Buena Vista Peak Trail, Kings Canyon National Park

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Looking for a great place to watch the sunset in Kings Canyon National Park? Some of the viewpoints along the highway are okay, but I think the best spot is at Buena Vista Peak.  It’s just a one-mile hike up the Buena Vista Peak Trail to a gorgeous mountaintop with 360-degree views of the park.  And, the trail is short enough that you can make it back down before it’s completely dark outside.

Location

The trailhead for Buena Vista Peak is located southeast of Grant Grove on California Highway 198, the Generals Highway.  From the Junction of 180 and 198, drive south 4.7 miles.  As soon as you’ve rounded a sharp right-hand curve with a viewpoint, watch for the trailhead on the right side of the road (on the inside of the curve).

My Visit

Buena Vista Peak Trail is so nice, I hiked it twice.  To be honest, on the first hike, I had the wrong time zone selected on my watch, and I thought the sunset was an hour closer than it really was.  After sitting at the top for a while and wondering why the sunset seemed to be taking so long, I bailed out, only to return the next night.  And that time, I got it right.

Buena Vista Peak Trail isn’t very exciting to start.  You’ll have to go uphill, but it’s a fairly easy climb.  And along the way, you’ll pass some big boulders…

… as you head towards that granite peak that looms up ahead.    The trail circles around the side, and then hooks back as you make the final climb to the top.

Buena Vista Peak Trail

Once you’re up there, you’ll be able to hop around on some big boulders…

… including one that, I think, looks a lot like a rubber ducky.

Notice the tiny peak that looks like it’s sitting on the duck’s back?  That’s Buck Rock.  It’s actually very big — big enough to have a fire lookout tower perched on top of it.  On my first visit to Buena Vista Peak, once I discovered that sunset was still a couple of hours away, I decided to drive over to Buck Rock Lookout.  You can check out my visit to Buck Rock Lookout here

My second hike up the Buena Vista Peak Trail was timed better, but I still had to kill nearly an hour before sunset.  So, I set up my tripod and took some selfies with the boulders, staring off into the haze as if I had some deep thoughts.

On this particular evening, the sunset wasn’t great. It was good, but as a photographer, I would have liked to have seen some clouds in the sky, to add some depth and texture.  I’m not complaining, though.  The piles of rocks at the top of Buena Vista Peak provided some nice photographic subjects…

… and as the evening progressed…

… there were some nice colors over the surrounding hills.

The hike down was pretty great, too.  Those tree silhouettes were nicely backlit by the sun’s final glow.

I brought a flashlight with me on this hike, which helped with the final few hundred yards of the trail.  

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a look at the drive into Kings Canyon on Highway 180…

… the drive south on Generals Highway to the Giant Forest Museum:

… and the drive north to Lodgepole and Buena Vista Trailhead:

The Bottom Line

Buena Vista Peak Trail is a fairly simple and easy trail that gains a small amount of elevation, as it takes you to the top of a bald mountain peak.  You’ll have a great view in every direction, making this a good spot for a sunrise or a sunset.

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