Explore Sequoia National Park and the Kaweah River Area

Posted April 5, 2024 by Reily Schultz

Unique, underrated, and incredible are words often used to describe the experience of rafting on the Kaweah River. Bordered by America’s second oldest National Park, Sequoia National Park, the Kaweah offers a scenic whitewater run that can be easily followed by a day of hiking, exploring, or soaking up some history and sampling local treats. The closest river to Southern California that All-Outdoors runs, this Class 4+ stretch really is a hidden gem. AO is one of the few companies that offers rafters this action-packed river trip. Join us as we explore Three Rivers, the hub of Kaweah River rafting, and find out how you can turn your day on the water into a full weekend of outdoor fun!

The Kaweah River
The Kaweah River in the springtime

The Town of Three Rivers

Our rafting trips on the Kaweah meet in the small town of Three Rivers. Aptly named, this town is home to the confluence of three forks of the Kaweah River which makes it a perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts. Driving through town you will cruise through a 2-3 mile stretch of shops and local eateries lining the road, bordered on one side by mountains and backing up to the river on the other. You will find no shortage of good food and good beer along this stretch, (Anyone fancy a drink at 3 Rivers Brewing Co.?) along with a few of our favorite post-trip locations. The AO favorite being Reimer’s Candies and Gifts. A visit to this little chocolate shop after a hard day of paddling has become an AO tradition. Guides will venture into town after their day is done to enjoy some ice cream and good company. Reimer’s is a family owned and run business and shares the same sentiment as AO when it comes to its patrons- everyone is welcomed into the family! 

Need a place to stay before or after your adventure? Check out the Three Rivers Hideaway! Another family owned and operated establishment, this campground has served as our meeting place for rafting trips for years. The location, amenities, and hospitality make this a super convenient spot for anyone looking to extend their trip. Just in case the Hideaway is booked on the days you will be rafting, or if you’d prefer another local option, we have compiled some recommendations on our Kaweah Travel Info page.

All the Beauty, Half the Crowd

Located prominently in the Central Sierras, Yosemite is California’s most famous and frequently visited National Park. The park’s iconic natural formations and views make Yosemite an obvious attraction. The only downside to Yosemite’s popularity is the daily crowds that flock to the valley and overwhelm trails and scenic vistas. Luckily for Southern California residents (or any adventurers checking out the Kaweah), Sequoia and Kings Canyon Parks are highly regarded as an ‘alternative’ to Yosemite! These parks offer amazing hiking opportunities, views, and incredible history, but without the hectic “Disneyland” feel. Skip the lines and crowds by checking out these Parks just South of Yosemite.

Kings Canyon / Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon rivals Yosemite in its breathtaking views

Local National Parks

If you only have an hour or two to take in the area before heading back to real life be sure to venture into Sequoia National Park. The sequoia and redwood trees in and around the park are awe inspiring, dwarfing everything around them. Established just 18 years after the Nations’ first National Park (Yellowstone, in Wyoming), Sequoia is the second region in the country to be protected as a National Landmark. Another remarkable thing about this park is its residents. As much as we value and appreciate our Park Rangers, we’re talking wildlife. Sequoia National Park and the attached Kings Canyon National Park are home to some rare and endangered wildlife that you are unlikely to see in other parts of California. The California Condor is one of the parks most sought after sightings. While it is the largest bird in North America, the California Condor is a critically endangered species. We are thankful for the protection our National Parks offer these giant birds!

Sierra Wildlife - California Condor and Pika
The California Condor has a wingspan of 9.5 feet, while the Pika is about 7 inches long

Other furry inhabitants such as herds of bighorn sheep and the tiny pika call these parks home as well. Sequoia National Park gives visitors an opportunity to observe critters that you will not see in Northern California. Both native species are elusive, so keep an eye out! Big horned sheep have a talent for camouflage, hiding in plain sight, and climbing into spaces where you would not think to look for a sheep. Pika are arguably the park’s cutest residents, but are small and easy to overlook unless you know what you’re looking for.

With such a large boundary, the idea of exploring the whole park is daunting. Park Rangers often recommend that tourists rent bicycles as a means of exploring the park grounds! Accessible trails throughout the park let you cycle past waterfalls and down wooded paths surrounded by massive towering trees.

Sequoia National Park honors the Native Kaweah Indian Nation
Sequoia National Park welcomes guests and honors the Native Kaweah Indian Nation

General Sherman Tree

All over the world, you will find parks and forests that claim to be home to the World’s largest, oldest, widest, or most unique tree. So many claims, but someone has to be right, right? Sequoia National Park is indeed home to the world’s largest tree! The General Sherman tree stands firm as the largest tree in the world by volume. We are not claiming the titles of “tallest” or “oldest,” but the General Sherman tree is certainly one of the coolest things you’ll see in this park. This giant sequoia is alive and well- every year it grows enough wood to make another 60-foot-tall tree! We highly recommend visiting this beast to all tree-huggers and admirers.

There is no shortage of activities in the towns and parks surrounding our beloved Kaweah River. This river is dependent on snowmelt, so be sure to take advantage of its unique rapids and springtime beauty before its rafting window closes for the season. We hope that you will extend your visit a bit either before or after the rapids to soak up the local sights and bites. Let us know which part of the adventure is your favorite!

Author Bio

Reily Schultz

Reily is a Gold Country native. She graduated from Willamette University with a degree in Studio Art and a minor in Gender Studies and Psychology. She joined the All-Outdoors family in the spring of 2022, working as a California Rafting Consultant and a member of the marketing team. Her favorite All-Outdoors itinerary is the multi-day Tuolumne rafting trip. Reily is an avid artist, outdoors-woman, and purr-fessional cat snuggler.


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