Kings Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park share a border and management. The parks are in the Sierra Mountains and include Giant Sequoia forests, mountain wilderness, and the deep and dramatic Kings Canyon.
Our visit was a bit early, and we often underestimate the effect of elevation. There were wildflowers in the foothills, and snow in the mountains. Every time we were near snow, there were kids throwing snowballs at their parents. It looked like snow was a rare sight for many of them!
The road into Kings Canyon was still closed for the season. We took a hike around Hume Lake, which was pleasant even though it wasn’t that interesting. The drive to the lake featured a view into the canyons.
Both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park’s protect Giant Sequoia trees. They can live to be 3,000 years old and are the largest living thing in the world. They can grow to be 311 feet and 40 feet in diameter at the base. The Sugar Pines in the area are tall too, but we could always pick out the Sequoias by their reddish bark.
They only grow on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains, between 5,000 and 7,000 feet elevation. So there weren’t many to begin with. After loggers set their sights on them in the 1880s, and started cutting them down, Sequoia and General Grant (later changed to Kings Canyon) National Parks were created in 1890 to protect them.
When the trees were first protected, the park tried to put out and prevent fires, but they didn’t understand that they need natural fires to reproduce. They make tiny seed cones that only open when heated by fire. The Sugar Pine trees have the largest cone of any pine trees, you’d think the world’s largest tree would be the one with the big cones.
Adult trees can live through most fires because the bark is very thick, but are left with gnarly scars. Some trees have trunks that we could walk into or through. It’s hard to believe those trees are still alive, but they are.
In Kings Canyon, there is in an area of Sequoias called Grant’s Grove, named for the biggest one there, and the third biggest tree in the world, the General Grant tree.
There is also a downed tree that is hollow that we walked through. Once the trees fall, they can stick around for hundreds of years.
A ranger recommended a hike on the Trail of Sequoias and Crescent Trail, which he said was 7 miles, though he didn’t know the trail’s current condition. These are winter trails, so they are marked with blazes on trees.
To get to the trail, we parked at the parking for General Sherman Tree, the largest tree in the world. It’s not the tallest, but the trunk is so thick that it’s the biggest by volume. The area with the famous named trees was busy, but once we got past this, it was just us and the trees.
The trail was mostly clear, but had patches of snow. We had on inappropriate footwear (non-waterproof hiking shoes), and our feet were soon soaked and cold, and stayed that way for the whole hike.
The snow slowed us down, and it was hard to make good time with our necks craned upward the whole time. Brian loves the big trees. I know this, because he regularly examined them, and then exclaimed, “I love the big trees”.
We eventually decided that the ranger must not have counted the hike from the parking area to the start of the trail (past General Sherman), when he told us it was about 7 miles, because it was closer to 10 miles!
We drove out of Sequoia, on a steep switchbacking road. Brian pulled off at a pullout near the river, and talked me into climbing down the slope, because he wanted to see the river. Of course when we got back to the truck and continued down the road, there was a great view of the river!
We camped at Sequoia RV Park, near the entrance to Kings Canyon National Park. The campground wasn’t anything special, but the manager was nice, and there were full hookups. It was a good spot to explore the parks from, we drove a windy road through National Forest and National Monument land to get to the Kings Canyon entrance, but it wasn’t as difficult of a drive as the southern, Sequoia entrance, and it was very scenic.
Day 555| Mile 60,529