Woman hiking through forest, rear view, Mineral King, Sequoia National Park, California, USA

©Peter Amend/Getty Images

Mineral King

Sequoia National Park

A scenic subalpine valley at 7500ft, Mineral King is Sequoia’s backpacking mecca and a good place to find solitude. Gorgeous and gigantic, its glacially sculpted valley is ringed by massive mountains, including the jagged 12,343ft Sawtooth Peak. The area is reached via Mineral King Rd – a slinky, steep and narrow 25-mile road not suitable for RVs or speed demons; it's usually open from late May through October. Plan on spending the night unless you don’t mind driving the three-hour round-trip.

Hiking anywhere from here involves a steep climb out of the valley along strenuous trails, so be aware of the altitude, even on short hikes. Enjoyable day hikes go to Crystal, Monarch, Mosquito and Eagle Lakes. For long trips, locals recommend the Little Five Lakes and, further along the High Sierra Trail, Kaweah Gap, surrounded by Black Kaweah, Mt Stewart and Eagle Scout Peak – all above 12,000ft.

In spring and early summer, hordes of hungry marmots terrorize parked cars at Mineral King, chewing on radiator hoses, belts and wiring to get the salt they crave after their winter hibernation. If you’re thinking of going hiking during that time, you’d be well advised to protect your car by wrapping the underside with a diaper-like tarp – apparently, the marmots have learned to get around the previously recommended chicken wire.

From the 1860s to the 1890s, Mineral King witnessed heavy silver mining and lumber activity. There are remnants of shafts and stamp mills, though it takes some exploring to find them. A proposal by the Walt Disney Corporation to develop the area into a massive ski resort was thwarted when Congress annexed it to make it part of the national park in 1978. The website of the Mineral King Preservation Society (www.mineralking.org) has all kinds of info on the area, including its rustic and still-occupied historic mining cabins.

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