The trail to Frypan Meadow isn’t the most spectacular route out of Kings Canyon, but it’s still very pretty, thanks to the wonderfully open stands of Lodgepole pines and firs that grace the grand sweep of the mountainside.
This trail is mostly used as an access route to the Grizzly Lakes and Kennedy Canyon high country. As a standalone hike it’s a little dull and perhaps for that reason is little-used. Expect solitude on this route; even on a nice summer weekend you might not see anyone else after the first two miles, which are shared with the moderately popular Hotel Creek loop.
The first two miles are on the steep, chaparral-covered slope above Kings Canyon; after that, the topography levels out somewhat and the trail enters attractive pine forests in a broad, shallow valley. Although the scenery very gradually acquires a more alpine character as the trail climbs, there isn’t much variation throughout the hike. There’s a lot of nice subalpine scenery but no really dramatic views.
The trail starts opposite a large dirt pullout on the main valley road. There’s a pleasant but brief stretch in the valley-floor woods, then the trail climbs relentlessly for the next two miles, switchbacking uphill through chaparral. On summer afternoons this part of the trail can feel like a furnace.
After the intersection with the Hotel Creek Trail, the Lewis Creek Trail narrows and becomes somewhat brushy. The trail also flattens out somewhat, descending periodically to stream crossings, and it gets noticeably cooler. The chaparral mostly gives way to sparse pine forest, although patches of chaparral can still be found for several miles.
The next four miles pass through attractive subalpine woods with open meadows, wooded glens, and crossings of fast-flowing, crystal-clear creeks. It’s a very pleasant, rambling section of trail. The woods are the highlight of this area and are exceptionally attractive, open and with a green brushy groundcover. The lodgepole pines are especially handsome with their perfectly cylindrical, craquelure-patterned trunks.
The scenery slowly improves as the trail climbs: the valley opens up and the views become more expansive, the chaparral disappears, and the woods open up too. However, the views are always somewhat limited since the trail is in a shallow valley. Although with all the climbing it feels like the trail must be reaching very high altitudes, in fact Frypan Meadow is only at about 8,000 ft.
There’s one creek that may be too deep to cross during the spring. One or two other creeks may require getting your feet wet. In the last mile the trail enters a relatively dense stand of woods and begins climbing steeply.
The trails that encircle Frypan Meadow are all very faint. Fallen trees block the trail, in a few places causing it to disappear completely. For the most part, though, the woods are very open with no undergrowth and if you lose the trail you could just cut through the woods. Near the campsite, the trail cuts through the grassy meadow and is just a faint track through the tall grass.
© 2012 David Baselt