Big Spiders, Big Trees, and Mr. Muir’s Big Rock

June 24, 2014

in Destination Updates

  • SumoMe

Spiders.

Not just one or two. Hundreds, maybe thousands.

Huge, hairy, scary ones.

Crossing the road, headed toward us.

Runnnnnnnnn!

That was “Then”

On a September day twenty-odd years ago as we neared the summit of the highway that winds its way up through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada range from Three Rivers into Sequoia National Park, the sun rode low in the sky casting shadows upon the road.

Moro Rock View West DSC03873

But before we reached Giant Forest,  a phalanx of California tarantulas—presumably testosterone-fueled males in search of mates—marched across our path.

Unlike the 1955 movie Tarantula, which I had seen in theaters as a kid, these arachnids hadn’t morphed into Godzilla-sized spiders after being exposed to atomic radiation. Harmless to humans, they weren’t going to eat us along with our car; it was they who risked being “road-kill.”

 
After a short stay in that park, hiking among its big trees, we drove about an hour north into the adjacent national park, Kings Canyon. We spent a couple of nights in a cabin near its section of redwoods, Grant Grove, then descended into the canyon given its name by the Kings River, where we roomed for two more nights.

Driving time wise, Sequoia is about as close to our San Francisco Bay Area home as Yosemite, a park we’ve visited many times. But mentally, it’s far, far away.
So that was our first—and up until this year—our last, trip to those two national parks. And arachnophobia—fear of spiders—had nothing to do with not returning sooner.

This is “Now”

Fast forward to January 2014.

Ironically, it was my visual essay, “Winter in Yosemite,” that brought us back to those Southern Sierra parks after an absence of two decades.

Yosemite Valley

Sending a link to that essay to the public relations firm for Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite garnered us an invitation to stay at Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia and John Muir Lodge at Grant Grove in Kings Canyon, both operated by Delaware North Companies, a client of the PR firm and concessionaire in those two parks.

Spring Snow

Spring snow.

I used to ski on it at Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Range near Seattle when I was in college. The sun came out, the snow melted. The sun went down, the snow froze. Skiing was a bit icy, and a bit dicey, especially at night, but I did it anyway.

But for the last forty-some years, snow has had no place in my life. During winter it is confined to mountains two-hundred miles away, where I don’t willingly venture since neither my wife nor I are keen about driving on “white capped” roads.

One year, at the very end of May, we were scheduled to attend to a convention at Squaw Valley, a mountain resort near Lake Tahoe.  It was raining in the San Francisco Bay Area, and snow was forecast in the Sierra for the day of our departure from home.

Just try to buy a set of tire chains here in late May. Almost impossible.

But I found a tire store that still had some in stock that would fit the tires on my car, and off we went, east through a driving rain storm, past Sacramento, and into the foothills of the Sierra where snow was already falling.

We crossed Donner Pass just before chain controls went into effect. We descended steeply down the mountains, drove past Donner Lake, and on to Squaw Valley without incident. And within two days, the snow had all disappeared.

But as luck would have it, even though since that time we’ve always kept chains in the trunk of the car when traveling into the mountains of California in Spring, Fall or Winter, we had never, ever had to use them.

But the memory of that nail-biting drive to Tahoe had never completely left our minds.

So we wondered if our luck would run out when we headed to Sequoia in May of 2014.

Flip-Flop Forecast

The week before our trip temperatures in the San Francisco Bay Area had hit the mid-80’s to nearly 100. It it was hot as Hell in California’s Central Valley which we would cross on our way to the parks, but there was perfectly fine weather, with highs in the 70’s, up in Sequoia.

100 degrees

(Roy Bodden Flickr Photo)

As  that week wore on, the mercury started to drop everywhere in the state. By Thursday, a 20% chance of snow flurries was predicted for Sequoia on the day of our arrival.

That forecast was cancelled a day later. But then, the odds of snow falling during our visit went back to 20%, then up to 40%, and finally 60%.

The morning we pulled the car out of the driveway and headed toward the mountains, we knew it was going to snow, we just didn’t know when, how much, or how long it would continue.

The weather remained sunny as we drove east past Fresno on Highway 180, climbing up through the foothills of the Sierra. But before we reached the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park, the sun had been smothered by an ominous layer of gray clouds.

After entering the elegant lobby at Wuksachi Lodge, we were greeted by “Eddie Bear,” who over the next few days, always shared the seating area surrounding the fireplace with lodge guests.

Eddie Bear IMG_2409

All seemed well at the time, but during dinner that night at Wuksachi Lodge we pondered what we would do the next day if it was snowing.

Plan “B”

“Plan A,” arranged by the park concessionaire’s public relations firm, called for us to go on a  “property tour” the next morning, then meet with one of the Sequoia park rangers at an office a few miles to the south.

But would that “Plan A” go forward, or would snow compel us to come up with a “Plan B” for the day?

The lodge’s wood-paneled dining room was inviting, so we could slowly munch our way through the breakfast buffet. Then we could play Scrabble with Eddie for a while, have a long lunch, read a book by the fireplace, have a drink or two at the bar before dinner, and linger over the evening meal, before finally slogging our way through the snow back to our room.

Eddie Scrabble IMG_0787

Our lodge room, in one of three separate shingled buildings a few minutes walk from the main lodge building, was spacious, nicely decorated and warm. It, and the lodge dining room, were “Mouse-Free Zones,” unlike the now long-gone dilapidated cabins and lodge where we had stayed and dined at Giant Forest twenty-five years before.

So even— if like school kids stuck at home on a “snow day”—we were going nowhere, at least we would confined in comfortable surroundings.

But what about the next day and the days after that? “Plan C,” “Plan D,” and “Plan E”?

Would we be trapped in the park by a blizzard for days or even weeks, prevented from going home, and forced to eat sequoia bark and suck on snow to stay alive?

Maybe, just maybe, winter wouldn’t materialize.

White Out

When we headed to breakfast the morning after our arrival in Sequoia, the trees were heavily laden with snow, and our car was sleeping peacefully under a thick blanket of the white stuff.

We stayed dry and warm during the indoor “property tour” after breakfast when we saw where business meetings, wedding receptions and other parties were held, and met the chef whose staff turned out the meals we had been enjoying.

And the main park road was open and free of snow, so we had no problem driving to our rendezvous with Ranger Dana Dierkes.

Afterward chatting with her for about an hour, we spent some time learning about the park in the nifty little museum at Giant Forest where our meeting had taken place.


Fortified by a hearty lunch back at the Wuksachi Lodge, we donned winter weather attire suitable for hiking in the wet, still falling snow: Long underwear, fleece tops and pants, rain parkas and pants, gloves and “Seattle Sombreros” rain hats.

In May about a third-fewer park visitors arrive than in Sequoia’s busiest months, July and August. And if it snows as it did during our visit, many of your “new best friends” will either hightail it out of the park, or stay indoors.

A woman from England that I met at the lodge said that she had expected to find “Sunny California” in Sequoia. I should have replied, “Welcome to Spring in the Sierra, Your Majesty!”

A Walk in the Woods

Although being out and about in the rain will dampen more than your spirits, falling snow merely dampens the sounds of footsteps and car tires, enveloping you in a peaceful ambience as you stroll through the woods.

A few hardy souls, some wearing flip-flops and thin shorts, joined us as we hiked the paved path to the General Sherman Tree that afternoon. But there were only about twenty cars in the large nearby parking lot, far less than if winter hadn’t made surprise return visit to the park.

At the suggestion of Carolyn Pistilli, one of the managers at Wuksachi Lodge, we veered away from the General Sherman Tree, and followed a snowy, circular path along the Congress Trail, meeting only three people and one Yellow-bellied marmot during our circumnavigation of that part of the forest.

In Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco coast redwoods—cousins to the larger Sequoia gigantea found in the Sierra Nevada mountains—grow close together, like warriors that have closed ranks for protection against an enemy.

But at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, some of the trees tend to stand taller, wider, and farther apart from each other, raising their huge branches toward the sky, like body-builders showing off vein-rippled muscular arms.

Even groups like “The Senate” and “The House” gather in relatively small “caucuses.”

So unlike Muir Woods, at Sequoia there’s a sense of spaciousness when you walk among these skyward soaring reddish stalwarts of the floral world.

The Meadows and “The Rock”

A day later, sunshine at breakfast time lured us into leaving most of our cold-weather clothes in our lodge room. But as we headed off to climb Moro Rock, clouds still swirling above the mountains from the storm that had dropped snow across the park’s landscape before slowly sidling to the east, swallowed up the sun.

Mist shrouded Sequoia’s “Rock,” patches of snow lay along the steps that lead steeply to its summit three hundred feet above the parking lot where, for all we could tell, the white stuff could still be falling. And we knew that there would be no sweeping views to the east and west like those that we had enjoyed from the top of the rock 25 years ago.

Ranger Dierkes had suggested that if the road from the Giant Forest Museum to Moro Rock were open, we should take a spur off it and drive to Crescent Meadow. From there we could hike to Eagle’s View and peer into Sequoia’s back country.

That spur road, which ducks under the middle a fallen Giant Sequoia, had prompted so many other park visitors to pull over to shoot photos as cars drove through the space below the tree, that we decided to skirt the root-end of the tree and press on to the meadow.

Although snow had ceased to fall sometime during the night, a thin, spotty layer coated the meadow. We pointed the way to Eagle’s View to a French-speaking couple who asked the way in English, but we warned them that the cloudy weather might obscure the mountain scenery that they had hoped to see. And, for the same reason, and concern that snow might once again begin to fall, we decided not to hike in their footsteps.

But Ranger Dierkes said that instead of trekking out to Eagle’s View, we could take a short-loop hike around Crescent and Log Meadows. And our guidebook included a map and good directions for finding our way along that trail.

We passed a couple who had turned back at Tharp’s Log, a fallen tree into which Hale Tharp, a pioneer in these parts, built a small cabin where he lived during the summer. When we reached that spot, we nearly jumped out of skins, startled by the voice of Mike, a “local” from the nearby town of Three Rivers.

We chatted with him for a while as he sat on a bench near the cabin. He had lived in the area all of his life and now, after retiring for his job, often spent the day taking photos in the park, as he had been doing when we came upon him.

Mike assured us that although there was a bit of uphill involved, following the loop trail back to the parking lot, rather than going back the way we had come, was the better choice. We said goodbye, and trekked on. From time to time he caught up with us, then we surged ahead as he stopped to photograph something.

Pileated Woodpecker

(Bruce Tuten Flickr Photo)

As the hike neared its end, I heard the unmistakable sound of a Pileated Woodpecker, whacking its massive beak against a tree, like a member of a street construction crew jackhammering away chunks of concrete from a sidewalk or roadway.

These birds, whose appearance and vocalizations are reminiscent of Walter Lantz’ “Woody The Woodpecker” animated cartoon character, have nearly always been heard, but not seen, by me while hiking in the mixed bay, fir and redwood forests  near my San Francisco Bay Area home.

I had caught a fleeting glimpse of one on my first trip to Sequoia. Could it have lived long enough to “serenade” me a quarter-century later?

The weather remained chilly and damp at the end of our hike around the meadows, forcing us to wolf-down our brown bag sandwiches inside of our car. Then it was off to Moro Rock, to see if the sky had cleared enough to make an ascent worth the effort.

Finding that the “photo-oppers” had all disappeared, I shot video and photograph of my wife as she drove our car round and round, back and forth, under the big tree that lay across the road.

Tunnel Tree DSC03835

An open space or two in the small parking lot at the base of Moro Rock convinced us to pull in and climb it. A layer of stratus still hung around the rock, and the sun dimly lit the lower elevations below it.

Under a photo of the top of the rock, our guidebook’s author had written these words of warning: “The climb to the top of Moro Rock can cause vertigo in those afraid of heights.”

While I had gone all of the way to the top back in 1989, I felt a bit uneasy about doing so this time. I suffer a bit from acrophobia, which stopped me in my tracks at a viewpoint to the west about halfway up.

My wife continued to climb, soon passing out of sight. Others followed in her footsteps, but one young woman shared my unease, and both of us stood our ground for a while at the mid-way point.

But I was forced to continually step aside as people went up and down, up and down, and the cool in-between-winter-and-spring air was seeping into my bones. So I descended to the parking lot, got into the car, and sat waiting there for my wife to return.

Moro Rock Top IMG_0774

She had “topped out,” enjoyed the meager view for a while, and taken a couple of photos with her iPhone before coming down.

Manhattan IMG_2424

I felt a little depressed for having chickened out and having not gone all of the way up with her, but enjoying a before dinner Manhattan cocktail with a red maraschino cherry floating in it at the Wuksachi Lodge dining room that evening quickly washed away my blue mood.

Searching for Sun, Finding Clouds

As we packed up the car and prepared to relocate up to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon at 11:00 a.m. the next morning, the sun was out, and the forecast was “mostly sunny with a high of 55,” 20 degrees warmer than two day earlier when we spotted the marmot on the Congress Trail, and 10 higher than the yesterday when had we hiked at Crescent Meadow and Moro Rock.

When we left home, I had a “wish list” of images I hoped I would capture.

Wi-Fi in both the main lodge and our room at Wuksachi made sending and receiving e-mail possible, although sometimes agonizingly slow, apparently due to a fluctuating level of bandwidth for the lodge’s Internet connection. But I was able to “tweet” a few snowy photos to the two parks’ Twitter account (@VisitSekiParks).

Along the road between Sequoia and Grant’s Grove there’s a pullout with a sweeping view of the mountains above the Kings River canyon. That is, the view is sweeping, if clouds are not sweeping in, as happened just as we arrived at that spot.

“Liar, liar, Weatherman hanging on the telephone wire” is what I was singing to myself as we ambled around the Grant Grove of sequoias in early afternoon under cloudy skies and at temperatures that couldn’t have been a degree over 45 at best. It was another day of bad photo weather karma.

A Cabin in the Woods

Given a choice between bunking in hotel-style accommodation or a cabin, many long-time visitors to national parks, especially those who enjoy day hiking or fishing, would opt for the latter.

One winter in Yosemite, I stayed in a cabin heated only by a wood-burning stove, sleeping “cheek-to-cheek” with my roommate, Bill.

At that time of year, I much prefer to be in better digs, such as the “motel” rooms at Yosemite Lodge, or a posh one in the Ahwahnee Hotel, where I had once stayed while attending Yosemite’s annual grand Christmas holiday fete, the Bracebridge Dinner.

Hotel

But when temperatures in Yosemite are milder in Spring and Fall, I’d rather be ensconced in one of the wooden cabins at Camp Curry.

Last summer when I visited Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California, I spent a night at Manzanita Lake in a cabin with neither electric nor running water.

And at Drakesbad Guest Ranch in the southeast corner of Lassen, I bunked in three different comfortable, but “downscale” cabins and rooms, usually having to walk across the meadow to shower by the swimming pool. One night I had only an oil lamp and battery powered lantern to light my cabin. But the marmot sleeping under its porch couldn’t have cared less, since it had no need for such nighttime illumination.

In Sequoia National Park, you can stay in a very nice room at Wuksachi Lodge, pitch a tent in a campground, backpack into the wilderness, or hike 11 miles into the Bearpaw high country camp which provides tent cabins, linens, showers, and meals.  But since the lodging at Giant Forest was removed from under the big trees fifteen years ago, visitors to Sequoia haven’t had the option of staying in a cabin.

On our recent trip to Kings Canyon, our accommodations at Grant Grove were in the modern John Muir Lodge.

The lodge has a large lounge area with a stone fireplace, where guests can play board games, puzzle together jigsaw puzzles, and use the super-fast Internet connection via Wi-Fi if they insist on being “connected” to the outside world.

But I was glad to see that cabins with bath like the one my wife and I rented back in last century are still there, and have been improved. (Cabin 9 is the oldest at Grant Grove, and since it is only one with a single bed, it is known as “The Honeymoon Suite.”)

And there are additional cabins without bath, popular with families who are on traveling on a budget, or who want just to “camp indoors.”

Delaware North took over the lodging and dining concession at Kings Canyon late last year. During a tour of the facilities, I got an insider’s look at plans it and the National Park Service are working on to make the cabins even spiffier, while keeping the cost of staying in them affordable.

Over the next two or three years, the building where guests check in will get a “makeover,” and the dining room with its faux-Western décor will be replaced with a newer, more updated one.

Kodak Moments

One last day in the mountains, one last day to try to photograph the places on the “wish list.”

The weather had better be good.

And it was.

Spring had returned. Flowers bloomed. The mercury headed toward 70 degrees. Waterfalls roared, the river flowed swiftly.

It was Friday. TGIF!

Kings Canyon proper, where the river runs wildly before its meet up with the San Joaquin River and journey seaward, was the last stop on our trip twenty-five years ago. A few rooms sat above the café, and we’d stayed in one of them.

This trip that facility wouldn’t open for the season for another week or more, so we decided to d0 a day-trip into the canyon from Grant Grove and spend our last day in the park there, searching for some real “Kodak Moments.”

Highway 180 descends slowly and deceptively as you head east from Grant Grove. You see the mountains extending north, to your left, and south to your right.

As the grade increases, and the road becomes like a side-winder snake, slithering down toward where the river runs out of sight, and the canyon appears to be dead-east of you.

But then, suddenly, you are heading southeast.

It gets warmer, and succulents and other desert-loving plants grow on the hillsides and out of cracks in the suede-colored rocky cliffs towering above the road.

Finally, you hit bottom, and then follow both the river and highway until it reaches aptly-named Road’s End.

Along the way, Grizzly Falls sprays a bridal veil of spume just off the highway on your left. A short walk from a pullout on the right side of the road brings you to Roaring Falls, gushing madly down out of the mountains from a hidden source to the south.

The lovely Zumwalt Meadow loop trail crosses the Kings River, where you’ll ramble through open areas and forest, scrambling up and over and down blocks of talus if you make the full loop, and stop along the way to watch the river flow slowly by and the granite walls rise above the valley.

It’s like being in a smaller, narrower, and far less crowded Yosemite Valley.

Like Yosemite, Kings Canyon was visited by the famous naturalist and Sierra Club founder, John Muir.

“Muir Rock” was on the PR firm’s photo “wish list.” But a natural feature by that name wasn’t shown in either our guidebook or park map.

In the morning, after breakfast and before we headed down into the canyon, my wife and I watched part of a short movie about the park at the Grant Grove Visitor Center. At the end of the film, you see a man sprawled on a large rock in a river. We guessed that was an actor portraying Muir lounging atop “Muir Rock.”

But we weren’t sure if the rock looked anything like the one that Muir is shown sitting upon in a painting that hangs over the fireplace in the John Muir Lodge lobby.

Muir Painting Over Fireplace IMG_0833

The “Cedar Grove Trail Map & Guide” that I had purchased at the Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia showed that Mr. Muir’s big-enough-to-sit-on hunk of rock was in the King’s River, near Road’s End where Highway 180 peters out. So after finishing our perambulation around Zumwalt Meadow, we set out to find it.

The ranger station at Road’s End wasn’t as yet staffed from the summer, and nothing posted on its walls or nearby showed the exact location of Muir Rock.

I had spotted a sign next to a trail leading from the parking lot to the river, but it merely warned against carrying weapons in the park. However, I surmised that we’d find the rock at the end of that path.

Sure enough, a large piece of granite had come to rest along the river bank. My wife “posed” on it, ala Muir, so we could make a photographic record of our “discovery.” But since neither plaque nor sign identified it as such, we weren’t positive that we’d actually found “Muir Rock” as opposed to an unnamed very large stone of no historical significance whatsoever.

When we went back to the Visitor Center the following morning before leaving the park for home, we were able to confirm that “Cindy’s Rock” was indeed “Muir Rock.”

Sequoia and Kings Canyon aren’t simply two national park butting up against another. This part of the Sierra is like a mosaic made up of different “tiles” of land acquired at different times and managed by different government agencies, including some “tiles” that were privately in-holdings when the parks were established.

One such place, which existed when we first went to the park back in 1989, but which we didn’t explore during that trip, is Boyden Cavern. The cavern burrows under the mountains, near the Kings River on the south side of the canyon.

Boyden Cavern Entrance IMG_0829

We did a 45 minute-plus tour with a knowledge guide who had lived in the area for several years.  Finishing up about 4:00 pm, it was the perfect way to end a day in the canyon.

After enjoying an ice cream treat from the cavern store at one of the picnic tables along the river, we moseyed back toward Grant Grove. The late afternoon sun and clouds hovering over the mountains provided perfect lighting for some of the best landscape photos that I was able to take during the trip.

A bobcat ran across the road as we climbed out of the canyon on our way back to Grant Grove. I took it as a sign that Spring was returning to the parks.

The next morning, we passed a rising tide of tourists in cars and tour buses lined up at the Kings Canyon Park entrance. Mother’s Day would be tomorrow, and park facilities not yet open during our stay would be welcoming them.

And in three or four months, tarantulas would start crossing the Generals Highway in Sequoia. They would soon outnumber incoming tourists.

By October, a quiet time would begin at Sequoia and Kings Canyon. That quietude deepens when the winter snows come, muffling the sound of footsteps of those who walk the trails, and tires of the cars that roll along the park roads.

Ithuriel's Spear in Kings Canyon

And then it would be Spring  in the Sierra, once again.

______________________

If You Go

Park-Entrances-Map_2

Getting There

The easiest way to reach and tour Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks is by car. You can rent one at various cities and airports in California.

Entering the parks from the north at Kings Canyon

The closest airport is at Fresno, about 60 miles west and an hour and 15 minute drive to the Big Stump Entrance to Kings Canyon. It is served by these airlines: AeroMexico, Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, United, US Airways and Volaris. You can rent cars there from these agencies: Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and National/Alamo.

Sacramento International Airport, about four-plus hours drive north of Kings Canyon, is served by eleven airlines and major car rental agencies.

Reno-Tahoe International Airport to the east in Nevada, served by seven airlines and several rental car companies, is about 365 miles and six and a half hour’s drive from Kings Canyon. Lake Tahoe is about a half and hour closer.

The southern entrance of Yosemite National Park lies two and half hours drive north.

San Francisco Bay Area airports are four hours or more drive from the Kings Canyon.

Entering the parks from the south at Sequoia

To reach Sequoia from Fresno, drive 45 minutes south to Visalia and then another 45 minutes east to the park entrance.

The Los Angeles area with its many airports is a four hour drive (depending on traffic) south of Sequoia.

San Diego, south of Los Angeles, is nearly six hours from the park.

Las Vegas, 400 miles away in Nevada, is a six and half hour drive.

All of those cities have major airports served by many airlines and rental car agencies.

Death Valley National Park is east of Sequoia/Kings Canyon, 310 miles and five and a half hour drive away.

(Click here for driving directions to both Sequoia and Kings Canyon.)

When to Go

Weather

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are open year-round, weather permitting.

However, the road from Grant Grove to the Cedar Grove section of Kings Canyon is closed in winter just beyond the Kings Canyon Lodge.

Snow can fall in the mountains in any season, not just in winter, particularly in Spring and Fall. Road construction can take place during your stay, as well. So before you head to the parks, check current road and weather conditions, and trail and campground status.

The start and end of each of the four seasons in Sequoia and Kings Canyon depends on weather, not the calendar. However, Spring runs roughly from April to June, Summer from June to mid-September, Fall from mid-September to November, and Winter from November to April.

Visitor facilities and programs are usually not fully available until sometime in mid-May or later.

What to Do

Both parks offer a wide range of visitor activities, including hiking, backpacking, winter sports, cave touring, and horseback riding, as well as easy walks, ranger programs, drives to viewpoints, and learning about the parks and the history of the area at visitor centers and museums.

Check the parks’ Website, particularly the online version of the printed Visitor Guide, for information about what will be offered during your stay. The “Things to Do” page on the parks’ Website lets you view activities by season.

The non-profit Sequoia Field Institute, a branch of the Sequoia Natural History Association, offers a number of visitor activities, including motor coach tours, wilderness trips, tours of the Crystal Cave and star gazing.  If you are “into” astronomy, think about attending SFI’s 1st annual “Dark Sky Festival” (July 25-27, 2014), patterned after a similar event held in Lassen Volcanic National Park in northeastern California.

Lodging

Limited accommodations are available within the national parks, so plan your trip as far in advance as possible, particularly if you wish to come during the busy summer months.

Sequoia

The only hotel or motel style lodging within Sequoia National Park is at Wuksachi Lodge, 10-15 minutes drives north of Giant Forest. It has 102 rooms in three separate buildings, plus a main lodge with gift shop, lobby with fireplace, restaurant, bar and meeting/event rooms.

Bearpaw High Sierra Camp has six tent cabins and provides guests with bedding, linens, central bathhouse with hot showers and flush toilets, breakfast/dinner and box lunches. You need a free wilderness permit and must hike in and out from Crescent Meadow (11.5 miles each way, 5-1o hours and taking an average of 7 hours, 1,000’ elevation gain, from approximately 6,800’ to 7,800’). The park concessionaire recommends staying at Wuksachi Lodge for at least one night before and after your stay at Bearpaw.

Grant Grove-Kings Canyon

Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park has 34 modern rooms in the John Muir Lodge, plus a variety of cabins, with or without private bath. A restaurant, visitor center, gift shop and small store are located near the lodging.

Cedar Grove-Kings Canyon

Cedar Grove Lodge, located in the canyon of the Kings River just before you reach Road’s End, has 21 rooms, a small restaurant, market, and gift shop.

Kings Canyon Lodge (no Website; tele: 559-335-2405) is on Highway 180 between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove.

Between Sequoia and Kings Canyon

Montecito-Sequoia Lodge (cabins and lodge rooms) and Stony Creek Lodge (11 hotel rooms) are located on the Generals Highway between Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

Nearby

This page on the Sequoia/Kings Canyon Website lists other lodging within 30 miles of the park.

During the summer, Sequoia Shuttle provides transportation to Sequoia National Park along Highway 198 from stops in Visalia, Exeter and Three Rivers. Cost is $15/person, which includes the park entrance fee. Once in the park, you can take free hop-on-hop-off shuttles along four routes within the park.

Amtrak Rail/Park Packages

From Memorial Day through Labor Day, Amtrak offers Sequoia National Park Holiday Packages through tour company Key Holidays which includes rail travel from Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Sacramento areas, accommodations in Visalia and the park, and Sequoia Shuttle transport. Year-round, there is a package that includes rail travel, car rental, and accommodations.

Camping

There are 14 campgrounds within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, plus additional campgrounds within the adjacent Giant Sequoia National Monument and Sequoia National Forest. Details on facilities and availability of reservations can be found on the parks’ Website.

Food and Dining

Not all food and dining facilities in or near the parks are open year-round.

Sequoia

The only restaurant in Sequoia National Park is at at Wuksachi Lodge.

Lodgepole Village in Sequoia near Lodgepole Campground and Visitor Center has a snack bar, deli, and well-stocked market.

An all-you-can eat BBQ dinner is offered at Wolverton Meadows on Friday-Sunday in summer.

Silver City Mountain Resort (on private land in the Mineral King area near the southern end of the park) has a restaurant that is open 8 am to 8 pm, Thursday-Sunday.

Kings Canyon

Restaurants and small markets are at located at Grant Grove and Cedar Grove.

Between Sequoia and Kings Canyon

Lodging at Montecito-Sequoia Lodge includes meals for its guests. While its restaurant is open to the general public and offers meals buffet style ($9/breakfast, $10/lunch, and $20/dinner), call ahead (559-565-3388) to confirm meal times.

Stony Creek Lodge serves pizza.

Nearby

The parks’ Website lists other markets and restaurants outside of the parks.

Other Practicalities

Fees & Permits

Except on certain dates, or unless you have a park pass, you’ll pay a fee for visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

Permits or licenses are required for certain activities, including backpacking in wilderness areas, special events, and fishing.

Gas

There are no gas stations within either Sequoia or Kings Canyon National Park, so be sure to fill your car’s gas tank at the last town before you reach the park. Stony Creek Village operates a gas station when it is open for the season.

Cellphone and Internet Service

Cellphone service is problematic to non-existent within Kings Canyon and Sequoia, depending on which cellular carrier you use.

Very fast Internet connection via Wi-Fi is available in the restaurant and John Muir Lodge lougne at Grant Grove in Kings Canyon.

While there is WiFi n the dining room, lobby, and rooms at Wuksachi Lodge, Internet connection can be slow.

Maps and Brochures

Several maps and brochures in PDF format are available for download on the parks’ Website.

You can pick up a map for both parks at the entrance stations or visitors center. Trail maps and guides to various sections of the parks are available at the visitor centers and Giant Forest Museum.

If you want more details on hikes within the parks, consider purchasing Hiking Sequoia and Kings Canyons National Parks 2nd (a Falcon Guide by Laurel Scheidt).

More information

Be sure to read the “Things to Know Before You Come” section of the Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks Website.

(Accommodations and meal costs for Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan, were provided in part by park concessionaire Delaware North. Purchases from Amazon.com made through links on this page help Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

Get more travel news! Subscribe to our e-mail updates!

Back to Front Page Stories Explore This Blog

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Dick Jordan

Last updated by at .

Previous post:

Next post: