Oft Forgotten Sister ~ Kings Canyon National Park

Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. ~ John Muir

Rushing, roaring, majestic Kings River

One day and a kick-back (rest day) before we head north to yet another national landmark so time to see the oft forgotten sister, Kings Canyon National Park.  Even the volunteers at the visitor center recognize that this National Park seems to take “back seat” to its southern sister, Sequoia, but are proud of the fact that it boasts one of the deepest canyons in North America (maximum depth 8200 feet), at places deeper than the Grand Canyon, although lacking in spectacular topography.  John Muir first visited in 1873 and the canyon began to receive attention.  His theory that the valley was carved from massive glaciers during the last Ice Age proved to be correct.

deepest point in Kings Canyon

I am currently reading Angels in the Wilderness, by Amy Racina, which takes place in Kings Canyon.  A most compelling true story, Ms. Racina takes us along on her solo-backpacking journey into the rugged, very lightly traveled section of this canyon known as Tehipite Valley, when tragedy strikes.  Her survival against all odds and the spiritual journey she takes us on is truly moving.  This is a read I would highly recommend.

winding roads of Kings Canyon

Kings Canyon National Park consists of two distinct sections.  The much smaller Grant Grove section, lying to the west, was named General Grant National Park in 1890 but was incorporated into the remaining eastern 90% of Kings Canyon on March 4, 1940 to protect the large grove of giant sequoia there.  The eastern section of the park forms the headwaters of the south and middle forks of the Kings River and the south fork of the San Joaquin River.  Covering roughly 462,000 acres, ~84% of the park’s wilderness is accessible only on foot or by horseback.

In Grant Grove Village stands General Grant Tree, a living memorial to the men and women of the armed services.  As your gaze travels towards the skies, you realize how difficult it is to capture the true size of these giants in a photo.

General Grant Tree

General Grant Tree is the third largest of the giant sequoia, standing over 267 feet tall, 40 feet across its base, and over 107 feet around.  The average estimate of its age is between 1500-2000 years.  It was designated the Nation’s Christmas tree by then President Calvin Coolidge on April 28, 1926.  Still today the marking of Christmas is held here under General Grant’s snow-laden branches.

On our way out to the Cedar Grove area, a quick stop at the Roaring River Falls was a must.  This thundering waterfall descends from the south wall of the canyon, flowing into the Kings River.  A sort paved walk from the parking lot leads to it.

Roaring River Falls
lunch view

Cedar Grove, one of the flattest sections of the park and pretty darn near road’s end, is where we decided to lunch and the views could not be beat!  The waters of the Kings River were sparkling clear in the foreground of soaring granite cliffs.

As we were looking forward to our short hike into Zumwalt Meadow and enjoying our final bites, look who slithered in to join our dining experience!

tiny but deadly rattlesnake
Terry on suspension bridge at Zumwalt Meadow

Zumwalt Meadow is one of the loveliest 1.5 miles in the park and is purported to be one of the finest meadows in all the national parks.  Formed by glaciers, it features deep-green meadows lined with trees, wildflowers, ferns, views of the Kings River, and the granite cliffs of Grand Sentinel in the distance.  Walk gingerly along the path as small slithering creatures could be awaiting you!  Of course, it is always good to practice caution when hiking in the wilderness.

Zumwalt Meadow

If quiet, solitude and space are your thing, they are easy to come by in this  oft forgotten sister, Kings Canyon National Park, another American treasure.

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