Snowy Forest Adventures
Dec 22, 2017 11:00AM ● Published by Kerri Regan
Story by Kerri Regan
Looking to hit the “reset” button on your mind? Few experiences are as peaceful as snowshoeing among the giant Sequoias on untouched powder, surrounded only by the sound of your own footfalls.
Snowshoeing is easy to learn, it’s inexpensive and it’s great exercise. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks don’t disappoint when it comes to snowy forest adventures, as more than 800 miles of trails await your exploration.
Rangers offer guided snowshoe walks at various park locales – and snowshoes are usually provided for free when you participate. These treks usually last about two hours, and if you do the Grant Grove trail, save time to warm up by the fireplace in John Muir Lodge when you’re done. Visitors can get an even more in-depth look at the snowy forests by joining a Sequoia Parks Conservancy expert naturalist for a snowshoe walk.
If you’d prefer to venture out on your own, you can rent snowshoes for around $20 a pair at places like Grant Grove, Wuksachi Lodge and Montecito Sequoia Resort.
In Sequoia National Park, the Big Trees Trail is an easy one-mile trip from the Giant Forest Museum parking lot. Along the way, exhibits tell the story of giant Sequoias and the area’s history. The uber-adventurous can stay in bunk beds at Pear Lake Ski Hut – a six-mile trek from the Wolverton trailhead that will challenge even the most seasoned outdoorsperson.
Or take the popular two-mile Congress Trail and check out the General Sherman tree, the largest tree on earth – taller than a 27-story building, and approximately 2,200 years old.
Your snowshoes can also navigate you to the world’s second-largest tree – the General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park has
been designated as the Nation’s Christmas Tree and national shrine in memory of members of the armed forces. Also in Kings Canyon, Panoramic Point Road offers a five-mile round-trip snowshoe or cross-country trail. Your reward? A breathtaking view of the High Sierra.
If you run out of energy before the kids do, never fear – stop by a snow play area. In Kings Canyon, Big Stump is a fun place to do some sledding and build a snowman. Or if you’re in Sequoia National Park, venture to the end of Wolverton Road, where you’ll find sledding hills that will be great for some giggles.
Those up for a strenuous trek can take on the Buena Vista Snowshoe Ramble in February, March and April, where participants are rewarded for summiting the granite dome with a 360-degree view of the southern Sierra region. This activity includes tracking animals, learning about local trees and exploring the geology.
Or check out the waterfalls in winter with a hike to Tokopah Falls. This one is moderate in difficulty, and you’ll follow the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River to the falls.
Moonlit snowshoe walks are offered when the moon is full in February, March and April, where guides help you immerse yourself in what the park is like at night.
Most roads except the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway are open and plowed in the winter, but snow chains are often required.
Have fun and be safe in the snow:
• Dress in layers.
• Carry tire chains or cables at all times, as weather conditions can change rapidly.
• Bring food, water and a full tank of gas. Most people remember to drink plenty of water when it’s hot outside, but dehydration happens even when it’s cold – especially when you’re using lots of energy.
• Only stop in designated pullouts or parking lots, not roadways.
• Travel in pairs (or more), carry a GPS and let someone know exactly where you’re going in case you get lost.
• Always check road conditions and weather forecasts before you go – call (559) 565-3341 and press 1.
(559) 565-3341 • www.nps.gov/seki