Explore the Outdoors
There are a seemingly infinite number of many ways you can enjoy forest. You’ve got no time to lose! So pack your bags, grab your family and friends, and come enjoy a taste of adventure in California’s Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument!
Looking for a campground?
Whether you plan on pulling a trailer, pitching a tent, or hanging a hammock, park have over 50 campgrounds to suit your needs! Though most of campgrounds are open Memorial Day through Labor Day, some are open year-round. Fees vary, and many accept reservations. If you plan on taking a summer trip, don’t hesitate. July and August are our busiest months, and campgrounds fill fast!
Prefer to sleep in an undeveloped area?
For campers looking to sleep off the beaten path, there are some opportunities to pick your own campsite! In designated areas, you can just pull off the road and park to the side. Make sure your vehicle does not obstruct traffic or damage resources, and remember to never drive through fragile wetlands or meadows. Motorized vehicles may not drive more than one vehicle length off a designated route.
Come prepared — bring drinking water, your campfire permit, and waste disposal necessities. Always practice Leave No Trace principles.
Prefer to sleep indoors?
Indoor sleeping arrangements may be made at either Oak Flat Lookout , or one of our seven historic guard stations. Oak Flat Lookout is located at an elevation of 4,900 feet. This lookout was constructed in 1934 and remained active for fifty years. With views of the surrounding oak woodlands, the scenic Lower Kern River, and the rugged Greenhorn Mountains, this lookout provides amazing opportunities to view wildlife, so make sure you bring your camera and binoculars! Spring wildflower displays can be spectacular from March through early May. Just bring your own linens and food.
These lookout towers are occasionally closed due to lightning, fire, inclement weather, or other emergencies.
Buck Rock Lookout, in the northern portion of the Hume Lake Ranger District, is one of the oldest fire lookout buildings still in use. Built in 1923, the tower is constructed on a 300-foot granite dome. Climb to the top and enjoy a stellar 360-degree view from Buck Rock’s incredible vantage point.
There are four fire lookouts in the southern portion of the Western Divide Ranger District. Needles Lookout (destroyed by fire in 2011), which was constructed in 1938 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, balances precariously atop a series of massive granite rock formations that rise from the North Fork of the Kern River and reach an elevation of 8,245 feet — that’s taller than the Grand Canyon! You can reach the lookout by taking a moderately difficult hike (5-mile round trip), and it’s absolutely worth the effort. From the Needles Lookout vantage point, you can bask in panoramic views of the incredible Golden Trout Wilderness and awe-inspiring Kern River Canyon. If 5-miles is too far, Mule Peak Lookout can be reached by a shorter — though quite steep — hike. Jordan Peak Lookout is about a 500-foot climb above the trailhead (view using Google Maps) . Tobias Lookout, built in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, can be reached after a 50-foot moderate climb.
Don’t worry about Yogi Bear — you’re welcome to bring your picnic basket to one of picnic areas, which are scattered throughout the forest and monument. Most of developed picnic areas have tables, vault toilets, and fire grates or rings. These spaces are first-come, first-served. Not all of picnic areas have trash service, so be prepared to pack out what you pack in.
You can experience the grandeur of park without even leaving your car! Gaze upon a variety of breathtaking landscapes along one of scenic routes: Kings Canyon Scenic Byway, Generals Highway, Western Divide Highway, and Sherman Pass Road.
When you come to our forest, you may want to bring a pair of binoculars or a camera lens. You’re guaranteed to see a wide array of plants and animals during your outdoor expedition — just remember to practice responsible viewing and keep your distance! Wildlife may run away, abandon their young, or even attack if you get too close.
Hiking on Trails
Adventure awaits on our hundreds of miles of trails, with terrain varying from foothills, conifer forests, and giant sequoia groves to high desert bluffs, steep rocky slopes, and wind-swept dome lands. Not all those who wander are lost, but in our immense network of hiking trails, it might be easy to step astray. Always be mindful of your location!
Mountain bike use is limited to man-made trails and roads in the monument. Bicycles are prohibited in the wilderness and on the Pacific Crest Trail. However, you can still enjoy the magnificence of serenity of the great outdoors! Just be courteous of other visitors.
Immense granite features provide numerous rock climbing opportunities for some of our more extreme outdoor explorers. If you are interested in rock climbing, please help to prevent resource damage by using removable hardware and temporary anchors.
Whitewater Rafting, Kayaking, and Flat Water Boating
Come experience the rush of whitewater on the Kern River and Kings River during spring and summer runoff. Go on your own, or join one of the thrilling trips offered by commercial rafting companies in the area. If you prefer to take things slow, but still want to be near the water, there are many boating opportunities to be enjoyed on our two lakes. Lake Isabella, one of southern California’s largest reservoirs, is ideal for windsurfers. This is also place in the forest where motorized boats are allowed. Hume Lake, however, provides a number of wonderful non-motorized boating opportunities.
Four-wheel Driving, Dirt Biking, and All-terrain Vehicles (ATVs)
Many roads and trails outside the monument are open to off-highway vehicles (OHVs) registered with the state of California. Motorized vehicles are only allowed on designated roads in the monument, and are not allowed on the trails. Access a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) to see where you can legally drive.
Skiing, Snowshoeing, and Snowmobiling
Powder abounds in the high country! Alta Sierra, at the top of Greenhorn Summit, offers a fantastic downhill ski area. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular activities in Big Meadows, Quaking Aspen, and the Kern Plateau. These areas often have great conditions for snowmobiling, and some routes are groomed. Snowmobiles are not allowed in the wilderness, and are restricted to designated roads within the monument. All snowmobiles must have a current registration with the state of California. Make sure to always check weather conditions before heading out. Forest offices can direct you to areas with reliable snow cover.
Fishing and Hunting
Hunting and fishing are permitted on all public lands in the forest and monument. Trout abounds in the Kings, Kern, and Tule Rivers. Or, if you’re all about the bass, Lake Isabella has bass fishing tournaments every year. Be aware of California fish and game regulations, and always be mindful of special restrictions on sections of the Kings and Kern rivers.
The Kings Wild and Scenic River, which is one of the most powerful and magnificent features of the monument’s northern portion, still continues to sculpt the extraordinary Kings Canyon to this day. Visitors from around the globe flock here for its world-class whitewater and spectacular geologic features. During the late-summer and fall, it is paradise for flyfishing enthusiasts; their graceful figures can be seen dotting the river for miles.
The Kern Wild and Scenic River flows from the western slope of Mount Whitney. The steep descent and sheer volume of water provide outstanding, world-class whitewater and fishing opportunities for those who are so inclined. The North Fork and the South Fork of the Kern River flow together at Lake Isabella
Take your horse on the trip of a lifetime to our forest, where even the most seasoned equestrians will be in awe of our incredible, and varied, terrain. Stop by a forest office for trail information and maps that will help you locate trailheads with stock trailer parking, corrals, and public pastures. While pack animals are not allowed in most campgrounds, or where otherwise posted, there are three pack stations that operate under a special use permit in the forest.