Finding a great view can be challenging when you’re surrounded by giant trees. Fortunately, Kings Canyon Panoramic Point offers a good spot to look out over the mountains. As I learned, though, it’s not the perfect place to enjoy a sunset — a sunrise would probably be better here. Even so, it’s worth taking the time to find this off-the-beaten-path overlook.
Kings Canyon Panoramic Point is marked on the park map, but on the road, there are no signs to point you in the right direction. From the Kings Canyon visitor center at Grant Grove, drive through the parking lot (away from Highway 180) towards John Muir Lodge. You’ll drive past the lodge on a narrow road (the lodge will be on your left). Continue up the hill 2 miles to the parking area at the end of the road.
Once you’ve reached the end of the road, you’ll need to do just a small amount of hiking to get to the best views at Kings Canyon Panoramic Point. A loop trail gives you two options, but both are short and end up in the same place.
Kings Canyon Panoramic Point
Once you’re on top of the hill, you’ll have a great view looking east. In this direction, you’re looking towards the actual “canyon” part of Kings Canyon National Park. The view is only slightly obstructed by some trees, living and dead — both of which add some nice foreground interest to photos.
The trees (and boulders) at the top of the hill are interesting, and the glow in the sky around sunset was fantastic, but I was also hoping for a good view of the actual setting sun to the west. I didn’t find it here, but I tried.
Park Ridge Trail begins at Panoramic Point, and runs about 2.5 miles south, ending at a fire tower. With the day coming to a close, I didn’t have time for a five-mile hike, but I did use the Park Ridge Trail to find a better shot of the sunset.
As the name suggests, Park Ridge Trail runs along the top of a ridge. It’s probably a fairly easy and pleasant hike during the day, but it was getting spooky as it grew dark. I kept going and going, hoping to find a slightly better view to the west. This is about the best I could do.
I did find a break in the trees, where you can just barely see the last glimmer of the sun. After that, I scurried back to Kings Canyon Panoramic Point, and down the hill to my car.
Here’s a look at the drive from Buck Rock Lookout to Panoramic Point:
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The Bottom Line
Kings Canyon Panoramic Point is a great spot for a sunrise and a good spot for a sunset. It’s also the start of a fairly easy hike to a fire tower, with even better views in every direction. Unfortunately, Panoramic Point is not easy to find, due to a lack of signage. But, that also means smaller crowds and more solitude as you gaze out towards Kings Canyon.