If you’re seeking an adventurous wilderness trek but the snow in the Eastern Sierra has got you down, look no further than the Middle Fork Trail in Sequoia National Park. This 13-mile (each way) out-and-back follows the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River system, traverses rushing creeks, fragrant wildflowers and manzanita forests before terminating in Redwood Meadow, the most remote grove of old-growth sequoias.
Due to scorching summer temperatures, the Middle Fork Trail is best-completed in fall through spring. From the main Sequoia highway, a sketchy, 1.5-mile dirt road (two-wheel-drive vehicles are fine) will take you to the trailhead where you’ll find ample parking and bear boxes to store extra food and scented items. From here, the trail quickly crosses Moro Creek, the first of three major crossings. Wade across the knee-deep water and continue on as the path rises gently in elevation for the next 13 miles to Redwood Meadow. Panther Creek is the first area where backcountry camping is allowed, 3.5 miles up the trail. These sites have fantastic views of the Kaweah River Canyon and its many waterfalls. Many people opt to bushwhack a bit and fish in the Kaweah River as well.
Mehrten Creek is another option for backcountry camping, with a few sites and easy access to water. If you are continuing on to Redwood Meadow, cross the creek and continue your hike. As you ascend, the trail will become more wooded, offering a welcome respite from the hot and sunny chaparral. Cross the bridge at Buck Creek and turn right when you come to the fork for Redwood/Bearpaw Meadows. From here, it’s a 2-mile hike to your destination.
As of April 2017, the bridge over Granite Creek was still washed out, making crossing the stream during high snow melt quite treacherous. Thigh-deep water is not uncommon, and it is advised not to cross any rushing creek that’s higher than your knees. If the creek is able to be crossed, then the hard part is over. A gentle 1 mile takes you to a massive grove of giant sequoias that loom overhead, surrounding the campsites at Redwood Meadow.
This special area offers a rare opportunity within one of America’s most visited parks — to experience the giant sequoias the way John Muir did, free from crowds, cars and ambient light. They exude a witchy and ancient wisdom when the sun sets, creating a perfect ambiance for storytelling by the fire.
If your goal is to find a wooded, mountainous backpacking adventure free of snow in the early spring, Redwood Meadow is the perfect place to lay your head and dream of the national parks of days past.