SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. December 27, 2022 – The end of the year is upon us, and the week between Christmas and the new year is a popular time to visit the parks. Seasonal closures and the possibility of winter weather add complexity to this busy holiday period, and trip planning is important to ensure a positive experience.
Tire Chains and Cables
A winter storm is currently predicted to begin early next week. This is likely to mean rain in the lower elevations of the parks and snow and ice at the elevations where sequoias are located. All visitors to the Sierra Nevada mountains during the winter months should be prepared for snow and ice even if there is not a major weather event in the forecast on the day you plan to visit. The National Park Service strongly discourages visitors from attempting to travel in the parks during an active snowstorm.
Park rangers make determinations in the field and enact tire chain restrictions when road conditions merit it, at an R1, R2, or R3 level. All vehicles are required to carry tire chains or cables in all chain control areas. At R1, tire chains or cables must be installed if the vehicle does not have snow or all-season tires. At R2, tire chains or cables must be installed unless the vehicle has snow tires and AWD/4WD. At R3, all vehicles are required to install their tire chains or cables.
The speed limit in chain control zones is 25 mph, even if marked otherwise. Several rollovers have occurred recently in the parks because visitors otherwise in compliance with chain restrictions were driving too fast.
For tire chain information including a helpful video on how to install them, and tips on winter driving in the parks, visit www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/winter_driving.htm.
All visitors to the sequoias in the coming weeks should anticipate that there will be some level of tire chain restrictions in place. For the most up-to-date road conditions, call (559) 565- 3341, dial 1, and then dial 1 again.
Traffic and Shuttles
Bring tire chains or cables with you, or purchase or rent them on your way to the parks. If you arrive without them, you may be turned around and sent back down the hill to get some. Avoid lengthy waits at the entrance stations by arriving before 9 a.m. or after 2 p.m. Also bring water, snacks, a full tank of gas, warm layers, and waterproof shoes.
Seasonal closure of some parking areas means that what parking is available will be in high demand. The free Sequoia Shuttle will be operating in the Giant Forest from Friday, December 23 through Sunday, January 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visitors are highly encouraged to park once, and then spend their day in the Giant Forest using this service. Shuttle routes and times can be found in the park newspaper you receive at the entrance station or at go.nps.gov/sequoiashuttle.
The following areas are closed at this time:
- The section of the Generals Highway that connects the parks, between Quail Flat and Wuksachi Lodge
- Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Road
- Highway 180 past the Hume Lake Junction
- Mineral King
- Generals Highway Closed Between the Parks Until Further Notice Due to Impacts from Winter Storms
- Alert 1, Severity closure, Generals Highway Closed Between the Parks Until Further Notice Due to Impacts from Winter Storms
- The Generals Highway is closed from Wuksachi Lodge to the Montecito Sequoia Resort (south of Grant Grove) until further notice due to impacts from recent heavy snow events. For current road conditions, call (559) 565-3341 (press 1, then 1)
Enjoying the Parks in the Snow
The trails to the General Grant and General Sherman Trees are the only trails where any snow is cleared in the winter, and they are often very icy. Traction devices for your shoes are recommended. Other trails may be more enjoyable with snowshoes or cross-country skis.
The parks have designated snowplay areas, but be aware that rocks, trees, and other objects can be hidden in the snow in any area. Please review the safety tips provided in the park newspaper upon arrival and exercise caution.
Sequoia National Park: Wolverton Snowplay Area in the Giant Forest
Kings Canyon National Park: Big Stump and Columbine picnic areas in Grant Grove
Sequoia National Forest: Quail Flat and Cherry Gap trailheads near Grant Grove
Campgrounds and Lodging
Campsites are extremely limited during the winter season. Sites in Potwisha Campground (Sequoia National Park) must be reserved through Recreation.gov. Sites in Azalea Campground (Kings Canyon National Park) are first-come, first-served during the winter months. Campers at Azalea should plan for snow and winter conditions. All food, scented items, and coolers need to be properly stored in food storage lockers. Bears are particularly active in the foothills.
For availability at Wuksachi Lodge, visit www.visitsequoia.com. John Muir Lodge is currently closed.
Feature image: Courtesy of NPS – Grant Grove after snow- by I-Ting Chiang