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From rolling foothills to immense forests to sheer granite peaks rising above lush meadows and broad lake basins, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks astound visitors with their wild beauty. Fifty years later, on March 4,Congress established Kings Canyon National Park, which is adjacent to the north boundary of Sequoia. Since World War II, these neighboring parks have been administered tly. Today, more than 1. As we celebrate more than years of protecting this unique California landscape, learn more about these two incredible parks. Sequoia was the first park created to protect a living organism.

Found only in the unique environment of the western Sierra, the massive sequoia trees grow at between 5, and 8, feet in elevation. The relatively mild winters at that elevation, along with a traditional history of fire, has made the mid-Sierra zone the perfect habitat for sequoias. To protect the giant sequoias from logging, Sequoia National Park was established in InCongress and President Franklin D.

Roosevelt created a new national park called Kings Canyon that incorporated the area of General Grant National Park with the spectacular canyons and high Sierra country to the east.

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Fire and proactive forest management play a unique role in the parks. Heat from low-intensity fires allows sequoia cones to open and drop their seeds in the fresh ash bed -- seeds the size of an oatmeal flake!

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Sequoia and Kings Canyon were the first national parks west of the Mississippi to use prescribed burning as way to not only protect, but to ensure the long-term survival and rejuvenation of giant sequoias. Active fire and fuels management started here in the 's and is a practice that is used today to reduce hazardous fuel lo and to maintain a healthy forest.

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Sequoia is home to the tallest mountain in the lower Sequoias are some of the largest and oldest trees in the world. These massive trees can live for over 3, years thanks to a chemical in their bark called tannin, which helps to protect against rot, boring insects and even fire. These magnificent trees can grow as tall as a story building, averaging between and feet tall.

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The most famous resident of Sequoia National Park -- the General Sherman Tree -- stretches almost feet tall and over 36 feet in diameter, making it the largest tree in the world by volume. Learn more about some of the other remarkable trees you can see on public lands. Most of these parks are wilderness.

Over the past years, Congress has expanded Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks to 1, square miles -- of which over 95 percent is deated and managed as wilderness. Thew spent her summers photographing some of the most rugged terrain in the U.

Her photographs became the most complete visual record of the area to dateand were integral to the passage of the bill to enlarge Sequoia National Park. The parks stretch from 1, feet in the foothills to 14, feet in the high Sierra -- an amazing elevational range that creates a topographic diversity supporting over 1, species of vascular plants and over different species of animals across elevation zones.

Some of these stunning animals include peregrine falcons, black bears, and even the western and mountain bluebirds.

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The parks also contain some of the widest array of pines, from the massive sugar pine to the ponderosa pine and the high-elevation foxtail and whitebark pines. The parks have over miles of trails. With trails winding by the famed sequoias, sheer cliffs, river canyons and rocky mountain passes, a hike is the best way to see the varied ecosystems of the Sierra. Prime hiking season is from July to September, when the weather is sunny and dry. Mountaineering is a popular activity at the parks. Norman Clyde is a legend among the mountaineering community for being the first to reach over peaks -- many of which are in the Sierra Nevada.

You have to experience this wild beauty for yourself -- start planning your trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon today. A visitor takes in the beauty and wonder of the towering sequoia trees on the Congress Trail.

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Photo by Richard Thompson www. Kings Canyon National Park's Zumwalt Meadow offers splendid views of high granite walls, a lush meadow, impressive talus and the meandering Kings River. Photo by Ryan McGinley www. Firefighters continue to use prescribed burning in the same place where the practice started over years ago. The sunsets over Mount Whitney, casting the area in a golden glow. Photo by Rory Fagan www. Photo by Aaron Chen www. There are many ways to experience the parks' wilderness.

Some visitors enjoy the social aspects of a more populated trail, while others seek a more solitary experience -- one where they don't see or hear another person for days at a time. Photo of Kearsarge Pinnacles by Vivek Vijaykumar www. Photo from National Park Service archives. A bear cub curls itself around a branch in a pine tree.

Photo by Gary Kunkel www. The granite dome of Moro Rock looms tall about the park, giving viewers who brave the steps incredible views. Photo by Daniel Suh www. Mountaineering through the Sierra can give you stunning views like the pictured here overlooking Bullfrog Lake. Photo by David Palefsky www.

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Kings Canyon National Park