It’s the time of year to pull out the tent and cookstove, pack up the kids, and head for the mountains for the epic summer campout. But that dream of sleeping bags and s’mores around the campfire is going to have to wait another month or more at some of the most popular campgrounds in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
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It all started with five years of drought. The residual effect of those water-less years in California’s mountain zones is the die-off of conifers that was caused by a lack of precipitation, then insects boring into them when in this weakened state. There are millions, yes, millions of dead trees throughout the Sierra Nevada.
And some of those dead trees just happen to be located near areas of high visitor use, such as campgrounds. There are a dozen campgrounds that have been inspected and hazard trees marked.
Besides the sheer number of dead trees, snow is also hindering both the tree work and the regular maintenance involved with opening campgrounds in the spring. There are deep snowdrifts and stubborn snow at elevations above 6,000 feet that is hindering access to some campgrounds.
Currently, the foothills campgrounds along the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park are open: Potwisha (RV and tent sites; dump station) and Buckeye Flat (tents only). Expect these campgrounds to fill up early on the Friday before Memorial Day.
Here are the opening dates for the rest of Sequoia-Kings Canyon’s campgrounds (and a few others):
Lodgepole— Two sections of the campground, the largest in Sequoia, will open Wednesday, May 22. Four more loops, totaling over 130 campsites, are scheduled to open Wednesday, June 12.
Dorst Creek— Entire campground will open Wednesday, June 19.
Mineral King— Cold Springs Campground and Atwell Mill Campground will open Friday, June 21.
KINGS CANYON: Grant Grove
Crystal Springs— Open as of Friday, May 3.
Sunset— Entire campground will open Wednesday, June 19.
Azalea— Entire campground Wednesday, July 3.
KINGS CANYON: Cedar Grove
Sentinel— Open as of Friday, May 10.
Canyon View— Open as of Friday, May 17.
Sheep Creek— Open as of Wednesday, May 29.
To find out more about the national parks campgrounds in this area and to see which ones require reservations, go to the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks website.
SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST
In the portion of Sequoia National Forest that is located between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, there will be a delay in opening Big Meadows, which includes campgrounds, hiking trails, pack station, and fire lookout. This popular area remains under snow, and the Forest Service is reporting that it will not open by Memorial Day.
Currently, campgrounds that are open are: Hume Lake Campground, Princess Campground, Landslide Campground, Ten Mile Campground, and Eshom Campground.
Horse Creek Campground— Submerged and closed as of May 10 due to rising lake level. The campground will reopen when the reservoir water is released to the point that the campground facilities reappear and dry out.