Mineral King is a separate valley, the East Fork of the Kaweah, which was first developed as a mining area. This prior development kept the area outside of the early park boundaries even though it is adjacent to the original Hockett Meadow area. Mineral King was added to the park after a series of events that led to a ski resort proposal that finally alerted people to the potential of this region and the need to protect it. Thus there are groups of private cabins and abandoned concrete dams built to enlarge some of the natural lakes. The mining was not as extensive (nor as productive) as the classical gold rush regions of California or parts of Colorado, but traces will remain for a few more centuries. The road remains closed through the winter, but is not as bad as people often describe it, assuming that you do not mind constant curves, constant up hill, and a minimal two lanes. Compared to many other Sierra access roads, this one is very good. The few sections without pavement are smooth and well maintained.
There are several campgrounds and a privately operated "lodge" (Silver City Resort) so that you can spend some time in this remote, yet accessible, valley. Most hiking starts out going UP, but leads to lakes and passes relatively quickly. Sawtooth (peak and pass) is a good hike. Sawtooth peak is visible from other parts of the park such as from Alta Peak across the Kaweah River.
|The 1923 bridge on the Mineral King Road. A lot of bridges built since then are falling apart and never looked as nice. At this point the road switches to the opposite side of the river, and continues the climb up to the park boundary. The date of the bridge gives the date of the road -- 1923. Fortunately, there is not a lot of traffic on the road.|
|The Mineral King Road continues, mostly paved, but sometimes very good gravel or dirt, and eventually becomes a trail. The early part of the trail follows the old mining access road. This was never a very successful mining area (unlike parts of Colorado, the "Gold Country" of the Sierra, or parts of Alaska), but signs of the mining remain. Much moreso than other areas, there are lower slopes without trees due, I assume, to the use of timber for the mining operations. There are a few Sequoia groves along the road.|