Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (Part 1 – Kings River, Cedar Grove, and Mist Falls Trail – June 2013)

Posted: June 29, 2013 in Camping, Family and Friends, Full Life, Hiking, Road Trips, Travel, Vacation
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Kings Canyon along the Mist Falls Trail

We arrived in Sequoia National Park in the early afternoon. Our first stop inside the park was at the Kings Canyon Overlook. Although there are a lot of pesky trees in the way, the view of Kings Canyon and parts of Sequoia National Park, like Buck Rock, are a great way to kick off your visit.

Kings Canyon Lookout - Sequoia National Park

We planned to camp for four days, two on our own, and two with my wife’s brother and his family. We left the joint part of the trip unplanned, but I did a post to plan some hiking at the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park on our the first full day in the park.

View of Buck Rock from the Kings Canyon LookoutThere was also a great view of Buck Rock from the Kings Canyon Lookout. From this angle you can see just how high the fire lookout cabin is. We climbed the stairs to Buck Rock, from the other side, in 2011 and I would definitely recommend taking the time to check this historic place out. It is still manned 24 hours a day by the National Park Service as a working fire lookout.

After stretching our legs and enjoying the view for a few minutes we climbed back into the Jeep and continued the drive to Stony Creek Campgrounds in Sequoia National Forest. This is the same campground we stayed at in 2011, and it is terrific. The camp host was friendly, the sites are large and ours was a very private one near the back of the campgrounds. There is a small creek that runs along the side of the campgrounds that eventually becomes one of our favorite fishing and swimming areas (although it is difficult to get to and can be a hazardous area – use caution).

Deer at our campsite - Stony Creek Campgrounds

There were two deer eating some purple shoots on the side of our campsite. They were almost constant visitors. I’m not sure what the shoots were but the deer seemed to love them. There were deer within 10 feet of our tent almost every morning. We didn’t see any bears at the campsite, but as usual while camping in the Sierra Nevada’s we kept all food in a large metal storage locker.

On the first evening we set up our camp, ate a large dinner, and sat around the camp fire until late. In the morning we had a full breakfast (pancakes and bacon) and packed our hiking gear into the Jeep for our day trip to the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park. It’s about a 32 mile drive past Grants Grove to the end of highway 180 in Kings Canyon. The road is narrow, winding, and you would have time for one last conversation before hitting the bottom if you make a bad turn – it is a big drop! I’ve never been to Kings Canyon, but my wife had been there quite some time ago. She thought it was drier than she remembered on the way down, but as we got to the bottom and came along side the Kings River the scenery was more of what she remembered.

We stopped across the road from Boyden’s Cavern and scrambled down to the river and out on to some rocks. Here are a couple of pictures.

Checking out a rock in the Kings River - Kings Canyon National Park

Jenny sitting on a rock by the Kings River

Unlike some of the other National Parks I’ve visited in the past, there were no hiking trail maps available on the NPS website. We bought one for the Cedar Grove area at the Grant Grove area gift shop on our way. I had planned a couple different hikes in my planning post, but of course I didn’t print it out and there is no connectivity in Sequoia National Park. One easy hike I had planned was to the Raging River Falls. It is a very short, paved trail, and the falls are pretty cool. We were getting hungry so we brought our lunch with us to the falls. We relaxed on some rocks across from the falls, ate our sandwiches and took a few pictures.

Raging River Falls - Kings Canyon National Park

Although the pool under the falls was very inviting, there were numerous warnings along the trail, and a fast-moving outlet down some rocks and into a rocky stream below the pool. There have to be better/safer places to swim than this in the area.

After eating I had my son sit under this tree. It was a large tree with impressive roots, and seemed completely stable growing on top of the rocks.

Pine Tree growing in the rocks across from the falls

It was a small redwood, but I liked the view of the falls from this angle.

Small Redwood with the Raging River Falls in the background

After lunch we looked at the map and decided to hike to another waterfall – Mist Falls. The map listed the hike as 4.0 miles round trip, and since it was already well into the afternoon we wanted to just do a short hike. This trail is at the end of the road in Kings Canyon. There is a permit station there and a medium-sized parking lot. We parked, put on our hiking boots and set out on the trail. At the trail head we noticed a sign with several destinations, Mist Falls was one of them. The sign listed 4.6 miles, which would mean a 9.2 mile hike round trip. This was not what we planned, but we decided to do the hike anyway. The first two miles were flat with some trees and a couple of small streams. A larger stream was running beside the trail, but it was usually 100 yards or more away. The first interesting place we came to was “strange tree land”.

Strange Tree Land on the Mist Falls Trail

There were several strange-looking trees in this one area. In the above picture you can see a dead tree with a very narrow trunk near the bottom, and if you look a little farther down the trail and up you’ll see what we called the “Chair Tree” although my son didn’t want to take a picture sitting in the “chair”. Just in front of it was this tree…

One of the Strange Trees

Sean did walk into this one, but not until he looked it over real closely for creepy crawlers.

At the two-mile mark the trail splits and just past the split there is a bridge across the stream/river on the trail we weren’t taking. We took a couple of pictures on the bridge and then headed up the other trail toward the Mist Falls.

Sean and Eric on a bridge just off the Mist Falls trail

Jenny and Eric just off the Mist Falls trail

The trail toward Mist falls immediately became more narrow and headed uphill. There is about a 600 foot climb up the remaining 2.6 miles of the trail. It is a beautiful trail that continually changes. There is a stream running beside the trail all the way to the falls.

There are sections of forested trail…

Forested part of the trail to Mist Falls

mixed with rocky areas…

Rocky area of the trail to Mist Falls

and some granite dome sections of the trail.

Granite Dome part of the Mist Falls Trail

Our favorite part of the trail was Mist Falls though. The falls are large and the mist can be felt at least a hundred yards away.

Mist Falls Kings Canyon National Park

Another Mist Falls photo Kings Canyon National Park

It is hard to tell the scale of the falls even with us in the shot.

Eric and Jenny at Mist Falls

After enjoying the falls we headed back down the trail. On the way back down we saw two small snakes (one King snake and the other was an unidentified dark snake) and a bear cub. The bear cub was about 30 feet from the trail and headed our way. The cub didn’t seem to mind us being there and just kept coming our way. We snapped a quick picture and continued down the trail and out of the cubs way in case Momma Bear was not far behind.

Bear cub just of the trail on the Mist Falls Trail

On the way back we passed a large rock with a flat face that was pointed toward the stream. On the way up the trail I had noticed the way it reflected the sound and mentioned it to Jenny and Sean. As I came around the bend they were standing in front of this rock having a good time making fun of Hubbie/Dad… something about tired and delusional…

On the mist Falls Trail - this rock reflected the sound of the stream from below

I always love going in a different direction on the same trail and noticing what you missed on the way up… an absolutely gorgeous mountain view! The shot at that top of this post is from the same angle.

Heading back on the Mist Falls Trail

The longer than planned hike caused us to drive out of Kings Canyon fairly late, we decided to stop for dinner somewhere if anything was still open. Luckily the restaurant and pizza parlor at Grants Grove was open until 9 PM. The pizza hit the spot and we hit the sack as soon as we got back to camp. The next day we slept in… more than just a little! You can find out about the rest of our camping trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon in this post: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park (Part 2 – Moro Rock and Stony Creek – June 2013).

    • eric.rial says:

      It’s my second favorite National Park after Yosemite, but being second best to Yosemite is nothing to be ashamed of! We sure weren’t disappointed.

  1. enjoybliss says:

    It looks like you had a wonderful visit! I was going to ask if you saw any bears, but as I read on, I got my answer. 🙂 I have only spent a full day split between both of these parks and didn’t do too much hiking. I loved the trees!

    • eric.rial says:

      Thanks. The bear was a tiny one, but very close to us. Really seemed too small to be far from its mother. Hopefully you’ll get a chance soon to do more exploring up there soon.

      We saw a much bigger bear on the second half of our trip. Luckily not as close and we were in our car. I’ve added the link to the second post.

  2. Chris T says:

    Awesome! Glad I caught this post, good to know the water is nice and running after the low rain/snow this past winter. I’ll be going up this coming Thursday and staying til Sunday 🙂 Awesome post and photos 🙂

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