PHOTO CAPTION: This picturesque stretch on the Generals Highway on the west end of Giant Forest is known as the Four Guardsmen due to the four mature giant sequoias that line up like gate-keepers. This photo was taken Saturday, Feb. 17, revealing no snow on the road. By Monday, Feb. 19, the highway was icy and treacherous after a quick-moving winter storm passed through the region.
The three-day holiday weekend started out with dry roads and spring-like temperatures on Saturday. By Sunday, the weather was cooler and blustery.
Then on Monday, Feb. 19, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks experienced the first of a series of extremely cold winter storms and things took a turn for the frantic and frenzied.
Though snow accumulations only measured five inches at the Lodgepole snow stake, the extreme cold created dangerous icy conditions on most of the parks’ roads.
All vehicles entering the parks were required to use chains, and even seasoned winter drivers familiar with driving the park’s mountain roads had difficulty maintaining control.
Some visitors driving for the first time with chains were sliding all over both lanes of the Generals Highway, stuck on the shoulder, or had slid completely off the roadway.
At the time of the road closure at Hospital Rock (six miles from the Sequoia entrance station and at 2,700 feet elevation), which was in effect from Monday afternoon through late Tuesday morning, there were more than 40 vehicles disabled, stuck, or otherwise unable to move. Some ended up blocking both lanes and snow plows were unable to pass.
Another impact of the icy roads was that several visitors reported wait times of more than four hours before crews could reopen some of the iciest places. But with all the vehicles sliding out of control on the curvy, narrow mountain roadway, no one was injured and property damage was minimal.
For current road conditions before heading out, call (559) 565-3341. Expect cold, wintry conditions in Sequoia-Kings Canyon through the weekend with the chain-up area planned for Eleven Range (13.5 miles from the Sequoia entrance station; 5,200 feet). Four-wheel drive vehicles are required to carry chains but currently not required to use them.
Below Eleven Range to the park gate there are no restrictions, but road conditions may change suddenly so motorists are advised to carry food, water, and warm gear in the event they become stranded.
Except for short periods when awaiting snowplows to catch up with the snowfall, the Generals Highway to Wuksachi Lodge remains open year-round. In Kings Canyon, the highway to Grant Grove and beyond to Giant Sequoia National Monument’s Hume Lake area is also accessible year-round.