Wintertime in Sequoia National Park

As I stomp my snow shoes through the snow, forging my own path on top of the deep powder beneath me, a subtle crunch is amplified by the tranquil forest around me. The small vibrations resonate up the trees releasing the large lumps of snow resting on the branches. White bricks come crashing down around me.

Once the snow settles, the forest returns to the quiet wonderland it is. I clap my hands as hard as I can, and after the echo dies down, the bombardment of snow comes from practically every tree in the forest. Near and far, small and large, the noise of thuds and sizzles create a wall of sound.

I was able to turn quickly and capture a shot of the big pine next to me shaking off a bit of its snow coat.

Sequoia National Park sits in the southern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The park is home to some of the largest trees on earth! To get to the good groves of sequoias in the Giant Forest, you need to drive up a rather long and winding road uphill gaining close to 5,000 ft in elevation starting from the park entrance in the foothills.

GPS Video of the road upto the Giant forest

I was able to drive into the park and begin my ascent for 13 miles, reaching 5,000 ft in elevation before being required to pull to the side and put on my tire chains.

Tire chains are a requirement when driving around the park at higher elevations. If you plan to visit the park, and don't own your own set of chains, I had noticed on my drive through Three Rivers, the town just outside of the park, that they sold and rented chains at numerous locations.

First time actually getting to use my chains, went surprisingly smooth for myself. Others seemed to find some troubles or difficulty properly putting on chains.

While most of the roads are maintained, the main roads plowed and de-iced, I did have to lend assistance to two different drivers during my day in the park. One who seemed to slide into a snow bank on the side of the road, which if it hadn't been there, the truck would've dropped into a ditch. The other car was a young couple and their son as they had issues with their tire chains they rented. The chain had popped off one of the tires as the fitting wasn't quite right on a side road not plowed.

Last year we saw almost every record get shattered in terms of precipitation up in the Sierras.

This winter though, Sequoia hadn't received much at all until this most recent snowfall. It is a very welcome sight for the park to receive this recent snow, and with more snow in the forecast at higher elevations, these giant trees, and the visitors that come to experience the park in the snow will sure be happy.

The rangers that I talked to had mentioned that they were happy to see the snow in the park, and that if I had visited the park just a week earlier, I would have left with a bunch of springtime photos instead.

One ranger said that since this was the first time they really had to shovel in front of the Giant Forest Museum Visitor Center, they didn't seem to mind it much. He said that this time last year they were having to shovel every single day as the park got almost non stop snow storms.

The main draw for guests to visit the park in the snowy winter time is that this place becomes a giant playground for people to explore and enjoy the winter fun. Part of the park in the Wolverton area becomes a designated "Snowplay" area. Sledding, snow shoeing and cross country skiing are highly encouraged in these areas.

A ranger in the Visitor Center had told me that during the weekend, the park was packed with families sledding and having fun in the snow. While I was visiting the park on a Monday, I didn't see too many people sledding, but did see the left over sled tracks on the hills.

Thats not to say that the park gets over crowded with guests hooting and hollering on the sled hills everywhere. All the main trails around the visitor center and around the General Sherman tree area are still open and encouraged to be hiked. As well as numerous backcountry trails.

The easiest way to explore the park is to use snow shoes. If you don't have your own set, you're able to rent a pair from the Lodgepole Market costing around $20 for the day.

It being my first time using snow shoes in the backcountry, it took me a little bit to get used to the way the snow shoes worked under your feet. But once you get familiar with them, you'll be amazed how easy it is to traverse the snowy landscape.
A set of giant Sequoias near the Congress Trail

I was able to do a moderate amount of hiking on a few different trails. Even got to meet and talk to numerous guests in the park, some from California, others from out of the country. Some in big family groups, others hiking solo.

The temps sat around the mid 40's which caused a lot of the snow at the tops of the trees to start to melt as the day went on. Some areas of the forest seemed as though it was raining as I hiked through.

The National Parks do wonders for bringing people out into the natural world and trying something new. Even for me, having been to Sequoia National Park numerous times, I felt like I was experiencing the park for the first time, a whole new world in the snow. I was even able to try snow shoeing for the first time.

I can't adequately describe the excitement I felt during my day in the snowy park, from the first moment I made it up to the Giant forest, to the last rays of light slicing through the trees. It comes as no surprise for anyone that knows me that I love our National Parks, but on this trip I still felt the joy that I had the very first time I started going to these parks. I was able to take the mere 4 hour drive from LA to get up to the park and explore a whole new world, even if it was only just for the day.

I have wanted to visit Sequioa National Park in the winter time for quite a while. I always hoped to be able to see the vibrant orange Sequoias contrast with the bright white snow. I'm glad I was able to find a window to get up to the giant forest while the snow was still there. I had originally thought I would make it up to the park back in January. But with the stark difference in weather this winter from last, it took until March this year for the Sierra Nevada range, also known as the "snow-covered mountain range", to finally get its dusting of snow.

Better late than never.

The only thing that didn't go as planned for my trip was that I had left my HydroFlask water bottle on the ledge in the bathroom. When I realized I had forgotten it and returned to grab it, it was no where to be found.

So to whoever acquired the brand new white Hydroflask water bottle, I hope your drinks stay hot and cold, but NOT in the way you want them to be.

Created By
Nathan Kelley


All photos taken by Nathan Kelley

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