Thinking of visiting either Yosemite National Park or Sequoia National Park between the months of November and March? Need some help planning your trip? Make sure to read up on these useful things to know before visiting Yosemite and Sequoia in the winter!
This past January, I had the chance to take a road trip across the United States. Throughout the journey, Dan and I focused on various national parks, including Yosemite and Sequoia.
Although, we weren’t very smart about it. As we conducted little research on each park whatsoever – and ended up paying for it! Literally.
So before you travel to either Yosemite National Park or Sequoia National Park (or both!), make sure to read up on these useful things to know before visiting! Especially if you’re planning to visit between the months of November and March.
Here’s my list of useful things to know before visiting Yosemite and Sequoia in the winter, in no particular order:
1. Road Closures
Before setting off, make sure to do heavy research on road closures in both Yosemite and Sequoia! Throughout the winter, road conditions can change in an instant and you never know what could be closed. That is – unless – you do continuous research up until your trip to the national parks.
While we tried to stay updated before visiting Sequoia National Park, we ended up being sorely disappointed when we arrived. Since we didn’t do research on road closure right before we entered the park, we were under the impression the road between Sequoia and Kings Canyon was open… it wasn’t. Thus, the only road in and out of Sequoia was through Three Rivers.
Case in point, make sure to always stay updated on road closures!
2. Tire Chains
Considering road conditions can change at any moment in both Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, you should most definitely carry tire chains. Also, it’s the law. Legally, you are required to carry tire chains at all times in the national parks during the winter months.
Just imagine it, one moment the roads are clear; the sun is shining and you can see perfectly. Just a few seconds later, the snow starts pouring down and all you can see is a sheet of white. It’s possible and you need to be prepared! Always carry tire chains.
Tip: purchase the tire chains from a department store, like Walmart, and keep hold of the receipt. That way, if you don’t end up using the tire chains, you can return them for your money back!
3. Don’t Forget About a Fire Permit
If you’re planning to have a cozy fire in either Yosemite or Sequoia, make sure to get a fire permit beforehand. Without one, you could be subject to a hefty fine! And no one wants that ruining their trip.
Although, not only is a fire permit super easy to obtain, it’s also free! All you need to do is visit any park ranger station in California and they can give you one. It only takes reading a few lines of information, a quick quiz from the ranger, and a signature. Violá! You then have a fire permit which allows you to have a fire throughout the state of California and its national parks. And it’s good for one year!
4. Prepare for Bears
Even though you might not spot a bear whilst in Yosemite or Sequoia, they are definitely there. Like most animals, bears naturally avoid people. But in the case that you do come across a bear, here are some things to be aware of.
If a bear comes too close to you, always, always, always, try to scare if away. Make yourself big. Shout your hardest and wave your arms like a crazy person. Although, don’t try to use bear spray or pepper spray, as that is not allowed. The end goal is to try make it go away – not to hurt the bear. We need to restore fear of people into bears so they refrain from coming close to us.
Additionally, when you arrive in the parks, you’ll be instructed to put all foods and aroma-y items into food lockers. Especially if you’re staying overnight. Anything that has any sort of smell, whether it be packaged meat or shampoo, you need to put it all in a locker. This helps keeps the bears away from your items, as well as your vehicles or RVs. Bears are very strong and have been known to literally rip off doors of cars to get to food.
Read more about bear safety in the parks here.
5. Make Sure Your Tanks are Full
Before entering either park, make sure to fill up your gas tank – especially if it’s at less than half. Throughout both Yosemite and Sequoia, fuel stations are sparse. And no one wants to break down in the middle of an enormous national park with limited recovery options!
Additionally, if there’s a fuel station in the park, it’s going to be outrageously expensive. Like extortionate prices. Last time I was there, the price for a gallon of gas outside the park was around $3.40. Inside the parks, it was well over $4.00.
Case in point, make sure to do yourself a favor and fill up your tank beforehand! Just to be safe. Definitely one of the most useful things to know before visiting Yosemite and Sequoia in the winter! As it can be freezing and frightful if you run out of gas in the middle of winter.
6. Expect to Pay a Hefty Price for Park Entry & Camping
Unless you purchase a national parks pass, expect to pay a hefty price for entering the national parks, as well as camping in the parks. With the national parks pass, which is $80, you get entry into national parks across America. Without the pass, entry into the most popular national parks is around $30 per car. And camping fees can be quite high, usually around $20. Additionally, with the parks pass, you get half off camping fees.
Although, this isn’t the case in Yosemite National Park.
Which is a huge bummer, as camping in Yosemite is quite expensive. We had to pay full price; $26 to camp in the Upper Pines Campground. For comparison, when we camped in the Grand Canyon National Park, we paid half-price, which was only $7.50.
7. Keep an Eye Out for Coyotes
So not only do you have to keep an eye out for bears, you also need to be aware of coyotes. Throughout Yosemite, packs of coyotes have been roaming around, making people uneasy. Whereas most think you should be afraid of bears, coyotes seem to be more abundant and more dangerous. They’ve even been known to approach hikers in packs.
As we ventured into Yosemite, most of the park rangers warned us about the packs of coyotes, which have been wandering through the campgrounds at night. They’re usually seeking out food but will occasionally hunt small animals – like a small dog. They’ve also been known to stalk small children. So if you’re in Yosemite, or nearby in Sequoia, make sure to keep an eye on your pets, as well as small family members!
8. Bring More Blankets Than You Think
Pack as many blankets as you think you’ll need… and then pack a few more. Especially if you plan on camping in a tent, RV, or your vehicle! It gets very chilly in Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park at night. Usually falling down to the mid-30s to 20s F (0°C to -5°C) in the winter.
Much better to be prepared by bringing more blankets than you’d ever need. Nobody wants to be shivering at night when you could be sleeping!
9. Pack Some Good Hiking Shoes and a Warm Jacket
No doubt, both Yosemite and Sequoia are filled with endless hiking trails and beautiful scenery! Yosemite is well known for being one of the best hiking destinations in the world. And it’s easy to see why! With gorgeous mountains, lush forests, winding rivers, and abundant wildlife, it’s simple to spend hours and hours wandering around.
So if you plan on hiking in the area, or even if you don’t plan on it, make sure to bring some good hiking shoes and a warm jacket! Just in case. In any matter, you wouldn’t want to arrive and see the stunning surroundings, only to realize you have no appropriate outerwear.
10. If All Else Fails, Visit the Park Rangers Station
If you’re confused or puzzled about anything relating to the parks, just stop by the nearest park rangers station. They’re there to help you figure out everything you need to know in order to have a fantastic – and safe! – time at the national parks. And each and every park ranger is super nice and super helpful!
No doubt, this is one of the best things to know before visiting Yosemite and Sequoia in the winter! As they could aid you better than anyone else. These are their parks after all!
There are my best tips and handy information to know before visiting Yosemite and Sequoia in the winter. If you’re planning a trip here during the months of November to March, make sure to prepare and read up on as much information as possible! As the weather and conditions here can be volatile. Although, don’t forget to have a fantastic time! As both national parks are something you’ll never forget.
Have you ever visited Yosemite National Park or Sequoia National Park in the winter? What other tips do you have for readers? Put it in the comments!
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