For the second and last hike of our quick weekend trip to Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parks, I chose Mitchell Peak, a ~2000 feet of gain, ~6.4 mile round-trip hike to 360-degree unobstructed mountain views! The road to get there, much like Monarch Lakes, was a bit of an adventure, though (seems to be a Sequoia / Kings Canyon theme?)!!
Not learning from my mistakes the previous day, I flipped through the Falcon hiking guide once more to pick a hike. I found Mitchell Peak in the Big Meadows area, much closer to our Dorst Creek campsite than the Monarch Lakes hike! Buuuuut, I should’ve actually read the description of how to get to the trailhead, because this hike involves another long drive on a curvy windy road, culminating in 2+ miles of lumpy bumpy dirt road. If David’s car could talk, it would say “screw you guys”.
The Big Meadows area is located right off of 198, the main highway running through Sequoia national park. There is a big sign for the Big Meadows road, just past the Big Baldy trailhead (if you’re coming from the north). This curvy paved road has lots and lots of side roads, but stay the course, passing various different campgrounds along the way. You’ll also pass a sign for the pack station.
You are very near to your turnoff after you pass the Deer Meadows trailhead on your left. After this, keep your eyes peeled for a dirt road on the right with signage for Marvin Pass and SHSC (Sequoia High Sierra Camp). The Falcon guide says the signage for the dirt road was stolen but it must’ve been replaced. Take the dirt road for 2 miles up to the trailhead. The road is very rough and also very narrow. When you encounter other cars you will probably have to do some reversing and/or shuffling to let them by. You will pass one or two side-roads while on the main dirt road, but they look even worse than the road you are on so it is obvious that you shouldn’t take them. Very near the end of the road there is a sign for SHSC pointing to the right. Follow the sign and in about 30 seconds you will end up in the big Marvin Pass / SHSC parking lot. Phew! There were sedans in the parking lot so we know they can make it up the road, just take it veryyy slow and don’t bring your lowrider on this trip!
In the parking lot there are a few information boards and an old trail that starts directly behind them. The Falcon guide says that the trail starts behind the boards, but ignore that! There is a new trail to the left with a registration post and a SHSC sign. Take this instead!
The trail climbs gently up a semi-wooded hill to a junction at 0.2 miles in. If you take a left you end up at SHSC, if you stay straight you continue your hike towards Marvin Pass and Mitchell Peak. The junction is well signed. We stayed straight and kept on truckin’.
Much like the Monarch Lakes hike, this trail was suspiciously gentle and full of switchbacks. What’s up with that!?!?! Did I get extremely lucky and happen to pick two very switchback-happy hikes, or is this characteristic of Kings Canyon / Sequoia hiking!?!? Inquiring minds want to know!
Along the way we passed through some lovely old growth stands with some big trees, and hit a few more junctions. There is a sign on the boards at the trailhead warning that junctions are obvious but the signs have been stolen. After the sign stealing incidents (who does that???), hikers apparently came prepared with sharpies and wrote directions on the posts at each junction, so it is always very clear which direction you’re supposed to go. Thanks, fellow hikers of the past!
We continued on up the mercifully moderate trail, but it doesn’t provide much in terms of views until you reach the very top – and then – BAM! After a very quick scramble up some big boulders at the tippy top, we were greeted with mountain views on all sides (the clouds were also ON POINT that day). It was hazy but not in a soul- and view-crushing way 😀 . You play the long game, Mitchell Peak, but you play it well.
The trail was easy to descend, and we didn’t see another soul on our way up, at the top, or on our way down. We did, however, find the soles of a pair of hiking boots a few hundred feet from the trailhead (and the soles were spaced a few hundred feet apart). So apparently someone started hiking, lost the soles of both their shoes, and continued hiking? It’s a mystery. In the parking lot we heard very odd noises, which I thought was a rabid bear ready to attack us, but turned out to be a pack of rabid cows hanging out on the dirt road.
At least one mystery was solved that day.
Until next time!