a 327,769-acre section of Sequoia National Forest, which was given national monument status by President Bill Clinton in April 2000. These sites provide a delightful forest camping experience and are usually less crowded than the national park campgrounds. There is also primitive camping available -- no fee, no facilities.
In the Hume Lake area, all of the forest service campgrounds have pit toilets except the beautiful Hume Lake Campground, which is set on the banks of the lake and has flush toilets. It's about 3 miles south of CA 180 via Hume Lake Road. The largest campground in this area is Princess Campground, located along CA 180. Two smaller options, both beyond Hume Lake via Ten Mile Road, are Landslide Campground and Tenmile Campground.
In the Stony Creek/Big Meadows area, you'll find vault toilets at all U.S. Forest Service campgrounds except Stony Creek Campground, located off Generals Highway in Stony Creek Village, which has flush toilets. Among the larger choices in this area is Big Meadows Campground, which is set along Big Meadows Creek. Nearby trails lead to the Jennie Lakes Wilderness. From Grant Grove Village, drive 7 miles southeast on the Generals Highway; then turn east on Big Meadows Road and drive 5 miles to the campground.
There are also several smaller, primitive campgrounds here; you can get information about all of the forest service campgrounds by contacting Giant Sequoia National Monument, Sequoia National Forest, Hume Lake Ranger District, 35860 E. Kings Canyon Rd., Dunlap, CA 93621 (tel. 559/338-2251; www.r5.fs.fed.us/sequoia). You can make reservations at Hume Lake, Princess, or Stony Creek during the summer by calling tel. 877/444-6777 or visiting www.recreation.gov.
Another great place to camp is Horse Creek Campground, operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It's located along the south shore of Lake Kaweah, in Lake Kaweah Recreation Area, about 6 miles east of the community of Lemon Cove off CA 198. The lake, which is about 5 miles long and a half-mile wide, covers 1,900 acres when full and is popular with boaters, who take to the water in kayaks, canoes, personal watercraft, fishing boats, and larger patio boats. There are several boat ramps, and boat rentals are available at the Kaweah Marina (tel. 559/597-2526; www.kaweahmarina.com); call for current rates and availability. This is also a popular fishing lake, where you're apt to catch largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, and rainbow trout. The number of campsites varies with the water level, with the fewest usually in spring, when the lake is at its highest; many sites are underwater here until mid-July. Some are shady sites and some open, and most have good views across the lake. Flush toilets are available. For information, contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Kaweah Recreation Area, P.O. Box 44270, Lemon Cove, CA 93244 (tel. 559/597-2301). Campsite reservations are available by calling tel. 877/444-6777 or visiting www.recreation.gov.
Those seeking a full-service commercial campground with RV hookups and all the usual amenities should head to Lemon Cove/Sequoia Campground, on the west side of Lemon Cove at 32075 Sierra Dr. (tel. 559/597-2346; www.lemoncovesequoiacamp.com). This attractive and convenient campground, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada (22 miles east of U.S. 99), can handle both tents and large rigs with slide-outs. It offers cable TV hookups, propane sales, a convenience store, grassy and shaded sites, a recreation room, a playground and volleyball court, and an outdoor swimming pool.
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.