Kings Canyon National Park

Kings Canyon includes vistas of the Kings River Valley and many giant Sequoias that were not cut down in the late 1890s; one third of the giants were cut down before harvesting was halted. It is well suited to mobility vehicles since most of the trails are paved or hard pack. The Park was devastated by the “Rough” Wildfire in September of 2015 however, and some of the areas are still closed until the bridges and roads can be rebuilt or repaired. One of the attraction of the Park is the Boyden Caverns, but they are closed as of the time of this writing, due to the effects of the fire. Updates are posted at their blog site.

Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park are right next to each other. Taking California highway 180 from Hwy 99, you travel east until you Hwy 198 where you would turn right for Sequoia NP and Left for Kings Canyon.

Your first landmark in the land of the tall trees is Wilsonia with Grant Grove Village and Kings Canyon Visitors center on the right. This is probably a good place to stop for a few minutes before you head on down Hwy 180.

Just beyond the village and to the left is the Azalea Campground. From this point follow the signs to the Grant Grove where you can park in the lot and visit the General Grant Sequoia. Pictures of this and other points in Kings Canyon are here .

The trails around the parking lot and up to the General Grant tree are paved or hard-packed soil, well maintained and totally accessible; if it is raining, the hard pack could be a small problem.

From the Grove, get back on Hwy 180 and continue traveling east. After a short time you will start noticing burned vegetation and trees. This is the edge of the burned area from the Rogue fire of 2015. You will travel the edge of the fire area a number of miles until you are half way down into the canyon. As the pictures show, the forest is nothing but blackened tree trunks looking like giant match sticks jammed into the canyon side.

Fire is part of the life-cycle of the Park. In Kings Canyon National Park primarily, some of the giants were scorched by the flames, but there is little reason for concern. The forest is on the mend . It may not be as beautiful as when the trees were green and the undergrowth carpeted the ground, but there is a beauty to the burned areas, and this should not deter you from a visit.

Halfway down the canyon there will be two antique gas pumps on the right side of the road. This is all that remains of the Kings Canyon Lodge that had been there since 1937. A gas station, store and rustic cabins, filled with antiques, were all burned to the ground.

Follow the road to the forests and campgrounds at the end of the highway at Kanawyers. This is the source of the Kings River for which the canyon is named. The forest here is quite a distance from where the Rogue fire was and is unscathed. Grizzley Falls waterfall, right on the highway, runs year ‘round, and has a nice picnic areas. There is a store at Cedar Grove Lodge where you can get a sandwich and a cold drink, and there is lodging and campgrounds; but be sure to make reservations well in advance.

At the Grove, just past the Lodge, is the Motor Nature Trail, which goes off to the right. This is a dirt road but easily passable at slow speeds. You drive into the heart of the canyon wilderness paralleling the Kings River. This short trip is well worth it as you will see great canyon views, trees and plants of the wilderness canyon.

The highway closes for the winter, so late spring through early fall are the best times to visit this area. Late thaws, heavy or early snowfalls will dictate when the road may be open. No matter what time you go, this rugged wilderness is well worth seeing. There are only a few areas that are accessible in the canyon.

There is a great picnic area at Grizzley Falls, as well as the trail head at the end of the road. The temperatures in the deep canyon are moderate during the day and can be quite cool in the evening, so take a light jacket.

There are stores and snack shops at the canyon bottom where you can grab a drink or something to eat and they are accessible. They have shorter hours and limited services in the late summer due to the reduced traffic, so carry snacks and drinks. Reservations for lodging and campsites are running a year in advance. There are however cancellations, so check before you go, you might get lucky.

 

More pictures and descriptions are on these websites:

http://www.shannontech.com/ParkVision/KingsCanyon/KingsCanyon.html

https://www.myscenicdrives.com/drives/california/kings-canyon

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