About a mile from the Big Stump Entrance to Kings Canyon National Park is the Big Stump Picnic Area — the last stop on our first day in the park.
When we pulled into the Big Stump Picnic Area parking lot, we didn’t see the trailhead for Big Stump Trail or any of the signs typically found at a national park trailhead. All we found were overhead shade structures, accessible picnic tables, grills, and restrooms. I actually wondered if the trail information was old or if the name Big Stump was for the actual big stump next to the restrooms…
Luckily there is a trail — the trailhead, with a traditional information board and trail map, is just hidden behind and to the left of the picnic area’s restrooms.
Big Stump Loop Trail is a 1.0 mile dirt trail with a 200 foot elevation change that circles a meadow in logged sequoia grove at Big Stump Basin.
At the start, we descended down the hillside into the forest, passing a giant sequoia before reaching a lush, green meadow dotted by stumps and fallen logs. As we walked the trail and saw one dead giant stump after another, we felt really sad.
While Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park was never logged, most of the sequoia groves around Grant Grove and North Grove were damaged by Bay Area logging company interests. Between 1883 and 1889, the Smith-Comstock Lumber Mill operated on the eastern edge of the basin’s largest meadow. After spending nearly three days marveling at, admiring, and gawking at majestic groves of giant sequoias, it was sort of awful to see the effects of the logging industry on a sequoia grove.
The most famous stump on the trail is that of the Mark Twain Tree, a 1,350 year old sequoia that was cut down in 1891 for exhibition purposes. Cross-sections of the 16 foot wide tree were sent to museums in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the British Museum in London. Today a short ladder allows you to climb on top of the stump.
Know Before You Go
About Big Stump Picnic Area And Trail:
- The Big Stump and Columbine picnic areas are open year-round, but are covered in snow during the winter. Big Stump has shade covers, accessible picnic tables, grills, and restrooms.
- The trail isn’t well marked and it’s easy to miss important sights, so be sure to pick up a trail map at the Visitor Center before tackling this trail.
- The meadow had A LOT of mosquitoes… A LOT! If you’re going to do this hike, be sure to bring some bug spray for the entire family!
About Kings Canyon National Park:
- Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are basically treated as the same park — even the National Park Service combined both parks into one website.
- The combined area of these two parks is 865,952 acres with most of that area being wilderness backcountry.
- The parks are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Occasionally, winter storms will close roads leading into the parks until they can be plowed.
- Admission fees are good for seven days and both parks. They are $35.00/vehicle, $30.00/motorcycle, $20.00/individual entry on foot or bicycle, $15.00/person for a non-commercial group.
- There are five free admission days: the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., the first day of National Park Week, the National Park Service Birthday, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
- Visitor centers, ranger stations, and a museum offer opportunities to explore the nature and history of these parks, watch park films, and get trip-planning information. Park stores within visitor centers offer books and other products related to the park.
- Weather varies a lot by season and elevation, which ranges from 1,370 feet to 14,494 feet. Bring layers and be prepared!
- Cell service is not available in most areas. You may get service in Grant Grove and at the Foothills Visitor Center. WiFi is available at the Foothills Visitor Center, the Grant Grove Visitor Center, and in the lobby of Wuksachi Lodge.
- Pets are not permitted on any trails at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In campgrounds and picnic areas, pets must be kept on a leash of no more than six feet at all times.