Yosemite National Park isn't the only place to play outside during winter. In the southern Sierra Nevada, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are where to take the kids tubing and ice skating, then put on snowshoes or cross-country skis to explore giant sequoia forests. They're just a half day’s drive south of Yosemite.
Kings Canyon National Park Winter Sports Center
Closest to Yosemite, the Grant Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park is a popular place for sledding and tubing, not to mention snowshoe walks and cross-country skiing among the giant sequoia trees. The park concessionaire runs a winter sports center here, renting cross-country ski gear and snowshoes.
Ranger-guided snowshoe walks are another way to experience the park during winter. On the second Sunday of December, the annual Trek to the Tree festival celebrates the General Grant Tree, the nation's Christmas Tree, by honoring military veterans with a special ceremony.
Sequoia National Park Guided Snowshoe Walks and Skiing
In the Giant Forest area of Sequoia National Park, you can also go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing around giant sequoias. The Giant Forest Museum has information on ranger-guided snowshoe walks, as well as the Pear Lake ski hut, a backcountry adventure for expert skiers.
Drop by the park concessionaire's Wuksachi Lodge to rent snowshoes and cross-country skis or to stock up on winter clothing and gear. Just north of the Giant Forest, Wolverton is a family-friendly snow play area for inner tubing, sledding, and snowball fights.
Giant Sequoia National Monument Big Meadow Snowshoe and Ski
Connecting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Generals Highway passes through the Giant Sequoia National Monument of the Sequoia National Forest. It's open during winter, weather-permitting, and is another great place for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing among giant sequoia trees. It may be intermittently closed due to winter storms; call (559) 565-3341 to check current road conditions. You'll find plenty of excellent places to snowshoe and cross-country ski into the backcountry here, including at Big Meadow. Just remember to bring all of your own equipment here.
Also off the Generals Highway, the family-oriented Montecito Sequoia Lodge offers the biggest variety of winter sports in the southern Sierra Nevada. You can rent cross-country skis, snowshoes, and snow bikes here, then explore over 30 miles of groomed trails. Cross-country skiing lessons, an ice-skating rink, inner-tubing hills, and dog-sledding trips are also available at the lodge. For more information, visit www.mslodge.com or call (800) 227-9900.
More Winter Fun near Yosemite
On the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, you'll find some of California's top skiing and snowboarding resorts, including at Mammoth Mountain and around Lake Tahoe.
Whether you're a beginner who wants to learn how to ski or an expert skier ready to explore backcountry trails, the Sierra Nevada mountains have a lot to offer when it snows. Ski season runs from around Thanksgiving until mid-March in the national parks, although snowstorms can arrive as early as October and happen until early June, when you'll find some of the eastern Sierra Nevada resorts still open.