A Hockett Trail Guide: 3. South Fork Drive

This leg starts just above the South Fork bridge where the Old Three Rivers Highway meets Sierra Drive. The original route was probably closer to the path of present-day Cherokee Oaks Drive, but that’s a dead end. What is today called the Old Three Rivers Highway ends at South Fork Drive, which our route follows to its end. South Fork Drive was not completed into Sequoia National Park until well into the 20th Century. The upper portions of the drive were until fairly recently considered the Hockett Trail. Well after the time cars were driving to Giant Forest, and after backpackers were crossing great iron bridges along the High Sierra Trail, there was still no road entering Sequoia National Park along the South Fork. The road ended at Cahoon Ranch, well outside the park. The upper portion of the road that was later cut and blasted out of the mountainside remains quite primitive, and can offer quite a bumpy ride.

The Hockett Trail's entry into Sequoia National Park

The Hockett Trail’s entrance into Sequoia National Park, 1899.

South Fork Drive crosses the river three times, each a potentially critical watering hole. Cinnamon Creek is also a useful water source. Always treat water at these elevations, unless you get it out of someone’s spigot.

My best guess is that the three river crossings represent the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th crossings of the original Hockett Trail over the South Fork. The terrain appears to dictate these crossings. The first crossing was probably well above the present-day Sierra Drive bridge over the South Fork. The old Hockett Trail probably crossed the South Fork at seven places.

This leg probably should not be attempted in August. My brother and I bicycled up from Tulare as teenagers, and suffered. We walked our bikes most of the way up from Three Rivers. It is probably best attempted on bicycle, just use a bike that’s been maintained, and be prepared for a workout: the elevation gain is 2800 feet. On the other hand, it’s a very enjoyable return ride, with reasonable grades and light traffic. One can always drive, of course, but don’t forget to stop and smell the cow pies. There is some very pleasant country along South Fork Drive.

See Exploring the Southern Sierra: West Side by Jenkins & Jenkins: Highway 198 Car Tour (T84).