John Muir Wilderness in Kings Canyon National Park (Michael Harbison/iStock)

The Crazy Thing I Encouraged My Kids to Do at Muir Rock

To honor the upcoming 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, NRDC staffers share their fondest national park memories. From a Grand Canyon proposal to a raging forest fire, see them all here.

Kings Canyon is the highest of the high country in California’s stunning Sierra Nevada mountain range, crowned by Mount Whitney at 14,495 feet. Believe it or not, John Muir actually considered Kings Canyon more beautiful even than Yosemite Valley — a point that can fairly be debated, with both sides justified in claiming to be right. Because Kings Canyon (with its sister Sequoia National Park) is adjacent to the southern agricultural fields of the Central Valley of California, the ethnic diversity of its visitors today is uniquely high.

Joel Reynolds jumping from The Rock with daughter Eleanor in foreground (Photo courtesy Joel Reynolds)

I grew up hiking in Kings Canyon and have continued to do so with my own kids throughout their childhood. There is no more significant natural point of reference in their lives than Muir Rock — a location at the far eastern end of Highway 180, an hour’s drive into the heart of Kings Canyon from its western entrance, on the rushing, pristine, and ice-cold south fork of the Kings River. Once a favorite teaching destination for Muir, the massive boulder sits at the base of a granite face that rises hundreds of feet out of the river. Today, for those who have the nerve, Muir Rock is the site of a 15-foot jump into one of the most beautiful swimming holes anywhere.

After avoiding the edge for years, my kids learned to love that jump — first while holding my hand and then, throwing caution to the wind, on their own, over and over again. “The Rock” has become an essential destination for our family, a positive marker in our collective experience of nature, and just one more reason to love our national parks.