Features: Lake — River/Creek — Swimming — Views — Wildflowers — Wildlife
A lot of sequoia pine cones, roots, and rocks along the trail can make for a bad twisted ankle!
Giant Sequoias, views of granite mountains and rock outcroppings abound. You'll run through lush terrain on a mostly dirt tread, although some portions of trail are rocky. Generally a great trail that's perfect for big single-day adventures or backpacking!
There is less shade near the beginning of the trail so be sure to bring a hat, especially in the summer. There is water all along the trail, although you should start with at least two liters!
At the trailhead, you'll see bear boxes and a map. Make sure you take the trail on the right of the lot. The trail starts out pretty smoothly for about 1/4 of a mile before it begins to ascend. The elevation gain is quite substantial, but it is very gradual. You'll be surrounded by oak trees and if you look to the North at many points along the trail, you'll see "Homer's Nose," a huge granite rock.
You'll cross some small streams which may or may not be flowing, depending on what time of the year you go. There is also a spring about a mile in though I didn't happen to see it. Continue chugging uphill and about three miles into the ascent, you'll start getting to the main event: the Garfield Grove!
This is the most spectacular part of the trail. There are a few campsites that people have created throughout the grove just a stone's throw from the trail. Keep following the trail - many of these giant trees are right along the trail. If you keep an eye out, there is a tree that a bear scratched and you can to see its entire paw! Continue out of the grove uphill, there may be another intermittent stream after leaving the grove. I saw one of the bears shortly after passing this stream.
Continuing uphill, the trail begins to flatten out with the occasional burst of uphill. You'll soon arrive at the Kaweah River crossing. At this point, the river is pretty flat with nothing to worry about. Simply cross the cold refreshing water and continue on. You can continue following the trail or take a minor detour to the Hockett Lake - a very secluded lake which is nice to camp or relax at.
If you decide to opt out of the side trip, continue following the trail along the river towards windy gap. This section of the trail is generally very flat and mellow you'll pass the South Fork Meadow on your left-hand side, another scenic area to relax and explore. Continue along the trail until you reach the end at windy gap. This is a beautiful area to camp and sometimes you can catch a view of Quinn Peak to the northeast. Now, you have reached the end of the Amazing South Fork Kaweah Trail!
Flora & Fauna
As for flora, you will experience several types although what I saw most commonly was the Leopard lily an orange flower which almost looks like an octopus upside down. Also keep your eyes open for the Broadleaf Lupine, which are purple flowers with long stems with the buds following all the way up the stems. I also saw many Butterfly Mariposa lilies in the lower parts of the trail. Oak trees, various Pine trees and, of course, old growth Giant Sequoias!
As for fauna, I saw two black bears (along with a lot of their scat), many squirrels, and chipmunks. There are definitely mountain lions and other animals out there so keep an eye out!