Three national parks in one trip? Yes! Not only can it be done, it is easy when you travel the Majestic Mountain Loop. Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park and Yosemite National Park compliment each other, allowing kids of all ages to learn something new at each one while still reinforcing the beauty of nature and the respect we should have for it.
Sequoia National Park is the perfect starting point for your Majestic Mountain Loop. Check into the Wuksachi Lodge and relax in the elegantly rustic main lodge. Wuksachi provides the perfect accommodations for your stay in Sequoia offering a beautiful backdrop and spacious rooms. We even had snow during our stay at the end of April! Enjoy a delicious meal at The Peak Restaurant, which offers a diverse and delicious menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Sequoia is full of kid-friendly fun. Some “must-see” sites include the General Sherman Tree (the largest living thing on earth), Tunnel Log (a tree you can drive through), Auto Log (a tree you can drive on), and Moro Rock. We checked out all of these great spots but the most amazing by far (and a bit terrifying/thrilling) was Moro Rock. Moro Rock is a 1/3 mile hike that goes 400 steps UP! It’s steep and narrow but the 360 degree view is unforgettable.
Next, we traveled down the road to Kings Canyon National Park. In November 2013, Delaware North Companies (DNC) began managing Kings Canyon, located less than an hour away from Sequoia National Park. After over a decade of managing the properties in Sequoia, DNC is a perfect fit to help Kings Canyon grow. Kings Canyon currently offers a variety of accommodations from seasonal camping to comfortable hotel rooms in the John Muir Lodge. DNC is kicking off a massive renovation all over Kings Canyon with a beautiful update of John Muir Lodge (Trust me! We got a sneak peek at the design plans!) All updates have a rustic yet elegant vibe. After the John Muir Lodge overhaul, Kings Canyon will undergo a major upgrade of its public spaces – dining area, lobby and more. In addition, Kings Canyon will be offering an expanded list of activities including flashlight hikes, camp-wide barbeques, astronomy programs and more.
In the Majestic Mountain Loop, Kings Canyon is home to the General Grant Tree – one of the five biggest sequoias on Earth. Be sure to visit Cedar Grove full of waterfalls, Kings River and awesome trails and views. Panoramic Point is a short, steep (but doable) hike that ends with amazing views of Kings Canyon, Hume Lake and more. This one is definitely worth it.
After two great days in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, we headed over to Tenaya Lodge, located just 2 miles outside of Yosemite National Park’s southern entrance. Tenaya Lodge is amazing – 4 Diamond resort luxury at its finest. Tenaya offers a variety of lodging options including spacious guestrooms, suites, and newly acquired cottages. Tenaya Lodge is located just minutes from Yosemite National Park but is a destination all on its own and it’s perfect for families with kids of all ages. Each season, the resort offers a wide range of activities including biking, archery, swimming, hiking, ice skating, rock climbing and more. We had a great time and enjoyed these activities with my kids most enjoying the archery and the flashlight hike – a guided nighttime hike through the surrounding area where we learned about the Sierra National Forest and saw some amazing stars.
Tenaya Lodge is home to great dining options from casual to fine dining. Our favorite was Jacaklope’s Bar & Grill, open for lunch and dinner, offering great pub fare and a good variety on the kids’ menu – something both my kids and I appreciate (albeit for different reasons!). In fact, my son tried crab cakes for the first time – something I never thought I would EVER see! In addition to Jacaklope’s, Sierra Restaurant and Embers offer finer dining options and Timberloft Pizzeria and Parkside Deli offer other casual and quick dining options.
When it’s time to go out and explore, head down the road to the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad which runs daily, offering a look into Yosemite’s past. It’s a great introduction to the area plus it has an awesome gift shop that any kid will love!
Give yourself at least a full day to head into Yosemite National Park so you don’t have to rush through all the sites. When we visited, there were a few sites closed due to the recent snow but there was still so much to enjoy. We started out at Mariposa Grove just inside the South Entrance to check out the giant sequoias, including the Grizzly Grant – the biggest sequoia in the grove. Next, it was off to Tunnel View, an amazing photo op where you can snap El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock and Bridalveil Falls all in one picture. Now that’s a selfie!
Drive into Yosemite Valley to see Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Falls up close. The kids will be in awe of the size and power of these natural beauties! There are plenty of stops to get great views of El Capitan and Half Dome along the way. Of course, the more adventurous can schedule to climb and hike up Half Dome but you’ll need more time for that (plan a full day and keep this for the older kids.) Not quite up for Half Dome? There are plenty of shorter hikes of all intensities great for every age.
One tip: if you visit during peak tourist season, plan on parking and utilizing the free Yosemite Valley Shuttle which runs continuously through the valley and stops at all the top tourist sites.
All three parks offer the Junior Ranger Program through the National Park Service where children ages 5 and up can earn a ranger badge by completing an age –appropriate workbook (free and available at NPS stations) where they learn about protecting the parks and the wildlife that lives within each park. In addition, the NPS has numerous ranger-led hikes, campfire talks and more that are a great way for children to learn about the nature that surrounds them.
For more information, visit the Majestic Mountain Loop website.
*My family and I were invited as guests of the above mentioned hotels for review purposes.