Those who live in the South Valley are lucky enough to have some of the nation’s most treasured national parks right in their own backyard. Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite are all close enough for a day trip, but desirable enough for much longer visits.
All three of these parks have major anniversaries this year. Both Sequoia and Yosemite were deemed national parks 125 years ago, making them the third and fourth parks admitted to the system. Kings Canyon was named as such 75 years ago. Each has their own independent attractions while being part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
One of the easiest ways to learn about each park and its history is through the variety of ranger talks and walks provided throughout the summer at each location.
While these talks and walks are not necessarily scheduled with exact dates and times through the entire season, there are sure to be plenty to interest everyone, said Dana Dierkes, public affairs specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Talk topics include the history of the park, geology, wildlife, trees and flowers, and the native people. Talks may take place at visitor centers, lodges, campfires and various other places around a park.
Ranger walks generally occur along easy trail walks through meadows, around trees and near waterfalls. Discussion here may include the surrounding wildlife, bird life, trees, geology and more.
All ranger talks and walks are free to park visitors. There is no prior registration or sign-up. Talks may last from 30 minutes to an hour. Walks, in general, may last from one to one-and-a-half hours. Visitors are asked to dress accordingly for any event.
Park visitors may receive a current newsletter when entering a park. If not, one should be available at any visitor center and at lodging facilities. Talks and walks for the current timeline should appear in this information.
While the majority of talks and walks are of interest to most age groups, there are some that are specifically aimed at children. There is also a Junior Ranger program. Be sure to check scheduling or ask for more information at a visitor’s center.
In Yosemite there is also a Yosemite Valley Floor tour in an open-air tram during the summer season and an enclosed bus during the winter. Through this two-hour tour, park rangers introduce visitors to some of the most popular site-seeing areas, while describing wildlife, history, geology and more. During the summer, these tours depart from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Pre-registration is highly recommended. The cost for this is $25/adult; $23/senior; $15/children, 5-12 years of age; children under 5 are free. There are family discounts available.
Each park has its own Create Art in the Parks series. These are workshops, generally held over a few days’ period that may include sketching, painting, photography and writing. Please visit each park’s website to learn more about their workshops. Pre-registration is required.
Each park also hosts its own Dark Sky Festival, also a workshop over a number of days. During this time, an area of each park is kept in the dark. Days and evenings are packed with events. These include constellation talks, astronaut talks, photography, nature walks and searching for aliens.
Within Yosemite, the Ansel Adams Gallery offers one-day photography classes and multi-day workshops. There are run through the Gallery, a concessioner of the National Park Service.
Now it is easier than ever to get from one area of Yosemite or Sequoia to another, whether for ranger-led walks, or to view sites on your own, Dierkes said.
Yosemite has its own shuttle system with three different lines including an express shuttle within the busiest area of the Yosemite Village. Taking the shuttles is free and encouraged as it cuts down on congestion and pollution within the park.
Likewise, the Sequoia Shuttle offers five in-park routes, each including its own destinations within the park. This shuttle service, within the park, is also free.
Each park also has bus service from various locations within the Valley up into the park, with admission included in the service fee. Sequoia Shuttle offers service from Visalia, Exeter and Three Rivers into the park for $15/passenger roundtrip.
YARTS offers bus service from Fresno, Merced, Sonora and Mammoth into Yosemite. Pricing varies upon location of pick-up. Roundtrip from Fresno into the park is $20.
Entrance fee to Sequoia & Kings Canyon is $20 per car, for a 7-day period, or $10 for those on foot, bicycle or motorcycle. An annual pass to the two parks is $30 per vehicle (valid for one year from time of purchase). Military members and those who qualify for volunteer passes receive a free pass.
Entrance fee to Yosemite is $30 per car for a 7-day period and $15 those on foot. An annual pass to Yosemite is $60. Those in the military receive a free pass.
The America the Beautiful pass is available at any National Park for $80 and gives annual admission to all national parks.
An Interagency Senior Pass is available at any park for seniors 62 or older for $10. This is a lifetime pass with entry into any National Park or Monument.
Children under the age or 16 receive free admittance to any National Park.
For more information on Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, visit http://www.nps.gov/seki/index.htm
For more information on Yosemite National Park, visit http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm
For more information on the Ansel Adams Gallery, visit http://www.anseladams.com/yosemite-gallery/
For more information on the Sequoia Shuttle, visit https://www.sequoiashuttle.com/
For more information on YARTS, visit http://yarts.com/