It might be cold and snowy in some parts of the country, but it's comparatively dry and mild in the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. As a result, if you're heading into a national park in the West this long weekend don't expect premium snow conditions.
For instance, the snow cover is so thin at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks that officials there are warning that the sledding won't be very good in the park this weekend unless an unforeseen storm shows up.
Traditionally, many families visit Sequoia or Kings Canyon on this three-day weekend to play in the snow and try out new winter toys. This year, visitors should plan for different activities in the parks, since snow conditions are poor and no new snow is predicted in the next few days. A few trails are packed down or snow-free enough for walking in Giant Forest and Grant Grove. For hiking at this time of year, the foothills of Sequoia offer several beautiful trails.
The Kings Canyon Visitor Center and the Giant Forest Museum will be open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Foothills Visitor Center is open 8:00 a.m to 4:30 p.m. The Lodgepole Visitor Center is closed for the season.
Rangers lead free snowshoe walks in Giant Forest and Grant Grove during the weekend when the snow conditions are right. Call 1-559-565-4480 or 1-559-565-4307 for details about programs and current snow conditions.
Despite the dry weather, you still need to be careful out there. Icy patches and spotty snow cover have contributed to several injuries associated with snowplay recently.
“People don’t think of sledding and snow tubing as a potentially dangerous activity," said Ranger Debbie Brenchley. "It seems like safe family fun. But we have seen serious injuries occur here, particularly when the conditions are icy.”
In addition to icy conditions and thin snow exposing rocks and logs, lack of steering and brakes on many snow toys adds to the danger.
If you do plan to visit Sequoia or Kings Canyon, be prepared for any kind of weather, including snow and rain. Always check weather forecasts before starting a drive or hike into the mountains. You can hear a recording of the latest road conditions within Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks 24-hours a day at 1-559-565-3341.
Depending on road conditions you may be required to use tire chains. Tire chains must be rented or purchased outside the parks as they are not available once you have entered. If you are unfamiliar with installing tire chains it is a good idea to practice before arriving.