Exploring the Wilderness of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks


Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, preserving prime examples of nature’s size, beauty, and diversity. Nearly 2 million visitors from across the U.S. and the world visit these parks to see the world’s largest trees (by volume), grand mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and more.

The wilderness of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks protects one of America’s most superlative scenic landscapes. An extraordinary continuum of ecosystems is arrayed along the greatest vertical relief (1,370 to 14,505 feet in elevation) of any protected area in the lower 48 states. Magnificent glacial canyons, broad lake basins, lush meadows, and sheer granite peaks–hallmarks of the most rugged portion of the High Sierra–form the core of the largest expanse of contiguous wilderness in California, which is visited and valued by people from around the world.

In September of 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Wilderness Act, which made the preservation and protection of wild places a national priority. As a result of that act and subsequent state and federal legislation, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks currently protect over 808,000 acres of designated wilderness in addition to 29,500 acres of proposed wilderness.

Beginning in 2021, overnight visitors to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks wilderness areas will be able to make their quota season wilderness permit reservations using the website Rservation.gov. This will replace the old system, by which reservations were submitted by email and processed manually. Recreation.gov provides trip planning and reservation services for public lands nationwide, and using it for wilderness permit issuance will bring the parks into alignment with the adjacent Inyo National Forest.  

Effective today, visitors can view the permits that will be available for reservation on Recreation.gov by searching “Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness Permits,” or following the direct link https://www.recreation.gov/permits/445857/.  Beginning in early January, reservations will become available in a rolling window six months in advance of entry dates. The 2021 quota season will run from May 28 – September 18.  

“This new system will provide real-time availability information, as well as instant reservation confirmations, which visitors have repeatedly requested,” says Wilderness Coordinator Erik Frenzel. “Recreation.gov also streamlines the payment process and provides more specific information for different entry points. We hope that wilderness visitors will find the new system makes trip planning a much better experience.”

To cover the costs associated with the new system, the quota season permit fee will increase by $5 to $15 per permit plus $5 per person. Refunds of the per person portion of the fee will now be available in the event of cancellations or party size reductions.

At this time, the parks are also planning to resume in-person, “walk-up” permit issuance for the 2021 quota season. This means that a limited number of first-come, first-served permits will be available daily at permit issuing stations in Cedar Grove, Grant Grove, Lodgepole, Ash Mountain, and Mineral King. The parks are working on safety measures to make this possible while protecting visitor and employee health. 

The permit system is an essential part of the parks’ wilderness stewardship efforts, as it provides a limit on the number of people recreating in sensitive ecosystems during the high-use summer months and ensures visitors have the information to protect themselves and the wilderness. Outside quota season, self-issued permits for wilderness use are required. As in the past, these are available at visitor centers near trailheads. No fee is required outside the quota season. 

Visitors will be able to begin making wilderness permit reservations on January 5, 2021. In the meantime, the park encourage everyone to explore the new system. Questions can be directed to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Wilderness Office, at seki_wilderness_office@nps.gov  or (559) 565-3766. For more about Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, visit https://www.nps.gov/seki




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