August 1-3

Seqouia and Kings Canyon National Park

Toby and I spend a long weekend at Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks in the High Sierras.

Day 1 - Saturday, August 1 - Kings Canyon - 'Cedar Grove'

We wake up early Saturday morning and head out from Menlo Park for our 4 1/2 hour drive east. Our route went 101 south toward Morgan Hill, 152 east thru Los Banos, 99 south to Fresno, and 180 east all the way up the Sierras. We arrive first at the Big Stump entrance of Kings Canyon National Park. Once we entered the park at around the 6,000 foot level we head over to the Grant Grove area of the park and have a quick cheeseburger lunch at the restaurant by the visitor center before jumping back into the car. We then drive for about an hour down into Cedar Grove area in the eastern portion of Kings Canyon (there are two separate sections of the park: Grant Grove and Cedar Grove which are not connected). The sky was mostly clear with spotty clouds and the air was clear which afforded us great views as we descended into the canyon. The temperature was in the upper 70’s. We were both were amazed by the sheer steep narrow canyon along the scenic byway which narrowly hugged the South Fork Kings River. Cliffs thousands of feet high rose above the narrow windy road. The canyon floor opened up into a flat valley as we approached the Cedar Grove area which is very reminiscent to the much more popular Yosemite Valley which is north along the Sierra Mountains, also a glacial canyon. I called Kings Canyon an 'untamed Yosemite'. The park has only one narrow dead-end road into the park which covers over 460,000 acres of High Sierra wilderness, hiking is the only way to see most of the park.

Due to lack of time we only did one hike and stopped at a few roadsite view points. We first stopped to see Roaring River Falls, just a short walk off the main road. Then we hiked over an hour on the Zumwalt Meadow trail which looped around the meadow along the South Fork Kings River and then along the rocky area along the base of Grand Sentinel rock. On our drive out of the canyon we stopped to see Grizzly Falls. It took over two hours to arrive at our motel in Three Rivers: one hour out of Kings Canyon and an hour down the mountain. We stayed at Sierra Lodge, an ecclectic little 50’s motel with only 17 rooms. The community of Three Rivers is just outside the main entrance to Sequoia National Park. That evening we a nice dinner along the Kaweah River at Gateway Restaurant.

  • Park entrance sign at the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon.

  • Toby along the descending road into Kings Canyon.

  • 2,000 foot tall marble "Kings Gate" above Boyden Caverns.

  • Alan at Roaring River Falls in Kings Canyon.

  • Toby at Roaring River Falls in Kings Canyon.

  • The bridge over the Kings River on the Zumwalt trail.

Panormaic view looking east into Kings Canyon from picturesque Zumwalt Meadows. Grand Sentinel rises over 3,500 feet above the valley floor. (Image size: 2788px x 900px)

  • Zumwalt Meadow was awash in yellow flowers.

  • Toby along the Zumwalt Meadow trail.

  • Fwee. The wooden path leading into Zumwalt Meadow.

  • Toby cooling off in the slightly chilly South Fork Kings River.

  • South Fork Kings River which skirts Zumwalt Meadow.

  • A grove of cedar trees and ferns around the meadow.

  • North Dome rises 3,700 feet above the valley.

  • Fwee. The trail traverses the cliff facing rocks above the valley.

  • Bridge photo above the South Fork Kings River.

  • Fwee! Alan at Canyon Viewpoint.

  • Canyon View point along the main road.

  • The South Fork Kings River by the Cedar Grove visitor center.

  • The river by the Cedar Grove visitor center.

  • The 'main' park sign by Cedar Grove section of the park.

  • Grizzly Falls along the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway.

  • Antique fuel pump at Kings Canyon Lodge.

  • Room "C" at the Sierra Lodge in Three Rivers. Nice 'fake' plants!

  • Dinner at Gateway Restaurant along the Keweah River.

Day 2 - Sunday, August 2 - Sequoia - 'Lodgepole Area / Giant Forest'

We wake up early and head up toward the main entrance to Sequoia National Park which is just north of Three Rivers. First we stop by the Foothills visitor center to get our Crystal Cave tour tickets (11am), and then stop by the park main entrance sign to take a photo. I've taken family photos when I was 3 years old and 14 years old, and I don't recall any of those previous trips (see photos below). Just past the entrance sign is Tunnel Rock, where you were once able to drive your car under, but the low ceiling must have made it too dangerous for autos, especially seeing all the marks on the rock's underside. We ascended 3,600 feet up the mountain toward the General Sherman tree. The world's largest tree. Since it was early there were no crowds at the tree. By 10am we headed down the windy road toward Crystal Cave for our 11am tour time. We had to hike down to the cave entrance by our tour's starting time. The one hour tour went through various passages inside the marble cave. The cave lighting system currently was being replaced and inoperable, so the only lights were from lanterns and our flashlights. The full tour took us deep into the cave through narrow dark tunnels which followed a stream which slowly cut through the marble rocks. Fascinating cave formations like stalagtites, stalagmites and flow stone were everywhere. After the tour, we stopped along the numerous waterfalls along Yucca creek by the cave. We stopped for a cheeseburger lunch at Lodgepole Village before doing the Congress Trail through the Giant Forest. This forest trail connects some of the notable sequoia trees many of which are the largest in the world. After the Congress Trail, we drive over to Moro Rock and found an easy parking spot directly next to the trail head. This popular stop was full of people ascending the 300 vertical feet up to the top of the huge granite dome. Moro Rock is 6,725 in elevation with a commanding view in all directions and over 3,000 feet above the Keweah River below. Afterwards we pass under Tunnel Log toward Cresent Meadow were we take a hike through the forest to Tharp's Log, the home of an 1860's pioneer inside a fallen Seqouia. It was then time to descend the mountain back to Three Rivers, the temperture rose quickly from the mid 70's at the top of the moutain to 100 degrees at the motel. We quickly hit the pool! Later that evening we went out for a pizza dinner in town.

 

  • Old photo: The family when I was 3 years old.

  • Old photo: The family when I was 14.

  • At the same sign MANY years later!

  • Tunnel rock where you can NO longer drive under.

  • Touching the car scratches that hit the low hanging rock.

  • The "Four Gaurdsmen" as you enter the Giant Forest.

  • Alan in the center of the General Sherman's 'footprint'.

  • Toby by the "General Sherman" tree. Worlds largest tree.

Panormaic view of The General Sherman Tree, the worlds largest tree and worlds largest non-clonal living organism. The tree is 2,100 years old, over 270 feet tall, over 100 feet in circumference at ground level and weighs over 2.7 million pounds. (Image size: 900px x 2690px)

  • Toby outside the entrance to Crystal Cave.

  • Inside the cave opening just outside the gate.

  • The famous spider web gate of Crystal Cave.

  • Flowstone formations inside the chilly 50 degree cave.

  • Stalagtites hang from the ceiling of the cave.

  • Water cutting through solid marble.

  • Looking at nooks and crevices inside the cave.

  • Narrow passages inside the cave.

  • Impressive flowstone formations.

  • Waterfalls along Yucca creek by the caves.

  • Waterfalls along Yucca creek by the caves.

  • A tree hugger! Hiking the Congress Trail in the Giant Forest.

  • A small waterfall along the Congress Trail.

  • The President Tree. Currently the worlds third largest tree.

  • Wow, these trees are MASSIVE.

  • The Senate group of trees.

  • The roots of a fallen tree.

  • The Congress Trail goes thru a fallen tree.

  • Toby by the General Sherman tree.

  • Alan in another tree tunnel.

  • Toby about to ascend 300 vertical feet up Moro Rock.

  • The concrete steps hug the rock cliffs as you ascend.

  • Looking west down the valley toward Three Rivers.

  • Fwee, on top of Moro Rock.

Panormaic view from Moro Rock, a granite dome at elevation 6,725 feet, and over 3000 feet above the Kaweah River. The Great Western Divide rises over 14,000 feet in the background, home to Mount Whitney, tallest peak in the contiguous states. (Image size: 2417px x 900px)

  • Toby and Alan atop Moro Rock.

  • Toby at the end of the Moro Rock climb.

  • The Great Western Divide.

  • Alan starting his descent down Moro Rock.

  • The domed peak of Moro Rock quickly drops off.

  • Tunnel Log on our way to Cresent Meadow trail.

  • Beginning our Crescent meadow trail.

  • Alan at Crescent Meadow.

  • Toby at Crescent Meadow.

  • Log Meadow, which is near Crescent Meadow.

  • Toby on a log at Log Meadow.

  • Alan on a log at Log Meadow.

  • Tharp's Log "home" circa 1860's, at the end of Log Meadow.

  • Lush ferns and flowers surround these meadows.

  • Cooling off in the 100 degree heat of Three Rivers.

  • Feet!

  • The carport and spiral stairs up to our room.

Day 3 - Monday, August 3 - Sequoia - 'Lodgepole Area / Giant Forest' and Kings Canyon - 'Grant Grove'

Our last day we again wake up early, check out of the hotel and begin the ascent up the mountain. Along the foothills we stop at Hospital Rock before the ascent, this rock has ancient petroglyphs and morter holes from the Western Mono people who used to live in this valley. Once back at the top of the mountain we head to the Giant Forest Museum but it wasn't open yet so we hiked the nearby Big Trees Trail which looped around Round Meadow. This area was once full of cabins and a restaurant, but has since been removed by the mid 70's to restore the area back to it's natural state. Afterwards we headed to Lodgepole Village where we had a couple of breakfast burritos before driving back to the Grant Grove section of Kings Canyon. On our drive there we encounted a 45 minute delay due to road construction! Once the traffic started to move we drive over to the Buena Vista trailhead just across the road from the Kings Canyon Overlook. We take this little known trail up to the top of the 7,600 foot peak for a clear 360 degree view of the parks, just spectacular. The best thing on this trail was that there was absolutely no one else at the top of this peak! Afterwards we head over toward Panoramic Point along the Park Ridge Trail, a vista overlooking Hume Lake and the High Sierras. From Panormaic Point we make our last stop, we head over to see the General Grant tree, the second largest tree in the world. It was then around 4pm and time to head home. We descended down the mountain following a couple of annoyingly slow vehicles. After a couple hours of driving we stop at my parents home in Santa Nella for dinner before heading back to the Bay Area.

Whew, what a packed short weekend, but sure was fun. Kings Canyon (Cedar Grove section) is definitely a hidden gem for California's national parks and a hiker/backpacker's paradise. I'm sure not to soon forget our trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

 

  • Looking up at Moro Rock from river level, over 3,000 feet below.

  • Hospital Rock and the Indian petroglyphs and mortar holes.

  • Toby reading the history of the Museum.

  • Alan about to do the Big Tree Trail.

  • Yup we see some big trees along this trail.

  • Giant Sequoia trees surround Round Meadow.

Panormaic 360 degree view taken from the top of Buena Vista Peak, 7,600 foot elevation in Kings Canyon National Park. (Image size: 3819px x 400px)

  • Round Meadow along the Big Tree Trail.

  • Closeup of a mountain rose.

  • The Sentinel Tree just outside the museum.

  • Our 45 minute road delay along the road thru the park.

  • Looking up at Buena Vista Peak on our last hike of the day.

  • Toby on the Buena Vista trail.

  • Alan at the top of Buena Vista Peak.

  • Toby at the top of Buena Vista Peak.

  • Alan and Toby at Buena Vista Peak.

  • FWEE.

  • My Ansel Adam inspiration.

  • Balancing on a rock at the VERY top of the peak.

Panormaic view from Panoramic Point, along the Park Ridge Trail about 7,500 foot elevation. This view point looking east overlooks Hume Lake and the High Sierras out toward the Cedar Grove section of Kings Canyon. (Image size: 4243px x 900px)

  • Toby at Panoramic Point.

  • Alan at Panoramic Point.

  • Fallen Monarch Tree at the General Grant tree area.

  • Alan with the General Grant tree in the background.

  • Toby with the General Grant tree in the background.

  • Me and my parents at their home in Santa Nella.