Mist Falls

Kings Canyon National Park / Cedar Grove, California, USA

About Mist Falls


Hiking Distance: 8 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 5-6 hours

Date first visited: 2004-08-27
Date last visited: 2004-08-27

Waterfall Latitude: 36.81354
Waterfall Longitude: -118.54865

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Mist Falls seemed to be another rare waterfall where less was more.

In this instance, I had read that the reportedly 45ft falls pretty much would live up to its name when the South Fork of the Kings River was in high flow.

Mist_Falls_014_08272004 - Mist Falls
Mist Falls

Under such a state, the falls was said to be both a misty mess and loud.

However, when we did a Kings Canyon trip in August 2004, I decided to seize the opportunity to experience this waterfall under more benign conditions, which you can see in the photo above.

The Hike to Mist Falls

I started the hike to Mist Falls right at the parking lot at the Road’s End, which was basically the very end of Hwy 180 in the Cedar Grove area.

This was where I slung on my day pack and ensured I carried plenty of water because I was in for a long 8-mile round-trip hike.

Mist_Falls_069_08272004 - The Mist Falls Trail starting at the Road's End in the Cedar Grove part of Kings Canyon National Park
The Mist Falls Trail starting at the Road’s End in the Cedar Grove part of Kings Canyon National Park

I happened to be hiking in the presence of a large group of backpackers who were aiming to camp out at Paradise Valley (said to be one of Kings Canyon’s most popular backcountry spots).

Apparently, this trailhead seemed to be the starting point for many backcountry adventurers so it was pretty busy.

I recalled hiking on mostly flat terrain with imposing granite peaks flanking the river valley I was in.

Following this trail was pretty straightforward as the main junctions were well signposted.

Mist_Falls_062_08272004 - Looking across a footbridge where the Bubbs Creek Trail left the Mist Falls Trail
Looking across a footbridge where the Bubbs Creek Trail left the Mist Falls Trail

And even though I was supposedly gaining in elevation, the incline was hardly noticeable.

After passing by the Bubbs Creek turnoff (probably at the two-mile or so point), the trail curved northwards with the bend in the South Fork Kings River and the trail also got noticeably more inclined.

After several minutes more of climbing, the trail then flattened out.

In this stretch, I managed to get high enough on the trail to look back towards the mouth of the valley.

Mist_Falls_009_08272004 - Looking back towards the so-called Sphinx Formation on the trail to Mist Falls
Looking back towards the so-called Sphinx Formation on the trail to Mist Falls

The view showed how this valley was once glaciated, but I also noticed a rock formation amongst the granite sentinels, which was known as the Sphinx.

Even though I admittedly couldn’t quite make out a sphinx, my imagination did lead me to believe that this formation looked like a cat with perked up ears.

The trail would continue to climb until I finally made it to Mist Falls.

Given the relatively low flow during my visit, I was able to take my time and experiment with photo taking.

Mist_Falls_034_08272004 - Looking right across the plunge pool at the base of Mist Falls backed by some more interesting peaks during my August 2004 visit
Looking right across the plunge pool at the base of Mist Falls backed by some more interesting peaks during my August 2004 visit

The trail continued up above Mist Falls (affording some top down views) and up more switchbacks en route to Paradise Valley, which was apparently a popular place to access the John Muir Trail.

I didn’t make it all the way to Paradise Valley as this waterfall was sufficient for my dayhiking desires, and I’d imagine this would be a logical turnaround point for most dayhikers.

In total, I believe I hiked at least 8 miles round trip with most of the elevation gain towards the latter half of the hike to the falls.

On the afternoon that I hiked this trail, it seemed like it was mostly in the shadow of tree cover for much of the entire hike thereby keeping me shaded and relatively cool on the warm sunny day of my visit.

Mist_Falls_051_08272004 - Looking over the brink of Mist Falls with late afternoon rainbow as I briefly pursued Paradise Valley further upstream of the waterfall
Looking over the brink of Mist Falls with late afternoon rainbow as I briefly pursued Paradise Valley further upstream of the waterfall

In any case, I believe I completed this out-and-back hike in at least 5 hours, including all the picture taking.

Perhaps one of these days, I might return here and check out for myself some of the backcountry trails that made this section of the park so popular.

Authorities

Mist Falls resides in the Cedar Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park near Pinehurst in Fresno County, California. It is administered by the National Park Service. For information or inquiries about the park as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Mist_Falls_067_08272004 - Hiking along the first mile or so of the Mist Falls trail, which was quite wide and flat as well as busy with backpackers beginning their backcountry adventures
Mist_Falls_065_08272004 - Continuing along the wide and well-developed part of the Mist Falls hike beyond Road's End in Cedar Grove
Mist_Falls_004_08272004 - Focused look at the Sphinx as the Mist Falls Trail climbed up towards some kind of granite slope during my August 2004 visit
Mist_Falls_010_08272004 - The shaded Mist Trail that followed alongside the South Fork Kings River during my late August 2004 visit
Mist_Falls_011_08272004 - Finally starting to approach the Mist Falls in its late August 2004 flow
Mist_Falls_016_08272004 - People standing by the base of Mist Falls for some context during my late August 2004 visit
Mist_Falls_018_08272004 - Portrait view of the Mist Falls in the late afternoon of my late August 2004 hike
Mist_Falls_039_08272004 - I showed up to Mist Falls just in time for a slight rainbow at its base during my late afternoon visit in late August 2004
Mist_Falls_055_08272004 - I actually continued to explore a little beyond Mist Falls just to see how much further I had to go to reach Paradise Valley, but the trail really made a long climb at this point
Mist_Falls_057_08272004 - Looking back towards the Sphinx Formation and the U-shaped canyon from somewhere higher up than Mist Falls during my August 2004 visit
Mist_Falls_059_08272004 - Looking up at the climbing trail towards Paradise Valley somewhere uphill from Mist Falls as seen during my August 2004 hike
Mist_Falls_060_08272004 - After deciding that I probably wasn't going to make it up to Paradise Valley, I headed back down into the forest en route to concluding my Mist Falls hike in late August 2004

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To get to Mist Falls, I had to drive to the Road’s End of Hwy 180 in Cedar Grove of Kings Canyon National Park.

The Hwy 180 turnoff for Cedar Grove was in the Grant Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park (which itself was joined with Sequoia National Park) about an hour drive (36 miles) away from the Road’s End.

However, the road to Cedar Grove was a seasonal late Spring to early Autumn road as it was subject to Winter closure.

For some context, the Hwy 180 turnoff in Grant Grove (near Wilsonia) is over an hour drive (54 miles) east of Fresno. Fresno is about 3.5 hours drive north of Los Angeles (without traffic).

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Tagged with: cedar grove, kings canyon, fresno county, fresno, wilsonia, grant grove, 180, roads end, roaring river falls, zumwalt meadow, bubbs creek, sphinx, paradise valley, sierra, california, waterfall



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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