Nestled inside the entrance to the Sequoia National Monument east of Ducor, the pools at the California Hot Springs Resort are celebrating their 100th birthday.
Development of the facility began in 1882 and grew into a hotel, swimming pool and therapeutic center. In later years, fires destroyed the hotel and the commercial center, and eventually the property was abandoned. In 1983, Ronald and Mary Gilbert bought and restored the facility, reopening it in 1985, so that people from all over the world can come to enjoy the naturally pure hot springs water.
This area is comprised of the Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument, making it one of the most geographically diverse and remote in the country.
This spectacular region in the central eastern portion of Tulare County is often less crowded, and offers so much for those looking for adventure, exploration and a diverse landscape — with rolling foothills skirting the western edge of the Sierra, to majestic giant sequoia groves, high mountain peaks, steep river valleys, alpine lakes and the high desert in the east. Regardless of the season, this area has much to offer.
The Trail of 100 Giants is a paved, fully accessible hiking path that meanders through a stand of giant sequoias, some aged as many as 1,500 years. A self-guided tour offers 20 interpretive stations. Walk alongside a fallen giant and gain a true appreciation for the size of these trees. Stroll at your leisure along the 1.3-mile-long trail within Long Meadow Grove on the Western Divide Highway.
Bald Mountain Lookout provides a stunning, 360-degree view of the southern Sierra Nevada, including Mount Whitney and the Domeland Wilderness. During the summer months, this lookout tower can be accessed from the Sherman Pass Road above Johnsondale in the Sequoia National Forest.
Belknap Grove, made up of three smaller groves, is accessible along the moderate 3.7-mile Nelson Trail, starting from either Camp Nelson or the Quaking Aspen area. The 1,500-foot elevation change along the Tule River makes for a perfect afternoon hike. Fishing is available along most of the trail, and a campground is available for overnight stays.
Whether it’s a weekend or a week, there is plenty to see and do for the whole family. Many improved campgrounds are available in the Sequoia National Forest.
Belknap Campground is nestled in the Camp Nelson community on the South Fork of the Tule River. Enjoy camping out under the giant sequoias, fishing and hiking.
Quaking Aspen Campground is located just off the highway. Minutes away from many attractions, this is an ideal base camp for exploring the Sequoia National Forest. Camp in style by reserving a yurt or even the Quaking Aspen Cabin.
Wishon Campground is open year-round with family campsites available by reservation, and the Wishon Cabin is available for rent. Located in the Sequoia National Forest at an elevation of 4,000 feet, the campground straddles two forks of the Tule River with many hiking and fishing opportunities.
The Freeman Creek Trail
meanders through one of the largest giant sequoia groves with more than 800 trees greater than 10 feet in diameter. It’s an 8.6-mile round-trip. To reach the area from the bottom, take Lloyd Meadow Road from Johnsondale to the trailhead near the George Bush Tree; from the top, take the North Road off Highway 190 to the trailhead.
The Needles Trail
is a 5-mile hike out and back to Needles Ridge, a formation of granite spires. The lookout burned down in 2011, but the scenery is breathtaking, including a view of Mount Whitney, the Golden Trout Wilderness and the Kern River Valley.
Maggie Lakes is a wonderful series of lakes nestled in the cirques of Maggie Mountain. Enjoy climbs to the numerous peaks, great fishing and pristine water. Leave from Summit Trailhead and go 13 miles each way through picturesque meadows and great vistas.
Backpack, ride horses or fish to your heart’s content in the Golden Trout Wilderness, named for California’s brightly colored and elusive state fish native to the area. This 304,000-acre wilderness area is located in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada with several hundred miles of scenic trails and the North and South forks of the Kern River running through it. The easiest access is from Lloyd Meadows. A wilderness permit is required and special restrictions apply.
The Domeland Wilderness has awe-inspiring domes, spires and crags rising out of conifer forests. Domeland is perfect for those seeking a remote and crowdless getaway. Hike or ride horseback into Manter Meadow, the largest meadow in the area. Great fishing, rock climbing and wildlife viewing are available.
World-class rock climbing can be found throughout Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument. The Needles and Dome Rock offer some of the best crack and face climbing in the Sierras that are easily accessible and without the crowds. Check out Church Domes in the Domeland Wilderness.
Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation is just one of the many uses allowed on National Forest lands. The Sequoia National Forest offers many opportunities for OHV recreationists. State law requires registration of all motor vehicles before being operated on public lands. You must have either a current Green Sticker or Highway license, both issued by the state Department of Motor Vehicles. If highway-licensed, the vehicle must meet all standards for operating on a public highway.
Cabins and Rooms – Fully outfitted cabins and rooms are available for rent in various mountain communities along Highway 190 and the Western Divide Highway, including Camp Nelson and Ponderosa. They are located amid numerous trails and attractions with general stores nearby. Don’t worry about having to rough it; you can explore the wilderness and enjoy all the comforts of home. The Sequoia National Forest also has cabins for rent. Some have electricity and are furnished.
Find out more at:
Cozy Yurts at Quaking Aspen and Redwood Meadow – Enjoy the combined advantages of tent camping and cabin life; stay in a cozy yurt at Quaking Aspen Campground or Redwood Meadow. Modeled after the ancient shelters used by Central Asian nomads, the yurts will insulate you from the elements; they contain a bunk bed and futon for comfy nights.
Quaking Aspen Meadow is a popular area for snow play, and a network of roads nearby offers great cross-country skiing and snowmobiling. For those wanting to snowmobile the Western Divide Highway during winter months when closed by Tulare County, there is a trailhead located at the Ponderosa Lodge. The Forest Service provides snow grooming in many areas through a grant from the California Off Highway Vehicle Commission.
For winter recreation maps, visit: ponderosa.ca.com/index.php/winter-recreation-routes-trails
Kern Plateau is equally accommodating for snowmobiles as it is for off-highway vehicles. More than a dozen well-marked trails are open for over-snow vehicles, and hundreds of miles of trails and roads are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
For information, visit: www.fs.usda.gov/activity/sequoia/recreation/wintersports