National Park Road Trip 2011: Kings Canyon National Park
Editor's note: Having crossed the country in four weeks, David and Kay Scott stopped for three nights in Kings Canyon National Park to work on updating their book, The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges. Weighing camping in the snow at Grant Grove vs. divorce, David and Kay wisely headed down in elevation to a much warmer campground at Cedar Grove.
Greetings from Kings Canyon National Park, where we have completed a three-night stay. We have driven 4,100 miles and are preparing for the fifth week of our road trip.
The plan for Kings Canyon had been to spend the first night camping at Cedar Grove, the second night in a cabin at Grant Grove Village, and the third night camping near Grant Grove. The plan changed when we arrived at Grant Grove to discover piles of snow in the campgrounds. The planned third night of camping here would have been divorce night.
Luckily, Grant Grove Lodge had vacancies, so we were able to push back by one night our cabin stay and camp the first two nights in Cedar Grove, a much warmer location at a lower elevation.
The drive from Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon is about 30 miles and we arrived early for photos and one of our award-winning Steven Spielberg-quality videos. Then it was down to Cedar Grove to locate a campsite and explore Cedar Grove Lodge. The 32-mile drive from Grant Grove to Cedar Grove is the best in Sequoia/Kings Canyon, with mountain and canyon views, roaring waterfalls, and nearly ten miles following the roaring South Fork of the King’s River.
With above-average winter snowfall, the river is really ripping along the valley floor.
Arriving in Cedar Grove, we talked with the lodge manager and checked out several rooms. Cedar Grove Lodge is a small facility that has changed little since our first stay in 1996. The exterior has the appearance of a ski chalet. Eighteen rooms on the second floor are relatively small with two queen beds and cost $119 per night. Three rooms on the bottom floor each have a microwave, small refrigerator, and a patio with a picnic table. These rent for $135 per night.
The lodge includes a small store with limited groceries and a café offering food you might expect, plus some items, like trout and chicken, you might not. Outside picnic tables allow diners to munch their food in harmony with the roar of the nearby river.
Cedar Grove is one of the great national park treasures that many travelers seem to overlook. This is their loss. The campgrounds, the lodge, and the location make Cedar Grove one of our favorite national park stops.
The area boasts four relatively large campgrounds that were nearly deserted when we arrived early last week.
Grant Grove, meanwhile, offers a variety of lodging alternatives from relatively new (1999) and upscale John Muir Lodge to Tent Cabins that we have avoided during our six stays here. Guest rooms in John Muir Lodge are quite nice and cost $188 per night. Grant Grove has four classes of cabins. In ascending order of price and quality they are; Tent Cabins ($62), Camper Cabins ($77), Rustic Cabins ($87), and Cabins with a private bath ($129).
Only nine of the 50 cabins are in the latter category, which means travelers who want to avoid paying $188 per night are likely to end up in a cabin without a bath. Our choice has generally been the Rustic Cabins that have a finished interior with carpet, paneled walls, and a vaulted ceiling. The bath and shower building is heated and only three years old.
Grant Grove Village also includes a National Park Service visitor center, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a market. The cabins and lodge sit back from the commercial area, so guests are not bothered by traffic. The dining room is an easy walk from the cabins or the lodge.
We left Kings Canyon for Fresno right before the Memorial Day Weekend, which was a busy one in the park, as the lodges at both Grant Grove and Cedar Grove were sold out for the weekend.
It is time to find peace in the city. Following Fresno, we will be heading north to Yosemite National Park for a night at Wawona in the south end of the park and then a night or two in Yosemite Valley.