Posted by: GeekHiker | September 23, 2009

Kings Canyon Trip

A brief rundown of the Kings Canyon trip, for those interested.  With pictures, natch.

Friday mostly consisted of driving to the park (I know, the 99 is thrilling).  Luckily, my carpoolmate was local, making the pickup easy, and we left at a reasonable time (as opposed to, say, the crack of dawn).

The drive was long, but pleasant and went by quickly.  Before long we were driving into the canyon, storm clouds in the high country dropping rain.  Luckily the ground in camp was dry and I found a good spot for my tent.

Saturday was mostly taken up by the Mist Falls Hike.  At the end of the hike, heading back to the campground, we stopped at Roaring River Falls.  Late in the evening, it was a pleasant spot to spend a little time just watching the water cascade over the granite and into the deep blue-green pool below.

Kings Canyon 01
Roaring River Falls

Sunday most of the group split up doing various things.  Some people were hiking one trail, some another, some just hanging out around camp.

For myself, there were a couple of sights that I wanted to see, and they didn’t involve hiking, so I’d planned to head off on my own.  (Sometimes I think this is a problem for me in groups; I have so many interests, I never want to spend a trip just doing one activity.) Of course, I am nothing if not flexible, so plans changed.  Or perhaps I simply hadn’t planned out the day with any hard schedule in mind.

So when a couple of girls mentioned an interest in seeing Boyden Cavern, which are located along the road into Kings Canyon, I decided to join them.

The caves, which cost $13 dollars to tour, don’t quite match up to Oregon Caves, but they’re pretty spectacular in their own right.

Kings Canyon 02
Pillar in Boyden Cavern

Kings Canyon 03
Cave Drapery in Boyden Cavern

I certainly wouldn’t mind going back for the longer tour, and when they mentioned one tour in which you get to camp out overnight in the cave, well, you know my interest was piqued.

At this point the girls headed back to LA, having work things to do, and I struck out on my own, heading up the road to Grant Grove.  Simply put, I couldn’t bear the idea of taking at least a quick ramble through a redwood grove while I was in the park.

First, a note about the kindness of strangers: on the way to Grant Grove, I stopped in the picnic area to have a quick lunch.  I had the ice chest with me, and pulled out everything I needed for my sandwich: bread, roast turkey, black forest ham, head of lettuce, an iced cup for a cold coke, a bag of chips, mayonnaise… wait, where’s the mayonnaise?

“Uh, oh,” I thought, “this is gonna be one dry sandwich.”

Parked next to me, a family from Fresno was fixing their lunch, and I asked if I might borrow their small jar of mayonnaise.  Success!  The sandwich, and the day, was saved.

Maybe it’s just me, but everyone seems nicer when they’re traveling, too.

Grant Grove was predictably crowded, but I still enjoyed a brief wander through.  Even with a large crowd of people, redwood forests tend to be quite spectacular at absorbing noise.  Despite the talking, kids running, families yelling and all, the grove still somehow retained a feeling of peacefulness.

Kings Canyon - General Grant Photomerge
General Grant Tree, 1,700 years old, 264 feet high, 1,254 tons, the 3rd largest in the world, and the Nation’s Christmas Tree

Leaving Grant Grove, I headed down the road to check out a historical spot I’d been wanting to see for years: the Buck Rock Fire Lookout.

Built on a large granite outcropping in 1923, the lookout has a commanding view of the surrounding territory, from the (haze-obscured) Central Valley all the way up to the Sierra Crest.

Accessing the Lookout involves a short drive up a sandy dirt road, passable by 2wd (as the Camry in the parking area attested), but more fun in 4wd.

Kings Canyon 04
The sandy road up to Buck Rock

Kings Canyon 05
Telephoto view of Buck Rock Fire Lookout

After reaching the parking area, I walked up a short trail, passing a history sign and taking in the dramatic sight of the lookout atop its perch:

Kings Canyon 06
Buck Rock Fire Lookout

Rounding the corner, and passing the last available facilities (a helpful note for you!), the climb proceeds 172 steps to the top, at times climbing a staircase built out over open space:

Kings Canyon 07
Heading up Buck Rock; note the staircases bolted on the rock, sometimes out in the open

Kings Canyon 08
Ascending the stairs

At the top, I chatted with the resident lookout, who’s manned the station for over 15 years, and, of course, drank in the views from the surrounding deck.

Kings Canyon - Buck Rock View Photomerge
Panoramic view looking east from the Lookout towards the Sierra Crest

My intention had been to do some more 4wd’ing down the dirt track, but the sun was getting low and it was a long drive back to the campsite, so I headed home.

And Monday?  Monday was pretty much all about the drive back.

Which was good in that we were able to miss most of the holiday traffic on the return.

But that morning, after having eaten my cereal, I headed down by the river with my hot chocolate, not even bringing my camera.  My timing was perfect, as the morning sun came around the granite north wall of Kings Canyon, turning parts of the river to gold.

And that, my friends, was tough to leave behind.

Kings Canyon - Kings River Photomerge
View of the South Fork of the Kings River and the soaring canyon wall, from along the Mist Falls hike



  1. OMG! These photos are awesome!

    I’m (hopefully) going to get out to explore NC this weekend and can’t wait!

    I wish I could say I’d cried tears of happiness and joy last week, however, that was not the case. More like frustration.

    But, I have a two week break to recharge my batteries and get ready for the long haul to Thanksgiving!

  2. oh that’s AWESOME. Just awesome. And a nice family saved your sandwich from mediocrity. I don’t care for dry sandwiches either.

    I liked the draping in the cave. It’s amazing that artists will spend hours upon hours trying to achieve a technique that occurs naturally in nature. I would love to hear what they would have said on discovering such a thing.

  3. You take your spleen more places than I take mine! lol. This is so cool. I visited King’s Canyon once over a decade ago, I remember General Grant’s tree. Thanks for taking me on a nice trip, especially appreciated when I’m stuck back east.

  4. ECT – Not sure exactly where you’re at, but TGAW in Virginia does a lot of hiking in the area, you should check out her blog. Sorry bout the tears; hope things get better soon!

    MissMcCracken – Nothing worse than a dry sandwich, eh? In the cave, the formations took thousands of years to form. Unfortunately, the reaction of many early explorers was to break them off as souvenirs…

    Spleeness – You should come back out to visit again; I might be convinced to tag along!

  5. That is terrible! What is this fascination with OWNING everything? Can’t something just be beautiful on its own? Why do we pick it apart and claim ownership over it?


  6. Jealous

  7. I moved from CA to NC about 4 years ago. Two things I miss about CA. In-n-out burger, and the Sierra’s. I always remind my kids that I want my ashes spread in Kings Canyon. Foot note… those are giant sequoia’s not redwoods. But just as amazing.

  8. Miss McCracken – I guess it’s the American way. 😦

    Homer-Dog – Sorry ’bout that.

    Vigelantee – I can understand missing both of those. Actually, they are redwoods; Coast Redwoods, Sequoias and the Dawn Redwood are all considered redwood trees, sharing similar characteristics. But your comment did give me an excuse to check my geeky books on California trees, so thanks for that. 🙂

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