Camping in Kings Canyon is one of the best ways to really experience the magic of the Giant Sequoia trees and the rushing rivers found deep within the park. Kings Canyon National Park is truly one of the most underrated parks in the national park system, with visitors often just skimming the surface, rushing ahead to Yosemite to the north or Sequoia National Park to the south. However for those of you in the know, this is the place to beat the crowds and to experience towering trees, cold snow melt rivers and spy a few bears along the way too.
Below we share all you need to know for planning the best Kings Canyon camping experience- with information on the best sites, which campgrounds to choose and how to book it all.
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Where to Camp in Kings Canyon?
One of the first decisions you will need to make before planning a Kings Canyon camping trip is where you want to spend most of your time. Many visitors want to combine their Kings Canyon trip with a visit to Sequoia National Park. If this is the case with you, you will most likely want to stay in the upper section of Kings Canyon near Grant Grove Village.
For those who want the ultimate in seclusion and to be immersed in nature away from the masses, camping in the Kings Canyon Cedar Grove area is probably a better bet. This is a great option for people who want to spend more time down in the canyon after having explored the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.
We have stayed in both sections of the park and believe they both offer unique adventures.
Kings Canyon Camping Reservations
Kings Canyon camping reservations are not quite as competitive as other nearby parks, especially if you can manage to camp during the weekdays. We highly recommend trying to visit the park in the shoulder season when crowds are less and the weather is beautiful.
That said, if you want a campsite during the summer months on a weekend, it is recommended that you mark your calendar and get ready well in advance. Individual campsites are released on a 6-month rolling basis (during COVID this is slightly altered with Kings Canyon sites operating on a one month rolling reservation basis.)
Reservations open at 7:00 am PST. For busy weekends, you will need to be ready and waiting before 7, with your Recreation.gov account logged in.
Map of Kings Canyon Camping Locations
Above is a map showcasing the various campgrounds located within Kings Canyon National Park. There are 7 campgrounds total, with 3 in the Grant Grove Village section of the park and 4 in the Cedar Grove Village area. Between these two sections of the park is Sequoia National Forest, which also has a few campgrounds of its own that are outside of the operation of the national park, but provide access to the national park easily.
Kings Canyon Camping Tips
Now you know the lay of the land, where to book and how to book your reservations, here are a few other tips to prepare you for your Kings Canyon camping trip.
Check the Weather
The weather is very different depending on where you book your camping trip. If you are in the Grant Grove area of the park expect cooler temperatures even during summer. Whereas, if you camp down in the canyon, you can expect very warm day time temperatures even with it quite warm well into the evening.
Be Prepared for the Drive
People are often not prepared for the long windy roads leading down into the canyon part of Kings Canyon. Only 36 miles from the visitor center, it is actually quite a distance time wise. Depending on traffic, it can take you anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to get down the mountain. Go slow, stop often and take car sickness pills before you go if you are prone to that.
During the 2021 season, many of the campsites are full very quickly due to COVID and people wanting to be outdoors more. Additionally, there are very few first come first serve sites available this year, so you will need to book early. Some sites are booking 6 months in advance while others are booking in 1 month intervals. Read the descriptions below to find out what the latest information for each campground is.
Be Fire Aware
California has been in a major drought for years now which means fire restrictions are often put into place. You will see fire burn areas throughout Kings Canyon National Park, so please pay attention to the current fire warnings and understand that you may have to camp without a fire if conditions are poor. Always keep your fire in your fire ring when fires are allowed.
Use Bear Boxes
There are bears in this area throughout the spring, summer and fall months. You will see signs all over saying it’s an active bear area. This is true, but with recent adherence to using bear boxes and bear containers there tend to be less bears around the campsites than in the past. Make sure to put ALL scented items in your bear boxes including deodorant, toothpaste and coolers.
Check out our favorite delicious, easy camping meals that are crowd pleasers?
Grant Grove Campgrounds
Grant Grove Village is the center of the action in Kings Canyon National Park. This area is one of the first places visitors see as they drive into the park. Grant Grove Village is home to the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, a post office, a grocery store and gift shop. Given the conveniences of this area, it is no surprise that this is also one of the more popular areas for camping in the park.
Situated at 6,500 feet, Grant Grove stays cool and comfortable even during warm summer days. Note, bears do frequent this area which means that all food items MUST be stored in the provided bear boxes at each site.
The Azalea Campground is one of the more popular campgrounds in Kings Canyon National Park. It is located directly across from the visitors center and within walking distance to General Grant, making perfectly located for exploring the giant sequoias.
Overall the sites are spread out enough to offer privacy while also providing plenty of space for shade and sun in most spots.
Azalea Campground is open year-round with 110 campsites. In pre-COVID times, the campground operated on a first-come, first-served basis, however reservations are required currently (for summer 2021).
There are flush toilets and running water throughout the campground. Tents and RVs are welcome, but the campground does not have hookups or dump stations. Other amenities include: fire pit, picnic table and bear boxes.
Crystal Springs Campground
Directly across the road that leads to the General Grant Tree and Azalea Campground is the short road to Crystal Springs Campground. This campground is similar to Azalea Campground, with towering pines, boulders, and a close proximity to Grant Grove Village.
This is a smaller campground with only 36 sites, and is open only during the summer months, generally from July to September. In pre-COVID times these were first come first serve, however for the 2021 season, they are reservable online.
Crystal Springs campground also has 14 mid-sized group sites available for reservation. These sites are listed under Crystal Springs Campground Mid-Size Group Sites on Recreation.gov.
This campground also has flush toilets, running water, bear boxes, fire rings and picnic tables.
The third and largest campground in the Grant Grove Village area is the Sunset Campground. This is another great option for visitors wanting to stay in the upper elevation area of the park. Sunset offers 157 campsites and two group sites. Prior to COVID these were all first come first serve sites, but for the 2021 season these are all reservable on a 1 month rolling basis.
Despite the large number of sites, it’s well laid out and does not feel like a huge campground. Additionally, this site is not as closely situated to the hustle and bustle of the village, but is still easily accessible with a 1 mile walk to reach the village area.
As with the other campgrounds in this area, the campground offers running water, flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings and bear boxes.
Cedar Grove Campgrounds
At the end of the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway (Highway 180), in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon, there are also 3 campgrounds for individual campers and 1 group site campground operated by the national park service. All campgrounds in this area of the park are situated at approximately 4,600 feet of elevation and are only open from about mid-April to mid-November depending on the road conditions.
Sheep Creek Campground
The first campground you will come across as you make your way to Road’s End is Sheep Creek Campground. This campground is sparsely populated by beautiful trees and bordered by the rushing fork of the Kings River.
The further you are from the road, the more you will hear the sounds of the river to lull you to sleep at night. This campground has 111 sites, which typically again are first-come, first serve, but require reservations for the 2021 season.
As with the other campgrounds in Kings Canyon, this campground also has flush toilets, running water, fire rings, bear boxes and picnic tables at each site.
Sheep Creek Campground also tends to open later in the summer than the other two campgrounds in this area. The camp is connected to Sentinel Campground by a small concrete walking/biking path that is a pleasant walk for families.
Sentinel Campground is my favorite campground in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon. This is the smallest of the 3 campgrounds with only 82 sites. The campground is connected to the small Cedar Grove Visitor Center, but you do not notice any additional traffic or people milling about like you do at the Grant Grove Village.
This is the best campground in the canyon in our opinion because of the amount of shade the densely packed pine trees offer as well as access to the South Fork Kings River on site. However, sites on the edge towards the road tend to be much more open and sunny (i.e hot!).
The sites at this campground are closely packed in which does limit the amount of privacy you might have, but overall the campground is quiet and peaceful even when fully reserved.
Open from late-April to late-November, this campground currently has a 1 month rolling basis reservation system in place for 2021. In other years it runs on a 6 month reservation system.
Campsites have flush toilets, running water, fire pits, bear boxes and picnic tables. Parking is typically available for 2 cars, but some sites have more parking than others.
Finally, the last of the campgrounds in the Cedar Grove area is Moraine Campground. Some believe this to be the most scenic of the campgrounds down in this area mostly because you can see beautiful granite canyon walls above the trees. For me personally, I feel this campground is a bit more exposed to the sun than the other campgrounds which is why it’s not my favorite.
Moraine is the largest campground in the area, offering 120 sites (formerly first-come, first-served). This campground is also open to tent campers and RVers.
Amenities include flush toilets, running water, fire rings, bear boxes and picnic tables.
Canyon View Group Campground
Canyon View Group campground located in the Cedar Grove area have 12 mid-size group sites that can accomodate 7-15 people and 4 large sites for 15-30 people. Currently in the 2021 season these are not open yet, but rangers suggest checking back periodically as they may open as the summer progresses. Note these are TENT only sites, no RVs or trailers are allowed.
As with the other sites in this area, there is running water, flushing toilets, bear boxes and fire rings.
Camping Near Kings Canyon
If you were unable to secure camping reservations at the various campgrounds in the parks, don’t fret as there are many other options for camping near Kings Canyon. On the General’s Highway, the road connecting Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park there are a couple of options worth considering, especially if you plan to spend time in both parks. One campground worth checking out if all options are full, but that we have not listed below is Dorst Creek Campground. Additionally on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway heading down into the canyon from Grant Grove, there are a couple of places to consider.
Big Meadow Campground
Big Meadow Campground is located about 5 miles off the General’s Highway between Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. The campground is closer to Kings Canyon, but is a decent option for those visiting either park. Located at an elevation of 7,600 feet, this campground has 40 sites and accepts reservations 6 months in advance.
Each site has a picnic table, fire pit and food storage locker. Note, potable water is available and there are only vault toilets on site.
Stoney Creek & Upper Stoney Creek Campgrounds
Stony Creek Campground is located just beyond the southern edge of Kings Canyon National Park and operated by Sequoia Recreation, a division of California Land Management. This is a convenient campground for those visiting either of the parks as the drive time to Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon or to Lodgepole Village in Sequoia, is about 25 minutes.
Stony Creek offers 50 reservable campsites, spread out along a creek. The sites here that are generally small, but well spaced. The campground itself is set in a forested area with hills and large boulders scattered around.
Facilities include vault toilets as well as picnic tables, food storage lockers, and fire pits at each site.
Across the road is the Stoney Creek Day Use Area and Upper Stony Creek Campground. This is an 18-site campground with large, open campsites. Reservations are accepted on a rolling date basis six months out. Prices start at $29 a night here.
If you are looking to explore the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway and are looking for a campsite in between the higher elevation Grant Grove and lower elevation area of Cedar Grove, consider Princess Campground as a good in-between campground. This Sequoia Recreation operated campground is about 3 miles north of Hume Lake.
Princess Campground in Sequoia National Forest sits next to a large meadow at an elevation of 5,900 feet in the Indian Basin Grove. The campground offers 88 sites with 19 tent-only sites. Some sites have views of Hume Lake, while others have a view of the adjacent meadow. Sites are shaded for the most part which is important as it can get quite hot in this area during summer. Reservations are on a 6 month rolling basis. Prices start at $29 a night.
Hume Lake Campground
Many people know of Hume Lake due to the beautiful Christian camp located along one shore of the lake. However, this area is also open and available for non-camp goers. Hume Lake Campground is a popular campground that offers year-round recreational opportunities, including fishing, canoeing, hiking, biking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
The campground offers single and double-family campsites, some of which have views of Hume Lake. Foot trails lead to the lakeshore. Picnic tables and campfire rings are provided, as are flush toilets and drinking water.
Convict Flat Campground
The last of the Sequoia National Forest campgrounds on the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway is the Convict Flat campground. Convict Flat Campground sits at around 3,000 foot elevation offering stunning views of the granite cliffs along the road to Cedar Grove. This campground is subject to fire restrictions is a first come first serve with only 5 sites available for tents and small trailers. Camping is free, but no water or facilities are available.
Frequently Asked Questions about Kings Canyon Camping
Yes fires are allowed in the provided fire rings at the various campgrounds in Kings Canyon National Park. You can purchase firewood at the market in Grant Grove Village as well as collect dead wood near your site.
How much does it cost to camp at Kings Canyon National Park
Kings Canyon camping is quite economical with sites starting from $22 a night within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and going up to $29 a night at the various national forest operated campgrounds. There is no change fee to modify your reservation on your existing dates, however, there is a change fee to cancel or move your dates to a different time period.
Is there cell phone coverage in the park or at the campgrounds?
No. Regardless of which area of Kings Canyon you choose for your camping adventure, you need to know that you will be without cell phone service the entire time. From the moment you enter the park at Kings Canyon entrance there is zero cell phone coverage. If you are staying in the Grant Grove area of the park, there is limited and very slow WiFi available at the park ranger station and visitor center. For all other areas of the park, there is no internet.
Are there restaurants in Kings Canyon National Park?
Food and drink options are very limited within the park. During COVID this has meant no restaurant services at all, however that may change in the coming months. There is a small grocery store at the Grant Grove visitor center area which is where you can stock up on all your supplies before heading deeper into the canyon. In normal times, there is also a small restaurant here.
Items to Bring for Camping in Kings Canyon
In general you only need to bring your regular camping supplies with you to Kings Canyon. We have a list of our favorite car camping essentials here if you need ideas of what to bring and we also have a printable packing list here to help you along.
Otherwise, things to consider bringing to the parks include the following:
- Bikes – while there aren’t a ton of bike paths around, there is a small trail between Sentinel and Sheep’s Creek which kids will enjoy riding up and down.
- Swim Gear – During early spring the river is very fast and quite dangerous, but depending on conditions you might want to hop in the water in shallow, calm sections.
- If you are at a campground without potable water, we highly recommend bringing a few of these 5 gallon water jugs.
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