If there’s one place often overlooked on people’s bucket lists — it’s visiting Sequoia National Park in Winter.
Last year, my husband and I visited this winter wonderland and were completely caught off guard by the striking beauty of fresh fallen snow against the vibrant red sequoia bark. It’s a breathtaking sight.
I spent weeks planning for our trip and would like to share that information with you. Read on to learn everything you need to know about visiting Sequoia National Park in winter (including the quick video I made), I hope you enjoy.
Sequoia National Park in Winter
Tips for Visiting Sequoia National Park in Winter
- Temperatures vary drastically within the park, mostly dependent on elevation. Layers are great because they can be removed when you start warming up.
You + sunscreen = best friends (forever)
- I swear by this sunscreen, I discovered it in France and now buy it in bulk. It works like a charm and doesn’t leave strange residue or smells, you’ll NEVER catch me without it!
Good snow boots
- I tried hiking in my regular hiking boots (which are the best) with snowshoes and my toes were freezing within minutes. The combination of hard snow and snow-melt make snowshoes a necessity. Trust me on this one.
- I relied heavily on my crampons, they were a life saver as folks around us were slipping and falling. Definitely bring good crampons with you. Here’s the pair I used.
- I cannot stress this one enough. As the sun rises, snow on the trees begins to melt. We didn’t account for snow-melt and were soaked in no time. This is a great option.
Sequoia National Park in Winter | Things to Do
Winter is a great time to explore Sequoia National Park because fresh blankets of snow at the feet of massive sequoias introduce a new playground full of recreational opportunities!
What’s more, there’s fewer crowds in the winter months — allowing you to soak in the magic with coveted solitude. For example, we visited in February and ran into no more than 10 people during our two day trip.
Here’s a few things you can do during winter in Sequoia National Park:
#1. Play in the snow & go sledding
Both Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon National Park have designated snow play areas during winter.
- Wolverton Meadow is Sequoia National Park’s go-to winter playground. It offers a large area for sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Wolverton Meadow is 2-miles from the General Sherman tree. If you’d like to rent gear swing by the Lodgepole Market.
- Big Stump in King’s Canyon National Park is great for sledding. If you’d rather snowshoe, they have that covered too. Park rangers offer guided tours down nature walks, averaging 2-hours. The best way to cap off a day at Big Stump? Hot chocolate at the John Muir Lodge.
Note: These areas may close to the public if conditions become dangerous, so call in advance if you plan to go.
#2. Visit the General Sherman Tree
The General Sherman Tree is the largest tree in the world. It’s so big the branches at the top disappear into thin air! Standing at a proud 275 feet, General Sherman is estimated to be 2,200 years old. But if that’s not enough to impress you, it weighs more than 2.5 million pounds.
#3. Visit the General Grant Tree
The General Grant Tree is the second largest tree in the world by trunk and branch volume. Imagine the humbling effect this experience will have on you. The tree is very accessible, you will see a little path guiding you directly from the parking lot.
#4. Snowshoe the Congress Trail
The Congress Trail is a 2-mile loop that takes you through the most enchanting groves in the park. While snowshoeing the trail, make sure to visit:
- The President Tree. Say hi to the third largest tree in the world, estimated to older than General Grant. How old? Oh, just 3,200 years old.
- The Senate is a massive grove of sequoias quietly deliberating on the news of the day. It’s my favorite grove for photos. In fact, most of my photos are from The Senate.
#5. Join a guided snowshoe tour (Saturday & Sunday)
Naturalists from Sequoia Parks Conservancy offer guided tours departing from John Muir Lodge and Wuksachi Lodge every Saturday and Sunday in winter. Park Rangers offer guided tours as well, for the schedule, click here.
#6. Warm up with a fireplace drink
Regardless of how you spend your day outside, remember to warm up with a tasty cocktail by the grand fireplaces at Wuksachi or John Muir Lodge.
Sequoia National Park Winter Weather
Between the months of December and March, the average daily temperatures range from 20 degrees to 40 degrees – talk about chilly! The average snowfall is 37″. If helpful, it snowed the first day of our trip and rained the second.
Driving in Sequoia National Park During Winter
Snow and ice create challenging driving conditions because mountain roads become dangerously icy in cold temperatures. As a result, snow tires and/or chains MUST be carried during winter months. Signs are clearly posted when chains are required.
- Bring snow tires and/or snow chains between the months of November and March.
- Tire chains may be purchased at shops near park entrances.
- If tire chains are required in an area, the maximum speed limit is reduced to 25 MPH, regardless of the posted limit.
- For current road conditions, call 559-565-3134, ext. 1.
Tip: If you plan to drive to Sequoia National Park, be prepared to drive winding, steep, and narrow mountain roads.
Gas in Sequoia National Park
Gas is not sold within the park (anymore). The closest gas stations can be found on nearby national forests.
Emergency gas can be purchased at Wuksachi Lodge in Sequoia National Park and Grant Grove Market in Kings Canyon National Park. But fair warning: the price is steep.
Hotels in Sequoia National Park
All accommodations mentioned below are open during winter.
Sequoia National Park hotels
- Wuksachi Lodge is Sequoia National Park’s signature hotel accommodation and is located close to the General Sherman Tree and Moro Rock. This lodge offers a full-service restaurant, gift shop, and dog-friendly rooms. Wuksachi Lodge is open year-round, for reservations, click here.
Kings Canyon National Park hotels
- John Muir Lodge is located half a mile from popular sequoia groves, visitor center, market, restaurant, gift shop and post office. What’s more, the common area is perfectly cozy for the winter season with exposed beam ceilings and a stone fireplace. John Muir Lodge is open year-round, for reservations, click here.
- Grant Grove Cabins: If you’re after a rustic-style cabin experience there are six types of cabins to choose from. Some of the cabins are available year-round and some closed for the winter season. This area gets snowed in during winter and snow chains may be required. For reservations, click here.
Featured above: The General Sherman Tree covered in snow.
Camping at Sequoia National Park during winter
- There are 14 campgrounds to choose from between Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. We wouldn’t personally recommend camping in the dead of winter, but if you’re bolder than us, this page is helpful.
- Tip: Camping is only available in lower elevations during winter (not near the sequoia groves) so take advantage of the low off-season rates and stay at a cozy lodge.
Restaurants at Sequoia National Park
The Peaks Restaurant (at Wuksachi Lodge)
- We’ve dined here before and found the meals pricey. Peaks Restaurant fills up fast and reservations are encouraged, for reservations call 559-625-7700, ext. 7608. Restaurant open daily from 7am to 10pm.
Wuksachi Pizza Deck
- This restaurant features a variety of pizza options, salads and brews. Wuksachi Pizza Deck was recently opened, and we have not had a chance to try it yet. Anyone that knows me know I could eat pizza seven days a week. Restaurant open daily from 11:30am – 9pm.
- Lodgepole Cage is our preferred restaurant in the park because it’s a great stop for grilled fare. The breakfast menu offers breakfast burritos and oatmeal. Lunch and dinner menus offer burgers (vegan option available), salads, sandwiches and hot dogs. Lodgepole Café is open daily from 8am – 8pm.
Grant Grove Restaurant
- Located in King’s Canyon National Park, Grant Grove Restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating options for park visitors. The restaurant was recently renovated and features a new outdoor deck that overlooks Bradley Meadow. Grant Grove is open daily from 7am – 9pm.
If you would prefer to venture out of the park for a meal, the closest town to Sequoia National Park is Three Rivers, California (one hour away). Three Rivers has a surprising amount of food options.
Getting to the park
Sequoia National Park is located in California’s southern Sierra Nevada mountains.
Take note: Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park are managed as one unit because they are adjacent to each other and share a common border.
It’s not uncommon for them to be mentioned simultaneously. Some of our recommendations include sites from Kings Canyon National Park (with clear notation).
Traveling between the two parks during winter is challenging because the General’s Highway that connects the two parks is gated during the winter season. If you plan to visit both parks, allow yourself extra travel time.
The closest airport to Sequoia National Park is Fresno Yosemite International Airport (1 hour and 30 minute drive).
I hope you enjoyed this quick guide to Sequoia National Park in winter. Happy hiking!
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Until next time,
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