Late Summer Road Trip – Sequoia National Park

Travel Dates: September 11 & 12, 2017

After our stop at the awesome La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona, we headed over to visit my uncle and aunt in Cottonwood. We love visiting them; Uncle Jake is the last remaining relative of that generation on either side. They never had kids and I know he thinks of me and my sisters as the children they never had. So, it’s always touching to visit them.

After a few days with them we started our trip toward home. After breakfast and visiting on Sunday September 10, Carla and I hopped into our car and headed west. We stopped off in at the Sno-Cap in Seligman for ice cream cones (a must stop on Route 66) and drove the Mother Road into Kingman then joined the freeway for the drive to Needles, California on the Colorado River. We debated whether to stop here for the night or head on over to Barstow, It was another 150 miles so we decided to stop in Needles for the night. If you’ve followed my blog for long you’ll recognize many of these places. Use the little search box on the upper right hand side of the page to look for them if you’d like.

The next morning we woke up early and hit the road. We had a 370 mile drive ahead of us across the top of the Mojave Desert into Bakersfield – where we stopped for burgers at In-N-Out – and up I5 toward Visalia to catch state Highway 198 to Sequoia National Park. We gassed up at the last gas station before entering the park. It was still mid afternoon so we had time to enjoy the drive up into the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Granite Formation - Sequoia National Park
Granite Formation – Sequoia National Park

Wow; it’s a long – but beautiful – drive from the south entrance to the lodge at General Grant Village. It would be well over an hour regardless; but since this was the brief window for road construction between the summer rush and the Winter snows, we had a 30 minute stop at one spot to let some road building take place. On our way to General Grant Village we stopped by the General Sherman Tree hiking path.

It’s a relatively short hike from the parking lot down to the General Sherman Tree which is the the largest living stem tree on the planet. Take a look at the man in the red shirt to get a sense of scale.

General Grant Redwood - Sequoia National Park
General Grant Redwood – Sequoia National Park

It wasn’t much more than a 1/4 mile hike down to the grove but notice, I said “down”. Sequoia National Park is high up in the mountains and we took our time going back up the hill to the car. We paused at the starting point to catch our breath and did some people watching. I got a kick out of a couple who were obviously enjoying their day.

Sequoia National Park - Fellow visitors
Sequoia National Park – Fellow visitors

His partner was a bit skeptical of my taking their picture.

Sequoia National Park - Fellow visitors
Sequoia National Park – Fellow visitors

We then drove the rest of the way to our lodging at the General Grant Village. We picked up some maps at the visitors’ center then checked into the lodge before heading over for a delicious dinner (it’s taken me two months to write the blog post so I forgot what I ate but I do remember it was good).

Back in our room we looked at the maps to plan our full day of hiking and seeing.  We got an early start with a hike through a redwood grove for some sightseeing. Like the day before, the hike starts downhill which is great – but what goes down must come up and we were a bit winded after the hike. That didn’t deter us. Next stop was the General Grant Tree – another huge sequoia – not quite as large as General Sherman but huge nonetheless.

Back in the day some men cut down an enormous sequoia to take a cross section to the Chicago World’s Fair. People thought it was a hoax – no way could a tree be that huge. Here is an interesting perspective – a downed tree that has turned into a tunnel.

Toppled redwood tree tunnel - Sequoia National Park
Toppled redwood tree tunnel – Sequoia National Park

Now it was time to get back on the road and cross over from Sequoia National Park to King’s Canyon National Park. We stopped at every wide spot in the road to take  in the view.

View from the road driving from Sequoia National Park into King's Canyon National Park
View from the road driving from Sequoia National Park into King’s Canyon National Park

Highway 180 heads along a mountain range then down an enormous canyon carved out by the King’s River. We stopped along the way to grab some pictures. Carla remembers hiking here as a kid and dipping a Sierra cup into these streams and drinking that cold fresh water.

Kings River - California
Kings River – California

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant next to a camping area along the way. Highway 180 ends deep in the canyon; there aren’t many highways that go all the way through the Sierra Nevada range. Looking at the map the southernmost crossing is way up at Yosemite which looks to me to be about 200 miles north of the southend of the National Forest. When I drove home to Southern California from near Boise, Idaho we’d drive down the east side of the mountains in Nevada, through Hawthorne, then cut over to Bishop on Highway 395 where the road hugs the eastern slopes until the mountains shrink.

That long, 2+ hour drive down King’s Canyon would be worth it for the views alone. But the real treat was the hike to Zumwalt Meadow at the end of the road. The hike is a loop through granite boulders on one side then along the King River on the way back. Carla was in her element – she loves the Sierra granite.

Stones in our pass way - King's Canyon National Park, California
Stones in our pass way – King’s Canyon National Park, California

In some spots we walked up some stairs carved into the granite; then walked through makeshift granite tunnels in others. The hike in is beautiful and the meadow is breathtaking

Meadow and mountains - King's Canyon National Park, California
Meadow and mountains – King’s Canyon National Park, California

What a great combination of water, mountains, and meadows.

Beautiful granite mountains - King's Canyon National Park, California
Beautiful granite mountains – King’s Canyon National Park, California

On the way back we walked along the King River

King's River - King's Canyon National Park, California
King’s River – King’s Canyon National Park, California

We agreed – this is our all time favorite hike. Just beautiful. Go there!

We headed back to Grant Village for another delicious drinks and dinner followed by a sound sleep.


We started planning this trip in late summer figuring we’d have to trouble finding lodging since we were traveling during the school year. But there were no rooms at the lodge. We made alternate arrangements outside of the national forest, but Carla kept on it, calling every week to see if there were any cancellations. Thank goodness she did; an opening was available and we snatched it up. It made it possible to see so much more than if we had an extra 2 hour drive into the national park from the nearest town. If you are a camper, you’ll have to check the status. There seem to be many more camping sites than lodge.

The next day we had a 550 mile drive from the Park up to Ashland Oregon. We stopped at every viewpoint on the way out. I was ready to keep going but stopped for Carla one last time where she caught what I think is the best picture of the trip – on her iPhone.

Leaving King's Canyon National Park
Leaving King’s Canyon National Park

We stayed in Ashland for two nights taking in a play and enjoying the lovely city. We had seen so many beautiful things in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks that I left the camera in the hotel and don’t have much to report from that part of the trip.




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