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Sequoia National Park nestles in the Sierra Nevada mountains about a 100 miles south of Yosemite. Adjacent to it on the north side is Kings Canyon National park. They are well known for their giant Sequoia trees one of which is the largest tree by volume (and hence the largest living thing on earth) - General Sherman.

The twin parks are accessed by Highways 180 (from Fresno in the west) and 198 (from Visalia in the southwest). We had visited Sequoia National Park once before in 1997 and had mostly spent time on the short walks from the park road.

The area known as Mineral King is on the southern side of the park and takes some effort to get to. The approach to the park on Hwy 198 crosses the town of Visalia and then into the foothills, skirting Lake Kaweah for quite a distance and then hugging Kaweah River that feeds it. The turnoff to Mineral King appears before the highway enters the National Park. It is a 24 mile roughly paved single lane road that climbs from 1000 feet to 7000 feet with more than 600 twisty blind spots that takes upto 2 hours going uphill.

The Mineral King area does contain some private property and a restaurant and resort with cabins. There are 2 campgrounds, a ranger station and a bunch of trails. The reward for driving the tough road is the solitude and near exclusive use of the wilderness.

Like the rest of the Sierra Nevada, this is bear country and requires all the usual precautions about food storage. But what we had not heard of was the more likely chance of having your vehicle disabled by the many marmots that throng the area in the early part of summer. They have a liking for chewing on radiator hoses and brake cables. The Park Ranger advised us to keep the hood of our car open which is meant to discourage them from staying too long in the engine compartment as they don't like being exposed to the sun too long. Or so the story goes. We were quite sceptical but decided there was no harm in it. Most of the other parked cars had their hoods open looking very crocodile-like in the warmth of the sun.

The cars parked in the few residences had netting skirted all around. Many cars parked on the trail head also had the netting skirt nailed to the ground surrounding the car completely. Amazingly we found one such car with a marmot trapped INSIDE trying to get out!

Click here for the Google Earth KMZ file for this trip.

Monarch Lakes Trail
Eagle Lakes Trail

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