If you spent too much of summer at the office or cleaning out the garage, don’t fret—you can still catch the late-season wildflower show east of Visalia in Sequoia National Park. The park’s Mineral King is a glacial valley bounded by a cirque of peaks towering over 11,000 feet in elevation. Winters tend to dump heavy snow that’s slow to melt, so flowers bloom late. One of the best places to see flowery color splashes is below the white marble outcropping at White Chief Mine. In a spot where 1870s miners once searched for silver, you can look for wildflower treasures, like Coville’s columbine and diminutive varieties of Indian paintbrush and lupine.
To hike the round-trip route (roughly six or seven miles depending on where you turn around), start at the Eagle and Mosquito Lakes trailhead in Mineral King. Follow the White Chief Trail, which climbs steeply to White Chief Meadows. At the meadow’s lower end, look for the ruins of Crabtree Cabin, named after the person who first discovered White Chief Mine. Also try to identify foxtail pines, a rare species of conifer that can live well over 1,000 years. Beyond the meadow, the trail nears a waterfall on White Chief Creek, where even in late August you’ll find an explosion of tiny alpine wildflowers below the mine tunnel.
DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD: From Visalia, drive east on State Highway 198 33 miles to Mineral King Road (4 miles east of Three Rivers). Turn right on Mineral King Road and drive 25 very twisty miles through Sequoia National Park to the road’s end at the Eagle/Mosquito Lakes trailhead.