Climb the Park’s steepest, highest winding road to its peak elevation of 7,800 feet (2,377 m). Enjoy this remote, rugged place, or follow a trail into a vast wilderness. Mineral King Road closes for the season on October 26.
National Park Travel Guides: Are you one of those travelers who love to get to the nooks and crannies of the parks that many will not venture? Do you like complicated travel for a great experience? Well, Mineral King Road may be for you. The road has over 600 hairpin turns, no center divider, dirt sections with huge dips and roots to climb over, and no guardrails with sheer drop-offs thousands of feet! The single-lane road also has few places to pull off and has locations where two vehicles will be challenged to pass one another, causing some to back up to more expansive areas. The 15 mph travel with all the hairpins will also make this a rather long experience with little or no services. So go prepared.
Follow the 28-mile winding Mineral King Road out of Three Rivers up to a beautiful valley at 7,500 feet. This area can be used as a basecamp for day hikes to lakes and alpine wonderlands. We suggest that you camp for a couple of nights at one of the Mineral King campgrounds and choose a day hike or two. Some hikes to consider are Monarch Lakes, Timber Gap, and Eagle/Mosquito Lakes trails.
There are two campgrounds in Mineral King: Cold Springs Campground and Atwell Mill Campground. Both are small, first come, first served campgrounds with vault toilets. We recommend arriving on Thursday to secure a spot.
The hikes described above are suitable for day trips, but wilderness permits are also available for many of the areas if you’re interested in backpacking.
Hiking at this altitude is strenuous. Gauge your hiking to the least fit member of your party. During the early summer, mosquitoes can be a particular nuisance, but in the fall Mosquitos are less of an issue making this a much preferred experience for many. Marmots can cause damage to your vehicle, so be prepared to protect it. As in all areas of the park, it is best to carry water, as the purity of the lakes and streams along the trails cannot be guaranteed.
Mineral King Road
This road is very narrow and curving, and the upper portion is partially unpaved. The road is generally open from the Wednesday before Memorial Day to the last Wednesday in October.
Mineral King Road does open up the Park to great access for those willing to make this drive. Here are some of the features that are highlighted by Sequoia National Park in their Fall Travel Guide.
Cold Springs Nature Trail
Stroll through meadows and aspen groves on this slightly sloped, 1-mile (1.6 km) out-and-back trail. Start at Cold Springs Campground.
Climb the west side of the Mineral King Valley to a glacially carved tarn. This steep trail is 3.6 miles
Mineral King Valley
(5.7 km) one way, and begins at the end of Mineral King Road. After 2 miles (3.2 km), the trail splits. Turn left for Eagle Lake, or take the right-hand trail another 1.6 miles (2.5 km) for Mosquito Lake.
Hike through sequoias to a ridge with views of the Great Western Divide. Park in the lot east of Atwell Mill Campground and walk past the campground to the trailhead. Climb 3.7 miles (5.9 km) to the peak of
the ridge, or continue into wilderness.
Atwell-Hockett to Deer Creek
Walk through sequoias and an old sawmill to a waterfall. Park in the lot east of Atwell Mill Campground and walk toward the campground to the trailhead. This trail leads far into wilderness. Turn back in 1.5 miles (2.4 km) at Deer Creek.
Upper and Lower Monarch Lakes lie at the foot of Sawtooth Peak, at the end of a 4.2-mile (one-way) hike. This is one of the more accessible hikes in the Mineral King area, but since the trail follows a west-facing slope, it is best to get an early start. The trail passes through meadows, red fir forest, and the avalanche-scoured Chihuahua Bowl, a basin named by hopeful miners for an area of rich mines in Mexico. It then rounds a shoulder and gives views north and east across the Monarch Creek canyon to Timber Gap, the Great Western Divide, and Sawtooth Pass. Beyond the lakes, the trail climbs 1200′ in 1.3 miles (366 meters in 2 km) to Sawtooth Pass, a strenuous hike that provides one of the grandest views in the southern Sierras. Unfortunately, the footing on this portion of the trail is very loose.
Start at the Sawtooth Trail parking area, 1 mile past the Mineral King Ranger Station.
Protect Your Car from Marmots!
Marmots in this area sometimes chew through vehicle wires and fuel lines. Drive over your tarp and then wrap it around your vehicle, covering wheel wells. Extra tarps may be available at the ranger station.
Services and Facilities
Mineral King Ranger Station Open 7:30 am–4 pm until September 18. Get trail and local information here. Pay phones are nearby at Cold Springs Campground and the Sawtooth Trailhead parking area. Wilderness Permits Permits for overnight travel are issued at the ranger station, 7:30 am–4 pm; self-registration begins September 18. Silver City Mountain Resort (private) Cabins, gifts, showers, store, restaurant with a bakery and WiFi. No gas. Until October 26, open 8 am–7 pm Monday–Thursday and 8 am–8 pm Friday through Sunday. Call (559) 561-3223.