Kings Canyon National Park: Mist Falls

California2018-583a

Mist Falls

For our Fourth of July day hike in Kings Canyon National Park, Sean and I chose the popular trail to Mist Falls on the South Fork of the Kings River. From the parking area at Roads End, the trail gains about 800 feet of elevation in just under four miles, with most of the elevation gain at the end.

California2018-465

We set out just before 12:30pm. The early part of the trail on the canyon floor was very dry and had undergone a prescribed burn back in April.

California2018-466

California2018-467

Image: Sean M. Santos

California2018-468

California2018-469

Adding to the dryness was a cloud of dust kicked up by a pack train making its way west toward the more developed portions of the canyon.

California2018-470

California2018-471

Copper Creek

California2018-472

Copper Creek

California2018-473

Right at the start of the trail we crossed Copper Creek and chuckled at an extremely melodramatic warning against swimming in the South Fork of the Kings River, which ran through the center of Kings Canyon. In early July, it seemed pretty tame, and we saw families laughing and playing in the water to cool off.

California2018-474

California Sister butterfly

California2018-475

California2018-476

California2018-477

It was a hot afternoon, and there was precious little shade in the early part of the hike as the trail led us east across a brown meadow.

California2018-478

Avalanche Peak

California2018-479

Avalanche Peak

California2018-480

The Sphinx

California2018-481

With its walls of soaring granite, Kings Canyon invites obvious comparisons with Yosemite Valley. At 4,600 feet above sea level, Kings Canyon is about 600 feet higher than and eighty-five miles southwest of Yosemite Valley (as the crow flies). Kings Canyon feels much drier than Yosemite, which boasts wetland meadows. It is also much less developed or busy than its famous neighbor. The campgrounds are more rustic. There are no elegant lodges.

California2018-482

California2018-483

California2018-484

California2018-485

California2018-486

Sierra Fence Lizard

California2018-487

South Fork Kings River

California2018-488

California2018-489

California2018-490

California2018-491

California2018-492

California2018-493

California2018-494

Buck Mountain

California2018-495

Greenleaf Manzanita

As we walked along snapping photos, a few other hikers passed us, one of whom had a serious pack and was obviously off on a backpacking adventure. I felt a bit envious of the fellow.

California2018-496

California2018-497

Buck Mountain

California2018-498

California2018-499

California2018-500

California2018-501

California2018-502

Image: Sean M. Santos

California2018-503

Buck Mountain

California2018-504

California2018-505

California2018-506

Image: Sean M. Santos

California2018-507

California2018-508

After about half an hour of walking, the trail entered a more densely wooded area nearer to the river. The canyon walls were closer here, and there were even some wetland areas.

California2018-509

California2018-510

California2018-511

With the additional moisture came a change in the understory, which now included ferns.

California2018-512

California2018-513

California2018-514

California2018-515

Soon afterward, we were in sight of the bridge across the Kings, but our trail turned north just before the bridge to head up Paradise Valley.

California2018-516

California2018-517

California2018-518

California2018-519

California2018-520

California2018-521

California2018-522

The trail was now quite close to the river, which was much noisier because its grade was steeper and it was beginning to rush around boulders.

California2018-523

California2018-524

California2018-525

Glacier Monument

California2018-526

California2018-527

California2018-528

After an initial bit of steepness, the trail remained pretty easy, alternating level portions with some obvious elevation increases.

California2018-529

California2018-530

California2018-531

California2018-532

California2018-533

California2018-534

California2018-535

California2018-536

The river became louder and the trail lifted us higher.

California2018-538

California2018-539

California2018-540

California2018-541

California2018-542

California2018-543

California2018-544

Image: Sean M. Santos

California2018-545

California2018-546

About halfway from the fork in the trail to the falls (per the GPS), we stopped and had a snack. Other hikers passed occasionally, mostly young, quite a few people of color. Everyone was cheerful.

One couple asked, “Are you on your way up or down?”

“Up,” we replied.

“Keep going! It’s so worth it.”

We also found it pleasant to be hiking in a National Park on a national holiday. We smiled and wished hikers, “Happy Fourth!” as we passed.

California2018-547

California2018-548

California2018-549

California2018-550

People were clearly enjoying themselves. A lanky fellow who’d passed us earlier was taking a break and lying on a rock in the sun along the river.

California2018-551

California2018-552

California2018-553

California2018-554

California2018-555

California2018-556

Glacier Monument

The trail rose more steeply and climbed above the river. It became more open and after a couple switchbacks, emerged onto exposed granite.

California2018-557

California2018-558

California2018-559

And what a view! On one side was Glacier Monument, on the other Buck Mountain. And down opposite the mouth of Paradise Valley was the distinctive Sphinx formation.

California2018-560

Image: Sean M. Santos

California2018-561

The Sphinx

California2018-562

California2018-563

California2018-564

Buck Mountain

California2018-565

California2018-566

California2018-567

California2018-568

Glacier Monument

California2018-569

California2018-570

The switchbacks brought us above an unnamed short fall on the South Fork Kings.

California2018-571

Now we were back in the shade of the forest as the trail continued its friendly flirtation with the river.

California2018-572

California2018-573

Some passing hikers stopped us and remarked on the contraption that held my extra lenses (a 50mm fixed and a 50-250mm zoom) to the strap of my pack. I showed them how it worked. They said that they’d seen videos about the gear online but hadn’t seen it in person yet.

Again, people on this trail on this Fourth of July were super friendly and cheerful.

California2018-574

California2018-575

California2018-577

The roaring grew louder. At a little after 2:30 we reached the falls. A social trail led down the bank to the river beneath them. We found a spot just beyond the reach of the mist to have our lunch. A group of hikers was lunching and relaxing a bit closer to the falls.

California2018-576

American Dipper

And a lovely little American Dipper was cheeping and bouncing and hoping for a lunch of river insects.

California2018-578

California2018-580

California2018-581

California2018-582

California2018-583

Mist Falls

After we ate we strolled over to look at the falls. There was so much mist in the air, that I had to wipe off my lens after practically every photo I shot. After a hot hike, it was refreshing. And it left us invigorated for the hike back down.

California2018-584

Mist Falls

California2018-585

Mist Falls

It also left me intrigued. This hike was the first part of a classic, multi-night backpack trip (Rae Lakes Loop) that continued up into Paradise Valley and into the High Sierra. I think we may have to put that on the list for a return trip.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s