The Grant Grove Village
The John Muir Lodge
King's Canyon National Park, California
It is not known when the first guest facilities were built at Grant Grove Village, but by the time the General Grant National Park was created in 1916 there were already a few minimal facilities present. These consisted primarily of primitive cabins and tents spread around a swampy area known as Bradley Meadow. Around 1924 a gas station, photo studio, and market were built to serve the increasing number of mostly day-visitors. The Park Service was not happy with the scattering of existing businesses with multiple ownerships and started looking for a single concessionaire who would agree to build new facilities and run everything. In 1925 the newly formed Sequoia and General Grant National Parks Company, under the direction of Howard Hays, was given a contract to provide all guest services in both General Grant National Park and nearby Sequoia National Park. Hays was the former concessionaire for Yellowstone National Park who was now retired. The park service felt he had the skills to fix things up and convinced him to come out of retirement. Rather than build large hotels the park service decided that the new guest facililties for both parks should be rustic complexes of individual guest cabins. Hays had plans for a new lodging complex drawn up by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood. They named this complex of new buildings The Lodge, but it soon came to be commonly called "Tent City". Plans included a new small lodge building, a relocated cabin to be used as a reading room, 4 new duplex guest cabins with private baths, a new bathhouse, and lots and lots of tent cabins. These facilities were all constructed between 1927 and 1930. Nearby, a separate area known as Meadow Camp already existed and consisted of a group of existing tent cabins. These were remodeled into rustic housekeeping cabins by replacing the tent-tops with roofs, and a new bathhouse/office was constructed. So by the early 1930's Grant Grove Village had two separate and distinct guest lodging areas, The Lodge, and Meadow Camp, which although owned by the same company, were operated as separate facilities.
In 1932 a new store and lunchroom were built fronting on the main road. This building remains today and is now the gift shop. In 1936 the gas station was replaced with a new one, built by the Standard Oil company, which while now closed, also remains today. A restroom building was built by the CCC adjacent to the gas station around 1940, it also still exists. Little changed from then until the 1960s. In the 60's the Mission 66 program was lauched by the Park Service with the goal of modernizing the National Parks. Under this program a new coffee shop was added to the rear of the existing store, and a new Visitor's Center was constructed. Many of the cabins were repaired and remodeled. In 1969 the Lodge building was remodeled and became a market. In 1993 the Lodge/market burned to the ground. A new store and post office were built in 1994.
The Grant Grove Village area in King's Canyon National Park has a number of historic buildings and cabins.
The "Honeymoon Cabin" or "log cabin" (officially it is called cabin #9) is the oldest structure still standing in Grant Grove Village, built in 1910. It started out as a Stage Stop a few miles away in Hume Lake. It was moved to it's current location in the Lodge area of Grant Grove Village sometime prior to 1930. In the early years it served as a reading room for the Lodge guests. It was later converted into a guest cabin. It has a queen bed, carpeting, refrigerator, heater, a coffee maker, and a private bath. Cabin #9 is popular, so book early if you want to stay in it.
There are four historic redwood "duplex bath cabins" in the Lodge area that have been recently renovated (8 units total.) These duplex cabins are heated, carpeted, have a coffee maker, private baths, and are open year-round. Each duplex cabin has a large shared porch with chairs. The duplex cabins were built in 1927-1928.
The "Rustic Cabins" are small individual cabins in the Meadow Camp area that feature double beds, electric lights, insulation, carpeting, and propane wall heaters. They do NOT have private baths. Most of them date from around 1930. Each rustic cabin has a small outdoor porch with a tarp covering, picnic table, and a wood stove. A brand-new central restroom and shower building was just completed at the beginning of 2009. The area around the cabins has also been improved, with better paths and night lighting for late-night trips to the restrooms, but a flashlight is still a good idea. The restroom building can be up to a block away from some of the cabins.
The "Camp Cabins" are similar to the rustic cabins, with double beds, electricity, and heaters, but have bare wood floors, no insulation, and no porch. A trail leads to the nearby bathhouse. The camp cabins also date back to the 1930's. Bring a flashlight.
For a camping-with-beds experience, try the "Tent Cabins" located in the Lodge area (Tent City.) These cabins have 2 double beds, wood floors, wood walls, and a canvas tent roof. There is no heat or electricity, and a battery-powered lamp is provided for light. They do not have a porch and cooking is not permitted. Bring a flashlight, the trail to the bathroom is dark, and the surface is uneven!
John Muir Lodge:
The John Muir Lodge at Grant Grove Village was built in 1998 and is one of the newer lodges in the National Park system. The lodge itself is a two-story building with interior hallways and is similar in style and layout to a modern lower-to-mid range motel. Most of the rooms have 2 queen beds. Rooms are carpeted, heated, have a coffee maker, and a private bath. No tv's. The lodge has a large lobby with a fireplace, small library, wireless Internet, and games. Several porches with chairs and rockers make a comfortable places to hang out in the evenings. The virtual tour and photo out-takes have lots of photos of the John Muir Lodge both inside and out. Also you may want to read my article/review of the John Muir Lodge at the National Parks Traveler website.
The Grant Grove Village Restaurant was originally called the coffee shop. The front L-shaped portion of the building with the long porch, where the gift shop and bathrooms are now, was built in 1933. This old section housed both the gift shop and a small lunch counter. The current restaurant was added onto the back of the old building in 1962, the old lunch counter was removed, and the gift shop expanded. A small room at the back of the new restaurant was the location of the infamous Sequoia Room Bar. (The Sequoia Room was known back in the 70's - 80's for the male employees who hung around in the evenings, trying to pick-up un-attached female tourists.) The bar has now been removed and the old Sequoia Room has been remodeled for restaurant overflow and/or tour group seating.
The post office and market adjacent to the restaurant were built in 1994. The small restroom building between the market and gas station was built around 1940. The former gas station fronting on the main road was built in 1936 by the Standard Oil Company. The Visitor Center was built in 1965 on the former site of the 1933 Park Administration Building.
The Sequoia-Kings Canyon Park Services Company also operates several other lodging facilities in the area. These are Cedar Grove Lodge, Stony Creek Lodge, and Montecito-Sequoia Lodge (also sometimes called Montecito Lake Resort.) All feature small, very basic rooms with private baths. Cedar Grove has a snack bar and market, Stony Creek has a small restaurant and convenience store. Montecito Sequoia provides buffet-style meals during limited hours as part of the lodging package.
For a lot more historic details and photos of the Grant Grove buildings take the free virtual tour!
Rates and Reservations:For lodging reservations see the Sequoia-Kings Canyon Park Services Company website or call (866) 522-6966 or (559) 335-5500. For the front desk of the lodge call (559) 335-2314.
Planning a Visit:
King's Canyon National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the east side of central California. There is a $20.00 per car entrance fee to enter the park. The park roads are narrow and slow, expect travel times to be longer than you might think.
IMPORTANT! If you are coming from the south, DO NOT TAKE State Highway 145. Your GPS unit may tell you to take hwy 145. Bad GPS, bad, bad GPS unit! Highway 145 will get you there, but it is a narrow, slow, winding road that is nothing more than an old wagon path with pavement. It will add at least an hour to the trip and your kids will probably get car-sick and barf!
To reach King's Canyon National Park take highway 180 east from Fresno. It leads directly into the park. Follow the signs to Grant Grove Village.
If you are adventuresome, have a map, and don't easily get lost, you can take the following route from the south which is slightly faster (if you don't get stuck behind a tractor on hwy 63, which is a two-lane farm road.) Take hwy 99 north, exit on hwy 198 west, go 6 miles, exit on hwy 63 north, go 31 miles to the end of hwy 63, turn right onto hwy 180 west and continue on it to the park. Highway 63 is a two-lane road and has a confusing traffic circle in Visalia. Follow the signs. It will feel like you are driving forever on 63 and the road starts to look like a cow-path in some areas. Just keep checking the signs to make sure you're on the right road. You'll go through the small towns of Cutler and Orosi and the outskirts of the town Orange Cove. Finally the road will wind up into the hills and dead end at hwy 180.
If you plan to fly to the region for a visit, the closest major airport is the Fresno/ Yosemite International Airport in Fresno, California: www.flyfresno.org. Rental cars are available at the airport. The drive to King's Canyon from the airport takes 1 hour. Train service via Amtrak is available to Fresno, California: www.amtrak.com. There is no public transportation to King's Canyon.
To get to Sequoia National Park from King's Canyon take the General's Highway which links the two parks. It takes about an hour. The General's Highway between the two parks is often closed for several days after storms during the winter. Warning: hwy 198 from Sequoia down to the City of Visalia is extremely steep with multiple hair-pin curves. Do not take it if you do not have a vehicle in good condition with good brakes! If you have a fear of heights or do not like narrow roads on steep mountain sides you will not like this road! On the other hand, there are some spectacular vista points on hwy 198. Trailers and large motor homes over 22 foot length are not advised on hwy 198 between Giant Forest in Sequoia N.P. and the Town of Three Rivers.
Many people ask how to get to Yosemite National Park from King's Canyon. There is no direct road between the parks. To reach Yosemite from King's Canyon take State Highway 180 down the mountain to Fresno, then take State Highway 41 north to Yosemite. It takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to get to the entrance to Yosemite. Yosemite Valley is an additional 45 minutes to an hour from the Yosemite park entrance.
No roads go east across the Sierra Nevada Mountains from King's Canyon National Park. During summer you can cross the Sierra's using the Tioga Pass Road in Yosemite. During winter months you must go up to hwy 4 to the north, or down to hwy 178 to the south (do not try to take hwy 155 as a short-cut, as it is very slow.)
There are no gas stations in King's Canyon National Park. The last gas station (and bathrooms) on hwy 180 leading into the park is at the corner of hwy 180 and Dunlap Road in the town of Dunlap. During summer months only, gas is available at Stony Creek, on the General's Highway between King's Canyon and Sequoia Parks.
Watch out for roads in the Sierra foothills that look like shortcuts on the map. They can be very slow with sharp curves and speeds of 15 mph. Many are old wagon roads or logging train rail beds dating back to the 1800's that have been paved but not straightened. Ask someone local if you are not familiar with the road. GPS units often try to route you on these roads.
This article, the virtual tour and all photos are by Jess Stryker. Most photos were taken in November 2008. Any corrections or further information on Grant Grove you may be able to provide are much appreciated.
Special thanks go to Thomas L. Burge, Archeologist for Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks, who was invaluable in assisting me gathering facts and data on the Grant Grove Village facilities.
|Challenge of the Big Trees: A Resource History of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. If you can find a copy, this is the best book on the history of Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks. I have a copy and often refer back to it when visiting the park searching for history.|
|Historic Resources Study for Grant Grove Developed Area, King's Canyon National Park, California by Susan A. Kopczynski and Chandler McCoy, June 1998; National Park Service document. This document was the source for much of the historical information on this webpage and in the virtual tour. To my knowledge it has not been published, but a copy can be obtained from the Park Service if you ask nicely.|