Top Ten National Parks for Rock Climbing

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, California

For better or worse, Americans have mastered the art of big. We supersize our fries, we drive eight-cylinder, four-wheel-drive SUVs along flat suburban roads, and we watch 48-inch-screen TVs with up to 500 channels. The Sierra Nevada, the largest mountain range in the contiguous United States, is home to panoramic vistas, hundreds of ways for the creative hiker to get lost, and a stunning variety of wildlife. Somehow, though, I have a sneaking suspicion that Americans love the Sierra because things around here are just plain huge.

Situated in the heart of this 400-mile range are Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, two places that champion the theme of things large. Seqouia National Park is home to 14,494-foot Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48, and both Sequoia and Kings Canyon play host to groves of giant sequoia, the largest living thing in the world.

The rock climbing in Seqouia and Kings Canyon is fantastic. The parks provide an excellent alternative to Yosemite, which sits to the north. Many of Yosemite's big names—Royal Robbins, Fred Beckey, Yvon Chouinard, Galen Rowell—spent some time climbing here. Though Seqouia and Kings Canyon have never had the climbing reputation of their more popular big brother, there are many outstanding routes, such as the Obelisk, Grand Sentinel, and Chimney Rock, that warrant a visit.


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