Here is what to expect and prepare for when visiting the parks this time of year.
Wildflowers are blooming and temperatures rising in the foothills area of Sequoia National Park, but as you drive up into the Giant Forest and Grant Grove, expect to see snow and feel the temperatures drop.
If you had plans to camp in the upper elevations of Sequoia or Kings Canyon, you’ll notice that campgrounds like Lodgepole or Azalea, both of which would typically
be open this time of year, are currently closed due to hazard trees and late-season snow.
Campgrounds in all areas of the parks are affected by hazard trees, which is a tree that has a structural defect that makes it likely to fail in whole or in part, posing a threat to anyone in the vicinity. Years of drought have generated over 5,600 dead trees near campsites, roads, and buildings.
Out of nearly 1,200 campsites in the parks, only about 300 are expected to be open by Memorial Day weekend. In an effort to get campgrounds opened as quickly as possible, tree crews will be leaving the wood behind to gather or burn at a later time. Visitors are welcome to use this wood for campfires (unless fire restrictions are in place).
The only open campgrounds in the parks are Potwisha, Buckeye Flat, and South Fork in the Sequoia foothills. All other campground are closed at this time. Check this webpage to receive the most recent updates on campground openings.
Most campgrounds require advance reservations through www.Recreation.gov. Visitors with campground reservations will be notified of any possible cancellations at least two weeks in advance. Be advised that campsites are limited and will fill up quickly. The only place to check whether walk-up sites are still available is the Campground Information Boards located near the entrance of each campground. There you will find a list of any available sites along with registration procedures. For additional camping and lodging options near our parks, visit the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks website.
Snow surveys show that sites within the parks have approximately 141% of the April 1 average water content. This means that as snow melts, the rivers become dangerously swift with icy-cold water. At lower elevations the river is appealing on a hot spring day, but the park urges visitors to enjoy areas of the parks that are away from the rivers.
“Many drownings in the park happen when people walking along the river’s edge slip and fall in,” reported Chief Ranger Ned Kelleher. “Please use extreme caution while near the river, avoid slick rocks, unstable banks, and areas where you could accidentally fall in.”
Getting in the river or going near it could create a life or death situation. Snowmelt is causing creeks and rivers to rise. Even the best swimmers can find themselves in a difficult situation under the current water conditions.
As you plan your early spring trips into the parks’ wilderness, think about how the large snowpack may affect your plans. Some things to expect: challenging route finding, steep snowfields on passes, and swift creek crossings. Warmer temperatures are also causing snow to melt and creeks are running high. Avoid walking on areas of unsupported snow (snow bridges) that are often over creeks and rivers. They are very unstable and can collapse under a person, causing them to be swept away under the snow with no way out. Observe conditions carefully and evaluate the risk of crossing. Be prepared to turn back.
The bears are waking up and becoming active as the weather warms. It is important that visitors store food properly and not approach bears of any size. Bears can grab unattended food or easily break into cars. They become bold and sometimes aggressive in attempts to get more. All food or anything with a scent must be stored out of sight in the trunk of a vehicle or a food storage locker, and trash must be disposed of in bear-resistant cans and dumpsters.
In an effort to protect peregrine falcon nesting, a section of the east face of Moro Rock is closed to rock-climbing from April 1, 2019, to August 15, 2019, between and including The Couch Trip and Full Metal Jacket routes.