We drove into Kings Canyon National Park from the Fresno area to the west. Before getting to the park gate the road climbs thousands of feet along a twisty-turny hillside road. As you climb, the landscape changes dramatically from dry valley floor to thick pine forests.
Once through the gate we headed towards the Grant Grove Village and then turned into Sunset Campground. We found our site, set up camp and explored around the campground a little. Perhaps the most surprising thing was that there weren't any sequoias immediately around the campground.
I would later learn how much the area was logged for the giant trees and that there is a significantly smaller amount of trees left. It makes me all the more grateful for our National Park system protecting these and many other important species.
We drove all the way to Road's End and checked in with the wilderness station to get details about our day hike to Mist Falls. For the first mile or so we wandered along the flat and sandy valley floor. Reaching a junction, we turned north and started to climb through slabby granite, following alongside Woods Creek. The falls were suitably dramatic and the views were phenomenal, even with a touch of smoke in the air.
The front-country zone of Kings Canyon National Park only touches on a small piece of the large park, but is certainly worth a few days (or more!) of exploring, especially when you tie it in with a visit to Sequoia National Park (more to come on that!) There are some easy-to-moderate hikes in the Grants Grove area of the park as well as a range of easy-to-hard hikes in the Canyon area. Overall the park has a calm feel to it. It is not as heavily trafficked as some of the nearby parks, even on a weekend in middle of summer.
However, in order to really experience Kings Canyon National Park, you're going to have a strap on some gear and hit the trail. Look for next week's post to learn about some backcountry hiking options in Kings Canyon.