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Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks become other-worldly when visited in winter. Fresh fallen snow glistening against the cinnamon colored bark of the giant sequoia trees gives a whole new look to the parks. Fewer visitors come during the winter months which gives the parks a feeling of solitude that is both calming and invigorating, depending on your activities. 

Here are some of the many activities that can be enjoyed during the winter months. Whether you are an active outdoor person or want to view the park from your car window, there is so much to see.

Sledding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular winter activities. And when done among the giant sequoias, makes for a memorable trip.
Here are 3 suggestions for outdoor activities and where in the parks to do them.

Sledding: Near the Kings Canyon entrance, Columbine and Big Stump Picnic Areas are popular for sledding and are free to use with your park entry.
Nearby forest service areas include Big Meadow, Quail Flat and Cherry Gap.

Snowshoeing: Weather permitting, rangers lead guided snowshoeing walks. Rentals are available at the Grant Grove and Lodgepole markets.
The walks are offered at no cost and are an excellent way to learn about the forest (and the sport!)

Snow shoes and trekking poles can be rented from Sequoia Parks Conservancy. Click here for information.

Cross-Country Skiing: Many hiking trails in the summer become ski trails in the winter. Gliding across the snow on skis will give you a new
national park experience like you have never had before.

Late fall and early winter may bring the season’s first snow fall. But this is California! It might still be sunny during this time of year. If so, explore hiking trails. Check with rangers on which trails are suitable for winter hiking. A stroll along the Big Trees trail or the Congress trail will give you great views of some the parks’ notable residents – the giant sequoias. If there is little to no snow, then consider a hike to the top of Buena Vista Peak. At only about 1 mile, it is a moderate hike that will reward you with views of Redwood Canyon, Buck Rock lookout and the High Sierra. Just a short drive from the entrance to Kings Canyon is the Big Stump Trail where you will see remnants of the area's logging past.

Buena Vista Peak
Big Trees Trail
Big Stump Trail

If you are looking for a driving tour through the parks in winter, here are our top 5 things to see in Sequoia National Park in the winter.

In 1935 the parks installed the historic entrance sign. Since then visitors have remembered their national park trip with a group photo around the base. The sign was recently restored so that generations to come can continue the tradition.

Hospital Rock is a great stop any time of year. Once home to one of the largest native American villages within park boundaries, this area has pictographs and grinding holes to see.

The views of the valley from Beetle Rock, across from the museum, can be spectacular.  And nearby Big Tree trail offers a stroll through a grove of giant sequoias, if there is little to no snow.

Giant Forest Museum is a good stop, if open. Educational exhibits help visitors to learn more about this park, the first in California to become a national park.

Of course, the one thing that all visitors come to see is the General Sherman Tree, the largest living thing on the planet. In winter, parking is available along the Generals Highway. From there, it is a short walk through the grove to reach the General Sherman. Other exhibits and trees are also on display. 

No winter trip to the parks would be complete with a visit to the Nation's Christmas Tree. Many people don't realize that the General Grant Tree is considered the Nation's Christmas Tree. It is also a living shrine to the men and women of the armed forces. Each winter on the 2nd Sunday of December, the park rangers hold a ceremonial wreath laying at the base of the tree in commemoration. This is a beautiful ceremony, attended by many you wish to pay their respects. Park Rangers, carolers, and the public gather for the ceremony, even in the snow. If you can't make it for the actual ceremony, be sure to stop by the next time you are in Kings Canyon and see the second largest tree in the world and the only living shrine.

A drive to the parks in winter may involve icy and snowy conditions. Mountain roads can be hazardous so follow these tips:

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