Established in 1940, Kings Canyon National Park encompasses 461,901 acres of mountains and lushly forested land that’s accessible by car from Fresno via U.S. Highway 180 heading west. On the eastern side the closest large town is Independence just off Highway 395 and there are many hiking trails leading into the park from that direction. Beginning at the Onion Valley Trailhead, the Kearsarge Pass Trail leads hikers steeply up 11,700 feet to the Kearsarge Pass, the Upper Basin and Heart Lake where the barren scenery looks like typical Russian tundra. The trail leads past pristine lakes such as Flower Lake, Little Pothole and Gilbert Lake. Then the trail continues into Kings Canyon National Park where it connects to the famous John Muir Trail near Bullfrog Lake.
Kings Canyon National Park features six large groves containing giant sequoias, the world’s largest trees, and with its 8,200 foot depth, Kings Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in North America. The Redwood Mountain Grove is the world’s largest natural grove of giant sequoias because it contains 3,100 acres of land with 15,800 sequoia trees. The General Grant Grove features the famous 3,000 year old General Grant Giant Tree, the second largest sequoia tree in the world. Other portions of Kings Canyon National Park include more than 20 mountain peaks that exceed 13,000 feet in elevation and countless lakes. Kings River is especially dramatic after the annual snowmelt during the April and May while Roaring River Falls dramatically drops 40 feet over a narrow ledge into the river below.
Because of all the spectacular scenery, hiking the trails and camping near the sequoia trees are among the most popular recreational activities during the spring, summer and fall. The most popular park trails include Tokopah Falls Trail, Big Trees Trail, Hazelwood Nature Trail, High Sierra Trail, Congress Trail and Alta Peak Trail. Grant Grove Campground, Lodgepole, Atwell Mill and Dorst Creek Campground are all near Giant Sequoia groves. At an elevation of at 5,900 feet, Princess Campground is inside a sequoia grove. Hume Lake Campground offers easy access to fishing and water recreation at Hume Lake where canoeing is also available. Reservations for park campgrounds can be made in advance online at https://www.recreation.gov/ for Lodgepole, Dorst Creek, Potwisha, Buckeye Flat, Sunset, and Sentinel campgrounds.
During the winter season from November until April, the most popular recreational activities include cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The park’s ski and snowshoe trails lead visitors through Grant Grove and Giant Forest, and ranger-guided snowshoe walks are also available. Visitors need to be prepared for driving on long, narrow, winding roads so drivers should be aware that gasoline is not sold inside the park.
Peter Cross is an accomplished article writer and creative writer who has produced hundreds of articles for many different clients since 2006 when he retired from his consulting business.