Our last stop in Kings Canyon National Park was one of the most popular spots in the park: Zumwalt Meadow at Road’s End in Cedar Grove. The meadow is an incredibly scenic area of Kings Canyon valley. After spending the day driving through the fairly sparse landscape of Giant Sequoia National Monument and Kings Canyon, we were surprised by how much greener and lush this area was.
The Zumwalt Meadow Loop Trail is a 1.5 mile trail that sits between two nearly vertical granite cliffs, North Dome and the Grand Sentinel, and features a beautiful wooden bridge, a gorgeous meadow, and the sparkling Kings River.
From the parking lot, the trail starts with stunning views of the Kings River and a river crossing over a wooden suspension footbridge. After marveling at the river rushing below us, we followed the trail into a cedar and pine forest to reach the start of the Zumwalt Meadow loop.
At the start of the loop trail, we realized we weren’t going to be able to hike the loop. To the left, the trail was closed due to high waters from heavy winter storms that completely washed out the boardwalk. It was a little disappointing because I had read that the walk through the meadow was the best part of the loop trail.
While we couldn’t hike the entire loop, we did follow it for a while to get some different views of the meadow and mountains. We set out to the right and very quickly the trail got a bit more rugged. It climbs about 60 feet in elevation, which isn’t a big deal on it’s own. The issue is that it is also an uneven, rugged, rocky, path through piles of granite boulders in full sun.
After taking in amazing views of Zumwalt Meadow below the granite cliffs, it was time for us to turn around and head back to the parking area the way we came. This was a great way to wrap up our Kings Canyon adventure!
Know Before You Go
- The Zumwalt Meadow Trailhead parking lot is 4.5 miles east of Cedar Grove Village. Trail guides are available at the Cedar Grove Visitor Center.
- The 1.5 mile Zumwalt Meadow Loop Trail provides views of the mountains, meadow, and Kings River. Only a portion of the trail is accessible.
- The road that leads into Cedar Grove, Highway 180, is only open seasonally — from May through mid-November.
- 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.