This past weekend, we headed up to one of our favorite local National Parks, Kings Canyon, to do a little hiking with the girls. Although there is plenty of hiking to do in this area, our kids are 3 and 5 so we can’t get too crazy yet. One of our favorite short hikes to do in the area is Buena Vista Peak. It is a 2 mile round trip hike that is uphill, but it isn’t very steep so it’s very family friendly. It also boasts great views of the Sierra Nevada Range on one side and the San Joaquin Valley on the other. Unfortunately the day was foggy and cloudy so we only caught glimpses of that stellar view. It was still a great hike though, and one I highly recommend if you are visiting the park with your family or just want to do a quick hike.
Kings Canyon NP is a short hour and a half from Fresno. The entrance fee is $20 per vehicle or you can buy the year long parks pass for all National Parks for just $80. It’s a steal if you ask me! You can bring your own food along, but they also have a restaurant and small grocery store to purchase food. We usually do a combination of both, and this time we brought our own lunch but stopped at the store for ice cream after the hike. Sometimes the promise of ice cream can motivate tired and whiny legs to make it back to the car. This hike we definitely needed that incentive as had more whining than usual. They were tired and just having a cranky day, it happens but it didn’t ruin our fun.
There is a small parking area in front of the trail head and there is also a look out across the street that has additional parking. The trail is right off the parking lot and starts meandering up the mountain and into the forest. The first noticeable feature of this hike is the massive boulders that you hike through. They are great if you want to do a little bouldering or climbing on your way, but there are also kid friendly boulders for kids to climb on. Take the time here to explore if you can, it’s a really unique area on the trail.
As you move further along, you will get passed the big boulder fields and head up into a more forested area. For those of you who do are not aware, the Sierra’s have been hit particular hard by the bark beetle. Drought conditions make this bug thrive and after several years of drought. the damage was pretty extensive. The dead trees and the orange trees you see have all been killed by this bug. But nature is resilient and you see new trees growing up along side the dead ones. There was also a fire in the recent past in the area as well, which accounts for the charred trees.
This was my favorite part of the trail. The green was vibrant against the foggy skies and we saw a deer come bounding by as well.
We stopped to look at “trail ants” along the way and both girls at different times would get suddenly upset and refuse to move (they were both kind of off that day, nothing to do with the trail itself). But we very slowly kept moving forward, singing songs and talking about the upcoming summer. Ry found an enormous pinecone during a potty break that she was super excited about.
I love how kids can take the mundane things we hardly notice anymore and remind us what treasures they are.
A mile later (and what felt like three hours later), we finally made it to the top! One word of note, I have noticed on other hike review sites that there are a lot of comments about not being able to find the top of this peak. Once you get to the top where you can see the view of the valley, the trail goes off to your right. It is not as clearly marked because it is mostly granite on the top of the peak and trails are harder to see on granite than in dirt, but it’s there. There are rocks along the way to follow and as long as you keep walking toward what looks to be the top, you will find it.
There was no expansive view when we got to the top as there usually is due to the clouds, but it felt like we had reached the end of the world. The kids thought it was pretty cool so we sat down and watched the clouds rolling in and out for awhile.
Although the photos make it look more dangerous than it actually was, you definitely want to keep the younger ones close. That was easier said than done with our girls, Ry wanted to climb up and explore everything. I am not one to squash any exploring so I followed her around like a puppy dog (sounds better than helicopter, but I was definitely hovering).
We spent about an hour on top before heading back for lunch. We grabbed a sandwich in the car and headed to the General Store to indulge in the ice cream we promised the tired girls. Ice cream tastes even better with a view!
It was still early by the time we were done with ice cream so we had one more thing to do, go see the Giant Sequoias. I don’t care how many times I see them, I am always in awe.
And after all of that, we were still home by 5 PM!
Kings Canyon is such a stunning National Park, we are so fortunate to live so close to such natural beauty. Explore your backyard and if you live in Fresno or the Central Valley, remember how fortunate we are to we live close to not only Kings Canyon NP but Sequoia NP and Yosemite NP. Get out and explore!