*IMPORTANT* recreation.gov and reserveamerica.com both list this campground as having water. That is NOT TRUE. There are no water fill up sites. If you stop at the Holey Meadow campground and hike out the back about 1 1/2 miles there is fresh mountain spring water. There is a creek currently running along side the camp but the hosts have recommended not using it. We didn’t get into the details. Mostly, we complained about functionality of the above mentioned sites. There are also NO BEAR BOXES despite claims otherwise and the requirement that food be kept in them. Bears do frequent the area and are know to be numerous within a mile of camp.
Do you like shopping at REI’s parking lot sale? You might love Redwood Meadow Campground in Sequoia National Park. At 6500 feet of elevation and 40 miles from the nearest convenience store it should be far enough out there to minimize the crowds. However, it is located directly across from the trailhead to the Trail of 100 Giants, a 1/2 mile walking tour of some of the biggest trees Sequoia has to offer. Let me be clear, this is not a hiking trail. This is a tourist stop. You’ve been warned. And with a name as cool as “Trail of 100 Giants” plenty of people who are outdoorsy just enough will make the trip. I know what you’re thinking, “Why all this trail talk? Isn’t this a campground review?”
Yes, it is. But the campground and the trail’s proximity have intertwined their destinies. If you are lucky enough to get one of the 13 camp sites, a combination of tent, van or yurt, you’ll be able to step across the road and have your morning coffee on a bench looking up at a maze of overturned sequoia roots shading a gurgling brook, or up at a tree so tall and so wide it is hard to fathom. You’ll also be dealing with the literally, 1000s of tourists who have come to see the trail over a three day weekend (strong recommend for a middle of the week site. Those tourists will have cars that overflow the parking lot, they will use your camp’s vault toilets, and they will continually be stepping out at random into the road or stopping abruptly on the the trail. They will impact your campsite experience. In fact, the camp is currently constructing a yurt general store to provide additional amenities to trail and camp visitors.
The campground consists of an outer and inner ring. The inner ring sites ate all decent size but lack any semblance of privacy. They are pretty much open to each other, but with plenty of tall ass trees providing some shad and blocking a bit of line of sight. Sorry neighbor trying to see around that tree while we tested our new camp shower. The effects of recent forest fire are evident everywhere. In our site (005) There where large piles of ash and charred stumps remain. A year ago fire ravaged areas nearby and this location was only nicked by blaze but the effects are lasting. It makes for a dusty overall camp. Prep for a good vehicle wash afterwards.
The outer ring is where it’s at. Particularly, along the West side of the camp where the river runs behind the sites, and the tree cover is a little thicker. The sites here (particularly 004, 006, 008) are far away and down hill from the roadway. They looked pretty idyllic and we were a bit envious that we didn’t have access to the river.
In the evenings the trail visitors had gone back to where they came from and our small park was left with a smattering of campfires, the sounds of the river and the dark shadows of towering trees between which stars sparkled and parts of constellations teased. Those evening fires were aided by the plentiful amount of dry wood on the ground with a hatchet, like the kick-ass one from CRTK we excited to try out for the first time, you could easily put together enough wood for your visit. We had brought some but took advantage of the dry brush for starter and to keep things going when we were running low.
This summer Nick and Katylyn from Jersey are the hosts. They are only a few days on the job but handling the crowds like pros. They have plenty of helpful tips (Nick has been here before) and were more than helpful. Even with the crowds they were on the ball with the pit toilets, site maintaining etc.
At the Trail of Giants the Sequoia’s all seem to have faces, and histories so long you can feel the a dignified weight settle in the stiller moments of the early morning when the masses have not yet awoken from their slumbers or the evening when their whiskeys are being poured. Those moments make a visit to this camp more than worthwhile. And during the day when they trail is filled past capacity you merely need to head a few miles in any direction and pull off at a forest road or trailhead that is completely free of visitors on even the busiest days to experience the park as a wilder, free place than we can find most of the time in our day to day lives.
Pro-Tip 1: There are two sets of toilets. The one to the rear of the camp is hidden from the entry and not used by trail visitors. It is also shaded making for a better experience than the one closer to the front of camp.
Pro-Tip 2: Kern River Brewing Company. Have lunch there, and beer. Then go to the general store across the street for everything from meat and cheese to hiking boots and rifles. Campfire wood is only $5/bundle and includes more than most bundles we’ve seen anywhere.