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Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

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Charlotte, North...
posts: 1,638
reviews: 14
Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

I will be in Sequoia/Kings Canyon for 1 1/2 days as part of a 9-day trip in California/Utah/Arizona in late May this summer. I always like to spend most of my time hiking trails, but I realize I won't be able to do any long hikes in that amount of time, especially since it's my first time to the park. I have done some research, but I would like to here some of your opinions. I actually have 3 days, but the first day will only be the afternoon, and the third day will only be the morning. If you've done some of these hikes, or have other opinions, please let me know. I'd especially like to know what you think would be the best hiking itinerary for my two 1/2 days and my full day.

Kings Canyon

1. Zumwalt Meadows

2. Cedar Grove Overlook

3. General Grant Tree

4. Buena Vista Peak

5. Boole Tree

Sequoia

1. Little Baldy

2. Tokopah Falls

3. Congress Trail

4. Crescent Meadow

New York City, New...
posts: 1,633
reviews: 6
1. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

Assuming you are coming to see the trees, I would spend your full day at Sequoia. The trees grow in separated groves, they aren't found all through Sequoia NP, and not at all in the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon NP. They grow in separated groves, the largest easily accesible one is Giant Forest, between the Congress Trail and Crescent Meadow. There are trails all through the grove in between and you could easily spend most of the day on an easy loop hike through this area, seeing both the more "touristy" bits, and getting away from the crowds and back into the forest, alternately.

Kings Canyon NP has two sections, the smaller Grant Grove area, where giant sequoias are found, and the main part of the park, centered on the actual Kings Canyon itself, called the Cedar Grove area. there are no giant sequoias there. It's about an hour or more to get down into the canyon from the park entrance in the Grant Grove area. Zumwalt Meadow is down there near the end of the road, and the trail to Cedar Grove Overlook starts from the canyon floor and goes straight up the side. ZM is just a mile long flat loop, while the CGO is the most strenuous hike of your list, 2.5 miles up and 2.5 miles back down the same way. If that doesn't faze you it would be a very rewarding hike.

The General Grant Tree is just a short fifteen minute loop, do it as an introduction or a farewell to the sequoias on your way in or out. I haven't done Buena Vista Peak, but it seems to be a short but rewarding hike with great views of the Redwood Mountain Grove (this is a more remote giant sequoia grove than Giant Forest, but just as large--I've only hike a bit of it, though---I think it is actually larger in area than Giant Forest, but the trees are not quite as large. Not that it makes a big difference, but if you haven't been before I would do the Giant Forest in preference, there are more interpretive trails, and more to see there, such as Moro Rock, Crescent meadow and the General Sherman tree, the very largest. .

The Boole Tree is the only large sequoia left standing in the clear cut Converse Basin grove. Most of the grove is large stumps with 100 years piles of sawdust nearby. It's interesting enough if you have time, but with your limited time I would skip it--you probably want to be hiking among the standing trees in Giant Forest or Redwood Mountain. Congress Trail is a paved two mile loop from General Sherman into the southwest side of Giant Forest, you can continue on from the end on dirt trails to Crescent Meadow. The Congress Trail is pretty heavily travelled (that's why it's paved), so if you don't want to be hiking among crowds, you should start from Crescent Meadow and maybe just go to the end of the Congress Trail before you loop back.

Tokopah Falls is a four mile out and back trail, fairly flat, in a deep glacial canyon, but much narrower than Kings Canyon or Yosemite. Tokopah Falls is at the end, it's more of a staircase cascade than a waterfall, really. Again, if you will see Yosemite Valley's waterfalls, it will not be so impressive.

Between the Grant Grove and Giant Forest, there is one small grove, the Lost Grove, right on the Generals Highway, with only a dozen or so giant sequoias. Usually there are a lot of people stopping for a quick look.

Sunnyvale...
Destination Expert
for San Jose
posts: 5,685
reviews: 94
2. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

Bayatuning's impressive here, in my neck of the woods too... I should invite him (her?) on a next hike if I had one planned... I'm kind of tied up in some marathon training though through April though and then I'm off to Europe again... I might squeak in some more backcountry skiing in the Sierras through March...

B seems to have skipped Little Baldy for some reason. This is another big rock along Generals Highway that you can hike up (besides Buena Vista Peak). It's only about 3.5 mi (2 hr is plenty) and a bit more challenging than the Buena Vista Peak Trail with more great views. Some people think it's the best panorama in the park.

TN, your research looks focused. You skipped the Mineral King area.

IMO, a pretty good book to look up hikes is "California Hiking" by Stienstra and Brown. Maybe it's in your local library. It lists BVP, Little Baldy and Zumwalt as 9's. It calls Tokopah Falls, Moro Rock and the Eagle View on the High Sierra Trail 10's. Moro Rock is awesome for only about 0.5 mi of stairclimbing but can get stuck in a single-file queue. If you do it, hit it bright and early before anyone else gets there. Eagle View might be pretty good. I've only been there in dense fog so have no idea what I was supposed to see.

New York City, New...
posts: 1,633
reviews: 6
3. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

Ah, yes, Eagle View, it's a mile out on the High Sierra Trail from Crescent Meadow, and has the same views as from the top of Moro Rock without the crowds and the vertigo-inducing climb. It's a flat walk along the edge of a 5000 foot deep canyon, with views of the Great Western Divide's peaks to the east and the foothills and Central Valley to the west. If it's clear you can sometimes even see the Coast Range on the other side of the Central Valley. The trail starts among the sequoias at Crescent Meadow, but after a quarter mile you round a bend and suddenly you're on the edge of the canyon, with smaller oaks and chapparal. The trail is flat here, although with steep up and down slopes on either side, but the trail is wide enough that you don't have to be watching your footing with every step. It's a great alternative to Moro Rock, not as impressive in terms of climbing up a rock on the edge of forever, but it doesn't have the crowds or the metal railing with the occasional person hyperventilating and hanging on for dear life. It's a short detour on your tour of Crescent Meadow and Giant Forest.

While we're talking about meadows, there are several other meadows around the Crescent Meadow area, Long Meadow is just a half mile from Crescent, the smaller Huckleberry Meadow is there on the other side, and these meadows ringed with giant sequoias are not found in other sequoia groves, at least none that I have seen. this is what makes Giant Forest so special.

Charlotte, North...
posts: 1,638
reviews: 14
4. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

Bayatuning and DarthAnonymous: Thanks so much for your suggestions!!! I realized I have only done a nominal amount of research on Sequoia/Kings Canyon, so that's why I wanted to here some other people's opinions, and yours were great. I will definitely need to do some additional research and will periodically ask for more opinions to be sure! You're right Darth, I just skimmed over the Mineral King area of the park. Do you think I should focus on that area? It's so difficult to decide on what to do. This will be the first time to Sequoia/Kings Canyon, so I definitely want to check out all of the main attractions (i.e. General Grant and Sherman) but I also want to see some of the more isolated sections of the park, which I know is limited due to the amount of time I have there. BTW, I just realized that I'll only have 1 1/2 days in Sequoia/Kings Canyon. We'll be there all day on May 26 and will be leaving ~2:00 on May 27 to drive to St. George, UT. I know that's probably like 7 hours, but that's nothing when compared to driving from Knoxville, TN to Sedona, AZ in 2 1/2 days like we did a few years back! So, if you all would be so kind, could you outline your optimum 1 1/2 day experience in Sequoia/Kings Canyon, I would GREATLY appreciate that. If there are some really outstanding longer hikes that I just couldn't miss, then I would probably be willing to spend my full day doing that. I hear there may be some such hikes in the Mineral King area, but I'm not too sure. I still need to fit in the main part of Kings Canyon. I definitely want to do Zumwalt and at least some of the Congress Trail. As for the rest of them, I think I'll pass on the Boole Tree and probably Tokopah Fall also. However, what would you suggest for Cedar Grove Overlook, Buena Vista Peak, Little Baldy, Eagle View, and Moro Rock? I will probably want to do 2 or 3 of these anyways, so which three would you consider the best? Especially, do you think Little Baldy or Buena Vista Peak is better? I am open to any suggestions whatsoever. If there's any other hikes I should consider, I'd like to here them also. Especially if there are any relatively short hikes in the Mineral King area that lead to great views or lakes. If you could type up an outline for 1 1/2 days that you would suggest as the best itinerary, I would LOVE to see it. Again, thanks for your time!!!

Sunnyvale...
Destination Expert
for San Jose
posts: 5,685
reviews: 94
5. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

TN. You've never been there before and have a limited amount of time so you can skip Mineral King for now. In the interests of future planning, the Mineral King area's access is closed during winter months.

You can make better use of your time also by skipping the visitor centers. As you drive in, it seems like 75% of the people stop there. That means the road is clear for you to zip ahead. If you see signs for Hospital Rock, you can skip that too unless you love to see ancient, bad artwork. Pre-schoolers can draw better than that.

I highly recommend Moro Rock for absolutely first thing on a morning (to avoid crowds). If visibility is bad, you can skip it. Otherwise, the quarter mile up and quarter mile back is the most awesome step-to-step experience. After the first bend, every single step, literally, yields another amazing view, unless you're fogged in. (I've done it in the fog too where it becomes a waste of time.) It's a great investment of a first hour of daylight in the park. An hour is all it takes and is a good warm-up stretch for the rest of your day of hikes.

Sunnyvale...
Destination Expert
for San Jose
posts: 5,685
reviews: 94
6. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

TN. You mentioned St George, UT. It sounds like you're heading for Zion, Bryce and more.

That $80 annual pass may be worthwhile for you.

Nevada's casinos mean cheap food and lodging at any time of the day or night. It's a great deal for road-trips except for the cigarette smoke everywhere.

Sunnyvale...
Destination Expert
for San Jose
posts: 5,685
reviews: 94
7. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

TN. Are you driving out from TN?

For a scenic route between Bryce back to I-70, take Rt 12 through Escalante National Monument and then connect to Rt 24. Most of the highway is above 9000' so be sure the vehicle is running well. The panorama is as if it is the rest of the Grand Canyon. fabulous. It's like a Grand Canyon that almost nobody knows about...and it's a much bigger expanse.

Capital Reef is so-so but you might have to go through it anyway.

If you've got the time, Canyonlands is out that way too. You know what to do.

Charlotte, North...
posts: 1,638
reviews: 14
8. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

Darth:

Thanks for the response! I forgot to mention Moro Rock. That definitely sounds great. You said to go there first thing in the morning. Have you ever gone at sunset? I was just thinking sunset might be more dramatic as the sun hits the western side of the Sierrras. Then again, I can just do both! : ) As for my trip, I've already got reservations booked. Here's my complete itinerary:

May 21---Fly Knoxville to Las Vegas---stay at Hampton Inn on west side of Vegas. I've been to Vegas once to drive the strip and that's all. I have no desire to return really.

May 22---Vegas to Yosemite West---I plan to drive through Death Valley and stop at some spots. If Tioga Road is open, I'll take that over the Sierras to Yosemite West.

May 23---Yosemite---entire day in Yosemite

May 24---Yosemite---entire day in Yosemite

May 25---Yosemite West to Tulare---Spending the majority of the day in Yosemite then driving to Tulare

May 26---Sequoia/Kings Canyon---entire day in Sequoia/Kings Canyon

May 27---Tulare to St. George---spending the first 1/2 in Sequoia/Kings Canyon and driving in the afternoon to St. George

May 28---St. George to Mt. Carmel, UT---spending the day at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

May 29---Mt. Carmel, UT to Springdale, UT---spending first half in Bryce and second half in Zion

May 30---Zion---spending entire day in Zion

May 31---Springdale to Vegas---Spending the majority of the day in Zion and going to Valley of Fire SP in the late afternoon. VERY late flight back from Vegas to Knoxville

Thanks for the tip about Highway 12, but I don't think it will fit into my schedule. I've already been to the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands before. I would love to take Highway 12 and do Capitol Reef again, but it will have to be another vacation. Every time I've been to southern Utah I want to do Highway 12, but it never works out. Next trip to that part of the country, I'm making it a priority to take that road. BTW, we're getting the National Parks Pass. I've gotten one every year since 2000. Every year since then, we've gone "Out West" for a week and really fallen in love with the western national parks. We've been to Guadalupe Mtns., Carlsbad, Saguaro, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Dinosaur, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Theodore Roosevelt, and Badlands in the west and Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains (in my backyard) in the east. I love them all, but I have to say Glacier is my favorite. If you ever want info. on any of these places, I'd be more than happy to help. You've helped me out so much. Thanks again!!!

Fresno, California
posts: 928
9. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

You mention Tulare, any particular reason you are staying there? That adds about 15 or 20 minutes to your drive each way to Sequoia.

Visalia is the larger city (about twice the size of Tulare) and located directly on Highway 198 to Sequoia. More lodging and dining choices and you avoid driving from Tulare to Visalia then across several miles of commercial strip traffic to Highway 198.

Sunnyvale...
Destination Expert
for San Jose
posts: 5,685
reviews: 94
10. Re: Hiking Sequoia/Kings Canyon---Best in 2 days

Your itinerary looks to approach Sequoia through Kings Canyon from the north. Moro Rock now makes more sense at sunset because it's towards the south of the combined park. MR and the General Sherman Tree combined seem to draw 75% of the crowds in Sequoia/Kings Canyon. 20% are stuck in the visitors centers for some reason. Everywhere else is amazingly quiet.

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