The Road Bell Traveled: Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks (CA)

Updated: Jun 19


DESTINATION: Kings Canyon & Sequoia NPs

NEAREST TOWN: Sacramento & Fresno, CA

ELEVATION: ~ 6,000 feet


VEHICLE: 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer

TRAILER: 2016 Jayco Jayflight 174BH

DISTANCE TRAVELED: 412 miles


WEATHER: Clear, sunny, and very hot

TEMP RANGE: low 52º – high 97º


DATE ARRIVED: Wednesday May 5th

DATE DEPARTED: Monday May 10th




#4 SACRAMENTO, CA


5/5/21 Drove halfway to Central California with a stopover in Sacramento. Gas prices are much higher ($4.46/gallon). Strolled "Old Town" and had fish 'n chips for dinner. Passed the capitol building.


5/6/21 Sacramento Zoo– big disappointment. No paper tickets, no zoo map, no penny machines, and no postcards available for our scrapbook. Found new unique animals here with aardvark and anteater. Sorry Sacramento, you're not on our "return in the future" list.



#5 FRESNO, CA


5/7/21 Driving day again. Arrived at Riverbend RV Park around dinnertime. Disappointed to find the campsites packed in like sardines, and the "river view" was actually a creek littered with trash. Mosquitoes unbearable. This leg of the trip looks like a mistake. Didn't bother taking pictures.


5/8/21 Up early to visit two farmers' markets in Fresno– disappointed yet again. Drove across town to Target to pick up supplies. Mosquitoes still unbearable. Stifling heat. Changed plans for trip. Canceled everything planned for May and June. Heading back north. As Han Solo would say, "I have a bad feeling about this..."



5/9/21 Up early to visit Kings Canyon National Park, followed by Sequoia National Park. Drove through groves of giant ancient sequoias and felt tiny. Visited General Sherman, the largest living organism on the planet. Walked completely upright through the inside of a fallen hollow sequoia tree.


5/10/21 Cleaned out tanks, packed up, and left Riverbend. Drove forever past bazillions of acres of almond fields, orange groves, and rice paddies. Vowed to never buy almond products again after learning about extensive droughts. Arrived back in Sacramento at Best Western and let Isabella swim in the hotel pool. Exhausted.


5/11/21 Arrived back past Mount Shasta and drove through the Siskiyou Summit Pass on I-5 and didn't die. It's time to get a new tow vehicle. Stopped at Super 8 in Yreka and took the longest shower ever.


5/12/21 Made it all the way back to Vancouver, WA. Basically starting over dammit. Heading east next.



Travel Tips


There are two routes through the Sacramento Valley from Sacramento to Fresno: Interstate 5 or Hwy 99. Both are about the same distance and time, but we chose 99 because it veered closer to Fresno city limits and was generally a smaller highway. It passes through several small to medium towns with plenty of choices for food and gas. The same drive on I-5 would be more direct but have fewer options for stops.


If you're looking for an RV place near Kings and Sequoia, I'd recommend Sequoia RV Park off 180. It's the last option before reaching the parks, and looked quite nice as we drove through. Under no circumstances will we return to Riverbend RV Park! The spots were very tight (and we have a tiny trailer!!), there was little shade, and the facilities were dirty and unmaintained.


Activities Nearby


Even though we had to rush through both parks in a single day, we were glad to see the highlights of Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. These are side-by-side and about an hour east of Fresno. We were lucky to find a few amenities had re-opened, including gift shops, visitors centers, and food service. No gas is available in either park, so we were sure to top off before entering Kings Canyon.


Since we cut our trip short, the rest of the itinerary was cancelled: Fresno Chaffe Zoo, Forestiere Underground Gardens, the Fresno Art Museum, and Woodward Regional Park with the Shinzen Friendship Garden.


Educational


• Our time at this location was cut short from the intended ten days to only four, so we didn't get to see much in terms of new animals or trees. However! No doubt the star animals of tiny Sanger, CA were the many American bullfrogs which inhabited the creek alongside our trailer. During the night (and occasionally in the daytime), they would drone an odd repetitive groan. Once you get a dozen of these guys lined up for a chorus, well, believe me... you won't be sleeping much if they're right outside your door!



• Most locations in the National Parks system offer Junior Ranger programs, and these two parks were combined into a single booklet and badge. Due to COVID, we were handed the badge along with the book (you usually get the book, complete it, return it, take the ranger oath, and then get the badge at the end). We try to practice "leave no trace" principles but still occasionally grab a fallen cone or rock to keep as a memento. In this case, we loved the tiny compact size of sequoia cones and marveled at how they had the potential to be the largest trees in the world!


Bell's Eyewitness Report





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