California Travel Articles
With its mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, the area around the Foothills Visitor Center at Ash Mountain supports life forms that are very different from those found higher in the Sierra Nevada. Ash Mountain is the headquarters for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and also for the Sequoia Natural History Association, a non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting educational and scientific activities in these parks. Crystal Cave, a beautifully decorated marble cavern, is located on a spur road off the Generals Highway between Ash Mountain and the Giant Forest.
- Entrance to Sequoia National Park
Less than 1/4 mile inside the entrance to Sequoia National Park stands a massive, hand-carved wooden sign, modeled after the face on the old Indian head nickel. This sign was created by a Civilian Conservation Corps enrollee from Arkansas in the 1930's. The giant trees that make this park famous may have been named after a Cherokee Indian, Se-quo-yah, who devised an alphabet for his people.
The Generals Highway
The road from Ash Mountain to Hospital Rock was originally built by the Mt. Whitney Power Company to provide access to build a flume that carries water from the Marble and Middle Forks of the Kaweah River to a power generator just outside the park. You can see this concrete flume on the far side of the river. The road from Hospital Rock to Giant Forest was built by the government, and was completed in 1926. The rock work was added by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. Today, construction is underway to repair and upgrade this historic road.
This large granite boulder is 1.6 miles from the Ash Mountain Visitor Center. Originally, the only road here was the bypass. The CCC dug the tunnel beneath the rock and faced the dirt wall with rock, finishing the work in 1938.
This pleasant site on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River was once home to nearly 500 Native Americans belonging to the Potwisha sub-group of the Monache, or Western Mono, Indians. Archeological evidence indicates that Indians settled in this area as early as 1350. Today, visitors to Hospital Rock can still view ancient rock paintings, or pictographs, and bedrock mortars used to grind acorns. The area got its present name in 1873, when James Everton stayed here to recover from a gunshot wound he had received while stumbling into a shotgun snare set to trap bear.
Amphitheater Point is a broad turnout on the Generals Highway, 10.3 miles from the Foothills Visitor Center. From here, you can see all three of the life zones of the Sierra. Below lies the Foothill zone with its oak and brush forests. Above lies the mixed- conifer forest, home to the giant sequoias, the world's largest living things. And in the distance, you can get your first good view of the high Sierra, as the barren, rocky peaks of the Great Western Divide appear on your right.
To begin this 7-mile round trip hike, follow the dirt road at the upper end of Potwisha Campground. After the road crosses the flume, about 0.1 miles from the campground, look for the start of the trail up the hillside. The trail follows the contour of the chaparral-cloaked hills, gradually gaining about 2000' in elevation by the time it reaches the falls.
Middle Fork Trail to Panther Creek
The beginning of the Middle Fork Trail is located at the Hospital Rock picnic area. This trail travels through chaparral and oak grassland above the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River and gains about 1200' in elevation before it crosses Panther Creek. The trail stays well above the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River; steep canyon walls and vertical cliffs make it impossible to descend to the river in most places. The hike to Panther Creek is approximately 9 miles round-trip. Overnight camping is available at Panther Creek, and also 2 miles further up the trail at Mehrten Creek.
Lady Bug Camp
This 4 mile round-trip hike gains 750' as it climbs through chaparral and oak-hardwood forest to Lady Bug Camp on the South Fork of the Kaweah River. The trail begins at the upper end of South Fork Campground, on South Fork Road, 12 miles east of Highway 198 and Three Rivers. Backcountry permits are also available for this area. Because it is a south-facing trail, this is a good hike early in the season.
This trail also begins at South Fork Campground. It climbs rather quickly (1400' in 2 miles) through chaparral and oak-hardwood forest to Putnam Canyon. The trail from this point to Snowslide Canyon, 1 1/2 miles further on, is often impassable early in the season due to snow. Approximately 4 miles from the trailhead, the trail enters the Garfield Grove of Giant Sequoias. Backcountry permits are available for this area.
North Fork Trail
The trail begins at the end of North Fork Drive near the town of Three Rivers. It follows the river through chaparral and oak woodland for approximately 6 1/2 miles, climbing 1200'. It then turns away from the river and, over the next 5 miles, climbs another 2400' through oak grassland and mixed conifer forest to Hidden Springs.
Colony Mill Road
Although all but the first 1/2 mile is now closed to vehicles, this was part of the original road to Giant Forest. It was constructed almost entirely by hand by members of the Kaweah Colony, a community of radical socialists who hoped to cut timber in the Giant Forest area in the mid 1880's. The road begins at the end of the North Fork Road in Three Rivers and eventually joins the road to Crystal Cave.
Information provided by:
National Park Service