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Kings Canyon National Park - Cedar Grove and Grant Grove, June 4 and 5, 2017
A visit June 4 and 5, 2017 to Cedar Grove and Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park brought views of roaring
waterfalls, crashing cascades in the river, magnificent giant sequoias and wildflowers at every turn of the road or trail
The Roaring River Falls is an easy paved walk from the main road. It's not very high, but lives up to its name during this year of big water The Roaring River runs into the Kings
a few hundred yards below the falls
A classic Giant Sequoia guards the North Grove Loop Trail, which starts at the
General Grant Grove parking area
Mountain Pride Penstemon grow in the
rocks all over the Sierra; these were in
the cliffs above Roaring River Falls
Getting there is mostly a long drive east from Fresno on State Highway 180. After leaving the San Joaquin Valley floor, the road climbs up continuously through Squaw Valley, past the road to Dunlap, through the dry foothills and into the pines, cedars and firs of the Sequoia National Forest, then into the Grant Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park and the territory of the giant sequoias.

Beyond Grant Grove Village and the turnoff to the General Grant Tree, the road leaves the park and goes through national forest land as it descends to the South Fork of the Kings River. Just outside the park the road passes through a section of the forest that was burned by the Rough Fire in 2015.

On the way down there's an amazing view of the Middle and South Forks of the river coming together below Yucca Point. When you reach bottom, you have dropped from above 6,000 feet to about 2,400. The road then climbs gradually to the glacier carved valley that encloses the Cedar Grove section of the national park at 4,600 feet. Along the way, the river is a raging torrent of white water, dropping over ten foot cascades, crashing against boulders and throwing up white spray.

The scars left by the Rough Fire will linger for
years, but new growth is already evident
Two raging torrents converge as the Middle and South Forks of the Kings River
join forces below Yucca Point
There is absolutely no smooth water
anywhere on the river where it runs
down the canyon below Cedar Grove

Other than a rest stop at the Big Stump entrance area, my first stop was at Grizzly Falls, located in the Sequoia National Forest about six miles west of the entrance to the Cedar Grove section of the national park. This falls was running big when I was here last June, but I have never seen it like it was this time. I could feel the mist from the falls as soon as I got out of the car, and standing at the closest viewing point meant braving wind and water (I wore my poncho). I stepped directly into that area and took a quick photo, then observed from the side.

Continuing up the road, I entered the park and made a stop at the Roaring River Falls. There is a paved trail up the east side of the river about 300 yards to the falls; and a rough dirt trail on the opposite side, which leads to a fenced in viewing area. This side is made more interesting by the fact that a tree has fallen on the fence and bent it down in the middle, but it's still safe if you are not foolish. Many years ago I camped by the Roaring River in the high country where a trail crosses. Up there it was a quiet stream, but when there is record snowfall, the last part of it races down a narrow chute then over the final short drop into a pool that is a churning whirlpool this year.

My final "big activity" in Cedar Grove was a hike at Zumwalt Meadows, which lie on the south side of the river a short distance from the end of the road. At one point the 1.5 mile loop trail crosses via a boardwalk a part of the meadow that is subject to flooding. My daughter Teri was there a week earlier, and said that the water was about two inches over the boardwalk in some spots. This time there was water right at the start of the boardwalk, and it was clear it was way over two inches not very far in. I didn't see anyone actually go farther than the first few feet before turning back. In the other direction the trail goes up through a rocky section, then back down to the edge of the meadow, where I took some photos and rested before turning back.

Grizzly Falls drops 75 feet and is right off the road about six miles below Cedar Grove

Zumwalt Meadows near Roads End above the Cedar Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park is a candidate for the park's most beautiful meadow

Once I finished my hiking at Cedar Grove, I headed back to Grant Grove Village, where I had reservations for a tent cabin. This was not my first choice, but on two days notice, it was the best I could get. It had no electricity, no heating, no cooling, no bathroom, no water. It did have two nice queen size beds and plenty of rustic furniture. It was a couple of steps above sleeping in my pickup camper, but the camper costs a lot less than $72.

As soon as I got settled, I drove the two miles up to Panoramic Point, where a paved quarter-mile trial leads to a spectacular view of the high Sierra. You are looking down into the South Fork of the Kings, and across to the snow-covered peaks in the park's wilderness area. Neither words nor photos do justice to this easy-to-reach vista.

The view from Panoramic Point, with Mt. Goddard
barely visible in the middle of the photo

Looking down into the South Fork canyon; the
Middle Fork goes up just out of the frame to the left 


The High Sierra from Panoramic Point
Farewell-to-spring and a daisy-like flower provide a nice color combination This sequoia is transitioning from the
pointed top of early maturity to the
rounded shape of an older giant
Grand collomia were thick along
the road near Grizzly Falls
My first time to see yellow wild iris
In the morning, after getting checked out of my cabin, I drove to the General Grant Tree parking lot. However, I bypassed the famous presidential namesake, and instead walked the short distance to the North Grove loop. This trail is either 1.5, 1.7, or 2.1 miles, depending on which source you consult. I trust my smart phone walking app, which gave the longer distance.

The route follows an easily traveled dirt road for a while, then forks off, goes down into a creek valley, and climbs back up to join the old road a short distance past the entry point. I missed the first turnoff, so I sort of did the hike "backward." There are quite a few nice mature sequoias along this trail, and some interesting, unusual sights. A part of the Rough Fire went through this area, and there are two or three large sequoias with the upper foliage dead and brown, the first time I have ever seen such a thing. The upper bark of one tree was blackened and smoothed to the point where I thought the bark was gone, but then I saw that the "rough edges" had simply been burned off.

Completion of this trail marked the end of this adventure, so I returned to my car and drove back down to the heat of the San Joaquin Valley.

A meadow near where I parked overnight was covered in shooting stars The Rough Fire took a toll on this large sequoia
The graceful top of a big sugar pine tree, with a bumper crop of cones Growing next to a stream channel led to the downfall of this sequoia
Family Camp at California Flats June 9, 10 and 11, 2017
During a combination Father's Day, Birthday and Anniversary Celebration at California Flats, we enjoyed the antics of Jack and Colton, and had a
great barbecue dinner with family members. Hiking, poking sticks into the mud and just enjoying the beauty of the forest made it a great outing for everyone
Jack and Colton making
kindling from an old platform
Every wet or muddy spot
must be poked with a stick
Teri, Colton, Jack and Jennifer on
the California Meadow Trail

Teri, Jackie and Jack study
new growth on the fir trees

On Friday morning I drove up in my motor home from Clovis to a place where Teri and I camped in November, which we call California Flats. When I arrived Teri was already there with her motor home, accompanied by Colton and Jack. Jennifer had driven up in her new Jeep. There were people camped right next to the spot we had wanted, so we chose a place on the opposite side of the creek. The road is a little rougher, and it took careful maneuvering to get both motor homes situated, but soon our camp was in place and we were ready to explore.

An old road goes up along the creek starting across the main dirt road from where we were camped. Vehicle access is blocked by a huge log, and the road is not drivable, but many years ago I was able to drive in there in my Datsun pickup. Now it's a nice hiking trail, with lots of plants and trees, and some wet spots that tempted the little guys to get as close as possible.

We also enjoyed a flower that I have not seen for a while, not because they are scarce, but because I just have not been in the right place at the right time. There were a number of azalea bushes in bloom along the trail, and later we realized that they were thick across the main road from our camp.

We walked in as far as California Meadow, which I've written about previously. There are a number of stumps in the meadow, one of which has names carved on three sides. However, due to the flow of water in the creek, we did not attempt to cross over into the meadow. Instead we introduced the boys to the concept of "artifacts," which included a section of an old fence, some posts, and an old serving table in a camp site.

When we returned from the hike, it was wood-gathering time. On our scouting trip the previous week, Teri and I had seen a bunch of firewood at a campsite near Nelder Grove. Jennifer and I put a tarp down in the hatchback of her Jeep and drove there, hoping for a big wood score. However, someone had occupied that camp site, so we were out of luck. We gathered some half-rotten chunks nearby, and some more slightly better pieces just up the road that goes into Nelder campground. When we got back, Jennifer's new Jeep had  lost a lot of its newness.

Meanwhile, Teri and Colton were gathering kindling. while Jack supervised. We soon had a good pile stacked up by the fire ring, and were ready for dinner. Between that, walking around the area and just "camping," we never got a fire going that night. But at least we were ready for the next day.

At some point during the day, the boys found an old cooking pot in the camp area, which became a toys of many uses. Our favorite was when Jack used it as a stool to sit on.

Our home in the forest Another use for hiking poles

Stump climbing

The boys found an old pot near
camp and put it to good use 
Jack and Teri study an artifact Chore time
I always try to check the temperature during the night when I'm camping. Due to partial cloud cover, it only got down to 46. 

After breakfast the next day we set out to walk down the creek to where it goes over a small waterfall. The most direct route was to follow the road past our camp, then walk through a meadow that Teri and I had crossed several time in November. Of course, that was before the big rains of early 2017, and the meadow had become what it should be - wet and spongy. We were already aware of an alternate route - up the dirt road toward the paved road, then down an old logging road that connected with other roads, one of which led out to a nice campsite right next to the falls.

About half way up the hill, Jack stopped to observe the fascinating dirt and plants at the side of the road, and was clearly not interested in any further hiking. Teri stayed with him, while Colton, Jennifer and I continued on. After we started down the log road, Colton began asking to go back, but when we reached the little waterfall, he stood there mesmerized. He developed an interest in waterfalls on a visit to Yosemite a couple of years ago, but I think this was the first time he had stood at the top of one, watching the water rush over and drop just below his feet.

After we had enjoyed the falls (and enjoyed watching Colton enjoy the falls), we started back. In March I had tried to go upstream close to the creek, which Teri and I had done in November. At that time water flowing out toward the creek all along the meadow made that route impassible, and considering how wet the meadow still is, we decided to retrace our original route back to camp.

The falls on California Creek below our camp - October 2014, April 2017, and June 2017 This delightful pool, surrounded by water-
loving plants, will soon be gone
Not long after we got back to camp, the rest of our party arrived - Teri and Jennifer's mom Jackie; the boys parents, Johnny and Brittany, and Jen's husband Rod. Our family campout group was now complete, and we filled the time with a variety of activities. Jack was napping when his parents arrived, and was delighted when he woke up to find his mother sitting next to the bed.

Rod and Johnny led the boys on a short expedition to check out the culvert pipe that carries the creek under the road. They were able to get down by the creek and see where it runs out, then get up on top of the section of the pipe that extends past the road.

Next the Upshaw's and I started to hike to the waterfall again, but half way up the main dirt road it became obvious the boys were not up to that much effort, so we walked to the paved road, then went back. Johnny and Colton went ahead, taking a short cut via the rough road road that runs to the nearby meadow (separate from the trail). As Brittany, Jack and I followed, Jack discovered another wonderful muddy trickle of water, so we stopped there for a while.

Meanwhile Teri and Jennifer had started the barbecue and were fixing tri-tip, and soon we enjoyed a fantastic dinner. It was cool enough by this time that it felt good to have a campfire, and that of course led to s'mores, which the boys have enjoyed previously. Their marshmallow roasting technique still needs work, but when you have chocolate and marshmallow goo on your hands and face, who could ask for more?

Before long it was time for the day visitors to leave, so Rod, Jackie, Johnny and Brittany left for home, taking Colton and Jack with them, and leaving Teri, Jennifer and me to enjoy the fire for a while longer. It was noticeably cooler the second night, and with no clouds the low was 36 degrees.

In the morning we ate a leisurely breakfast in my motor home, then got everything packed up for our departure. Once again we had to do some careful maneuvering to get the big vehicles pointed in the right direction and out to the main road, but soon we were on our way - a short trip of about 15 miles for Jennifer, and about 55 for the valley dwellers.

Everyone had a wonderful time, and we are looking forward to other family camping trips later this summer.

--Dick Estel, June 2017 

Jack discovers one more
place to poke in the mud

Azaleas were thick
along the trail and road
Western wall flowers added
bright orange spots of color
Rod and Colton check out the culvert
pipe that carries the creek under the road
One of the boys' favorite activities was climbing up into the
upper deck of my motor home. Here Colton is "catching sunshine"
Apparently older "boys" like to poke things with sticks too
Azalea blossoms provided a delicate sweet perfume along the road and trail A big fir tree, and a big cedar with a burl


Other Links
June 2016 Kings Canyon Trip Sequoia & Kings Canyon Redwood Photos A Stormy Night at Grant Grove 2007
Top Ten Waterfalls in California California Flat Campout 2014

California Azaleas

Cedar Grove Grizzly Falls Video Roaring River Video
  California Flat Falls Video (March '17)  
(NOTE: Videos will not play in most browsers; they will be downloaded to your PC
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Updated September 13, 2021