A Winter Visit in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are home to some of the largest trees in the world.  Among these large trees, you will find General Sherman and General Grant.  General Sherman and General Grant are infamous for being two of the largest trees in the world.  Kevin and I definitely recommend checking these out if you are visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

Aside from General Grant and General Sherman, there is so much more to do and see in both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.  Below we have attached a video that we made during our winter stay in the parks.  In addition to the video, this post contains all of our recommendations on what to do and where to stay.

Hopefully, by the time you are done reading this post both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park will be added to your bucket list!

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Know Before You Go

We weren’t aware of the following things before visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in the winter.

Tire Chains!

Avalanches!

  • Greater potential for avalanches (see below).  Kevin and I witnessed an avalanche while hiking to Tokopah Falls, we go into further detail on that later.

Road Closures!

  • Generals Highway, the road connecting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, is closed in the winter due to snow.  Therefore you must leave the park to go from one to the other.

Closed Trails, Campsites, and Visitor Centers!

  • Several trails and campsites are closed during the winter, including Moro Rock (one of the highest peaks in Sequoia).  However, you can camp outside the park at lower elevation campsites during the winter.  If we were to do it over again we would have stayed at Potwisha Campground.

Below are some of the items we recommend packing if you are visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in the winter.


As we said before, weather is unpredictable in the parks during the winter months, so make sure you bring chains for your tires!  If you do not have 4-wheel drive, the park rangers will stop you before the park entrance and ask you to take out and put on your chains.

Below is a picture of the road during the snowstorm we encountered, it created beautiful views, but hazardous conditions!

A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
12 inches of snow, covering Kings Canyon National Park in less than 18 hours.

Getting To Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park

Sequoia National Park is roughly 250 miles from LA.  If you are entering Sequoia via Rt 198 you will pass Lake Kaweah, a beautiful scenic area with plenty of viewpoints.

If you are coming from San Francisco, the distance is relatively the same from LA.  It is roughly 260-270 miles and reachable via Rt 99 or the I-5 southbound.  Keep in mind you are closer to Kings Canyon National Park coming from San Francisco so you may want to stop there first!

Entrance Fees

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park Fees - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park
The entrance fee sign for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park regardless of the season.

Similar to the Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree National Park, both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are $30 per vehicle.  Keep in mind if you plan on visiting ANY national park more than three times it pays to buy the National Park Annual Pass for $80.

Where to Stay in Sequoia and Kings Canyon?

Lodges:

During the winter months, there are two lodges inside the park to stay at.  Wuksachi Lodge, located in Sequoia National Park and John Muir Lodge, located in Kings Canyon National Park.

Kevin and I stayed at John Muir Lodge since it was more reasonably priced, which we recommend!

Camping:

There are also several campsites throughout the park, at both high and low elevations.  However, the campsites in the parks are closed during the winter.

If you are looking for a place to camp in the winter, consider a campsite right outside the park such as Potwisha Campground. Potwisha Campground is located at a lower elevation right outside of Sequoia National Park.  When Kevin and I visited in March, it was mid 60’s during the day at Potwisha Campground.


Sequoia National Park: A Winter Visit

Kevin and I visited Sequoia National Park towards the end of winter, early March, and had a blast!

We were nervous about visiting the park during the winter months due to the chance of getting stuck in the snow, the freezing temperatures, and because some of the hiking trails would be closed in the winter.

However, we were glad we visited the park in winter and delighted to see the sheer beauty of Sequoia and Kings Canyon during this season.   If you’re on the fence of visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in the winter you should definitely go!  You will not regret it!

Things to Do in the Winter at Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park covers more than 404,000 acres of land in the Sierra Mountains.  The park ranges in elevation and therefore provides a variety of things to do.

Here is our recommendation on what to do in Sequoia National Park.

Walk through Tunnel Rock

Tunnel Rock is one of the first things to do after entering the park.  It is a massive rock dug out of the ground for a road in the early 1900s.  Today, the road is no longer in use but you can still see some of it.

Tunnel Rock - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
Standing on the old road that used to go under Tunnel Rock.

Stop for a Photo at Hospital Rock

Hospital Rock, a location that was once home to Native Americans.  It got the name, Hospital Rock, when it was used to treat wounded explorers, exploring the park.

Hospital Rock - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
Standing in front of Hospital Rock in Sequoia National Park.

Admire the Sequoia Trees in The Giant Forest

The Giant Forest is one of the most visited attractions in the park and is open year-round.  This is where you can find massive sequoia trees as well as General Sherman.

The Giant Forest is home to the largest tree on earth, General Sherman.  General Sherman is roughly 2,300-2,700 years old and is the largest tree, in terms of volume, not height or width, in the world.

Two benefits of visiting Sequoia National Park in the winter, in addition to the snow-covered winter wonderland, is ample parking and fewer crowds.  Since there are fewer crowds in the winter, you can park in the parking lot that is right off 198, which is closed in the summertime.

General Sherman Parking Lot Tunnel Rock - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
During the winter season, you can park in the General Sherman Tree Car Park. During the summer, due to the high volume of visitors, you have to park near the trailhead and trek down to the tree.

Walk along the General Sherman Trail and Congress Trail

Within the Giant Forest is the General Sherman Trail.  The trail starts at the General Sherman tree car park and is unbelievable.  The size of the sequoias along this trail is tough to comprehend, but you’ll feel like you’re in a fairy tale.  Along the trail, you can also walk through a fallen Sequoia Tree that was cut out for a pathway (which you can see in the video above).

Trail to General Sherman - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
The trail to General Sherman covered in snow during the winter.

As you make your way through the trail, you will approach General Sherman, the main attraction of the park.  Check out some pictures of us hanging out with the giant beauty.

 
General Sherman Close Up - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
Standing in front of the viewpoint of General Sherman, it’s absolutely amazing.
General Sherman - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
In front of General Sherman, in awe of its size.

Close to General Sherman is Congress Trail.  Congress Trail is close to Sherman Creek where you can explore and enjoy a nice little waterfall in the creek.

Among the giant sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park
Sequoia trees are some of the largest trees on Earth.

Hike to Tokopah Falls near LodgePole Campground

Tokopah Falls, the tallest waterfall in the park, is tucked away in Tokopah Canyon.  The hike is roughly 4.2 miles round trip from the start of the trailhead and will likely be covered in snow if you go during the winter.

To get there you must drive through The Giant Forest past General Sherman to LodgePole Visitor Center, LodgePole Market, and LodgePole Campground.  The visitor center is closed during the winter but the market may be open depending on when you visit.

Tokopah Falls trailhead is at the end of the campground which is also closed during the winter so you have to park in the market parking lot and hike through the campground to find the trail (adding an additional mile to your hike).

Hiking over Lodgepole Campground - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
Hiking over Lodgepole Campground (snow base 4 to 5 feet)!

Is the hike difficult in the winter?

The hike itself is relatively easy if the snow is packed, however, it can be challenging with a fresh coat of snow so bring your snowshoes!  It has a slow but steady incline as you trek towards the falls.

Winter Visit to Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park - What do to in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park during the winter and where to stay.
The start of the trail is passed the bridge leading to the campsites of Lodgepole.  The trailhead is on your right.
Tokopah Falls Winter Sequoia National Park - What to do and where to stay in Sequoia National Park in the winter.
Halfway to the falls, you can start to see Tokopah Canyon.

As you get closer towards the falls, the forest opens into Tokopah Canyon for magnificent views.  Due to the snow, there are fewer hikers on the trail and you can end up having the place all to yourself.

Tokopah Canyon - Winter Sequoia National Park, CA - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
Kevin and I in front of the frozen Tokopah Falls.

WARNING!!! Potential Avalanches!  

While hanging out alone at Tokopah Falls, Kevin and I heard a loud crackling sound and looked to our left to see something we could not believe.  We were witnessing an avalanche!  This quickly brought us back to reality and made us realize that during these warmer temperatures as snow begins to melt BE AWARE!  Below is a before and after shot of the avalanche, notice the different color of snow.

Tokopah Canyon - Winter Sequoia National Park, CA Avalanche 1 - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
Before the avalanche at Tokopah Canyon in Sequoia National Park.

Tokopah Canyon - Winter Sequoia National Park, CA Avalanche 1 - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
After the avalanche, notice the different shade of snow where the snow fell.

Where to eat in Sequoia National Park?

If you’re looking for food in Sequoia National Park, check out the Wuksachi Lodge which has a dine-in restaurant that is open during both the summer and winter.


Kings Canyon National Park: A Winter Visit

Kings Canyon National Park is the neighboring park of Sequoia National Park.  It is very similar to Sequoia National Park and is home to the second largest tree on earth, General Grant.

Since Generals Highway connects the parks visitors can access to both parks for the price of one!  Unfortunately, the part of Generals Highway that connects Sequoia to Kings Canyon is closed in the winter.

Don’t worry your park pass is valid for both parks so if you have to leave Sequoia to go to Kings Canyon you will not get charged twice!

In addition to the road closure of Generals Highway connecting Kings Canyon and Sequoia, Generals Highway is also closed past Lake Hume in Kings Canyon.  However, this should not stop you from visiting Kings Canyon during the winter because there is still plenty to do and see.

Things to Do in the Winter at Kings Canyon National Park

Admire General Grant Tree

The second-largest Sequoia Tree, General Grant lives in Kings Canyon National Park near the visitors center.  General Grant has a wider base than General Sherman but is actually smaller in volume.  I think this picture depicts that pretty clearly…

Admiring General Grant's mass at Kings Canyon National Park during the winter. What to do and where to stay in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the winter.
Standing in front of General Grant, the widest tree in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Explore Grant Grove

Our last day in Kings Canyon it snowed roughly 12 inches.  Below are a few pictures of Grant Grove and General Grant covered in snow.

General Grant - Winter Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, CA - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
General Grant covered in snow, ignore the snow on the GoPro!
Fallen Sequoia - Winter Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, CA - A Winter Visit in Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park. What to do at Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the Winter.
Walking through a fallen Sequoia Tree.

Hike to Kings Canyon Panoramic Point

If there hasn’t been much snow and you’re up for a hike, you can hike up to Kings Canyon Panoramic Point.  This is a short hike in the summer.  In the winter because the road leading to the trailhead is closed the hike is two additional miles longer.

Kevin and I opted not to do this hike because the forecast was predicting 12 inches of snow that day

Tip: You want to ensure you are hiking to this viewpoint on a day that is nice and clear so you can see the panoramic views.

Take pictures of Hume Lake

Hume Lake is open during the winter and something you should definitely consider if you have time.  It is about 10.2 miles from the Kings Canyon Visitor Center, about 20-30 minute drive depending on the snow.

This photo of Hume Lake is courtesy of TripAdvisor.

Unfortunately, when we visited the visibility was so bad we couldn’t take any photographs.

The gear we used on our trip


Overall Recommendation – Go!

Overall, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are beautiful during the winter and offer fewer crowds.  The winter wonderland up in the mountains offers scenic views that will look completely different in the summer.  We highly recommend and will be back in the summer!

What to do in Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park in the winter
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About The Author

Taylor Mathers

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