Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks
I tagged along on a trip last weekend to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks to see some massive granite cliffs and giant sequoias. It was my second trip to both parks this year, after visiting Sequioa in February and Kings Canyon in April. This wasn’t a camping trip, as we had rented a cabin in the foothills via Airbnb.
Date Range – June 2-4
Housing – Airbnb – Serenity Rustic Retreat
Distance – 228 miles
Closest Town – Squaw Valley, CA
We arrived at the cabin late Friday night, and set up to visit Cedar Gove first thing in the morning. The cabin was equipped with everything we would need – from appliances and dishes to a propane grill and firewood. We were easily able to cook eggs and buscuits for breakfast, and grill chicken and steak for dinner.
Serenity Rustic Retreat – our home for the weekend
The next morning we headed towards Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon. While driving down into the canyon, a large hawk flew right alongside us, presumably looking for his breakfast. The drive to Cedar Grove felt much more exposed than the drive into Yosemite Valley from Oakhurst, but it also felt a little shorter. The South Fork Kings River was raging as all the snow from the previous winter was now melting.
Kings River from just off the Mist Trail
At the Mist Falls trailhead, we got out of the car to find the mosquitoes to be quite a nuisance. Little did we know it would get much, much worse. As the trail dipped down into a canyon and followed the Kings River to Mist Falls, the mosquitoes began to get worse by the minute. The trail cut between a mix of ferns and pools of standing water, making a haven for the bugs to feast on hikers.
At one point the overflowing water from the river overtook the trail, at which point I took off my shoes and waded through cold, knee-high water to get back on the dry path. There were a few other instances of this on the trail, but instead of wading through water we decided to go a little off-trail to stay dry.
From Mist Falls, facing south towards the Sphinx
We finally made it to Mist Falls after following the Kings River for most of the trail. After getting a few pictures, we found a nice place to relax and grab a snack before returning back down the trail. But before we would get back up, an overly friendly black bear came over to try and say hi. I tried to get some pictures, but before I could switch camera lenses he was about 10 feet away. After I yelled at him, he backed off, we all agreed it was a good time to start hiking again.
Kings River from a bridge crossing
The hike back to the car was fairly uneventful, as we managed to stay dry and avoid the waterlogged beginning of the trail. On the way out of the park we stopped at Grant Grove to visit the second largest tree by volume in the world – the General Grant tree, second only to the General Sherman tree in Sequoia National Park.
Back at the cabin, it was time to cook dinner. We threw some chicken breasts and ribeyes on the grill to go along with pasta and veggies. There was an abundance of wildlife around our cabin, including cows, peacocks, llamas, wild turkeys, and cottontail rabbits. The cows seemed friendly enough, and didn’t seem to mind me walking between them to go fishing.
Cows outside of the Serenity Rustic Retreat
The next day we left from the cabin dirtier than how we arrived since the water hadn’t worked since we first got there. We headed down Generals Highway from Kings Canyon into Sequoia in search of Dorst Campground and the trail to Muir Grove. Muir Grove is one of the larger and less visited groves in the park, which is why it was at the top of our to-do list.
Deer grazing in a meadow on the Muir Grove Trail
Dorst Campground turned out to be closed, so we had to park off the highway and add an extra mile to our trip before reaching the trailhead. Throughout the day we only encountered a handful of other hikers, but quite a bit of wildlife. There were a few deer grazing in a meadow about a half mile into the trail, and a very photogenic yellow-bellied marmot that got friendly with us at an overlook.
The Muir Grove itself was incredible – it had the grandeur of the Giant Forest without the crowds of people. Upon entering the 215 acre grove, you’re immediately met by a cluster of twelve giant sequoias towering overhead. The bright orange giants stand a few hundred feet tall and a little less than 100 feet in circumference. The isolation of the area quickly bumped it to towards the top of my list of favorite hikes.
After visiting the Muir Grove, we continued along Generals Highway down to the Giant Forst to see the General Sherman tree. Being arguably the most popular attraction at this park, the tree’s majesty was overshadowed by the scores of people. It’s understandable that people travel from around the world to see the planet’s largest tree, but the remoteness of the Muir Grove easily made it more awe-inspiring.
Giant sequoias in Muir Grove
My first trip to Kings Canyon was cut short due to snow, so this was my first time really exploring into the deeper part of the park. The granite cliffs along the Mist Trail were incredible, and in my eyes are rivaled only by those in Yosemite Valley. I’ve never seen a river as powerful as the Kings River was that weekend, which leads you to realize how peaceful yet angry nature can be.