Big Stump Trail & Picnic Area: Home of the Mark Twain Stump in Kings Canyon National Park

Big Stump Trail is one of the better short hikes in the upper part of Kings Canyon; it has a gradual grade, lots of fun things to look at, and a relatively shaded trail the entire way. It is a good spot for pretty much the whole family, and the highlight of the trail is the massive old Mark Twain stump, complete with stairs to help you walk up on top of it. Here is all the information on the trail.

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  • 1.5 miles round trip
  • 200 feet of elevation gain
  • Not wheelchair accessible
  • Get a map from the visitors center as nothing is marked on the trail
  • I hiked this trail in 2016


About a mile after you pass the entrance into Kings Canyon National Park, you will see a turn out on the left-hand side for Big Stump Picnic Area. This is where you will want to park, and this area is also accessible via the tram if you take it as well. The trail starts to the left of the bathrooms. I would recommend grabbing a map from the visitors center before doing the hike though, as there are a lot of spots you will miss without the map.

The Trail

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The trail starts on a gradual downhill and passes a few giant sequoias before it starts a set of two steep downhill switchbacks. If you don’t do the loop and come back this way, then you will have to slog back up this set of switchbacks.

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Once you make it to the bottom of the small hill, you will be walking relatively flat for the next half mile. From here, you will start to see old fallen trees and even stumps through the brush as you walk.

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About a tenth of a mile from here, you will see the meadow. This spot is a beautiful and peaceful break from the shaded trail you had been walking on previously. 

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After heading around the field, you will see Old Adam, which is a dead tree that still stands commanding even after its death. This tree was one of my favorites on the trail as it was gnarled and grotesque looking but awesome. 

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From here, the trail heads west and passes one of the only markers on the entire loop, which states that the meadow once was the site of the Smith Comstock Lumber Mill.

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From there, you will shortly reach the main reason for this trail, the Mark Twain Stump.

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Mark Twain Stump

This stump is so big it is hard to comprehend. The tree itself was cut down in the early 1900s, and after that, a small set of steps was added to it to make it the picnic tree stump that is affectionately known as today. 

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I spent a decent amount of time just hanging out here as it was a peaceful area, and there were no other people around.

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After leaving the stump, you will head across the highway on the trail which goes along the other side of the road. This trail has a gradual uphill the entire way with a lot more stumps and fallen trees. About a quarter-mile into this part of the trail, you will see a sign for the sawed tree which is a tree that has literally been sawed into yet still survived. 

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After that, you will finish the loop by heading under the road and back into that parking lot. 

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All in all, this is a fantastic hike for the whole family. It has a lot of different stuff to see (make sure to get the visitor center map) and is a peaceful and not too strenuous hike. I enjoyed it and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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