The Ladybug Trail starts from the end of the South Fork Road at the east end of South Fork Campground. Overnight backpackers can get a wilderness permit at the Ash Mountain Wilderness Office between 8am and 4pm the day of their hike, or after 1pm the day before their hike. Day hikers do not need a wilderness permit. Parking is at the trailhead. For questions, please call the Wilderness Office at 559-565-3766.
The Ladybug Trail goes east following the north side of the canyon of the South Fork of the Kaweah River. The trail rises from an elevation of 3,640 to 5,760 feet at the end of the trail. There are many open viewpoints along the first 2.5 miles of the trail. From these viewpoints there are fine views of the canyon and surrounding mountain peaks.
CATCH AND RELEASE FISHING ONLY ABOVE THE CLOUGH CAVE FOOTBRIDGE. DO NOT KEEP ANY FISH. Please see the fishing regulations on the campground bulletin board.
0.00miles--3,640 ft elevation: The start of the Ladybug Trail. There is a small corral here which is open to the public. The corral has a hay and water trough.
0.04miles: Clough Cave Bridge.
0.33miles: Unmarked trail junction. An old trail here goes north and at one time went all the way to Lookout Point Ranger Station (now closed) on the Mineral King Road.
0.46miles--3,840 ft elevation: Pigeon Creek. This small creek is dry for most of the year. During the winter after a heavy rainfall or when the snow melts it does have water in it.
0.49 miles: The trail reaches the base of Bone Hill. Just after the trail starts to climb this hill there is a small unmarked trail to the right. This trail goes up the river a short distance to a rocky bench along the river. This area is known as Putnam Flat. There are several large pools in the river here where you can fish or swim. Above Putnam Flat the river enters a steep sided gorge.
0.71miles: The trail reaches the top of Bone Hill. Viewpoint. To the northeast Homers Nose comes into view for the first time.
0.92 miles--4,120 ft elevation: Squaw Creek. This little creek flows all year. A short distance up the canyon the creek disappears underground. This is not uncommon for Sierra foothill streams.
1.26 miles: Small dry canyon. There is a large cedar tree below the trail here. This is the closest point to the river between Bone Hill and Ladybug Camp. No camping is allowed here. The trail now climbs steeply through an open slide area.
1.56 miles: Enter black oak forest.
1.70miles--4,280 ft elevation: Ladybug Camp. This is the first area along the trail where camping is allowed. Elevation gain to here is only 640 feet. Camping, swimming, and fishing are permitted. Many young sequoias are located along the river here.
1.78 miles: Trail junction. Before it was abandoned, the old Stakecamp Dome trail continued east here. It crossed the river on a footbridge and climbed the Stakecamp Dome ridge joining the Garfield/Hockett Trail about half a mile from South Fork Crossing. This trail is in very poor condition, hard to find in many areas, and not recommended. The bridge was washed out by a flood.
2.15 miles: Viewpoint. This viewpoint is located where you get a view down the canyon of Garfield Creek flowing into the South Fork. You can see a large Sequoia tree at the creek junction.
2.17 miles: Viewpoint. Once again there is a good view of Homers Nose and Salt Creek Ridge. To the right (east) of Homers Nose are two other rock pinnacles. The first one has no name; some people call it Phantom Rock. The other rock is Cahoon Rock. There used to be a lookout tower on the summit of the mountain to the north of the rock. It was taken down in 1977.
2.21 miles: Enter forest. The trail passes in and out of forested areas separated by open grassy hillsides.
2.51 miles: Enter cedar forest. It is unusual to find such a nearly pure stand of these cedars. Normally, they grow singly or mixed in with other trees.
2.95 miles: Enter Cedar Creek Canyon. This is the third major canyon the trail crosses and the only one except Squaw Creek that has a permanent creek flowing in it.
2.99 miles: Small dry canyon. Start looking for Sequoia trees in the bottom of the canyon to your right.
3.09miles--5,040 ft elevation: Cedar Creek. This is a beautiful little creek that flows all year. The Sequoia grove here is called the Cedar Flat Grove. This grove is confined to the canyon and continues up canyon from the trail. Look for concentrations of ladybugs here on trees and rocks.
3.27 miles: Trail junction at the top of the hill. The trail that goes left up the hill is the old Ladybug Trail. This trail climbs the north side of the canyon to the top of Salt Creek Ridge. From there the trail goes east and climbs to the top of Cahoon Rock. From here it is only a few miles to Hockett Ranger Station. This trail is no longer maintained and not recommended.
3.40 miles: Small dry canyon. In wet years this small canyon sometimes has water.
3.64 miles: Base of hill. Small dry canyon. All the elevation you have just lost you will now regain! Cedar Creek and Whiskeylog Camp are at nearly the same elevation.
3.85miles: Waterfall. The trail is close to the river at this point. There are many small waterfalls in this section of the river. The rock of the riverbed has changed; instead of the metamorphic rock of the lower canyon, the riverbed here is composed of granite.
3.92 miles: Waterfall and pool. Downstream on the other side of the river are two large Sequoia trees. These trees belong to the South Fork grove. The main grove is up the river past the end of the trail.
3.98 miles: Small stream and the start of Whiskeylog Camp. There is a large hollow Sequoia tree along the trail here.
4.02 miles--5,120 ft elevation: Whiskeylog Camp. The main camp area is on the other side of a small hogback ridge from the small stream. Elevation gain to this point is 1,480 feet. Camping, swimming, and fishing are permitted. The trail continues up the river from here for 1.1 miles before reaching a dead end.