Block mountains

Opening of Balch Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains after the castle fire

An iconic summer destination in Tulare County is back open for the season.

Balch Park is open for day and overnight camping starting this week, Tulare County Parks officials announced.

The popular recreation area nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains is a lesser-known but equally beautiful alternative to its more famous neighbors, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Giant sequoias tower over the secluded park 20 miles above Springville, and its serene ponds are stocked with California golden trout for fishing.

The county-run park is also a less expensive family outing, with admission costing $5 per vehicle and $20 per campsite. Reduced rates are available for seniors and people with disabilities.

Reservations are not available. Campsites are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. during the summer.

This is the second summer the park has been open since the area was devastated by the 2020 Castle Fire, which alone destroyed a tenth of the world’s giant sequoias.

Read more:Sequoia National Park plans to replant 12,000 redwood seedlings in grove emptied by Castle Fire

Balch Park is contained within the Mountain Home Grove, home to many of the largest trees on earth by volume. The area was once a hub for logging in the Southern Sierra and several massive redwoods were felled until operations there ceased in the 1950s.

The Balch Park area was preserved through the efforts of local families who sought to turn the area into a tourist destination before Allan Balch, president of the defunct San Joaquin Light and Power Corporation, donated the land to the county of Tulare in 1930.

Noted conservationist John Muir reportedly wrote that the Mountain Home Grove was “the finest block of redwood in the entire belt.” Hollywood has also recognized the park’s beauty, filming blockbusters such as “The Hulk” and episodes of HBO’s “True Detective” there.

The Mountain Home State Demonstration Forest adjoins the county park and is operated by Cal Fire as a conservation project. The state forest is also reopening to the public this week.

Joshua Yeager is a journalist with the Visalia Times-Delta and a member of the Report for America corps. It covers the news deserts of Tulare County with a focus on the environment and local government.

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