Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Do you want to see Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in a day?  Read on….

Side Note:

I have been awful about writing in my blog.  Look, it is hard.  If given the opportunity to write or go outside and do something, I clearly pick experiences over writing about experiences.  But I am hell bent on eventually writing about my entire summer road trip because 1) I want eternal documentation, it was amazing 2) My mother and father love reading about my adventures and 3) I want to share beautiful places and how to experience them the halfpint way.

So here we go….I left off with a big climb of Mount Langley.  I ended up staying (6/27/15) at a really cheap motel in Ridgecrest, California whose motto is, “we’ll give you a parking spot underneath a light to keep your car from being broken into by a meth-head.”  I’m not hating, even the hotel clerk was like, “ya, there’s a ton of meth here.”  I didn’t care though, I needed to take a shower, maybe more than I ever needed to take a shower in my entire life.  I emptied out my entire car and left the doors unlocked to prevent broken windows, took the best shower of my life, and got a really good nights sleep.

6/28/15 – Drive Day

Ridgecrest, CA —> Lodgepole Campground site 186 in Sequoia National Park

(220 miles) 8 hours!!!!!

When I put the campground address in my GPS a route through Bakersfield, CA popped up as shorter time wise but more mileage than the second option (CA 178 to CA 155).  Having been to Bakersfield (previous travels) and having watched a dog get hit by a car at 55 miles per hour, I was good on driving through that city again.

The drive I chose (CA 178 to CA 155) was INSANE, insanely beautiful and insanely nauseating.  It goes past the amazing Lake Isabella and winds through small towns and wine country.  Okay, so when I say winds, I mean WINDS.  I literally could not drive over 20 miles an hour because the roads where so tipsy-curvy.  Go grab a pencil and paper, close your eyes, and try to draw something.  When you are done, open your eyes and look at your drawing, that is what the road was like for eight hours.

Eventually I made it to the entrance of Sequoia where the road did the unthinkable and worsened.  Leave yourself plenty of time for travel in these parks because the roads make 15 degree turn after 15 degree turn and with the sheer volume of people in the park, speeds rarely exceed 10 mph, you could probably walk faster to your destination.  It is SO beautiful but I would always rather be on foot and away from the masses.  I don’t believe seeing these places is possible from your vehicle.

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You have to make summer camping reservations in California National Parks months in advance.  This is a very large park so I chose the campground smack dab in the middle (Lodgepole).  At the time I did not know what kind of runs I would do or mountains I would climb and although I drove a bit to get to some of the places I wanted to see, I enjoyed site 186 to the fullest (in reality, I wasn’t there unless I was sleeping).  It was basically a place to park my car but one night I did make myself a pasta dinner and then proceeded to spill it into the fire pit.  Funny story, I was so hungry I scooped it out ashes and all, re-boiled the noodles and nommed away.

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only photo from camp

6/29/15 – A Day in the Parks

Total Stats:

22.5 miles/4,200 feet of vertical gain

I woke up well before sunrise and made my way clear across the universe to Kings Canyon.  First stop, Mist Falls and Lower Paradise Valley.  At 6 a.m. there is no one on the road, so…. gloriously absolute amazing enjoyment driving the entire road through the park.  I passed some really nice camp sites on the way to Roads End (that is what it is called).  If, eh, when I go back this is where I would stay (Cedar Grove area). 

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Kings Canyon Highway

Activity #1 – Mist Falls and Lower Paradise Valley via Roads End Trailhead

12.2 miles/2,000 feet of vertical gain

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You can take this trail as long or as short as you wish.  It literally goes on forever.  There are a web of trails in this area, all of which I am sure are incredible.  This place is still wild.  I ran 6.1 miles out and 6.1 miles back and stopped on the way to see Mist Falls.  As I sit here looking at the map I am having strong urges to return.  John Muir was a lucky man to call this place home.

There are very few experiences I would claim as religious, this run was one of them.  Chiseled granite walls towering above old pines and a lush forest floor as the South Fork Kings River roars beside the trail, waterfall after waterfall crashing down.  It was meditative, so meditative that I barely took any photos.  As I sit here typing months later, I can feel the heavy morning air and the mist from the water, I can see the first rays of sun struggling to make their way through dense green thickets, I can feel my legs bounding through the forest, not a care in the world, complete freedom.  You want to see God?  Run through Paradise Valley.

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Mist Falls

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After my morning run I stopped at Grizzly Falls and had some noodles and a protein shake.

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Since I had been gawking at mountains all morning, I figured it was time to run up one.  I drove Kings Canyon Highway to Grant Grove where I mailed out a few postcards to friends and family.  From there I got back on Generals Highway and a few hair pin turns later arrived at the Big Baldy trailhead.

Activity #2 – 6.1 miles/1,500 feet of vertical gain

Big Baldy Mountain (8,209’) via Big Baldy Ridge

Running up this mountain is fun and the summit views go on for days.  The trail starts in a Sequoia grove and weaves through a moss covered forest until the ridge is gained.  Mule deer quietly ate grass amongst the giant trees and wildflowers chased me up.  I continued past the actual summit and scrambled my way south to a sub-summit (8,169’).  I carefully watched building storms to the North but believed I could outrun them if need be, never good logic, but it worked out this time as the down pour and crashing thunder and lightning held off until the exact moment I got back to my car.  Maybe I can read the weather after all.

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summit of Big Baldy – Sequoia NP

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this is a sign it’s time to bomb down

I returned to camp starved, made some pasta, spilled some pasta in the fire pit, pulled some pasta out of the fire pit, re-boiled that pasta, and finally had dinner.  But I was not quite done activity-ing.  With a belly full of ashes I ran to Tokopah Falls.

Activity #3 – Tokopah Falls

4.2 miles/700 feet of vertical gain

Conveniently enough the trail begins at the east end of the Lodgepole Campground where I stayed so I did not have to drive anywhere.  It winds through a lush forest following the Kaweah River before hitting a rocky section where it finally dumps out in front of the falls.  The falls in person is a sight to see but did not show up great on camera.  The run in and the surrounding peaks really steal the show.

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Tokopah Falls

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I ran out and retired to my trunk bed; for the next day I had a big climb of Alta Peak planned.  Still waiting for the bear wrestling?  Next blog ( :

“It is not where you take the trail……but where the trail takes you.”


Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park — 1 Comment

  1. I want to go back to the Sierra Nevadas so much, it’s been too many years. It’s beautiful! Love your blog and pictures, Thanks.

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