John Muir considered Kings Canyon as a rival to Yosemite Valley. The view of the canyon is breathtaking and a portal to extensive hiking opportunities. Home to granite peaks and wild rivers, giant sequoia groves and the General Grant Tree (the world's second largest), Kings Canyon National Park should be on every hikers "to do" list.
My friend and I, did this trail the late autumn just before a snow has covered all this area. We squeezed this trail in 2 days and that pretty intense for us. We walked from sunrise to sunset with short breaks on the trail. I'd say, splitting it on 3 days would be better and give more time to enjoy the beautiful landscapes. Believe me, they are gorgeous there.
there are a few things you will need on this trail. First, you will most definitely need bug spray with deet in it. the mosquitos in the marshy Forested section of the trail aren't your typical sissy mosquitos. they laugh at lemongrass oil etc. if you do not use deet you will end up with upwards of 20 mosquitos biting you all at once. second, be sure to have sunscreen. the first mile or so of the trail is in direct sunlight. you can burn easily in that time in the California sun. Third, you will want to have plenty of water. my wife and I went through 3 liters each. it can easily get 90+ degrees on the canyon floor in mid summer. lunch isn't a bad idea either to eat by the falls, and don't be afraid to spend a few bucks on a good pair of boots. A blistered set of hooves can ruin your hike as fast as a sprained ankle. also, you will need two days to complete this hike. yes, you may think I'm crazy for saying that, but go ahead and try to make it to the bottom of the canyon without stopping your vehicle umpteen times to stare at the spectacle before you and to take pictures. it's nearly impossible!
the hike itself is beautiful. I cannot fathom how any of the other comments can say anything negative about it. you have to remember that all forks of the Kings river are fed by snowmelt. so, if you hike later in the year, say September, the river levels are way down and are nothing compared to the awe inspiring and spectacular torrent of power you will see in May and early June. so naturally, mist falls will also be very lackluster well. The hike is not hard but it is also not easy. for the most part the footing is solid and the trail well worn into the soil. there are a few Rocky and uneven places, though. no matter, being able to stare up at the canyon walls high above you and being able to follow and listen to the river near you makes up for any hardship. a little over halfway through you come to a large exposed rock that you can stand on and look back down canyon. the views of the Sphinx rock formation and the canyon from there are some of the tastiest that my eyes have ever had the pleasure of feasting on. simply beautiful. the words of man simply cannot explain the wondrous sight. surely, somewhere, the heavens have a text that more accurately describes it. I simply find that standing and gazing in awe and after respect for nature was about the best I could manage to do for several moments.
the falls are not super tall but the sheer amount of water coming over them creates quite a misty breeze that will get you soaking wet in very little time at all! bring a dry bag for your camera or if you a choice, bring a waterproof camera. taking a short stroll above the falls let's you get a while different perspective. just above you get a pretty close up view of a few waterwheels as the massive amount of spring runoff sheets across the granite slab. quite an awesome sight!
also, beware of rattlesnakes. remember, they will not hurt you if you leave them alone. we encountered two on the trail and one actually ran scared. it barely even ticked its rattle. the other was nowhere near cover so it got defensive but did not pose a threat in any way to anyone. it simply coiled and rattled away. I also managed to catch a beautiful Sierra mountain kingsnake! I felt privileged to have the opportunity to catch one as it was the first one I've seen in the wild. it was grumpy and bit me but remember, they are non-venomous and there are no coral snakes in the Sierras to confuse them with. if you are afraid of any snakes, just remember to leave them alone and they will leave you alone.
this hike is well worth any hardship it may pose to you. no mere words or photographs can accurately describe the raw beauty and power you will encounter in Kings canyon NP. I recommend this hike, go and see for yourself!
We did this trail in November. The park was busier than expected, but this trail was very quiet and peaceful. We only saw about 5 other people in total.
The trail begins near Quail Flats down a dirt road across the street. Apparently they sometimes close the road, which if you had to walk to the trail head would add about 4 miles to the total distance. Fortunately for us the road was open and we could drive direct to the trail head.
The trail begins across from the Sugar Bowl trail. We went in the clockwise direction. It was beautiful. You see a lot of landmarks, including the site of an old fence mill from the 1800s, Pierce Log Cabin (which was made from a fire hollowed sequoia), a fire fallowed tree you can walk through, a meadow, the Hart tree itself, a lot of little creeks and a little waterfall, fallen Goliath (which we somehow missed), a back country campsite, and a log foot bridge. All this accompanied by beautiful vistas and massive trees at every turn. Our favorite was the waterfall thou. We even had lunch by it.
Fall was a great time to go as there were indeed leaves on the ground and color in some trees. I definitely recommend it.
One thing I didn't account for was the number of hills to be climbed on this trail. It is definitely more moderate than easy in difficulty. Towards the end I definitely started feeling it.
the Sierras was the best part of the trail
It is absolutely a nice easy walk. One thing I want to correct thought - Dogs are NOT allowed on the trail. It says they are allowed on leash but once you get there you'll see the sign no dogs allowed on trail. We found out the hard way and one of us had to stay with the pup