Welcome to the Foothills With its mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, the area around the Foothills Visitor Center at Ash Mountain supports life forms that are very different from those found higher in the Sierra Nevada. Ash Mountain is the headquarters for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and also for the Sequoia Natural History Association, a non-profit corporation dedicated to supporting educational and scientific activities in these parks. Crystal Cave, a beautifully decorated marble cavern, is located on a spur road off of the Generals Highway between Ash Mountain and the Giant Forest.
What would you like to know about the Ash Mountain - Foothills area? How do I get there? What is the weather like? What facilities are available? What ranger-guided activities are available? What can I see in the Foothills area? What day-hiking trails are in the area? I am interested in backpacking in the Foothill area. Points of Interest in the Ash Mountain Area Entrance to Sequoia National Park Less than 1/4 mile inside the entrance to Sequoia National Park stands a massive, hand-carved wooden sign, modeled after the face on the old Indian head nickel. This sign was created by a Civilian Conservation Corps enrollee from Arkansas in the 1930's. The giant trees that make this park famous may have been named after a Cherokee Indian, Se-quo-yah, who devised an alphabet for his people. The Generals Highway The road from Ash Mountain to Hospital Rock was originally built by the Mt. Whitney Power Company to provide access to build a flume that carries water from the Marble and Middle Forks of the Kaweah River to a power generator just outside the park. You can see this concrete flume on the far side of the river.
The road from Hospital Rock to Giant Forest was built by the government, and was completed in 1926. The rock work was added by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. Today, construction is underway to repair and upgrade this historic road. Tunnel Rock This large granite boulder is 1.6 miles from the Ash Mountain Visitor Center. Originally, the only road here was the bypass. The CCC dug the tunnel beneath the rock and faced the dirt wall with rock, finishing the work in 1938. Hospital Rock This pleasant site on the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River was once home to nearly 500 Native Americans belonging to the Potwisha sub-group of the Monache, or Western Mono, Indians. Archeological evidence indicates that Indians settled in this area as early as 1350. Today, visitors to Hospital Rock can still view ancient rock paintings, or pictographs, and bedrock mortars used to grind acorns. The area got its present name in 1873, when James Everton stayed here to recover from a gunshot wound he had received while stumbling into a shotgun snare set to trap bear.
Amphitheater Point is a broad turnout on the Generals Highway, 10.3 miles from the Foothills Visitor Center. From here, you can see all three of the life zones of the Sierra. Below lies the Foothill zone with its oak and brush forests. Above lies the mixed- conifer forest, home to the giant sequoias, the world's largest living things. And in the distance, you can get your first good view of the high Sierra, as the barren, rocky peaks of the Great Western Divide appear on your right. Hikes in the Foothills While snow is still melting in the Sequoia groves, the foothills are clothed in a glorious array of wildflowers. Late March through late May are especially colorful. Remember, however, that poison oak is also abundant at these elevations. In the spring and summer, this twiggy shrub has shiny green leaves in groups of three . Its berries are white. The leaves turn red in the fall; the twigs are bare in the winter but may still cause a reaction if touched. If you have any contact with poison oak, wash your skin and clothes as soon as possible. As you walk through foothill grasses, a tick may hitch a ride. Tick bites are painless, but a small percentage of ticks carry Lyme disease.
If you have been hiking in brushy or grassy areas, check yourself thoroughly when you return from your hike. If you find a tick, remove it with tweezers and seek a ranger's or doctor's advice. The foothills are also home to rattlesnakes. These and all animals in the National Park are protected. Most snake bites occur as a result of teasing or trying to handle snakes. Very few people die from rattlesnake bites, but their poison can cause severe tissue damage. Topographic maps of the foothill trails are available at the visitor center book store.
Please note that pets are not permitted on any of the trails in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. In campgrounds and picnic areas, pets must be kept on a leash at all times.
To begin this 7-mile round trip hike, follow the dirt road at the upper end of Potwisha Campground. After the road crosses the flume, about 0.1 miles from the campground, look for the start of the trail up the hillside. The trail follows the contour of the chaparral-cloaked hills, gradually gaining about 2000' in elevation by the time it reaches the falls. Middle Fork Trail to Panther Creek The beginning of the Middle Fork Trail is located at the Hospital Rock picnic area. This trail travels through chaparral and oak grassland above the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River and gains about 1200' in elevation before it crosses Panther Creek. The trail stays well above the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River; steep canyon walls and vertical cliffs make it impossible to descend to the river in most places. The hike to Panther Creek is approximately 9 miles round-trip.
Overnight camping is available at Panther Creek, and also 2 miles further up the trail at Mehrten Creek. Lady Bug Camp This 4 mile round-trip hike gains 750' as it climbs through chaparral and oak-hardwood forest to Lady Bug Camp on the South Fork of the Kaweah River. The trail begins at the upper end of South Fork Campground, on South Fork Road, 12 miles east of Highway 198 and Three Rivers. Backcountry permits are also available for this area. Because it is a south-facing trail, this is a good hike early in the season. Garfield Grove This trail also begins at South Fork Campground. It climbs rather quickly (1400' in 2 miles) through chaparral and oak-hardwood forest to Putnam Canyon. The trail from this point to Snowslide Canyon, 1 1/2 miles further on, is often impassable early in the season due to snow. Approximately 4 miles from the trailhead, the trail enters the Garfield Grove of Giant Sequoias. Backcountry permits are available for this area. North Fork Trail The trail begins at the end of North Fork Drive near the town of Three Rivers. It follows the river through chaparral and oak woodland for approximately 6 1/2 miles, climbing 1200'. It then turns away from the river and, over the next 5 miles, climbs another 2400' through oak grassland and mixed conifer forest to Hidden Springs. Colony Mill Road Although all but the first 1/2 mile is now closed to vehicles, this was part of the original road to Giant Forest. It was constructed almost entirely by hand by members of the Kaweah Colony, a community of radical socialists who hoped to cut timber in the Giant Forest area in the mid 1880's. The road begins at the end of the North Fork Road in Three Rivers and eventually joins the road to Crystal Cave.