02/10/2022

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12 Best things to do in Three Rivers, California

12 Best things to do in Three Rivers, California

Three Rivers, California, is located near the Kaweah River’s North, Middle, and South Forks meet. This small town near the Sierra Nevada mountains is home to water sports and natural attractions. Overall, the San Joaquin Valley offers some of the area’s best things to do outdoors.

Because even just getting to Three Rivers is a bit of an adventure, is Three Rivers, California worth visiting?

There are no airports or direct bus lines, so driving is the only option. It takes about four hours or 250 miles to drive from San Francisco. And from Los Angeles, the drive is about three and a half hours. Keep in mind that part of the trip is uphill along mountain roads.

About 3,000 people call Three Rivers home. It is a family-friendly area with plenty to do for adventurers and history buffs. The relatively mild climate makes the town accessible year-round and an ideal vacation destination.

The town of Three Rivers sits at an elevation of 843 feet near the entrances to two national parks. Both the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are breathtaking.

The Sequoia National Park has more old-growth Sequoia groves, whereas Kings Canyon Park extends into the valley and has multiple canyons, waterfalls, and foothill peaks – perfect for hiking and climbing.

While the national parks comprise many of the area’s activities, even if you are sedentary, there are many things to do in Three Rivers. Read on for more info!

TLDR

  • Most significant landmark – Tokopah Falls
  • Best parkSequoia National Park
  • Best free activity – Murals of Three Rivers, California
  • Best activity for kids – Giant Forest Museum
  • Best activity for adults – Horseback riding
  • Best food – River View Bar and Grill
  • Best nightlife – Three Rivers Brewing
  • Best accommodationRio Sierra Riverhouse

Best & Fun Things to do in Three Rivers, California

1. Sequoia National Park Audio Tour

12 Best things to do in Three Rivers, California

Address: 47050 Generals Hwy #10, Three Rivers, Ca, 93271

The Sequoia Parks Conservancy offers audio-guided tour and private guided hiking tours around Sequoia National Park and the nearby Kings Canyon National Park.

The time reservation and purchases are entirely online with free cancellation. Visitors easily download an app onto their smartphones that will direct them through the parks. There is only one entrance fee with no added fees if reservations change.

Start the day at Sequoia Coffee Co for a quick breakfast and a large eye opener. Or pick up a picnic lunch for later. Then head to the park entrance to start the tour. 

Through this four-hour, self-paced tour, you will see most of the park’s major tourist attractions, including the Tunnel log, Tunnel Rock, and the General Sherman Tree near the entrance.

The 300-foot dome of Moro Rock is awe-inspiring. And Halstead Meadow is the perfect stop for a picnic if you pack a lunch. Tokopah Falls is another historic landmark. It is a relatively easy, flat hike that ends at a beautiful waterfall surrounded by granite mountains.

Sequoia National Park holds 13 groves of giant sequoias, including Boole Tree, the world’s largest tree. While Kings Canyon National Park has the deepest canyon in the United States – one and a half miles deep.

The unforgettable groves of giant cloud-skimming tree species are a vital part of the planet’s ecosystem and worth a visit.

A hidden gem in the forest is a small glow-in-the-dark millipede that lights up to scare off predators. Flat and orange, the Motyxia millipedes (Motyxia sequoia Alia) are full of cyanide and live in the giant Sequoias’ roots.

The parks also host the Dark Sky Festival each Fall with speakers and viewing parties. The fee festival celebrates the spectacular star views from the area. 

While in the park, stop at the Visitor Center in Grant Grove Village – an elevation of 6,500 feet (1,980 m) for more information on both parks. There is also a gift shop for snacks, wilderness passes, and souvenirs.

See Related: Best California Road Trips

2. Giant Forest Museum – Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

Address: 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271 

The Giant Forest Museum sits at the head of the big trees trail. And is one of the best places to visit in Three Rivers, California. It introduces visitors to the Giant Forest, including its giant sequoias and lovely green spaces.

The giant sequoia is a cousin to the colossal size redwood tree. They are some of the largest and tallest trees in the world.

The oldest Sequoias are thousands of years old. Sequoias are gigantic. Some reach a height of 30 stories or 300 feet. Because they are tall, they create their own weather, including rain and fog. They are also fire resistant, protected by their thick bark.

The ranger residence, the visitor center and comfort stations, the Giant Forest Museum, and Beetle Rock Educational Center are the only buildings retained in the Giant Forest. The Sequoia Parks Conservancy runs the museum, where donations are accepted to help save big trees trail and the nearby giant forest.

The Sequoia Conservation Fund helps manage wildlife and protect monuments within both parks, including projects to save Moro Rock and Hospital Rock (we’ll talk about the latter later).

Looking for a place to stay nearby?

Follow Generals Highway north to find incredible mountain accommodations at Wuksachi Lodge. Alternatively, if you head back towards Three Rivers, you could book a night or two at this rustic cabin with some of the most enchanting views you’ll ever see.

3. Shop Three Rivers Village

If you are looking for things to do in Three Rivers, there are several places to spend a few hours immersed in retail therapy. Three River Village Antiques is a great place to browse for antique furniture, local craftwork, and western memorabilia.

Gift shops pepper the village. The Thingerie has a wide selection of puzzles, clothes, art, and books. Heart’s Desire is a boutique-style shop in Three Rivers, California. And local galleries highlight area artists.

No doubt you’ll need somewhere to dump your purchases and rest after such an exhaustive spree. Check into the breathtaking adobe villa!

See Related: Best Things to do in Solvang, California

4. Visit the Three Rivers Historical Museum

Three Rivers Historical Museum
image by Three Rivers Historical Museum/Facebook

Address: 42268 Sierra Dr., Three Rivers, CA 93271

Visiting the Three Rivers Historical Museum is the perfect way to learn about the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The one-story building includes outdoor and indoor exhibits, galleries, sculptures, and historic totem-like carvings.

Featured are personal items of the town’s first new world settlers, the old Kaweah post office, and the history of the legend of Paul Bunyan. 

This small but fascinating museum also tells the story of the Joaquin Valley, where the Native American tribe, the Yokut, initially settled.

These peaceful tribes occupied the region as early as 1000 BCE until European settlements started springing up in the late 1800s. The Yokuts were known for their artistic skill in basketry.

The Three Rivers Historical Museum is the perfect way to spend a cloudy day and learn about the region. Walking through the exhibits will take a few hours and is a great, low-impact activity for both kids and adults.

The Three Rivers Historical Society runs this human history museum on Sierra Drive, near the River View Bar and Grill.

It’s also near this absolutely stunning holiday rental property that you’d be mad to miss out on. Check into the Rio Sierra Riverhouse for a getaway with breathtaking riverfront views in the heart of town.

5. Grab a Bite in the Village

Address: 42323 Sierra Drive, Three Rivers, CA 93271

There are only a handful of restaurants in Three Rivers and two restaurants that stand out with something for everyone. These are the Riverview Bar and Grill and the Quesadilla Gorilla. 

River View Bar and Grill is a casual location with amazing mountain views. The restaurant serves salads, sandwiches, steaks, and desserts. Perfect for a quick meal or a sit-down dinner after a day of hiking and sightseeing.

Another spot for great food is the Quesadilla Gorilla – a food truck permanently stationed off Sierra Drive. Locals love this mountain location of the California restaurant.

Quesadilla Gorilla serves locally-sourced, familiar Mexican dishes, including tacos, quesadillas, beef burritos, craft beer, and fizzy drinks. And there are vegan options. Perfect for a quick but delicious meal after a day in the park. Grab a picnic table and rest up for the evening’s adventure or the trip home.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in Southern California & Things to Do

6. Visit Reimers Candies and Gifts

Address: 42375 Sierra Drive, Three Rivers, CA, 93271

The gift shops in Three Rivers have hidden gems for children of all ages – candy shops.

Family-owned and operated, Reimers Candies and Gifts is famous for its wide array of sweet treats, homemade chocolates, and Stollen bread.

For over half a century, the store’s iconic little red gingerbread house with white trim has served delicious surprises. Their waffle cones are handmade fresh daily, and the freshly churned ice cream is made with locally sourced berries.

After finishing the double scoop cone, browse through the cards, pictures of giant sequoia trees, and the souvenir section for last-minute gifts.

7. Ride Horses on Three Rivers Trails

Horseback Riding

Enjoy the picturesque Sierra Nevadas on horseback on your next Three Rivers visit. Area trails are made for hiking and horseback riding. Trail rides are excellent outdoor activities for the entire family, especially those who have never ridden a horse.

The area has several stables, like the famous Wood N Horse Training Stables for booking trail rides or grabbing a lesson. On trail rides, experienced guides accommodate all levels of equestrian expertise. However, there are usually minimum age and weight requirements.

Or opt for a stay at a horse ranch. These High Sierra mountain retreats highlight the beauty of the San Joaquin valley. The Kaweah River Horse and Guest Ranch is just minutes from Lake Kaweah and close to the entrance to Sequoia National Park.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Oakland, California

8. Play on Lake Kaweah

Address: 34467 Sierra Dr, Lemon Cove, CA 93244

Lake Kaweah, also known as Lemon Cove, is not just your typical lake. It is a manufactured reservoir and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Three Rivers. The lake is fed by the Kaweah River, high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and serves Tulare County. 

This beautiful lake is a significant area resource. It is also a popular water destination for anglers, the waters being home to rainbow trout, bass, and carp.

While a bit cold, the lake is a perfect place to swim.  Kaweah Marina is the place to rent watercraft of all types – boats, kayaks, and paddle boards. Houseboats are also available for rental.

Around the lake is Lake Kaweah Park, where visitors of all ages can go hiking. And Sequoia campground is nearby. And Kaweah Heritage Visitor Center is one of three park-related information centers in the area.

Looking for a side trip?

You can take a trip to San Francisco on a sightseeing bus tour or a side trip to Los Angeles’ Hollywood sightseeing bus tour.

9. Swim at Slick Rock Recreation Area

Address: 39883 Sierra Drive, Three Rivers, CA 93271

The Slick Rock Recreation Area is one of Three Rivers’ top attractions. It is located at the mouth of Lake Kaweah and downriver from the Lazy J Ranch Motel and Cider Mill restaurant.

Known by climbers as The Boulder Beach. Slick Rock is a boulder field located on the south bank of the Kaweah River. The 750 ft climb up the boulder face is moderately difficult and not for the inexperienced. 

Slick Rock Recreation Area has some of the best swimming holes along the Kaweah River and is highly popular and widely used in summer.

The calm water makes it one of the great things to do in Three Rivers, California with kids. Unfortunately, the water temperature is pretty cold since it originates high in the mountains.

In addition to great swimming, the 34-mile-long Kaweah River provides over 50 access points for kayaking and Class 3 and 4 white water river rafting. The park closes at sunset.

See Related: Best Things to do in Northern California

10. Visit a Brewpub

Address: 41763 Sierra Drive, Three Rivers, CA 93217

While there are almost a dozen breweries and pubs in the Three Rivers area, only Three Rivers Brewing is located in the village of Three Rivers proper. Tours are available in this small but well-known brewery.

The ‘Beer Me’ space typically lists about six beers on tap, where Hop Doc IPA and Thin Mints Stout top the list. Food trucks are usually on hand for quick bites and snacks. Indoor and outdoor seating make this a great place to relax after a hike or active day at nearby Kaweah Lake. 

Three Rivers Brewing is located downriver from The Gateway Restaurant and Lodge. This area lodge has a breathtaking view from the restaurant where the river is just feet away and is a popular place to stay while in the area. 

The next nearest taproom is the nano-brewery, Bellcraft Brew Co, located in Exeter, about 22 miles southwest of Three Rivers and Lake Kaweah.

11. Visit Hospital Rock

Address: 47050 Generals Highway, Three Rivers, CA 93271

The Sequoia National Park‘s Hospital Rock is a fascinating site. This large quartzite rock is located just off the General’s Highway. The adjacent picnic area of Hospital Rock is nestled alongside the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River.

Famous as a Native American site thought to be occupied as far back as 1350 BC. Several outdoor exhibits show examples of pre-Columbian life. And near the picnic area are ancient Native American pictographs.

As you examine the rock paintings, look for 50 bedrock mortars used by Native Americans for grinding flour from acorns.

Hospital Rock is a beautiful place for nature photography and bird-watching. There is ample wildlife throughout the area.

Near Hospital Rock is the Paradise Creek Trail, a 4.6 miles out and back dirt trail that begins at the nearby Buckeye Flat Campground. These hiking trails are narrow, winding, and relatively steep in certain areas. Not that it will not accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, or bicycles.

Like what you read? Before booking a flight and tours in Three Rivers, don’t forget to get travel insurance from World Nomads.

See Related: Free California Travel Guide: Printable Guide to Travel

12. See the Murals of Three Rivers, California

Address: Nadi Spencer Studio, 41838 Sierra Dr, Three Rivers, CA 93271

The Murals of Three Rivers, California, painted by the town’s children, capture the beauty and serenity of daily life in the Sierra Nevada mountain foothills.

Using the stories of the Yokuts (Native Americans that once inhabited Sequoia National Park) as inspiration, over 200 kids ages kindergarten through eighth grade contributed to this project.

A unique approach to keeping art in schools, Three Rivers’ children are now taught by a “Visiting Artists Program.” The children work with artists of various media, including watercolor, oil, gourd carvers, and ceramics.

The mural tour is one of the best things to do in Three Rivers. Nadi’s Studio is an excellent place to start. The murals are spread out within a mile of each other. The murals stretch along Sierra Drive.

Getting Around Three Rivers, California

Getting to Three Rivers involves driving. And once there, for the most part, it also requires a vehicle. Private taxis and bus services exist and are usually for hire or included with guided tour services. 

The town does not have a routed bus service. However, Tulare County Area Transit offers a shuttle service from the Visalia Transit Center to the Memorial Building in Three Rivers.

If you drive, be prepared for narrow and winding mountain roads. If you have a recreational vehicle or trailer, the length limits are over 22 feet (6.8 m).

Greyhound Lines stops in the city of Visalia at the Visalia Transit Center. And Summer park shuttle routes are direct to Sequoia National Park.

No gasoline is sold within the national parks. However, there are gas stations in nearby national forests. Depending on your vehicle, electric vehicle charging stations may be available at park lodges.

There is no Amtrak service into Three Rivers. The closest commercial airports to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are Fresno Yosemite International Airport and Visalia Municipal Airport.

The closest car rental companies are an hour away at the Fresno International Airport and in the town of Exeter, about thirty minutes away.

FAQ

What are some of the best things to do in Three Rivers, CA? 

Touring a brewery is a great thing to do in Three Rivers. Learn about this ancient beverage and the different beer styles at the town brewery.

What is Three Rivers, CA known for? 

Three Rivers is known as the small village located at the fork of three rivers and is the gatekeeper to Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park.

What are some free things to do in Three Rivers, CA? 

If you can wait until after sunset, the San Joaquin Valley is the perfect place to go star gazing. There is no discernible light to block the views.

What to do in Three Rivers, CA, when it’s raining?

 There are a few museums in Three Rivers, including the small but fascinating National Forrest Museum. There are also several art galleries and shops in the village. The Visitor Centers, such as Lodgepole Visitor Center, in both national parks, are also great places to visit.

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