Deer Cove Trailhead
The entrance to longest trail network in the Monarch Wilderness, the Deer Cove trailhead is found on the shoulder of Highway 180 approximately 1.5 miles east of the Grizzly Falls recreation area. The trail immediately heads steeply uphill for several miles through Black and Live Oaks, several Pine species, Red and White Firs, and Incense Cedars. A series of switchbacks guides the trail up above Deer Cove Creek, through dense forest and past excellent views of the Monarch Divide and Kings Canyon. Past Wildman Meadow, a very strenuous hike will take you all the way up Grizzly Lakes and the 11,000ft. peak of Mount Harrington. There are several access routes into the heart of the Kings Canyon backcountry via this trail as well.
At a Glance
|Water:||Limited water sources, bring water and a filter.|
|Restroom:||At Grizzly Falls Recreation area.|
|Operated By:||Forest Service.|
|Information Center:||Contact the Hume Lake Ranger District at (559) 338-2251 for updates.|
Map showing recreational areas. Map Information
Except for very experienced and strong hikers there are not many options for day hikes in this area. It is 6+ very difficult miles up to Grizzly Lakes with limited water sources along the way. We recommend overnight backpacking if you want to explore this rugged area.
The Deer Cove Trail has not had much maintenance in several years and is in need of extensive trailwork. Due to recent fires, dozens of trees are still down and there are areas where the original trail is lost and has become several user-created horse and cattle trails. There are a lot of tread, water bar and overgrowth issues all along the trail, and the hike includes a big elevation gain. As such, it can be a very difficult hike to arrive at both Wildman Meadow and especially Grizzly Lakes.
However, for more experienced and strong hikers, Grizzly Lakes is a great spot for isolation and some beautiful Kings Canyon views. Mount Harrington, the highest point in either wilderness at over 11,000 feet, lies just to the west of Grizzly Lakes. The trail is very steep for about 3 miles as you head past Deer Cove Creek (a good water source, fill up!), before flattening out for the mile-long section that crosses the junction leading down to Choke Creek. Look for the trail sign, but don’t expect to get past the creek - the trail here has not been maintained in years. Another mile-long steep, climb up a rocky face leads you to Deer Cove Saddle before dropping smoothly down to Wildman Meadow.
Wildman Meadow has been heavily impacted by an old hunter’s camp. There are structures and old garbage all around the meadow, and we do not recommend camping here as there is also no reliable water source at the meadow. However, just past Wildman Meadow, at the junction with the new trail sign, you can go about ¼ mile west towards Happy Gap to find a good water source (East Fork Creek) and camping spot. Past the creek, the Happy Gap Trail is also unmaintained and quickly becomes covered by downed trees, thick overgrown whitethorn and brush. Recent fires have all but destroyed this trail. We do not recommend venturing further on towards Happy Gap.
Following the trail north after the Wildman Meadow junction, you start to hike right along the boundary with the National Park, and about a ¼ mile up there is another trail junction that leads east into Kings Canyon NP with a good trail sign (“Frypan Meadow”). Continue north another ½ mile until you reach a very clearly marked junction with two trail signs and a Monarch Wilderness boundary sign half-eaten by a black bear a few years ago (if you want to see a bear, this area is also a good bet). At this junction, the trail up to Grizzly Lakes becomes very difficult and you will need to pay close attention to the path and your surroundings. It climbs very steeply about 2.5 miles towards the lakes and there are numerous trees down and substantial tread and water bar issues. It is not a trail for inexperienced hikers! The path becomes very difficult to follow. Please proceed with caution. After climbing a final ridge and winding over to the west you will see Upper Grizzly Lake below you. You can camp at several old established campsites between both of the lakes. Please do not build any new fire rings, and camp 100-200’ off of the lakes.
Similar to the Kennedy Meadow hike further south, you will also have the chance to study a lot of different trees from the Deer Cove TH up to Grizzly Lakes. Climbing out of heat of Kings Canyon, you will pass Black and Live Oak, Quaking Aspen, Incense Cedar, Jeffrey and Ponderosa Pine, Red and White Fir, and Sugar Pine, as well as numerous wildflowers in the Summer. This is a very challenging, but very rewarding hike.
NOTE: This area was seriously affected by the 2015 Rough Fire. Due to safety concerns, the Monarch Wilderness will be closed to the public until further notice.
This has traditionally been an area for adventurous horseback riding, but the trails are currently in poor condition. Unless you are familiar with the local area, we don't recommend stock use in this area until substantial trailwork can be completed.
|Difficulty Level:||More Difficult|