Of the many rites of spring, Big Trees visitors anticipate the opening of the Smith Parkway at the end of April. The route dips down to the Stanislaus River, then up the opposite side of the canyon to Beaver Creek and the South Grove of giant sequoias.
The Pacific dogwood trees are not yet in bloom in the North Grove, but at lower elevations on the Parkway the elegant white blooms glow, giving one a taste of what is to come up the hill. You’ll spot dogwoods in shady areas and beside seasonal creeks on this pleasant drive. There are a couple of pullouts where one can park to take pictures or get a closer look.
Driving the nine-mile long Smith Parkway, roll your window down as you make turn at the bridge and hear the roar of the water rushing down the Stanislaus River Canyon. Even above the tumult, you might perceive the whistle of a canyon wren as it bounces over granite rocks. From the bridge you’ll see folks launching their fishing lines out into the water and occasionally reeling in a trout.
Continue on the Parkway and you arrive at the trailhead for the South Grove trail – a five mile hike through nearly pristine sequoia and sugar pine forest. This early in the season, fallen trees may still block the trail, so be prepared to clamber over. The Beaver Creek walk and picnic area are easy to access. The creek is surging with crystal-clear water that brings out the many colors of the rocks below. This is another favored fishing spot and a safe place for families to explore. Spring has truly arrived at Big Trees!