In our 2005 backpacking trip, we began and ended our four day loop in spectacular Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park. It is an incredible setting surrounded by 12,000 ft mountains. The infamous Mineral King road plops you right into the thick of it.
We finished out our trail on the road at Atwell Mill with our car a few miles away at the Sawtooth trailhead. Luckily a friendly driver in a pickup truck came along and offered to haul us down the road a bit and that was music to our ears. It turned out he and a friend were heading to his cabin, one of the private cabins I briefly read about before the trip, and he even offered us beer. It was another offer we certainly couldn’t turn down. We followed them to the cabin and hung out on the small deck for a while before we left to make the long drive back to LA.
I have to admit, when I first learned there were private cabins in the middle of a National Park, and which had always been federal land, I thought it was a bit strange.
History of Cabins in Mineral King
Mineral King and the cabins have a very interesting and controversial history I learned after hearing some about it from the local. It nearly became a gigantic Disney ski resort and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. No doubt it would have made an amazing ski resort, but thankfully for us it turned out the way it did. Reading up on the history, Mineral King had a lot of players including the original prospectors, people using the land for summer resort purposes often under the guise of mining and milling, ski resort developers, the US Forest Service, the cabin owners, the Sierra Club, and the changing environmental sentiments of the country.
The cabins and Mineral King weren’t initially included in Sequoia National Park because of the mining possibilities and the private developments. Then when the ski resort developers threatened to build a huge ski resort that would completely reshape the area and eventually force the cabins out, the cabin owners became allies of the Sierra Club and helped add Mineral King to Sequoia National Park in 1978. However with this action came a specification that the cabin permits would not be extended beyond the lifetimes of the current permit holders.
Through recent efforts, the cabin leases can now be renewed annually and cabin ownership transferred to heirs. I still think I might prefer it if the cabins wouldn’t be there any longer. It’s my land too and I prefer it wild. Does anyone else get to build a cabin? But I can understand their side and they have done a good job making the historic preservation argument.
If you’d like to learn more about it, here are some good resources:
- “Understanding The Mineral King Controversy” by the Sierra Club
- mineralking.org – a site and organization dedicated to the preservation of Mineral King including the cabins
- “Mineral King Road Cultural Landscape District” – PDF from the National Park Service, Cultural Landscapes Inventory. (This PDF contains a great historical record about the area including information about the cabins and the road.)