Winter at Sequoia National Park, California
Living close by in the LA area, it took us forever to plan a trip to Sequoia National Park. We decided to visit this magnificent forest of the giants in December, fully aware that most roads and sites would be closed during winter. Our main reason was photography and of course we love some snow. We hit road after lunch and arrived at our hotel in Three Rivers, California by sunset. We wanted to drive into the park and see some snow, so we did, not knowing what to expect or how far to go. But it was dark soon and before we could go too far, dense fog took over making it impossible to see anything around. So we immediately turned around and went back to our hotel.
Sequoia National Park, California
Day 1: All vehicles were asked to carry tire chains in case of emergency. We rented chains from a store outside the park and quickly headed in on Generals Highway. Fog still lingered and the roads were covered in a layer of fresh snow and ice. Less traffic, may be because of the fog, made it possible to drive at our own pace and make as many stops as we wanted, explore and photograph the hauntingly beautiful scenery.
Dense fog / Couldn't see beyond few meters
General Sherman, the largest living tree (in volume) on earth estimated to have lived over 2300 years, is not the only giant in the park. We were completely in awe by the many massive sequoias and the serenity of this winter landscape. Nestled in the wilderness, The Peaks Restaurant at Wuksachi Lodge was our stop for lunch. A hot delicious soup while watching snowfall through tall glass windows was a good warm up in the middle of a freezing day.
German Sherman tree in the center
Day 2: On day 2 we decided to go around (J-21 route from Three Rivers) and enter through Kings Canyon National Park. While sequoia cradles sky scraping giant redwoods, kings canyon is about dramatic panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada. Both spectacular beyond words. Hanging icicles formed on rock faces, frozen creeks, snow capped mountains, roads covered in slush, ice and fresh dusting of snow - it was remarkable. Although we didn’t have any wildlife encounters, we did see footprints along the side of the road which were not that of a bear, not sure what animal.
The Big Trees trail area
Haunting forest / A meadow
Visiting these parks during the winter is a unique experience. It's doesn't always have to be about hikes and activities. There is so much to appreciate and admire if you look at it with a different perspective. It felt somewhat eerie and yet so peaceful and relaxing. There were other visitors but widely spread out, so it felt like we had the parks pretty much to ourselves.
Perfect white roads
Driving among orange orchards on our way back home, we took detour after detour and ended up on M-56 along the countryside (California hot springs to freeway 65). We were glad we lost our way as we got to drive through miles of lush green rolling hills. A slight drizzle kept the grass fresh and bright. It was a great trip overall.
Orange orchards / Beautiful rolling hills
Sequoia national park is not checked off from our bucket list yet because this beauty has more to offer in warmer months. And we do wish to capture its verdant beauty sometime in the future.