Campers at Atwell Mill in the Mineral King region of Sequoia National Park are in a perfect position to take a stroll down Hockett Trail. This forest path descends southeast for 1.5 miles to a footbridge that crosses the East Fork of the Kaweah River. Along the way, the trail passes pines, firs, incense cedars, and the occasional Giant Sequoia.
Hockett Trail continues far beyond the bridge, passing through the East Fork Sequoia Grove after another mile. Here the giant sequoias remain well preserved, having the good fortune to avoid the nineteenth century lumberjacks who left behind all the stumps at Atwell Mill.
Those not staying at the Atwell Mill can park in the lot on the east side of the campground. The trailhead is located near campsite 16, where bear boxes are provided.
The hike to the East Grove is around 5 miles round trip. Backpackers can venture even farther up the trail to more remote corners of Mineral King. A wilderness permit is required for all overnight treks, and subject to trail quotas, but no permit is needed for day hikes in Mineral King. Hiking down Hockett Trail to the bridge over East Fork Kaweah River is 3 miles round trip with 600 feet of elevation change.
Humans aren’t the only creatures who enjoy Hockett Trail. Apparently, this is a also good place to see bear cubs in the early morning, which is why the photos stop halfway down the trail. Rather than get in between a mother and her young cub, I backtracked to Atwell Mill. The bridge and grove will have to wait for another trip to beautiful Mineral King.
To get to the trailhead: From the city of Three Rivers, head southwest on Mineral King Road to Atwell Mill Campground. Mineral King Road is steep, narrow, and twisty, with blind curves that demand patient driving. The 19-mile climb to Atwell Mill can easily take an hour, so factor this into your drive time. The trail starts from the campground.
Trailhead address: Mineral King Road, Sequoia National Park, Three Rivers, CA 93271
Trailhead coordinates: 36.46424, -118.6690 (36° 27′ 51.3″N 118° 40′ 08.4″W)
|Monarch Lakes Trail
This 9.4-mile hike visits a spectacular pair of lakes high above Mineral King Valley.
|Eagle Lake Trail
The robust 7.2-mile hike climbs 2,200 feet to an alpine lake overlooking Mineral King.
|More trails in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Explore other destinations in Sequoia National Park and the rest of the range.
| Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Campgrounds
Fourteen campgrounds with over 1,000 total sites are spread throughout the park to facilitate your visit (including Atwell Mill Campground and Cold Springs Campground in Mineral King).