Experience the Winter Magic of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon
By MEGAN EILEEN MCDONOUGH
With the holidays around the corner, we’re ready for Fresno County’s idyllic winter wonderland. Just because most tourists visit Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks during the summer doesn’t mean you should. In fact, there are several perks to planning a winter trip. Along with smaller crowds, you’ll likely score cheaper flights and accommodations, too. Low-winter light is ideal for taking photographs, so don’t leave your camera behind! Here are the best ways to experience Fresno County’s winter magic.
While hiking is a year-round activity, some activities are saved solely for winter. Ice skating at the rink at Curry Village is a popular pastime, especially with views of Half Dome and the valley walls. For something a bit more thrilling, head to Badger Pass for downhill skiing and snowboarding. When you progress past the green and blue runs, move on to China Peak for more challenging slopes.
Jingle, jingle, jingle! Yes, those sleigh bells are ringing! Tenaya Lodge, located two miles from Fish Camp, offers horse-drawn sleigh rides after heavy snowfall. The rides last about 45 minutes and cost $30 for adults and $20 for children. Oh, and there’s also plenty of hot cider and chocolate to keep you warm and cozy!
There’s definitely something magical about touring Sequoia in winter, what with the scenic drama of snow-covered trees at every turn. Similar to Yosemite, winter sports take center stage here. Travelers swap their hiking boots for skis and snowshoes. You’ll find something for everyone here, whether it’s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or simply building a snowman at the Big Stump snowplay area.
If your trip falls on a Wednesday or Saturday, you’re in for a real treat. On these days, park rangers from the Sequoia Natural History Association offer guided snowshoe walks for visitors. Depending on interest and guide availability, there may also be guided snowshoe nature walks offered as well. The tours are a perfect opportunity to become familiar with your new surroundings and brush up on your Fresno County history.
Whether you’ve spent the day skiing, sledding or snowshoeing, you’ve definitely earned a fireside cup of hot chocolate. Most lodges, hotels and resorts serve food for guests during their stay. For dinner with a view, book a table at The Peaks Restaurant, located in the heart of Sequoia National Park. During the winter they serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, so come hungry!
Kings Canyon is close to Sequoia, so you can expect many of the same weather conditions and winter activities. If you’re staying in Fresno and making a day trip of it, spend it at the Wolverton Snowplay Area. Come prepared or rent snowplay gear at Wuksachi Village. Whether you’re sledding, skiing or snowshoeing, make sure you pack plenty of warm clothes and a surplus of snacks. Alternatively, head to Grant Grove Market for a free snowshoe walk. For longer stays, consider balancing all that fast-paced fun with some immersive learning. On route to the General Sherman Tree and the Museum in Giant Forest, there’s a stop where you can see Native American grinding stones and pictographs.
Visit Fresno County, California’s year-round playground!