Backpacking in Sequoia?

10:00 p.m. on September 9, 2006 (EDT)
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I'm looking for info on some trails in the Sequoia National Park. I'm planning on arriving sometime really late on Fri, hitting a trail on Sat AM, sleeping someplace on the trail and then coming back down so that I'm by my car sometime by early afternoon Sun.

Any suggestions as to where to look or actually specific trails?


10:44 p.m. on September 9, 2006 (EDT)
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I do a lot of hiking and backpacking in Sequoia. Where are you going to enter the park? I assume on the west side. I live in Visalia, and Giant Forest is only a 1.5 hour drive from here.

For a two or three day trip into the backcountry, one of the best areas is Mineral King. Take 198 through Three Rivers, and before you get to the main park entrance you will see a sign for Mineral King (turn right). From there it is 25 miles of endless switchbacks to the end of the road at 7800'. There are a number of nice areas to hike to, my favorites are Franklin Lake (I'll be there again in a week and a half), Monarch Lake, and Crystal Lake. Monarch Lake sees a fair amount of dayhiker traffic, and Crystal Lake sees the least amount of traffic. All of these lakes are in the 10,300'-10,600' range, and there are some nice class 2 summits to climb from the lakes. From Monarch Lake you can do Sawtooth (12,343'), and from Franklin Lake you can do Florence Peak (12,432').

You should not have any trouble getting a permit this time of year, just stop in at the ranger station in Mineral King. There are bear boxes at Monarch Lake and Franklin Lake.

I regularly do these trips out of Mineral King as two day trips. It's about the only place on the west side of the park where you can get up to the really nice high country relatively easily.

Another option is to go to Pear Lake or one of the neighboring lakes on the Wolverton trail.

10:49 p.m. on September 9, 2006 (EDT)
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I forgot to mention the marmots. They are especially persistent in the high country above Mineral King. Monarch Lake is the worst location for this. I had a marmot chew on the foam padding (the back cushion) of my backpack while I was summiting Sawtooth earlier this year. They will come right up to your food or pack if it is more than a couple feet from you, and dive in while keeping an eye on you.
Early in the year, before about mid July, even your car is not safe parked in Mineral King. They will chew on hoses and belts with happy abandon.

12:13 p.m. on September 10, 2006 (EDT)
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1.5 hours away? Lucky you! For me it's over a 5 hour drive.

Thanks for the suggestion, I just pulled out a map and the area looks pretty intesting so if everything goes right, I'll be there next weekend.

2:47 p.m. on September 10, 2006 (EDT)
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Aaarrrrggghhhhh! You told him about Mineral King! That's supposed to be a secret area, ever since we blocked the Disney Ski Resort plan for Mineral King back in the 1960s. Nobody is supposed to know about one of the most fantastic areas of the Sierra. For shame! Next you will be telling the world about it being one of the world's great secret powder stashes for backcountry ski tours, since you already mentioned Pear Lake.

Well, you could also go to Cedar Grove and hike up through Paradise Valley. That area gets very crowded in summer, but is pretty sparse in people at this time of year. In fact, maybe this is the only time of year to go there, when the crowds are minimal. Also out of South Fork, a ways before Cedar Grove, is the trail that leads up and over the crest to Gorge of Despair, Silver Spur, and that area. You will probably need to go to Cedar Grove to get the permit. There are also some interesting caves in that canyon (not Boyden, the commercial cave, but some non-commercial caves). They may all be gated by now, since the NSS Chapters in the Central Valley were on a campaign to do so during the 1960s and 70s.

6:00 p.m. on September 10, 2006 (EDT)
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Huzar - Let me know how it goes. My two favorite locations are Franklin Lake and Crystal Lake. The primary reason I go to Monarch Lake is to do my annual summit of Sawtooth. If you like small, pointed summits that give you that feeling of being on top, Sawtooth is a good one. So is Mineral Peak, which is best accessed from Crystal Lake. It's not as high as its neighbors (11,615'), but it is a nice summit. And not visited very often, either. Secor lists it as a class 2, although there is a short 10' section of rock that is more like class 3.

6:07 p.m. on September 10, 2006 (EDT)
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Also, here are a couple of other options if you would rather do a nice hike in the sequoias in the middle elevations:

1. Go to the trailhead at South Fork, at the very southern edge of the park. The road is not well marked, you turn right on a road right after crossing the bridge over the South Fork of the Kaweah, before you get to Three Rivers. Take the trail to Garfield Grove. This is a very nice grove, home to the fourth-largest sequoia (Floyd-Otter tree, which is actually not included on most lists; it was accurately measured and mapped about five years ago). You can camp right in the sequoias, and there is are a few nice spots. One is in the first grove of sequoias that you encounter. The second is farther up the trail, as you come around a ridge and find a relatively level area (water is a problem there, go about a mile up the almost level trail to a stream).

2. Take the Redwood Canyon loop. The whole loop is about 11 miles. A very good campsite is about halfway through, along a nice creek. Also a very nice grove of sequoias, second only to Giant Forest in the number of sequoias.

9:49 p.m. on September 11, 2006 (EDT)
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Excellent suggestion by Lambertiana. Mineral King is an fantastic place and yes its those places where everybody sees the sign "Mineral King Road" and just drives by trying to reach Lodgepole or Giant Grove and they miss out on the beauty of that place. If you are in fairly good condition and have some knowledge of off-trailing then go over Glacier Pass to Black Rock Pass and then move on to Little Five lakes and come back to MK Valley via Sawtooth Pass. That should be enough for a Fri, Sat, Sun schedule though it might be hectic. Good Luck and I will be there next weekend (Sept 22nd) to enjoy the great views of Fall season. Happy trails to you!

June 20, 2018
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