Not withstanding the storminess of the Thanksgiving weekend, and the low snow levels, Kaweah Country features some great options for those who prefer hiking over chaining up and driving in the snow. Sturdy footwear required, hiking poles (or a trusty stick) for places where the trail gets sloppy: there’s no need for the hiking crowd to stay indoors no matter what the weather.
Dress in layers, carry a day pack and take water and snacks, and always let someone know where you are going. There’s a hike (or trail run) nearby to Three Rivers appropriate for any skill level. Here are some of the most accessible that never fail to deliver what hikers hike for in the first place — exercise, scenery, wildlife, and a chance to spend some quality time outside.
Lake Kaweah — U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Slick Rock has several options: one along the Kaweah River that takes off from the boat launch parking area that branches north then east up canyon toward Holiday Lodge. Easy going with nice views of the river and plenty of birds.
Or, take the Kaweah Trail down the ramp (from the parking area on the west side) along the River. After or during a rain, this trail can be muddy in places. There are scenic views of the basin and views of the original channel of the river when the lake level is low.
There is also an upper fork (.80 miles from the west parking lot) down the paved ramp that traces the original road to town from Three Rivers; Indian grinding features and a historic bridge from the 1920s are easily located along this route. Branch toward Horse Creek Campground just past the bridge and then loop back on the lower Kaweah Trail.
Case Mountain Recreation Area — Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Access this network of trails by parking in the designated lot near the end of Skyline Drive. Trail Head: Good, clearly marked trail that goes up for seven miles to Cinnamon Gap. The trail intersects (at .70 miles) with the Salt Creek Trail. This portion is an old truck trail and is well maintained with lots of side trails that mountain bikers use.
The BLM trails can be hiked in all weather conditions; beautiful mountain views and the canyon below are visible when the clouds open.
National Park Service — Sequoia National Park
The Middle Fork Trail at Hospital Rock is open all year-round, and is for hikers looking for adventure. It hugs the contour of the canyon at 2,500 to 4,500 feet for miles. There are some creek crossings but water levels are low in winter. This trail features unparalleled views of Moro Rock, Castle Rocks and the river below.
After storms of the Thanksgiving 2019 variety, there will be a foot of snow in places on the trail. Hiking poles are strongly recommended. For the less adventurous: walk the road from Hospital Rock parking area to the Middle Fork Trail Head— take a side trip down to Buckeye Flat Campground (closed in winter) … there’s an amazing old bridge and fishing pond down there built by the CCCs in the 1930s.
Not included on this list is the scenic hike to Marble Falls (5 miles r/t) from upper Potwisha Campground. That trail is best in sunny, dry conditions. It’s difficult to resist climbing down to the falls and river below and those rocks are slippery when wet. Hikes on this trail have ended in a number falls and tricky rescues. Save this gem for a sunny day.
To repeat, there are hikes nearby for any weather, for all ages, and all skill levels. Be sure to check the weather before you go, and most importantly let somebody know your itinerary.
Hiking is a small part of what makes living or visiting Three Rivers so great; there’s something fun to do outside no matter what the weather or the season.