There’s something to be said for venturing off the beaten path during the hectic summer tourist season. And that’s certainly true where I live — in the California Sierras. The majority of our visitors hightail it up to the mountain lakes, but few folks take time to stop at a relatively obscure Sequoia grove located alongside scenic Dinkey Creek. And although venturing off the main road can sometimes lead to disastrous access results, gladly that’s the not the case at McKinley Grove (www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/sierra/recarea/?recid=45622), which offers a perfectly accessible scenic stroll for wheelchair-users and slow walkers.
Land of the Giants
Finding McKinley Grove is easy — just follow Highway 168 East, from Clovis to Shaver Lake. Take a right on Dinkey Creek Road and travel for about 12 miles, then make a right on McKinley Grove Road. The grove is located about six miles down the road, on the right. All in all it’s usually about a 1.5-mile drive, but once you get off Highway 168 there’s significantly less traffic — and you might even spot a deer of two along the way.
Accessible parking is available near the accessible vault toilet, with barrier-free access over to a pleasant path that winds through the grove. This half-mile paved trail has a few undulations, but it’s still quite doable for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. Most of the trees in this grove top 230-feet, and the oldest ones are nearly 3,000 years old. The trail also winds past one fallen giant that toppled in 1974, after living more than 2,000 years. The trail continues on through the grove, past a few interpretive plaques, before it skirts rushing Dinkey Creek, and loops back to the parking area.
Pack along a picnic lunch to enjoy in the picnic area across the street. Although it’s just a short walk away, it’s best to drive because of the slope and the roadway traffic. Accessible parking is available next to the accessible vault toilet; however keep in mind that it’s not operational, so plan ahead and use the one across the street. There’s a shaded picnic table in a level dirt area located just a short walk from the parking area. And although few people stop to visit the grove, hardly anyone plans for a picnic, so chances are you’ll have the tables to yourself. It’s the perfect way to top off a wheelchair-accessible McKinley Grove visit.