Distance: 2.3 miles (3.7 km) one way
Elevation: 2,700 – 3,400 ft.
Time: 1-2 hours (not including stops for rest or picture taking)
On their way to the giant sequoia groves, visitors drive right through Sequoia National Park’s foothills region unaware of its rich diversity and unique treasures. Few know that Sequoia’s foothills contain more kinds of plants and animals than all the other regions of these parks combined. The Paradise Creek Trail is an excellent introduction to the extraordinary biodiversity of the Sierra Nevada foothills. It is also one of the most pleasant all-season hikes in the park. When most of the park’s trails remain buried deep in snow, this trail dazzles with arrays of beautiful wildflowers growing next to a tumbling stream.
The Paradise Creek trailhead begins in the Buckeye Flat Campground. But unless you’re camping, you’ll need to park at the Hospital Rock picnic area—about 6 miles from the Ash Mountain Entrance. Then walk the 1/2 mile road to the trailhead at the campground entrance. All around the trailhead, you will find dense oak woodland—meaning that the canopy of oaks is more or less continuous. The shade and moisture makes a perfect habitat for poison oak and ticks. So be sure to wear long pants and to wash your clothes after your hike. The trail goes up a gentle slope and then crosses the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River on a sturdy bridge. Just beyond is where Paradise Creek tumbles into the Middle Fork of the Kaweah. A few steps up the creek lies the prime destination of many hikers—a small pool that makes for a cool place to get wet in the heat of summer. But avoid the river and creek when the water is high and icy cold. Slippery rocks mean it is easy to fall in the river and almost impossible to climb out.
The Paradise Creek Trail continues on for another two miles up the creek. There are occasional breaks in the forest affording views of the Middle Fork of the Kaweah with Moro Rock looming high overhead. Most of the time, you hike in the solitude of dense oak forest or traverse the steep hillsides awash in cool grasses or wildflowers. Although mostly in shade, this hike still can give hikers a good case of sunburn on any day of the year. So be sure to wear a hat and use sunscreen. The trail peters out in dense foliage after crossing the creek, so hikers should return the way they came. Note that there is no overnight camping on this trail.
Help us keep this place beautiful. Take only pictures. Leave only footprints. Please pack out your trash.
Know the Bear Facts! Whether staying in the picnic area or going for a longer hike, always store food away from bears. Use large, brown bear-proof boxes to store food and scented items. Never leave food or scented items unattended.
Be Safe! Bring plenty of drinking water and snacks/lunch. Wear sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good traction, as well as long pants (due to ticks and poison oak). Wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Bring insect repellent.