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. Under such a state, the falls was said to be both a misty mess and loud. So when we did a Kings Canyon trip in August 2004, I decided to seize the opportunity to experience this waterfall under more benign conditions.
I started the hike to this waterfall right at the car park 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. 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.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. 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 then flattening out, climbing then flattening out, I managed to get high enough on the trail to look back towards the mouth of the valley. The view showed how this valley was once glaciated, but I also noticed a rock formation amongst the granite sentinels. That formation 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. 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 treecover for much of the entire hike thereby keeping me shaded and relatively cool on the warm sunny day of my visit. 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.
To get to the falls, you’ll have 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 is in the Grant Grove section of Kings Canyon National Park (which itself is joined with Sequoia National Park) about an hour drive (36 miles) away from the Road’s End. However, the road to Cedar Grove is a seasonal late Spring to early Autumn road as it’s subject to Winter closure.
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