Kings Canyon National Park: An exciting confluence of biology, geology, and sheer beauty

Scenic overlook on the approach to Kings Canyon National Park, California. Photographed 08/12/2011.

While out on a recent business trip to California’s Central Valley, my business partner and I found time to make quick trips to several of the local national parks.  After hitting Yosemite on the first day, we completed our work on the second day and rushed down to Kings Canyon National Park.  Although I never thought of this as one of the “glamour parks” like Yosemite or Yellowstone, it was one of the coolest I had ever seen.

Near the entrance the first thing we came across was Grant Grove, a collection of some enormous giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum, Cupressaceae):

The author in front of giant sequoias at Grant Grove. Photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

The centerpiece of Grant Grove is the giant sequoia known as General Grant, the second-largest tree in the world:

The giant sequoia known as General Grant, the second-largest tree in the world, at Grant Grove. Photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Even the younger and smaller sequoias are impressive:

Younger giant sequoias at Grant Grove. Photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California. Car for scale.

As I mentioned in my post about Yosemite, fire is an important component of these ecosystems.  Many trees in this region exhibit fire scars:

Business partner Jim marveling at a fire-scarred giant sequoia at Grant Grove. Photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

After leaving Grant Grove, the road to Kings Canyon leaves the park for a while and goes through Sequoia National Forest.  The views here are no less impressive:

The approach to Kings Canyon, photographed 08/12/2011.

Before long you can see Kings Canyon from far above.  This is one of the deepest canyons in North America at a depth of over 8000 feet.  It was carved out of the granite of the Sierra Nevada Batholith by glaciers over the last million years:

Kings Canyon photographed 08/12/2011.

Along the road there were a number of tarantulas (ArachnidaAraneaeTheraphosidae) crawling about:

Tarantula (Arachnida: Araneae: Theraphosidae) photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Descending into the canyon the Kings River became easier to see:

Kings River photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

At these lower elevations many cool peaks towered above:

View photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

View photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

View photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

The arid landscape was covered in yuccas (Yucca sp., Asparagaceae) and other ground cover:

View photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

At the bottom of the canyon the road started to follow the Kings River:

Kings River photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Although there were bear warnings, unlike at Yosemite we didn’t get to see any here:

Bear warning photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Several tributaries empty into the Kings River in spectacular fashion, including Grizzly Falls….

The author at Grizzly Falls, photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

…and Roaring River Falls:

The author at Roaring River Falls, photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

By the time we approached the lodge at Cedar Grove, the sun was down and the full moon was rising to the east:

Moonrise near Cedar Grove. Photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Back to the west, the sunset was amazing:

Sunset at Cedar Grove. Photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

After dark at Cedar Grove Lodge, the full moon illuminated the pines:

Moonrise near Cedar Grove. Photographed 08/12/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

In the morning, this was the view of the Kings River from behind Cedar Grove Lodge:

Kings River behind Cedar Grove Lodge. Photographed 08/13/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

And looking back at Cedar Grove Lodge itself:

Cedar Grove Lodge. Photographed 08/13/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Driving the rest of the way to Roads End, there was even more to see:

View near Zumwalt Meadow. Photographed 08/13/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

The hike to Zumwalt Meadow was beautiful:

View near Zumwalt Meadow. Photographed 08/13/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

On the way back up the road there were a number of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, Cervidae):

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, Cervidae) near Zumwalt Meadow. Photographed 08/13/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

They seemed pretty relaxed around people and cars:

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus, Cervidae) near Zumwalt Meadow. Photographed 08/13/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

The drive back out of the canyon in the dawn light revealed the precarious nature of the road.  Sheer cliff up on one side, sheer cliff down on the other:

View along the road to Kings Canyon. Photographed 08/13/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

Here’s one final view as we moved out of the canyon.  I don’t know what the white spot on the mountain was, but we were joking that it was pterodactyl poop:

View along the road to Kings Canyon. Photographed 08/13/2011 at Kings Canyon National Park, California.

I was really impressed with this park.  Traffic was almost nonexistent compared to Yosemite, leading to a really intimate encounter with the pristine wilderness.  Although Kings Canyon lacks some of the pop culture appeal of Yosemite and other parks, this is definitely a place you don’t want to miss.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, Ecology, Entomology, Geology, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Kings Canyon National Park: An exciting confluence of biology, geology, and sheer beauty

  1. Pingback: Random Arachnid: Tarantula | The Life of Your Time

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