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Hockett Trail to East Fork Kaweah River Falls

Sequoia National Park

June 14th, 2008

2.9 miles
610 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:36

Starting elevation
5869 feet
Max elevation
6546 feet

Rating: 6/10

Directions: From Visalia, take Highway 198 east to Three Rivers. Turn right onto Mineral King Road. Follow the road to Atwell Mill Campground. Turn right into the campground and follow the signs to the parking lot for the Hockett Meadow trailhead (the lot is about 1/4 mile from the trailhead, and there is no parking directly at the trailhead).   View Driving Map

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GPX File

(Note, the GPX file above only shows the return trip of this out-and-back hike.)

There was only one other car in the parking lot when we arrived, and another one came while we were preparing. I made sure to put all our extra sunscreen and other scented items into the communal bear box at the lot.

Bug hole at parking lot?

Trees at the parking lot

We started hiking down the road back into the campground. We passed several huge sequoia stumps. The campground was nearly empty, even though it was a Saturday. It's a nice campground with sequoia trees, but no river or lake nearby. I'm guessing it's main use is for overflow if the Cold Springs Campground is full. If you want peace and quiet, though, it's a nice campground for that.

As we approached the trailhead, I spotted a caterpillar on the ground. Nathan picked it up and let it crawl over his hand. I expected him to be freaked out a bit, but he was perfectly fine with it. He gently put him back on the ground, and we continued along on the hike. He did complain that we never saw another caterpillar on the rest of the hike, though.

We shortly came to the trailhead, and then continued down the trail itself. We walked past another giant sequoia stump, then came to a small meadow with ruins of an old logging operation. We then continued down the right trail fork, staying on the Hockett Trail. The trail descends over 600 feet as it winds its way through the forest. There are a few large old-growth sequoias, though most of it is relatively younger, slimmer trees.

Hiking through the forest

Views through the trees

The trail provides an obstructed view through the trees across the valley. As we descended, we crossed a couple small streams coming down the hillside. We had the trail mostly to ourselves. We only saw about a half dozen other hikers.

As we descended further, we could hear the sound of the river below. Then we turned a corner and there was the foot bridge, crossing about 30 feet above the water, with a thunderous waterfall behind it. The river passes through two tall sequoias before crashing down into the large rocks below, then crossing under the bridge.


View of foot bridge from near the falls

We found a small amount of shade against a rock wall on the other end of the foot bridge. At least the shade would increase as we stayed there. It's pretty much the only spot for a picnic here. If you come at 1pm there won't be much shade, but wait an hour or two and there will be some. While the others ate, I took some pictures of the waterfall. There were two other people here. One scrambled down to the water's edge and was trying to fish (he gave up after a while and headed back up). The other man, who was wearing a blue shirt, spent most of his time looking around and taking pictures.

Mossy rocks along the falls

River below the falls

Another view of the falls

While I was taking pictures of the waterfall, I noticed scores of bees flying away from the spray. I'm not sure if they're a permanent presence here, but they bothered us a bit while we had our picnic. After our picnic we packed up and started the hike back uphill the same way we came down. As we were hiking quietly back, I was well aware that this was bear territory. Suddenly, I heard a growl. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was actually just Jared snoring on my back. It didn't help that his snoring was on and off.

Flowers along the trail

The rest of the hike back was uneventful. The campground was still mostly empty when we returned. There were a couple more cars in the parking lot. Marmots had not eaten our car (I suspect marmots live at higher elevations). Bears had not damaged our car; in fact, I was a bit surprised and disappointed that we hadn't seen a bear on this hike.

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