Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park
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Sequoia and Kings Canyon are the parks of the "Range of Light" - the Sierra's magnificent southern crest. Some of the best hiking and backpacking in the lower 48 is found here.
Relevant Guidebooks & Maps
Sierra South, John Muir Wilderness topo maps (3 part set), 7.5 minute topos of destination, The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes and Trails, Climber's Guide to Sequoia/Kings Canyon
From campus follow I-210 west to I-5 north over the grapevine. Once in the Central Valley follow 99 north at the split. After about 100 miles turn off on 198 east. For Sequoia and Mineral King follow 198 to your destination. For Kings Canyon take 63 north from Visalia or 245 north once up in the foothills for a more scenic drive. Both bring you to 180 which you follow east to Kings Canyon. Both parks can also be reached by hiking in from 395. See "East Side Sierra" for details.
The backpacking found in these adjacent national parks is simple incredible. The trails take you up among thirteen and fourteen thousand foot peaks, quiet mountain lakes, and in areas the largest trees on our planet. Thanks to the water protection interests of valley farmers years ago, this grand wilderness has been forever protected. Infinite hikes exist, but there are several popular trailheads. Mineral King is a starting point far off by itself. The road that cuts of 198 is long, small, and curvy, but brings you to a 9,000 foot trailhead with incredible hikes. Because of the altitude of Mineral King and the subsequent hikes that all rise from the trailhead, Mineral King is best in summer. To the north of Mineral King is Sequoia proper. The center of the park is the Giant Sequoia grove at Giant Forest. The largest living organism, the General Sherman Tree, towers above the scores of tourist who thrive at its trunk. Despite the crowds, it only takes ten minutes to park and view and is well worth it. From the Giant Forest area several trailheads escape the tourists. Not far down 198 is Lodgepole. From the Lodgepole area several excellent trails depart. Lodgepole itself offers a good base camp at 7,000 feet, but make reservations in advance for peak times. The trail to Pear Lake over The Watchtower is particularly awesome. Kings Canyon is a huge canyon cutting deep into the spine of the Sierra. Due to its lower elevation Kings Canyon is more suitable in Spring and Fall. Hikes leave Kings Canyon every which way to the high country, most rising sharply. Permits are required for all trails in Sequoia and Kings Canyon if you plan to spend the night out. They can be obtained in the morning before hiking, but its best to call far in advance because often they are all gone. Plan your trip using topos and Sierra South to find a hike that's right for you. For the climber, the Sierra peaks and granite domes await. OTL graduate R.J. Secour has written the definitive text for the Sierra peaks, The High Sierra: Peaks, Passes, and Trails. Check it out.
The weather in the High Sierra is very exciting. Snow can strike any time of year, but especially watch out from September to May. Hypothermia causes deaths frequently when storms catch the unprepared hiker. Many trails in the parks are above 10,000 feet, intensifying any storm. After storms crampons are needed on many trails and snow will cover the trails for most of the year. Water is usually available in lakes and streams, but must be purified, even in the most secluded spots. If you plan on cross country traveling carry a map and compass and know how to use them effectively.
Edited by (in order): OTL Staff
Last updated: 05/22/2009