View Full Version : Best Time to Couple Yosemite with Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP

6-Jan-2008, 12:08
My wife and I are hoping to get to California in the spring for two weeks and would like to visit each of these NP's. I was hoping I might get some feedback on the ideal month, realizing of course that there may be some compromise in the "optimal" time for any given park.


Brian Vuillemenot
6-Jan-2008, 12:42
I would suggest that you visit in May. Earlier than that, and snow blocking the roads may be a problem. Later than that, and the tourists start to show up in mass, especially in Yosemite. May is the best time to see the gushing waterfalls that Yosemite is famous for. Also, the dogwoods and wildflowers will be in bloom, the temperatures will be pleasant, and the mosquitoes won't be a problem yet. Go to Yosemite first, in early May, and then make your way to Sequoia/ King's Canyon. Although you may not be able to access the high country along the Tioga Road that early, there will be plenty in and around Yosemite Valley to keep you busy, especially if this is your first trip.

The other month I would suggest, for many of the same reasons (minus the waterfalls and wildflowers) is October. Or, if you have chains and 4WD, winter is a beautiful time to be in Yosemite Valley. Just don't make the mistake of going in July or August!

Eric Woodbury
6-Jan-2008, 12:55
May is a beautiful time, but it used to be that Mother's Day was the busiest weekend in Yosemite. It is the time the dogwoods bloom. Also, Y/KC/S is a lot to see in 2 weeks. Try for after Mother's Day and before Memorial Day.

John Kasaian
6-Jan-2008, 13:44
Any time is a fine time! The summer months will give you access to Tioga Pass and all that area has to offer but Yosemite Valley will be gridlocked. I'd opt for any time before June. Tioga has been open early a number of times so you might get lucky. If Tioga is still closed and you want a taste of the "high country" there are other passes North of Yosemite which offer a similar experience and are kept open year around to service ski areas and other communities (88 comes to mind) Also check out the Desolation and Granite Chief areas around Lake Tahoe.

Not the same of course, but still very nice. Sonora Pass is sometimes cleared before Tioga so it is worth a last minute check out before you launch.

That said, you'll find plenty to see and do in Yosemite and Kings/Sequoia in April or May so you might want to leave Tioga for another time.

Dan Baumbach
6-Jan-2008, 14:12
I can't speak for Sequoia/Kings Canyon, but my favorite time in Yosemite is the Winter. It's already very crowded in May and only gets worse till October.

- Dan

David Karp
6-Jan-2008, 14:43
Reservations in the park are tough as many people make reservations one year in advance. You can make reservations on line at www.yosemitepark.com or call.

John is correct. Anytime in Yosemite is a great time. And if you cannot go until July or August, that is OK too. People complain about lots of people. Just walk 5 minutes in a different direction than everyone else is going and you will be alone and it will be beautiful. Or go up to the high country on the Tioga Road. There won't be so many people up there.

I like it lots in winter too.

9-Jan-2008, 15:54
I went to Yosemite in the 1st week of May last year. Waterfalls are great, but Glacier Point road, Tioga road are closed, the chains at the halfdome were not up. We had snow storm the last day. Not too crowdy.

The year before, I was in Sequoia during 7/4. It wasn't as crowded as I thought. Okay, I am from NYC. Minear King section does not see many visitors and it is beautiful. However, it will be cold in May there.

9-Jan-2008, 18:48
During the weekdays right before Memorial Day are pretty nice. Those into backpacking can hike from Tunnel View to Glacier Point -- camping on the various points and/or Sentinal Dome on the way. As soon as the Glacier Point Road opens your can't camp up there.


10-Jan-2008, 10:05
Cheers everyone for the excellent feedback. If we arrived on May 17th, would we miss the Dogwood blooms in Yosemite?

Hugh Sakols
10-Jan-2008, 20:54
The Valley's Dogwood bloom varies from spring to spring. Some years it will start by late April or early May while other years it may not really get going until closer to Memorial Day. Don't worry, if you can manage the crowds and road construction, you will not be disappointed.


John Bowen
11-Jan-2008, 04:12
I did the "California Trifecta" way back in 1988. We were there prior to, and over Memorial Day Weekend. I have a couple photographs from Yosemite with Dogwood blooms. I didn't have a field camera back then, so we took a 4x5 monorail. Didn't do much hiking, probably never ventured more than 100 yards from the road. Due to this, I don't have many negatives from either Kings Canyon or Sequoia. We spent the bulk of our time in Yosemite, the roads to the high country were open.

Others should chime in here, but I don't think Sequoia or Kings Canyon are as photographically exciting and would probably skip them on a future trip. YMMV, and I expect the hikers will chime in to tell me that I need to take some hikes to get to the best photo opportunities.

Have fun and enjoy your trip,

Bruce Watson
11-Jan-2008, 07:08
My wife and I are hoping to get to California in the spring for two weeks and would like to visit each of these NP's. I was hoping I might get some feedback on the ideal month, realizing of course that there may be some compromise in the "optimal" time for any given park.


I did this a few years ago, 2003 I think. In June, because I wanted to get to the back country of Yosemite for once. And I failed again because the Tioga road didn't open until early July that year. Oy.

The thing I don't see mentioned is that Sequoias grow up around 7000 feet. In June I was coming out in the morning to frost on the rocks. I was seeing highs for the day in the mid to high single digits C (40s F). It was excellent for hiking with a view camera. High but relatively flat hikes. The dogwoods in Sequoia were just peaking when I was there in mid-June. Absolutely beautiful -- much nicer trees and settings than the Mariposa grove of Sequoia trees in Yosemite IMHO. Well worth a visit.

Yosemite valley was "full." Prior to my arrival in late-ish June the valley had been flooded out. The translation is mosquitos! Old timers in the valley were saying the worst mosquito crop in 50 years. Yet, if you would put your pack on and hike out of the valley you'd leave the little buggers behind. You'd also leave behind (literally) 99% of the other visitors. Dogwoods in Yosemite were beyond peak but not completely gone. Waterfalls were still rippin'.

These two huge beautiful parks make a good combination IMHO. I'm not sure there is an ideal month though -- it would be too hard to make a choice. The thing to recognize is that the Sequoias live in the high country. If you want to visit them without most of the snow, you're restricted to the summer months. There will usually be plenty of snow around even in June at those elevations, but most of your hiking will be on dirt by then. I mention it because it can make quite a difference. It's much easier to get lost on a hike when the trail (and everything else) is covered by snow for example. And snow and snow melt puts a premium on the water proof-ness of your boots ;)

Keith S. Walklet
11-Jan-2008, 09:10
As Bruce notes, elevation is a key component in planning this trip. Yosemite Valley is at 4,000 feet in elevation, with most trails (such as Upper Yosemite Fall, the Mist Trail, Snow Creek, etc.) open to at least the rim of Yosemite Valley by then, depending on how much snow has fallen during the winter. But, most of the action that time of year is in the Valley, where the meadows will be greening up and the falls running strong.

The dogwood in Yosemite Valley typically is at peak the last two weeks of April through the first two weeks of May. How long the bloom lingers is weather dependant.

The dogwood up higher, such as along highways 120 and 41, peaks later than that. The waterfall peak varies from year to year, typically sometime between mid-May to early June. Last year, after a meager winter, they peaked in early May.

NPS tries to open Tioaga Pass and the Glacier Point Road by Memorial Day, but that is also depends on what type of winter the park had.

With Sequioa, the most popular destinations are above the 6,000 foot elevation. And Bruce is right, the combination of dogwood and sequoias there is far more interesting than any in Yosemite.

So, IMO, if you are sequencing the trip, it would be advantageous to progress from Yosemite southward to Sequoia, beginning mid-May. If you are on an earlier schedule, you might find some worthy subjects in the foothills of the Sierra first, followed by trips to the parks at higher elevations.