Wandering Lizard

An online magazine with information related to attractions, lodging, dining,
and travel resources in selected areas of the Western United States

Redwood Mountain

Sugar Bowl and Hart Tree Trails

Redwood Mountain

It was early in the season and the campgrounds in King's Canyon National Park were still not crowded - at least not during the week. I had been staying in the park for several days and each evening was able to pick a campground close to the next day's hike. I chose Crystal Springs near Grant Grove in preparation for the Sugar Bowl - Hart Tree jaunt. It is one of the most popular of the park's campgrounds and conveniently located near many of the main attractions as well as being next door to Grant Grove Village with its visitor amenities.

Redwood Mountain

Sugar Bowl and Hart Tree are not destinations as well known as the paths to Morro Rock or the General Grant and General Sherman Trees. In addition the road to the trail head is not marked and requires driving a mile and a half on a dirt surface. Both Sugar Bowl and Hart Tree are loop trails that have a bit of up and down to them. If you include both in your hike the distance is about ten miles. All of these factors limit the number of people that you will meet on the hike. The day that I was on the trail I met a total of nine people, three of whom were members of a trail maintenance crew.

I had been doing a lot of fairly strenuous walking during the past few days and this morning I overslept. I got a late start out of camp. In addition I was day-dreaming and missed the turnoff to the trail head from the General's Highway. As a result I was not actually on the trail until nine thirty. The sun was well up in the sky and it was obviously going to be a warm day. At the trail head one can choose to start on either the Hart Tree or Sugar Bowl trails. I chose Sugar Bowl and immediately began a gentle grade up through a mixed forest that included an amazing number of giant sequoias. I was on the edge of the largest sequoia forest in the world and would be walking among them all day long.

Redwood Mountain

The Sugar Bowl trail offers spectacular views and that day there were, in addition, a multitude of magnificent wild flower displays. In some places the flowers lined the path and in others they covered a meadow or spilled down over a rock fall. There were some that I knew and some that I had not seen before. I marvelled at the fact that no matter where I went in California I seemed to find a flower that I had never seen before. The insects were out in force tending to the plants and here again I was amazed at the diversity that exists in our world. As a child I abhorred bugs but now I found myself fascinated by their complexity and admiring of some of their brilliant colors.

Redwood Mountain
Redwood Mountain

As others have often noted, it is difficult to do the huge trees justice in either words or pictures. Rarely can one photograph a complete sequoia from top to bottom. They are just too tall and the forest too close. Walking among them never fails to generate in me a mood of serenity and awe of nature. I do not need to be at the foot of the tallest, or the widest, or the biggest - in fact I am a little sorry for those trees who have been given a name and a sign listing their record size. I am also sorry for those visitors who feel that it is sufficient to capture a quick snapshot of themselves standing at the foot of one of these dignitaries. I worry that in their haste they might be missing an experience more profound.

Redwood Mountain

This day I walked for hours among the trees and they worked their magic on me. It was spring but the day got summer hot. Under the forest canopy the temperature was pleasant and every time the trail turned out from under the trees into the open a slight breeze cooled things off a bit. I quickly found out why the maintenance crew was out. The access road leading to these trails is closed in the winter and had just recently been reopened. The paths were definitely overgrown in spots. It brought home to me how much the park staff does to make a walk in the woods enjoyable for us.

Redwood Mountain

At about the half way point I crossed Redwood Creek and took the Hart Tree trail instead of staying with the Sugar Bowl Trail as it returned to the trail head. This part of the hike had fewer views and fewer wild flowers but plenty of sequoia giants. At one point the trail goes through the "Tunnel Tree" and at other places it passed by "Hart Tree," "Fallen Goliath," and "Log House." Although there were not as many flowers on this part of the trail there were a couple of really special displays. The first, a pink fringe on a huge gray granite outcropping with beautiful views across the valley. The second, a spot of brilliant crimson set among the dark brown duff of the forest floor deep in the woods. Everywhere along the trail were the giant sequoias.

It was three o'clock when I got back to the car. Five and a half hours on the ten mile trail including pauses to appreciate wild flowers, insects, and giant trees. A great day in a magnificent place.

More pictures from this Hike...
Abecedarius, 6/04


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