Traditionally, Memorial Day is when the summer season at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks begins, according to visitors.
This year, however, parts of the two parks, which are next to each other in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, will be opening later. Some areas of the parks won’t even be open this year.
“Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks personnel continue to make progress with snow clearing, damage repairs, and all the various tasks associated with recovering from a historic winter season,” Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, chief of communications, said in a statement. “Memorial Day weekend is the usual kick-off to summer in the parks, but unfortunately this year, access to the world’s largest tree by volume and the surrounding Giant Forest and Lodgepole area won’t be open in time.”
For example, there are two sites with severe road damage on the Generals Highway between Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park and Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. The decision to postpone the parks’ reopening was made based on repair assessments and snow clearing that still needs to happen, and keeping in mind that there are only a couple of weeks until the holiday weekend, Kawasaki-Yee said.
“One of the challenges we’re facing is that the snow is not melting as quickly as it would have in previous years just because there’s been so much of it,” Kawasaki-Yee said, according to The Hanford Sentinel.
If you’re planning a trip to the two parks and would like to see giant sequoias such as the General Sherman Tree and the General Grant Tree, here’s what you need to know about what’s open and when other areas of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks will open.
Conditions At Sequoia National Park
The good news is that the Foothills area of Sequoia National Park, between the Sequoia entrance station and Hospital Rock, is currently open. While visitors can access lower-elevation camping sites, trails, and wilderness areas, as well as see plenty of wildflowers, they can’t get to the giant sequoias.
The National Park Service (NPS) has also issued an important warning for visitors.
“Rivers are very cold and very swift with fresh snowmelt,” the NPS cautions. “The soil near and along the rivers is wet and unstable. It can collapse unexpectedly under the weight of people, including children, and result in falls into the river.”
Here’s what you need to know about the projected opening for the Giant Forest, Wolverton, Lodgepole, and Wuksachi areas.
Access to Sequoia National Park via Highway 180 through the Kings Canyon entrance station is expected to open between June 2 and June 9.
However, access to those areas of the park via Highway 198 through the Sequoia entrance station isn’t expected to be possible until July 1.
Crystal Cave, a marble cavern complete with icicle-like stalactites and mound-like stalagmites, is the second largest of the 240 caves found within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Unfortunately, the cave will be closed this year due to damage to the road, trail, and visitor facilities during the 2021 KNP Complex wildfire and due to more road damage as a result of the extreme weather this past winter.
Finally, Mineral King, a glacial valley, is a popular place for day hikes.
Due to severe damage to Mineral King Road, both inside and outside the park’s boundaries, vehicle access for the public isn’t expected before August, and will “likely be later,” according to the NPS.
Conditions At Kings Canyon National Park
Grant Grove in Kings Canyon National Park is currently open, which means visitors can see giant sequoias such as the General Grant Tree, which is the largest giant sequoia in Grant Grove and the second-largest in the world. Camping, lodging, trails, and restaurants are also open.
Access to Cedar Grove, however, is a different story.
“Due to severe road damage along the Highway 180 corridor outside the park, between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove, the California Department of Transportation does not expect repairs to be completed before the end of the summer season,” the NPS explains. “This means public access into the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park isn’t expected for the 2023 summer season.”
Know Before You Go
If you’re planning to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks soon, here’s what you need to know about current conditions.
At Sequoia National Park, visitors should expect delays on the parts of Generals Highway that are open.
“Roads in Sequoia National Park were damaged in winter storms,” the NPS notes. “Only 6 miles of the Generals Highway are open, with no access to sequoias. Parts of the roadway are down to one lane of travel. Slow down, expect delays, and have patience.”
Meanwhile, at Kings Canyon National Park, parking is still limited due to large amounts of snow. Many areas are likely to be congested, the NPS notes.
“Come prepared for winter conditions on most trails,” the NPS advises. “We recommend bringing personal traction devices, snowshoes, cross-country skis, and wearing warm layers.”
You can find up-to-date information and alerts for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks at the parks’ Current Conditions webpage.