“I live in Southern California and have been backpacking in the Sierra for 20 years, but this most recent trip was my favorite of them all.”
— Shad S, Santa Barbara, CA
“The KCHBR is really is a world-class route. It was easy to follow, navigation and route selection was challenging and fun but never really difficult.”
— Nathan R, Coppell, TX
“What we saw if the route was extremely fun and exciting, and also more physically demanding than I ever could have imagined. The directions and maps were perfect. Thank you for making this route public. It’s an awesome one, and I’ll be back for more next year.”
— Kolby Y, Brooklyn, NY
“The Kings Canyon High Basin Route is well balanced in challenge and reward. For those of us unwilling to put in the research or time, it is quite nice to have it and the Sierra High Route as options for high routes.”
— Erin “Wired” Saver
The Kings Canyon High Basin Route wraps 124 miles around the upper watershed of California’s Kings River in the High Sierra. It is encompassed entirely within Kings Canyon National Park, which was established in 1940 and which is jointly administered by the National Park Service as Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park (SEKI). Elevations range from 6,000-12,400 feet but more typically hover in the 9,000-12,000 range. Bring your leg muscles — it averages 725 vertical feet of change per mile.
The Kings Canyon High Basin Route (KCHBR) is exactly that — a route. Two-thirds of its distance (82 miles!) consists of committing off-trail travel and long-abandoned trails that were once used by miners, herders, and early High Sierra explorers; its remaining one-third merely accesses or links up these more standout and engaging segments. It is not officially recognized by the National Park Service and it has no dedicated on-the-ground signage or blazing. I stitched this route together over two summers in Sequoia-Kings — maybe I’ll see you out there this year during my thru-hike of it.
Given ample time, unwavering desire, expert backcountry skills, and excellent fitness, the KCHBR is best experienced as a continuous thru-hike. From end to end, it remains immersed in some of the finest High Sierra wilderness and showcases off-the-charts aesthetics.
But other uses of the KCHBR are both feasible and advisable. For those who seek a more bite-sized experience, it can be section-hiked. The Kings Canyon High Basin Route Guide details nine loop hikes ranging from 30 to 80 miles. And for those who wish to create a unique adventure of their own, portions of the KCHBR can easily be integrated into other itineraries.
A video by Shad Springer, who in 2015 hiked sections 1, 3, 4, and 6 of the KCHBR: