The Grant Grove Village
The John Muir Lodge
King's Canyon National Park, California
(Last update Feb 2015)
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 facilities 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/lobby 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. Cabins from both areas still exist today although The Lodge area no longer goes by that name.
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 launched by the Park Service with the goal of modernizing the National Parks. Under this program a new modern 1960's style coffee shop (with interior architecture very similar to a Denny's Coffee Shop from that same era with counter seating surrounded by individual tables) was added to the rear of the existing store, and a new Visitor's Center was constructed across the street from it. Many of the cabins were repaired and remodeled. In 1969 the old Lodge/lobby building was remodeled into a market, but retained much of the original design including the fireplace. Sadly, in 1993 the Lodge/market burned to the ground and Grant Grove Village lost what was probably it's most architecturally significant historic structure. A new store and post office were built fronting the highway between the gas station and gift shop buildings 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 renovated (8 units total.) These nice 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. While apparently designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, who is famous for his rustic park architecture, these simple duplex cabins have little of architectural significance beyond their age.
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 with upgrades since then. Each rustic cabin has a small outdoor porch with a tarp covering, picnic table, and a wood stove. A central restroom and shower building was built to replace the original bath building in 2009. The area around the cabins has also been updated, 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 area formerly known as The Lodge or 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. Bring a flashlight, the trail to the bathroom is dark, and the surface is uneven! They do not have a porch and cooking is not permitted. If you want to cook your own meals you will need to go to one of the park's picnic areas, the closest one is about 3 blocks away.
John Muir Lodge:
The John Muir Lodge at Grant Grove Village was built in 1998. The lodge itself is a two-story building with interior hallways and is similar in style and layout to a modern mid-range hotel. The rooms were remodeled in early 2015 and sound-proofing was added at that time. (It was much needed!) Most of the rooms have 2 queen beds, some have a king and a sleeper sofa. Rooms are carpeted, heated, have a coffee maker, flat screen tv, iron, ironing board, and a private bath with combo tub/shower. Heat is electric baseboard heaters (no fan.) No A/C, just open the window, it cools down nicely most nights. I like to take a small portable fan with me. The lodge building has a large lobby with a fireplace and wireless Internet. Several porches with chairs and rockers make 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.
For a lot more historic details and photos of the Grant Grove buildings take the free virtual tour!
Rates and Reservations:
Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Inc. manages all lodging facilities at Grant Grove Village under a contract with the National Park Service. For lodging reservations see their website at Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts, Inc. or call their Reservations Center Phone: (866) 807-3598. International phone number: (801) 559-4930. For the front desk for all Grant Grove Village Lodging call (559) 335-5500.
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 entrance fee to enter the park. See the Park Website at King's Canyon National Park Homepage for details on the park, including current entrance fees and road conditions. The park roads are narrow, winding, and slow, expect travel times to be longer than you might think. Speed limits are 45 mph or lower in the park. Some park roads close for several days at a time due to snowfall in Fall, Winter, and Spring.
I strongly recommend visiting off season if you can arrange it. Summers are busy and crowded, not as crowded as Yosemite, but still you will likely wait for tables in the restaurant at dinner time. Fall and spring are less crowded than summer, but weekends can be busy. Winters mid-week mean having the place almost to yourself, as well as deeply discounted room rates and relaxed, individually prepared meals in the restaurant! Fall season is generally free of heavy snow through October. A foot or two of snow on the ground is likely November through December. January-March often brings deep snow, typically 4-5 feet of snow depth. Spring can vary, sometimes the snow and ice can hang around well into the spring. But it is very variable, especially in recent years. I am updating this in Feb 2015 and when I was there last week there was only a few small patches of snow, very unusual. But... I've seen snow depths over 12 feet and one year it snowed when we were there on Memorial Day weekend (that's in late May!)
IMPORTANT! If you are coming from the south, DO NOT TAKE State Highway 245. Your GPS unit may direct you to Hwy 245. Highway 245 is a narrow, very 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!
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: To reach King's Canyon National Park take State Highway 180 east from Fresno. Highway 180 leads directly into the park and passes through Grant Grove Village. From there the road continues on to Cedar Grove where it dead ends. Allow about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach Grant Grove from Fresno.
The following route from the south is faster but more complicated. From State Hwy 99 north in the town of Visalia, exit on State Hwy 198 west, in less than a mile take the Plaza Drive exit. Turn left on Plaza Drive (labeled county road J19 on some maps) toward the town of Dinuba. Plaza Drive to Dinuba is a nice 4-lane highway with a 65 mph speed limit. Dinuba has several gas stations and convenience stores with restrooms. Drive 19 miles north on Plaza Drive (also named Road 80 and becomes Alta Ave.,) continuing through Dinuba, then turn right on Manning Avenue (there's a traffic signal at the intersection.) Go 5 miles on Manning Ave. and then turn left at the stop sign on Hill's Valley Road (be careful, don't turn on Hill Ave., that's a different street!) Drive 10 miles on Hill's Valley Road (it will intersect with State Hwy 63.) After 7 miles the road will turn and begin to wind up into the hills. It ends at State Hwy 180. Turn right (west) onto Hwy 180 and continue 27 miles on Hwy 180. You will enter King's Canyon National Park and just a few miles into the park Hwy 180 goes through Grant Grove Village.
RURAL AREA! There are limited facilities between Fresno and Grant Grove! Here are a few places I'm aware of to take a break on Hwy 180 between Fresno and Grant Grove (mileage from Fresno.)
- 12 miles- the intersection of Hwy 180 and Academy Ave near Sanger: gas, store w/ restrooms.
- 32 miles- the community of Squaw Valley: gas, store w/ restrooms.
- 36 miles- Clingan's Junction near Dunlap: gas, store w/ restrooms. LAST GAS!
- 53 miles- Big Stump Picnic Area (restrooms and picnic tables.)
- 56 miles- Grant Grove Village, store, restrooms, restaurant.
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 take Hwy 198 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.|