California’s Kings Canyon National Park is a paradise for long, multi-day backcountry hikes as most part of it is very remote and can’t even be accessed by car. One of the few day hikes is the Paradise Valley Trail to Mist Falls. It’s an easy and beautiful hike and it’s very popular. It’s the start of many backcountry hikes, too, so not everyone will turn back at Mist Falls.
What makes Paradise Valley a paradise?
We loved this trail because it’s probably the prettiest walk we’ve ever done. The trail leads in the canyon and the pine forest, the meadows full of wildflowers, the surrounding high peaks and the perfectly green mountain river make this place a real ‘Paradise Valley’.
Not to mention Mist Falls. It’s not the highest waterfall in Kings Canyon National Park but it’s very impressive: the river rushes down a steep, smooth granite slope right before the falls.
How to access the trailhead
The simplest advice to find the trailhead is: drive to the end of General Highway (180) and park in the big parking lot at the end of the road (it’s a dead end road). There’s signs at the parking lot indicating the trail. And that’s it, you found paradise! 🙂
The first section of the hike is on Kanawyer Loop Trail, but you need to pay attention not to turn back when the loop turns back. Rather continue to Mist Falls and even a bit further. It gets a bit more steep after Mist Falls, but that’s where you get the best views of the canyon!
Best time to do this hike
General Highway (180) is the name of the road through Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Its section to Cedar Grove (basically the entrance to Kings Canyon) is open from late April to mid-October. The exact date depends on the weather each year, you can check it on the national park’s official website. Anyway, it’s wise to check current road, trail and weather conditions before you go.
Late spring can offer you views of the snowcapped peaks. Summer days are usually sunny and hot, but evenings are always chilly due to the elevation.
Where to stay
The situation is the same as in most of the national parks in the US. Campgrounds are available and there are also a few lodges in the park. We stayed outside of the park (particularly in a town called Dinuba) as usual because it was cheaper and it offers a lot more choices. The price you have to pay is about an hour drive to the park every day.
But if you prefer camping or park lodges, be sure to book them well in advance. Yes, reservation can be required even at campgrounds, so always check that particular campground you are planning to stay.
Summary of all the details
- Trailhead: end of General Highway (180)
- Route: Kanawyer Loop Trail – Paradise Valley Trail to Mist Falls
- Length: 11.7 miles round-trip
- Difficulty: easy
Other great Sierra Nevada hikes
This post is the last piece of a series about our favorite day hikes in the Sierra Nevada – check them out here!
And now it’s your turn! What are your favorite day hikes?
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