Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Sugar Bowl Loop

Hike a 6.5 mile loop through ancient sequoia groves along the slopes of the Sierras and beat the crowds.

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep. It is highly recommended you do this in an AWD or 4WD vehicle, especially since the road can be muddy from snowmelt or after a recent rain. We have a 2WD car but used chains for extra traction and that worked well. The dirt road is not plowed in winter. There is adequate parking at the top of the dirt road, so you may choose to hike down, but note that you will have a significantly steep climb on the way back up.

To get to the dirt road, start by entering directions for Quail Flat Winter Trailhead in your phone. It is advised that you save an offline map of the area beforehand as some carriers (notably AT&T and others) won't have service (Verizon had plenty of service even on the trail). You'll want to look for signs for Redwood Canyon, and the dirt road (Forest Route 14S75) down begins directly across CA-198 (Generals Highway) from Quail Flat.

Once you drive down the two mile dirt road, you'll reach the parking lot for the trailhead. There is a single (non-flush) bathroom here if you need it. The parking lot can be filled with about 20-30 cars, which might get busy in the summertime. From here, you'll begin the hike.

The Sugar Bowl Loop trail leaves from the same trailhead as the Hart Tree and Fallen Goliath Loop trail. Both are excellent hikes with stunning sequoia groves. Each one can be done in a day, but it's recommended you only do one per day as they're quite long trails. See the last photo containing a map of the region. Camping is allowed, although there are some rules according to the NPS site:

  • Maximum group size is 10 people.
  • Maximum stay is two nights.
  • No camping within one mile (1.6 km) of the trailhead.
  • No wood fires are permitted in Redwood Canyon; bring a backpacking stove.
  • Bears are frequently seen in this area. There are no bear boxes in Redwood Canyon. You must store your food in a bear-proof canister or hang it according to the counter-balance method.
  • Cattle occasionally wander into Redwood Canyon from grazing allotments on the adjacent Sequoia National Forest. If you see cattle in Redwood Canyon, please notify a park ranger.
  • In addition to the NPS rules, please do not camp within 50 feet of any giant sequoias as they have very fragile, shallow root systems that can be damaged just by walking on them, let alone camping.

Because of the dirt road to get here, this can be a great spot to beat the crowds trying to see some sequoias, and it offers backcountry camping which is a huge plus. It's worth noting that most of the trees in these groves aren't quite as large as some of the trees in Grant Grove or the Giant Forest, but it's a very rewarding experience if you're looking for a more tranquil hike without the crowds. 

Pack List

  • Hiking boots
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Tent (optional)
  • Sleeping bag (optional)
  • Backpacking stove (optional)
  • Bear canister (optional)
  • Snow chains (optional)
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RT Distance 6.5 Miles
Elevation Gain 1480 Feet
Activities Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Forest
Groups
River
Romantic
Scenic
Wildlife

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Awesome!

A absolute delight. Fall is a fantastic time with color a plenty though any season would be awesome. Awesome is a great word because awe is what you sense passing through these massive Sequoias. We have made it a backpacking trip camping near the creek to enjoy some extra time and as a day hike (much more typical). Love it!


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