Kings Canyon is the best national park that you’ve never been to—maybe never even heard of. Yosemite has stunning landmarks, all easily accessible by roads; Glacier has (had?) ice fields and rugged peaks, also easy to access; Yellowstone has a giant supervolcano that will one day kill us all. But Kings Canyon is kinda out of the way, is kinda hard to get to, and doesn’t have a lot of roads and visitor centers and gift shops. The road it does have is stunning—a drive through the eponymous canyon, which in some places is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon.
But the real treasure of Kings Canyon is the backcountry. Green valleys filled with wildflowers and bordered by jagged peaks. Raging rivers pouring down rocky cascades. It’s the Sierra Nevada at its most dramatic. And all of it only accessible by trail.
The PCT enters Kings Canyon at the top of Forester Pass and continues through the park for about 75 miles, over four more passes. It’s all beautiful country, but the ten miles leading up to Muir Pass from the south are outrageously, epically stunning. It was easily the most beautiful hiking of the trip so far—quite possibly of my life.
When we got to Helen Lake and paused for pictures, our friends Dilly, Dally, Sarge, and Stump caught up to us—the first time we’d seen them since Kennedy Meadows, 140 miles earlier. They of course beat us to the pass—the last two miles to the top were brutal—but it was great to see everyone again.
The hike down was more gorgeousness. Sloshing straight down the mountain through snowfields; walking along the edge of Lake Wanda with its teal water, tinkling ice, and frogs(!); Evolution Lake in the evening light.
And we wrapped it all up with good friends and a campfire. Great success.
Day 68, June 14: 18.6 miles, Mile 827.3 to 845.9