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If you are looking to beat the crowds and have the giant sequoias all to yourself, consider hiking the Hart Tree Trail at Kings Canyon National Park. The 8.5-mile loop takes you through the largest group of giant sequoias in the world.
In addition to seeing the famed Hart Tree, while hiking this trail you also get to walk through the inside of a fallen sequoia and hike by a “log” cabin, a Sierra Mountain meadow, a waterfall, and “Fallen Goliath.” So not only do you get to beat the crowds, but you also get a wonderful sampling of what makes this area so unique and amazing.
The trail takes you by the Hart Tree, which at one point was thought to be the fourth largest sequoia. However, that status was replaced by larger trees, like General Sherman, as they were discovered later. Currently, it is the 24th largest giant sequoia in the world. It was named after Michael Hart, who discovered the tree around 1880.
As you hike the Hart Tree Trail at Kings Canyon National Park, you hike through the Redwood Mountain Grove, the largest grove of giant sequoias in the world. You are literally walking among giants.
One thing to note, I used the “Falcon Guide’s Hiking Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.” According to the book, it’s 7.2 miles; however, my phone clocked me at 8.5. I use Topo Maps+ so if you want to follow with my mileage you might consider downloading it.
Finding the trailhead for the Hart Tree Trail
The trailhead for the Hart Tree Trail is on Forest Service Road 14S75, two miles from Highway 180 or the Generals Highway. The road is not paved and is rough in places, so you will want to take it slow. The intersection with Forest Service Road 14S75 is 4.8 miles east of the Big Stump entrance to Kings Canyon National Park.
Trailhead to Hart Meadow
To begin your hike you want to go left at the trailhead. There is an informational board with a map that will help you determine which route to take. The Sugar Bowl Trail leads to the right and the Hart Tree Trail leads to the left.
For a longer hike, you can loop the Sugar Bowl Trail and the Hart Tree Trail. Backcountry camping is allowed, but you must have a permit with Kings Canyon National Park.
After about 0.5 miles, you come to an intersection. Technically the Hart Tree Trail is a lollipop loop, but the “stick” portion is short. At this intersection, you can either go to the left or the right. I chose to go to the left.
The trail snakes around and crosses Redwood Creek around mile 0.75. Take note how small the creek is here, higher up in the mountains. When you cross it again deep in the valley you will notice how much it grows as it flows downhill.
Around mile 1, you cross another fork of the creek, and soon after look to your left for the “log” cabin. The trail begins to climb back uphill out of the valley, and at mile 1.2, there is a wonderful vista of the Redwood Canyon.
The trail continues to climb and snake around as it makes its way up the other side of the canyon. It’s an easy climb and not too steep.
Around mile 2.5 you pass the Hart Meadow with beautiful ferns and grasses. This I believe is my favorite part of the trail.
Hart Meadow to Hart Tree
The trail continues to follow the eastern side of the canyon, and at mile 3.14 you come to a fallen sequoia. The tree has been hollowed out by a fire and the trail goes right through it. There is a bypass if you don’t feel like crouching.
From this point, the Hart Tree Trail takes you through massive sequoia trees. This part makes you feel like you are walking on another planet. Words and pictures simply cannot describe what it’s like to walk under these giants.
At mile 3.7, the trail crosses another fork of Redwood Creek, before coming to a small spur trail to the Hart Tree at mile 3.9. Here you can either walk up to see the Hart Tree or view it from the trail.
Hart Tree to Redwood Creek
The trail continues to follow along the slope through the massive trees. At mile 4.2 you cross a small tributary, and the trail takes you right past a waterfall. It was fairly dry while I was visiting the area, and the waterfall was flowing nicely.
The trail makes a slight turn and you begin heading west toward Redwood Creek. It continues to take you through giant sequoias, which are all around you. In a few places, there are downed trees thick with debris and you can only imagine what it is like when one of these trees fall.
Around mile 5.5 you pass the Fallen Goliath. However, for some reason I missed it. Perhaps it was at the part with all the other downed trees, or I was simply not paying close enough attention. So you’ll want to really keep an eye out for it.
At mile 6, you cross Redwood Creek via a fallen log. I will note that in my guide book had this intersection at mile 5.2, and the park had a sign that said 4 miles. But my phone had me at 6 miles, and it felt like 6 miles.
Redwood Creek to Trailhead
After you cross the creek, you will want to go right. There is another trail to left, so be sure you stick to the right. At mile 6.2 there is another intersection. Here you will also want to stay to the right. The Sugar Bowl Trail goes to the left if you want to make it a longer trail.
From here the Hart Tree Trail climbs out of the valley, paralleling Redwood Creek. Again you hike through giant sequoias. It’s a slow and steady climb, but not too hard. It climbs about 800 feet in two miles.
At one point the trail passes a large fallen sequoia, seeing it made me feel better about missing the Fallen Goliath.
At mile 8.2, you come back to the “stick” of the lollipop. From there it’s just a little bit more climbing as you retrace your beginning steps back to the trailhead.
Hart Tree Trail
The Hart Tree Trail was one of my favorite trails at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. I loved getting away from the crowds and walking among the giants all by myself. I only saw three other hikers the entire time I was on the trail. It was really nice for it to just be me and the giant sequoias.
- 8.5-mile loop
- Elevation gain and loss 1,351 feet
- Dogs not allowed
- Backcountry camping allowed, permit required