Middle Fork Trail
Highlights: Panther Creek Falls, fishing in the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River for those who don't mind bush-whacking, wildflowers in the spring, views up the river drainage to the Great Western Divide, access to Redwood Meadow (one of the most remote sequoia groves in the park).
When to Go: This low elevation trail is best in spring, late fall, or winter. Summer typically brings scorching temperatures that deter most hikers.
USGS 7.5" Topograhic Map: The Lodgepole map includes the entire Middle Fork trail from the trailhead to Redwood Meadow.
How to Get to the Trailhead: Continue north on the Generals Highway from the entrance station near the town of Three Rivers. Turn right at the Hospital Rock Picnic Area toward Buckeye Flat Campground. Follow the small brown wood sign for the Middle Fork Trail by veering left on the dirt road just before the campground.
Please note that the Buckeye Flat Campground road may be closed in the winter. At these times, you will have to park at the Hospital Rock Picnic Area and walk less than two miles to the trailhead.
Common Campsites along the Middle Fork Trail Corridor: Panther Creek, about 3.5 miles from the trailhead, is the first place where camping is allowed. Further down the trail, other campsites include Mehrten Creek (about 6 miles from the trailhead) and Buck Creek (about 9 miles from the trailhead). These previously mentioned campsites are the only locations you will likely find flat ground and breaks in the vegetation.
Further Destinations: From the trailhead, Redwood Meadow can be reached in about 13 miles and Bearpaw Meadow in about 14 miles. Despite its name, Redwood Meadow is home to one of the most remote giant sequoia groves (not redwood trees) reached by trail in the park. Here you can sleep under the big trees without all the crowds! After a strenous hike on the slope between Sugarbowl Dome and River Valley, you can reach Bearpaw Meadow and the High Sierra Trail. Expect more people here than on the Middle Fork Trail.
Common Wildlife You Might See: Mule deer, black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, rattlesnake, and lots of birds.
Common Vegetation You Might Notice: Buckthorn, manzanita, black oak, chemise, bear clover for the first six miles. Mixed conifer trees after six miles and giant sequoias at Redwood Meadow.
Items of Caution: Poison oak is abundant below 6,000 feet elevation - long sleeves and pants are your best protection. Watch out for rattlesnakes, especially at the lower elevations. Check for ticks.
Crossing Granite Creek on the lower trail to Redwood Meadow can be dangerous during high water (typically late spring and/or early summer when the snow starts to melt in the high country). First use the bridge to cross Eagle Scout Creek. Then if Granite Creek is not fordable, continue upstream until you come to the next trail junction. At this point, turn right and head southeast to Redwood Meadow. This upper trail has a bridge and easier creek crossings.