Sequoia National park winter

Visiting Sequoia National Park in Winter

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Sequoia National Park transforms come winter. As autumn bows out and winter takes center stage, the colossal sequoias gain a layer of pristine snow. Along with the snow comes a sense of quiet that only adds to the magical experience of being around those extremely tall (and old) trees. It’s a stunning time to go.

Located in the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Sequoia National Park is part of the larger Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks complex. It is adjacent to Kings Canyon National Park and together they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

General Sherman, Sequoia National Park. On 35mm.

Sequoia National Park is renowned for its iconic giant sequoia trees, including the famous General Sherman Tree, which is the largest living tree on Earth. These giants can reach staggering heights and have a remarkable presence that attracts visitors from around the globe.

The park is worth visiting from anywhere and it’s not very far from Los Angeles, which makes it a great getaway option for southern California locals. Technically you could do Sequoia as a day trip from some locations but staying the night will ensure that you’ve got plenty of time to explore.

What to keep in mind when visiting Sequoia National Park in the winter.

Snow Gear is a Must

When you’re visiting Sequoia National Park in the winter you must be prepared for snowy conditions. Pack waterproof boots, warm layers, gloves, hats, etc. Snowshoes or traction devices like crampons for your shoes can also be beneficial, especially if you plan to explore trails.

Even the walking paths can become icy and slippery! On my short visit, I saw probably a dozen people slip…and a few that went all the way to the ground.

If you’re staying outside of the park and driving in, the weather changes can be a bit deceptive. Just down the road in Three Rivers, there can be no snow on the ground while a storm is blowing within the park.

Weather conditions can change rapidly in mountainous regions. Expect the temperatures to drop and go prepared!

Check the Road Conditions

Check the road conditions before heading out. Some park roads and entrances may be closed or have restrictions during winter. Ensure your vehicle is equipped for winter driving, and carry tire chains as they might be required.

When chains are required there will be signs alerting you to this before you get to the park. If you don’t have chains, be sure and stop to rent them before you get to the park. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to use them…the local shops offer instructional videos and plenty of help to make sure you’re fully prepared.

If you plan on visiting the park for multiple days it will be more cost-efficient to purchase chains before you go.

Once inside the park with your chains, it will be made obvious where you’re meant to pull over and put them on.

Winter in Sequoia National Park
A winter sunset in Sequoia National Park. On 35mm.

Potential Road and Park Closures

While Sequoia is open year-round, the park will occasionally be closed for storms. This happened on my most recent visit. Luckily we were able to enter the park for a few hours on day one, but on day two a storm set in and we were sent away at the main entrance.

You can find updates about road and park closures on their main website.

Lodging Within the Park May Be Closed

Staying within Sequoia National Park has its obvious perks, you can walk out of your lodging and be on your way. However, many (or all) of these options may be closed in the winter. The lodging available within the park is as follows:

Wuksachi Lodge—Generally open year-round, but in 2024 is closed January 7 – March 14, 2024.

John Muir Lodge—Usually open from spring to fall and closed for the winter.

Grant Grove Cabins—Generally open year-round, but in 2024, they will reopen in late March.

Cedar Grove Lodge—Open from the spring to fall, closed winter.

Lodging Outside of Sequoia National Park

While the lodging within the park might be closed, don’t let that deter you from going. There are plenty of other places to stay nearby. The elevation drops once you leave the park and the weather is generally much more favorable in nearby towns like Three Rivers and Visalia.

There you’ll find Airbnbs, hotels, and lodges. You might want to book in advance if you’re particular about where you stay, although we had no problem booking an adorable Airbnb cabin a few weeks out.

The view from the Airbnb in Three Rivers, California.

Visitor Centers and Services

Some visitor centers and services with Sequoia National Park may have limited hours or be closed during the winter months. Check the park’s official website or contact them ahead of time to confirm what facilities are available during your visit.

When open, visitor centers such as the Lodgepole Visitor Center and Giant Forest Museum provide valuable information about the park’s history, geology, and natural wonders. Rangers are available to answer questions and assist visitors in planning their activities.

Check for Closures Within the Park

Some areas, including certain trails, parking lots, campgrounds, or facilities, might be closed or inaccessible during winter. Stay updated on any closures or restrictions to ensure a smooth and safe visit.

For example, when I visited in January the main parking lot was closed to see General Sherman. They had one smaller, lower lot open instead.

Shorter Daylight Hours

Winter days have shorter daylight hours. Plan your activities accordingly, and if you’re exploring later in the day, carry a flashlight or headlamp.

Should you need to put on or remove chains, it’s usually a bit easier (and warmer) to do before the sun sets. The potential for ice on the roads can also increase as the evening goes on.

Things to do in Sequoia National Park in the Winter

Winter Activities

Embrace the winter activities! Sequoia National Park is a great place for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, and even snow play in designated areas. Be sure to bring the necessary equipment or check if rentals are available nearby.

Snowshoes can both be rented at Grant Grove and Lodgepole within the park.

1. Wolverton Meadow

Wolverton Meadow is situated near the Wolverton trailhead and is surrounded by the majestic landscapes for which the park is renowned. It serves as a starting point for several hiking trails, including the popular Wolverton to Panther Gap Trail.

In the winter months, Wolverton Meadow transforms into a snowy wonderland, providing a scenic backdrop for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding. The serene ambiance and snow-covered landscape create a magical winter experience.

2. Big Stump Grove

The Big Stump Grove is a captivating and historically significant area located within Kings Canyon National Park, which is adjacent to Sequoia National Park. This grove showcases the remnants of giant sequoias that were logged during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Winter sports enthusiasts can take advantage of the snowy trails around Big Stump Grove for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.

3. Take a Guided Snowshoe Tour

When weather permits, ranger-guided weekend snowshoeing walks are offered in the Giant Forest. And they even throw in the snowshoe rental for free! It’s highly suggested to book this in advance since space is limited. You can do so by calling 559-565-4480 or going to a visitor’s center. Click here to learn more.

4. Go Snowshoeing on Your Own

If you would prefer to venture out on your own over taking a tour, you are welcome to do so. Bring or rent snowshoes and purchase a map of the ski trails at any visitor center. You’ll find reflective markers on trees that make it easier to see the popular paths.

For the very adventurous you are allowed to take overnight ski and snowshoe trips, but you must obtain a wilderness permit before doing so.

5. Cross-Country Skiing

There are ski trails through sequoia groves in both Giant Forest and Grant Grove. Again, you’ll want to grab that trail map from the visitor center.

Other things to do in winter in Sequoia National Park

Visit General Sherman

General Sherman is an impressive site. Not only is General Sherman the large tree living tree at 275 feet tall, but it is also an estimated 2,200 years old. General Sherman weighs in at over 2.5 million pounds. It’s no surprise that this area can get busy, even in the winter! When you stop to see General Sherman there are some nearby pathways for mellow hikes through the snow.

Visit General Grant

General Grant is second to General Sherman in size, being the second largest living tree in the world. There’s a 1/3-mile paved road that you can walk on to see this tree.

Wildlife Watching

Winter offers a unique opportunity for wildlife viewing. Keep an eye out for animal tracks in the snow, and you might catch a glimpse of creatures that are more active during the colder months. Sequoia National Park is home to a rich array of wildlife, including black bears, mule deer, mountain lions, and numerous bird species.

Enjoy the Quiet Beauty

Winter in Sequoia National Park offers a quieter and more peaceful experience compared to peak tourist seasons. It’s a good time to take advantage of the tranquility and savor the unique beauty of the snow-covered landscape.

Remember to check the park’s official website or contact park rangers for the most up-to-date information before your visit. Enjoy your winter adventure in Sequoia National Park!

Sequoia National park winter
Sequoia National Park on 35mm

FAQs about Sequoia National Park in Winter

Q: Is it worth visiting Sequoia National Park in winter?

If you like the snow and cold weather then yes it’s absolutely worth visiting Sequoia National Park in the winter. It’s beautiful!

Q: Is Sequoia National Park open in January?

Sequoia National Park is open every day, but it may face weather-related closures in the winter months.

Q: Does it snow in Sequoia National Park in January?

You can expect snow in Sequoia National Park in January. The average snowfall in January is 37 inches.

Q: Can you drive through Sequoia National Park in winter?

In general, you can drive through Sequoia National Park in winter. However, there may be road or park closures due to weather. Be sure and check their website for the latest updates and information.

Q: Do you need chains for Sequoia National Park?

If you’re visiting Sequoia National Park in the winter you will need to carry chains in your car, whether or not you’re required to put them on your tires. When you do have to put on chains, max driving speeds are reduced to 25 MPH.

Info about road closures can be found on the park’s website, while up-to-date info about the roads can be found by calling: 559-565-3134, ext. 1.

Q: How many days do you need to Sequoia?

To see a good portion of the park you would want to spend a few days. However, 80% of people see Sequoia National Park within a day trip. If you’re planning a shorter visit it’s best to map out what you want to see ahead of time. The park is quite large, spanning 404,064 acres.

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