From (A)lta to (Z)umwalt: 20 things to do in Three Rivers and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

1. Alta Peak

It’s the peak that is seen directly up-canyon from Three Rivers. The peak, at 11,204 feet above sea level, is easily accessible via a 7.5-mile (12 kilometers) trail that begins in the Wolverton area of Sequoia National Park. Allow an entire day for the roundtrip hike. SEASON: SUMMER / FALL

2. Crystal Cave

Even the underground is spectacular in Kaweah Country. Crystal Cave is located off the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park, about 14 miles (23 kilometers) from the Ash Mountain entrance. For the tour schedule, go to www.explorecrystalcave.com (tickets must be purchased in advance). SEASON: MAY TO OCTOBER

3. General Sherman Tree

If you can only take the time for one, then you might as well visit the largest tree in the world. The giant sequoia is located in Sequoia National Park, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) and a little over an hour travel time from the Ash Mountain park entrance. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

4. High Sierra Trail

From Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park, this trans-Sierra trail travels 71 miles (114 kilometers) east to Mount Whitney, at 14,495 feet, the highest mountain in the lower 48. SEASON: SUMMER / EARLY FALL

5. Horseback riding

Tour the trails of the Sierra via a saddle, for an hour, a day, or a week. Visit Cedar Grove Pack Station (559-565-3464) or Grant Grove Stables (559-335-9292) in Kings Canyon National Park or Horse Corral Pack Station (559-565-3404) in Giant Sequoia National Monument. Trail rides available year-round in Three Rivers at Wood ‘N’ Horse Training Stables (559-561-4268 or www.wdnhorse.com/trail_rides.htm) and Riata Ranch (559-303-0729). SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

6. Hospital Rock

Originally inhabited by Native American tribes, the name of the rock originates from a time when the white man was beginning to explore the region as well. Located on the Generals Highway, 6 miles (10 kilometers) from the Sequoia Park entrance. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

7. Kaweah Post Office

Located on North Fork Drive 3 miles (5 kilometers) from Highway 198, this structure is significant because of its association with the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony, a utopian experiment that attracted members from throughout the U.S. and overseas from 1885 to 1892. The post office, one of the smallest in operation in the nation, was designated a California Historical Landmark in 1948. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

8. Kings Canyon Highway

It’s one way in and one way out on this mountain highway, but it’s worth the drive to view the deepest canyon in America. The highway descends 2,500 feet in just over 10 miles (16 kilometers) and the sheer granite canyon walls are dizzying. SEASON: SPRING TO FALL

9. Lake Kaweah

Rent a houseboat, kayak, standup paddleboard, or fish, swim, picnic, camp, and visit the Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center. You may also drop in your own motorcraft, kayak, or paddleboard. $5 per vehicle day-use fee. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

10. Mineral King Historic District

The road from Three Rivers to Mineral King is just 25 miles (40 kilometers) in length, but takes 1.5 hours or more to negotiate. Built nearly 140 years ago, the road is little changed, and time stands still for the cabins and the landscape in the Mineral King valley as well. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003, the alpine valley once was the site of an 1870s mining settlement. SEASON: ROAD OPEN MAY TO OCTOBER

11. Moro Rock

From Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, take the scenic Moro Rock/ Crescent Meadow Road and follow the signs for 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) to the parking lot. Then it’s just 400 more steps to the top of this monolith where, on a clear day, the 360-degree view includes the Great Western Divide of the Sierra Nevada range and the San Joaquin Valley below. SEASON: SPRING TO FALL

12. Mountain biking and hiking

The trailhead and parking area for this BLM-managed trail system are at the end of Skyline Drive. The Salt Creek trail features vistas for hikers and plenty of MTB single-track. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

13. Museums

If it’s history you want, it’s history we’ve got. Three Rivers Historical Museum (561-2707), located where the 17-foot tall Paul Bunyan statue meets the highway, houses items and exhibits from Three Rivers’s past. Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia tells the story of the national park and its famous trees. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

14. River Road

This three-mile stretch of dirt road in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park is a scenic side trip along the Kings River. SEASON: SPRING TO FALL

15. Shopping and Dining

Forget the big box stuff, Kaweah Country shopping is about smaller retail outlets that range from discount to upscale. Find everything from postcards to clothing, the whimsical to the eclectic, Three Rivers-made candy and ice cream to souvenirs, clothing, antiques, plants, and creations by the many artists who call Three Rivers home. Eating out in Three Rivers is relaxed and informal with outdoor settings, river views, and a variety of menus. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

16. Beer and wine-tasting

Three Rivers has a microbrewery, several watering holes with microbrew on tap, and a wine-tasting room (at Totem Market). SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

17. Three Rivers highways and byways

There is so much more to Three Rivers than Highway 198 (also known as Sierra Drive). Go beyond the pavement by taking the 10-mile scenic excursion to the end of South Fork Drive or North Fork Drive to view foothills, wildflowers, rivers, and more. These are lesser visited corners of Sequoia National Park. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

18. Tunnel Rock

It’s a curiosity under which millions of Sequoia National Park visitors passed for 70 years. Located on the Generals Highway about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) from the park entrance, the highway has since been rerouted around the rock, but turnouts and a sidewalk allow visitors to recall a time when cars were lower and slower. SEASON: YEAR-ROUND

19. Whitewater rafting

It’s a seasonal thrill on the Kaweah River to take a professionally guided whitewater rafting tour through Three Rivers. Several commercial companies offer trips. SEASON: SPRING

20. Zumwalt Meadow

Cross over the suspension bridge that spans the Kings River to access this one-mile, self-guided nature trail and boardwalk around a grand specimen of a Sierra meadow, located in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. SEASON: SPRING TO FALL

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