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Great vistas are etched in granite

Several trails ascend towering Moro Rock and Little Baldy in Sequoia National Park, where rocky treks lead to glorious summit views.

June 29, 2003|John McKinney | Special to The Times

Sequoia National Park has memorable family walks among towering trees, pleasant excursions to lakes and waterfalls, and challenging mountain treks. And then there are its mighty big rocks.

Moro Rock, Little Baldy, Big Baldy -- these are humongous hunks of granite along California 198, the Generals Highway. They're so numerous, hikers hardly know where to begin.

I'll help. Two of my favorite rock hikes are to Moro Rock and Little Baldy.

Moro Rock

The top of Moro Rock is Sequoia's most popular vista point. From the 6,725-foot summit, hikers can savor magnificent views of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River, about 4,000 feet below.

The panorama also includes about a third of the park as well as the Great Western Divide, nearly 14,000 feet high. On especially clear days, the view runs to the San Joaquin Valley and the Coast Range more than 100 miles away.

The trail is more like a stairway, a stunning example (circa 1931) of the art of trail building and another reason for Moro Rock's popularity.

Interpretive displays at the trail head tell how the path was hewn from the granite. You'll wonder how early visitors braved the rock without ramps and railings.

Such improvements have made Moro Rock a bit too popular. Summer auto traffic around the rock can be dispiriting.

Many visitors start the hike from the Moro Rock parking area, reached from Giant Forest Village by following Crescent Meadow Road for 1 1/2 miles. But you can avoid the traffic jam there by leaving your car at the central Giant Forest area and following footpaths to the Moro Rock trail head.

(Other options: Get an early start, hike at sunset or visit in autumn.)

After you're at the trail head, march up a series of switchbacks and their 353 steps. The grand views unfold as you ascend, but the summit panorama is the most glorious.

Little Baldy

The fairly easy family hike to the top of 8,044-foot Little Baldy overlooks the Great Western Divide as well as Moro Rock and the Central Valley.

Because of the commanding views, Little Baldy had been a fire lookout. Here, veteran hikers say, you'll get the park's best panorama accessible on a day hike.

Look for the signed trail head off Highway 198 about 6 3/4 miles northwest of Lodgepole Campground. Park in the turnout.

The path ascends moderately among white fir and soon looks out toward the big, barren granite dome of Big Baldy. It takes nearly a mile of hiking to leave traffic noise behind and to begin savoring the distant high peaks in silence.

Rocky switchbacks lead past scattered Jeffrey pines, and 1 3/4 miles into the journey you'll reach the summit.

John McKinney offers more hiking tips at

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