Hiking in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
The best way to see the park is to hike it. The grandeur and majesty of the Sierra is best seen up close. Carry a hiking map—available at any visitor center—and plenty of water. Check with rangers for current trail conditions, and be aware of rapidly changing weather. As a rule of thumb, plan on trekking 1 mph.
Sequoia Natural History Association. For books about hikes in Sequoia National Park, contact the Sequoia Natural History Association 47050 Generals Hwy., Three Rivers, CA, 93271. 559/565-3759. www.sequoiahistory.org.
Big Trees Trail. This one's a must, as it does not take long to stroll and the setting is spectacular: beautiful Round Meadow surrounded by many mature sequoias, with well-thought-out interpretive signs along the path that explain the ecology on display. From the handicapped parking lot off Generals Highway, the 0.7-mi Big Trees Trail is wheelchair-accessible. If you walk there from the Giant Museum, the total loop is 1.5 mi. Trail begins off Generals Hwy. (Rte. 198), near the Giant Forest Museum, Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262.
Congress Trail. This easy 2-mi trail, arguably the best hike in the parks in terms of natural beauty, is a paved loop that begins near General Sherman Tree and winds through the heart of the sequoia forest. You'll get close-up views of more big trees here than on any other Sequoia hike. Watch for the clusters known as the House and Senate. An easy offshoot leads to Crescent Meadow, where in summer you can catch free shuttles back to the Sherman parking lot. Trail begins off Generals Hwy. (Rte. 198), 2 mi north of Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262.
Crescent Meadow Trails. John Muir reportedly called Crescent Meadow the "gem of the Sierra." Brilliant wildflowers bloom here by midsummer, and a 1.8-mile trail loops around the meadow. A 1.6-mile trail begins at Crescent Meadow and leads to Tharp's Log, a cabin built from a fire-hollowed sequoia. Trail begins at the end of Moro Rock-Crescent Meadow Rd., 2.6 miles east off Generals Hwy. (Rte. 198), Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262.
Muir Grove Trail. You will attain solitude—and possibly see a bear or two—on this unheralded gem of a hike, a fairly easy 4-mi round trip from the Dorst Creek Campground. The remote grove is small but indescribably lovely, its soundtrack provided solely by nature. The trailhead is very subtly marked; it is past the group campsite area, on the right. Use the amphitheater parking lot. Trail begins in Dorst Creek Campground, Generals Hwy. (Rte. 198), 8 mi north of Lodgepole Visitor Center, Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262.
Little Baldy Trail. Climbing 700 vertical feet in 1.75 mi of switchbacking, this trail ends at a granite dome with a great view of the peaks of the Mineral King area and the Great Western Divide. The walk to the summit and back takes about four hours. Trail begins at Little Baldy Saddle, Generals Hwy. (Rte. 198), 11 mi north of Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262.
Tokopah Falls Trail. This moderate trail follows the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River for 1.75 miles one way and dead-ends below the impressive granite cliffs and cascading waterfall of Tokopah Canyon. It takes 2½ to 4 hours to make the 3.5-mile round-trip journey. The trail passes through a mixed-conifer forest. Trail begins off Generals Hwy. (Rte. 198), ¼ mile north of Lodgepole Campground, Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262.
Marble Falls Trail. The 3.7-mi, moderately strenuous hike to Marble Falls crosses through the rugged foothills before reaching the cascading water. Plan on three to four hours one way. Trail begins off the dirt road across from the concrete ditch near site 17 at Potwisha Campground, off Generals Hwy. (Rte. 198), Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262.
Mineral King Trails. Many trails to the high country begin at Mineral King. The two most popular day hikes are Eagle Lake and Timber Gap, both of which are somewhat strenuous. At 7,800 feet, this is the highest point to which one can drive in either of the parks. Get a map and provisions, and check with rangers about conditions. Trailhead at end of Mineral King Rd., 25 mi east of Generals Hwy. (Rte. 198), Sequoia National Park, CA, 93262.
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