Dead Giant Loop Trail is an enjoyable single-track loop trail through a forest of giant sequoias and pines in the Grant Grove Area of Kings Canyon National Park. In addition to a massive still-standing dead sequoia, the lightly traveled trail passes Sequoia Lake Overlook, which presents views over a small blue reservoir to the southwest just outside the national park. Reached via Sunset Trail, Dead Giant Loop Trail makes a 2.25-mile lollipop loop hike with 300 feet of elevation change. On the hike down Sunset Trail to Dead Giant Loop Trail, you will pass North Grove Trail, which combines perfectly with Dead Giant Loop Trail to form a 3.25-mile double loop that explores even more giant sequoia forest.
To reach the trailhead, drive to the large parking area for the Grant Grove and proceed down the parking lot to the left (west) of the trailhead for the General Grant Tree Trail. Pass bus and RV parking and come to a gate at the top of Sunset Trail where the hike begins. Compared to the trails around the General Grant Tree, the Dead Giant Loop Trail gets a lot fewer visitors and has fewer giant sequoias, but is a much more tranquil place to hike.
Set out down Sunset Trail, an old once-paved road that heads southwest down a mountainside through moss-covered pines and clusters of giant sequoias. After a tenth of a mile, you will come to a marked split between Sunset Trail and North Grove Trail. North Grove Trail breaks off to the right and descends for 1.4 miles, circling back to Sunset Trail, 0.4 miles below this first junction. Since Dead Giant Loop Trail is below both ends of North Grove Trail, you can easily check out this other loop while hiking down to (or up from) Dead Giant Loop Trail. North Grove Trail is a wide trail like Sunset Trail that passes many giant sequoias but does not provide the same peaceful feeling of woodland isolation as Dead Giant Loop Trail. However, there are dogwood trees along North Grove Trail that should not be missed during their beautiful bloom in the late spring and early summer.
If you skip North Grove Trail and stay to the left down Sunset Trail, you will simply continue down the old road made up of dirt and pavement. There are fire-scarred pines and giant sequoias lining the trail. After another 0.4 miles, stay to the left again when you meet the other end of North Grove Trail.
From the lower end of North Grove Trail, it is another quarter mile down Sunset Trail to the top of Dead Giant Loop Trail. Sunset Trail will make a big bend to the left and you will spot Lion Meadow on your right, a verdant oval-shaped opening in the forest. A massive sequoia has fallen across the small meadow and forms a near natural bridge to Dead Giant Loop Trail, which crosses the forest on the far side.
Continue down Sunset Trail, which passes a stream and bends to the right around Lion Meadow. As the trail starts to turn uphill from the end of the meadow, look for the marked start of Dead Giant Loop Trail on the right.
Turn right onto Dead Giant Loop Trail, a single-track trail across a carpet of pine needles. Dead Giant Loop Trail will split almost immediately (it is a loop after all), but stay to the right to hike it in a counterclockwise direction. The trail gradually crosses the forest above the southwest side of Lion Meadow. From this side, there is an even better view of the sequoia that fell across the meadow. The shattered branches at the top of the tree give you some sense of the force the great tree had when it struck the meadow. If you were standing on the trail at the time, it probably would have felt like an earthquake and sounded like an explosion.
After about a quarter mile on Dead Giant Loop Trail, you will pass the Dead Giant, a not-living but still-standing giant sequoia located just off the right side of the trail. The Dead Giant looks fire damaged like most other sequoias and there are no leaves on its bare upper branches. Sequoias have a very shallow root bases so most trees will fall over when they die, making room for new trees to grow. This giant sequoia has decided to stay right where it is and still towers over the surrounding pine trees that look thin by comparison. Ax marks on the Dead Giant show that humans were responsible for the trees death.
Continuing around Dead Giant Loop Trail, the single-track will ascend to an opening on a rounded ridge. Sequoia Lake Overlook is the next highlight on the loop so you may get eager for signs of a path on the right leading out to a view of the lake. Be patient. The spur trail to Lake Sequoia Overlook is actually on the far side of the manzanita-covered opening, on the south end of the ridge. Dead Giant Loop Trail will make a sharp left turn and you will find the unmarked (but hard to miss) path to Sequoia Lake Overlook heading off to the right. This junction comes 0.4 miles up Dead Giant Loop Trail from Sunset Trail and it is another 0.25 miles on the loop trail back to Sunset Trail.
The spur trail to Sequoia Lake Overlook is only 0.05 miles long and almost completely level, so you would be a fool to skip it. Pass a large oak tree and follow the path through a sunny forest to a jumble of boulders above a clearing in the forest that allows you to look southwest over Sequoia Lake, about 750 feet below. You will spot a YMCA Camp along the shore of the round reservoir, which is located just outside Kings Canyon National Park. The blue lake is backed by a few rows of pine-covered ridges that add to the vista. This is a fine spot to enjoy a picnic lunch or at least a quick snack.
When you have taken in the view from Sequoia Lake Overlook, return to Dead Giant Loop Trail and turn right to continue the loop. The narrow trail crosses through a pine forest and reconnects with Sunset Trail. Turn left and hike back the way you came, gaining 275 feet in 0.75 miles as you follow Sunset Trail up to the trailhead. Dead Giant Loop Trail is the nicer of the two loops (between North Grove Trail and Dead Giant Loop Trail) because of the added vista point and because it is more enjoyable to hike on the single track trail than the wide road. The proximity makes it easy to visit both loops at once, so if you have the time and energy, it is recommended that you “go the extra mile” and hike both loops.
The basic directions for Dead Giant Loop Trail are:
- Start down Sunset Trail
- Stay to the left past the top of North Grove Trail (0.1 miles)
- Stay to the left past the bottom of North Grove Trail (0.5 miles)
- Turn right off Sunset Trail onto Dead Giant Loop Trail (0.75 miles)
- Pass the Dead Giant (1 mile)
- Turn right on the spur to Sequoia Lake Overlook (1.15 miles)
- Take in the view from Sequoia Lake Overlook (1.2 miles)
- Return to Fallen Giant Loop Trail and turn right to continue back to Sunset Trail (1.25 miles)
- Meet the start of Fallen Giant Loop Trail and turn left up Sunset Trail (1.5 miles)
- Pass both ends of North Grove Trail and return to the trailhead (2.25 miles)
The basic directions for the North Grove and Dead Giant Loops are:
- Start down Sunset Trail
- Turn right down North Grove Trail (0.1 miles)
- Reach the end of North Grove Trail and turn right down Sunset Trail (1.5 miles)
- Turn right on Dead Giant Loop Trail and take the loop’s right fork (1.75 miles)
- Pass the Dead Giant (2 miles)
- Turn right on the spur to Sequoia Lake Overlook (2.15 miles)
- Take in the view from Sequoia Lake Overlook (2.2 miles)
- Turn right when you return to Fallen Giant Loop Trail and continue back to Sunset Trail (2.25 miles)
- Meet the start of Fallen Giant Loop Trail and turn left up Sunset Trail (2.5 miles)
- Pass the bottom of North Grove Trail (2.75 miles)
- Pass the top of North Grove Trail (3.15 miles)
- Return to the trailhead (3.25 miles)
Dogs and mountain bikes are prohibited on trails in Kings Canyon National Park. A national park entrance fee is required to visit the park, but you will not need a permit to hike on Dead Giant Loop Trail, so get out and enjoy!
To get to the trailhead: From Fresno, drive east on Route 180. After some 50 miles, you will reach the Big Stump Entrance Station for Kings Canyon National Park. Proceed 1.7 miles to a three-way intersection. To the right, Route 198 heads south toward Sequoia National Park. Turn left to stay on Route 180 and drive another 1.6 miles north to an intersection with Grant Tree Road, the road to the Grant Grove. Grant Tree Road will be on the left, 0.2 miles after the Grant Village, which will be on the right. After turning left, you will pass the entrance to Azalea Campground on the left and proceed 0.75 miles down to the Grant Grove Parking Area, which you will find below a right bend at the bottom of the road. Make a left inside the parking lot and drive past the bus and RV parking area to the North Grove Trailhead.
Trailhead address: North Grove Trailhead, Kings Canyon National Park, CA 93628
Trailhead coordinates: 36.747103, -118.974642 (36° 44′ 49.57″N 118° 58′ 28.71″W)
|North Grove Trail|
This 2-mile loop explores a quiet grove of sequoias near the crowded Grant Grove and can combine with Dead Giant Loop Trail for 3.25-mile hike.
|General Grant Tree Trail|
This 0-8 mile loop passes through a Fallen Monarch in the Grant Grove to reach the General Grant Tree, one of the world’s largest sequoias.
|North Boundary Trail|
This 3.55-mile hike starts on the trail between Grant Grove and Grant Village and passes the General Grant Tree to reach a 2.75-mile loop through the pine forest north of the Grant Grove.
|Grant Village to Grant Grove Trail|
This mile-long trail connects the visitor center at Grant Village with the parking lot at Grant Grove, passing through Azalea Campground to reach giant sequoias, including the General Grant Tree.
This 0.5-mile round trip hike reaches an exception overlook with views into Kings Canyon.
|Buena Vista Peak|
This 2-mile round trip hike ascends 420 feet to a granite summit with 360-degree views over the Redwood Mountain Sequoia Grove and Kings Canyon.
|Hart Tree and Fallen Goliath Loop|
This 8.3-mile loop on Hart Tree Trail and Redwood Creek Trail passes tranquil streams and interesting sequoias in the Redwood Mountain Grove in Kings Canyon National Park.
This 0.1-mile round trip stroll at Grizzly Falls Picnic Area in Sequoia National Forest reaches the base of an 80-foot waterfall along the Generals Highway near the Cedar Grove Area of Kings Canyon National Park.
|Roaring River Falls|
This paved 0.3-mile round trip hike reaches a thundering little waterfall on a tributary of the Kings River in Kings Canyon National Park.
|Kanawyer Loop Trail|
This 5-mile loop is scenic and easy, exploring east from the backcountry gateway at Road’s End along both sides of the South Fork Kings River in Kings Canyon.
|More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains|
Explore other destinations in Kings Canyon National Park and the rest of the range.
|Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Campgrounds|
There are 14 campgrounds with over 1,000 total sites spread throughout the parks to facilitate your visit.