Reprinted with the permission of the National Park Service
Winter is a great time to experience these parks, whether you come for snowplay or a wilderness trip. Winter driving in the mountains can be challenging and tire chains are often required in snowy weather. Be sure to check with the current edition of the park newspaper for additional ways to safely experience these gigantic landscapes.
If you have only a few hours:
Entering via Highway 198 (Ash Mountain Entrance): Stop at the Foothills Visitor Center and explore the hands-on exhibits about California’s fascinating and diverse oak chaparral ecology. In all of North America, only the Central American rainforest has a richer array of plants and animals than California oak chaparral. A one-hour drive takes you up to the Giant Forest Grove of sequoia trees, including the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on earth.
Note: The Giant Forest Museum and the Lodgepole Visitor Center in this area may be closed or have limited hours in winter.
If the Generals Highway between the parks is open, you may continue on to Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park (one hour). From there you can exit the park on Highway 180.
Entering via Highway 180 (Big Stump Entrance): Stop in Grant Grove Village at the Kings Canyon Visitor Center to view exhibits and a 15-minute video about three areas in Kings Canyon National Park: giant sequoia groves, the canyon environment, and the High Sierra. Walk the Grant Tree Trail to see the General Grant Tree, the Nation’s Christmas Tree.
If the Generals Highway between the parks is open, you may continue on to Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park (one hour). From there you can exit the park on Highway 198 (one hour).
Allow at least 2-3 hours for the drive between entrance stations on the Generals Highway (red road on map at left), plus additional time for your activities. Be prepared for possible delays due to hazardous winter conditions or road construction. Always bring tire chains, layers of warm clothes, and emergency water and food.
If you have a day:
Entering via Hwy 198: Sled, ski, or snowshoe at the Wolverton Snowplay Area. Rent snowplay gear at Wuksachi Village. Allow at least a 2-3 hour drive time on the Generals Highway loop — or longer depending on winter conditions. Always bring tire chains, layers of warm clothes, and emergency water and food.
Entering via Hwy 180: Sled, ski, or snowshoe at Big Stump or Columbine near Grant Grove Village at the Visitor Center and buy your ticket for a Grant Grove Village Market. Allow at least a 2-3 hour drive time between entrance stations on the Generals Highway loop — or longer depending on winter conditions. Always bring tire chains, layers of warm clothes, and emergency water and food.
In Giant Forest, stand among the giant sequoias on the Big Trees Trail.
If you have a couple of days:
Entering via Hwy 198: On your way up to see the General Sherman Tree and the Museum in Giant Forest, stop at Hospital Rock to see the Native American grinding stones and pictographs.
Entering via Hwy 180: Come for a free snowshoe walk in Grant Grove Village. Watch for wildlife track on one of the trails around Grant Grove Village. Stop at the Redwood Canyon Overlook (just south of Grant Grove Village). Redwood Canyon is home to the world’s largest grove of sequoias.
At Wuksachi Village, join a ranger walk. In the Foothills, hike one of the trails near Ash Mountain. If you’re staying in Wuksachi Village or the campground in Lodgepole Village, hike one of the trails in Giant Forest.
If you have a week or more:
The Sequoia Field Institute offers a wide variety of programs-both indoor and outdoor. Learn to cross-country ski, snowshoe, or camp in snow.
Enjoy park campgrounds without summer crowds. Campgrounds open in the winter include Potwisha (near Ash Mountain) and Azalea in Grant Grove Village.
Strap on your skis or snowshoes and journey to the Pear Lake Winter Hut high above Wolverton.
Note: Reservations are required at Pear Lake Winter Hut. Do not assume that it will be open.
From Ash Mountain or Grant Grove Village, allow 1 1/4 hours to the Wolverton Trailhead, plus however long you plan to stay in the wilderness.
If you’re prepared for winter wilderness travel, stop at a visitor center for a permit for an overnight trip to the splendid snowbound High Sierra.
For additional activity ideas, check the park newspaper or ask at a visitor center.