Kings Canyon National Park

Our National Parks: 9 California Wonders Every Local Must See

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Strong-willed, heartily disliked, and highly effective Interior Secretary Harold Ickes (1874-1952) took an interest in wilderness preservation that went beyond most: parks without roads. Wheeling and dealing—which inluded selling FDR on the idea with commissioned Ansel Adams photographs—Ickes got his wish in Kings Canyon.

Deep canyons with roaring rivers, vast woods interrupted by clear lakes, and groves of ancient forest

The park’s lone highway, Route 180, probably the most scenic dead-end you’ll ever drive, traces the South Fork Kings River for 50 miles, climbing the floor of a narrow gorge whose walls, at times, are nearly 1½ miles high.

At the park’s west entrance are two don’t-miss trails: The half-mile General Grant Tree Trail that passes sequoias that sprouted before Pompeii’s final days is a living treasure; the 2-mile Big Stump Trail through a logged ancient forest is a memorial to what we have lost.

Established
1940
General Grant National Park, formed in 1890 to protect the giant sequoia and its grove, was absorbed when the new park was created. In 1943, the administrations of Kings Canyon and Sequoia were merged as a wartime economy measure. Cedar Grove and Tehipite Valley were added in 1965.

Visitors
568,000 in 2013; July is the busiest month, February is least-crowded.

Entry Fee
$20 for a seven-day vehicle permit, which also allows access to Sequoia National Park.

Camping
$18 to $50 per site per night.
Seven campgrounds with 616 first-come, first-served sites and 51 group sites by reservation at recreation.gov; additional campgrounds in the nearby national forest and national monument.

Don’t Miss
Big Stump Trail, General Grant Tree, Muir Rock, The Sphinx.

Elevation
Kaweah River at 3,480 feet, to the 14,242-foot North Palisade.

Average Temperatures
24 to 42 degrees in the middle elevations in January, 68 to 97 degrees in the foothills in August.

Average Precipitation
A trace in June through August, to 7 to 8 inches in December through February.

Historical Oddity
John Muir believed Kings Canyon’s similarity to Yosemite bolstered his theory that these valleys were made by glaciers, not earthquakes as John Whitney, chief of the California Geological Survey, contended. Muir was proved correct, but Whitney’s name was put on the Lower 48’s highest peak.

Dangerous Animals
Black bears, mountain lions.

Links
Cedar Grove Lodge, visitsequoia.com/cedar-grove-lodge.aspx

Grant Grove Cabins, visitsequoia.com/grant-grove-cabins.aspx

Grant Grove Restaurant, visitsequoia.com/grant-grove-restaurant.aspx

John Muir Lodge, 86728 Highway 180, Kings Canyon National Park 93633, 559-335-5500, visitsequoia.com/cedar-grove-lodge.aspx


Photographs by National Park Services
This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue.

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