We did this hike this last weekend and it was beautiful! Last year's epic snow and the late spring in the high country meant that the wildflowers in the high meadows were just getting started in mid-August. It was a wonderful surprise to go for a wildflower hike in August, and have to cross a snowfield!
We saw several hikers making the same loop, only going from Woods Lake to Round Top Lake first, and then descending from Winnemucca Lake. It seemed to me that this would have been the more challenging route, considering how much steeper that side seemed, with more switchbacks and large steps over rocks. The route from Woods Lake to Winnemucca Lake traverses a hillside with only a few rocky patches.
Either way, though, the views at the lakes are well worth it!
I'd add another con to the list above: It's very close to the highway. We heard traffic noise all day and into the late evening. Only in the middle of the night was it quiet enough to hear the river.
Also, and maybe this was just during our visit, but the smell from the pit toilets was obvious in our campsite (#9). Like it needed to be pumped. The toilet rooms themselves were very clean.
We visited Sequoia National Park in May 2017, the week before Memorial Day Weekend. Which, imo, if you can manage it, is the best time to visit national parks... before the larger crowds descend.
On our first day we visited General Sherman after the obligatory stop in at the visitor's center to get maps and talk to rangers.
On the second day, we visited him again as part of a two-car hike through. We parked one car at the south side of Giant Forest, and then drove up to the General Sherman parking area. We hiked down and visited all the other big trees in the center, and then took the Trail of the Sequoias down to Tharp's Log, the Chimney Tree, and Squatter's Cabin on the southern side, near Crescent Meadow.
We visited Sequoia National Park in May 2017, the week before Memorial Day Weekend.
We hike from General Sherman to the Crescent Meadow, by way of the Trail of the Sequoias and it was beautiful. We only saw on person on the May day we were out there, and it was the trail manager making notes of the sections that needed some attention.
We visited other parts of the Giant Forest, and I can honestly say there aren't any "ugly" parts. It's all beautiful.
We hike from General Sherman to the Crescent Meadow, by way of the Trail of the Sequoias and it was beautiful.
We visited Emerald Pools on a particularly hot day in June, and it was hopping with lots of folks trying to escape the heat. (It was mid-80s, which is hot for this elevation.)
We parked just down the road from the bridge, and walked alongside the north side, following the Pioneer Trail, down to the water's edge. It was very, very cold, being snow-melt during a high-snow year. Some braver folks were jumping in from a boulder across the river, but I preferred to stay near the side sitting on a smaller rock with just my feet in.
We visited Emerald Pools on a particularly hot day in June, and it was hopping with lots of folks trying to escape th
We gave this campground a try for a last-minute weekend get-away in June 2017, and were surprised at how amazing this place is! It's a gem of a campground tucked back into the forest. The stream running behind the campground is beautiful and shallow and perfect for lulling you to sleep.
The hike down to the waterfall/swimming hole is a bit rough, but not impossible.
The campsites are ENORMOUS! We could have easily gotten three or four tents in our site with lots of space between for privacy. They're all mostly in the shade, and have a grill and a large, brand-new bear box. The water is from a local spring and is delicious.
The only downside, for us, was that there's not a lot to do within walking distance aside from the swimming hole. As campers who like to hike, we had to drive to trails on the north side of Hwy 80. But that wasn't terrible.
We gave this campground a try for a last-minute weekend get-away in June 2017, and were surprised at how amazing this
The water is generally shallow and not too cold. This is a great place to set up a sunshade, bring a book and a folding chair and sit and read with periodic breaks to wade out into the middle of the river and cool off. Water shoes are a great way to protect your feet from the slippery rocks on the river bottom and make wading a bit easier.
We camped here over the July 4 weekend (July 1 - July 5, 2017) and it was... OK.
We're the type of campers who like to go someplace pretty, stay in a quiet-ish campground, and have lots of hikes and activities nearby. This isn't that kind of campground.
Which isn't to say it's a terrible campground. Absolutely not. It's perfect for families who are happy spending the day in the river. It's great for larger groups who want to camp near each other and have their family reunion in an outdoor setting where the kids can roam freely while the parents sit around a campfire and chill.
Some things to keep in mind:
- The park is on both sides of 101, and all three campgrounds are close enough to hear traffic noise all day and night. 101 is a heavily traveled highway, being the main north-south thoroughfare in this part of the state.
- The river is directly next to the highway.
- There are a few nature hikes, some short (.5 mile or so), and a couple of longer ones (3+ miles). The hikes on the west side of 101 are all linked, so you can do them as one long hike (7+ miles), or take them in smaller segments.
- Many of the sites in the Oak Flat campground aren't actually flat. We had a devil of a time finding a spot for our tent that wasn't on an incline.
- If you're planning on going in 2017, keep in mind that much of this part of the state took a beating last winter, and some of the trails that were under tree cover aren't anymore because of landslides. Also, trail markers might be missing.
One happy event was that we learned that the town of Benbow, just north of Richardson Grove, has an annual July 4th fireworks show, and your pass to RG will get you into the park where there's excellent viewing.
If you can't make a reservation, then try to get there as early in the morning as possible so you're near the front of the line when the Ranger Station opens.
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