Sequoia National Park is one of the best NPs in the United States. People come from all over the country (and the rest of the world) to see the magnificent trees, observe wildlife, and explore some of the best hiking trails in the country. But when is the best time to visit the Sequoia National Park?
The short answer is summer. The long answer includes all the reasons why summer is the best season to visit Sequoia National Park, as well as the best things to do at the park. Read on to see why summer is the most popular season in the NP, but also why you can enjoy it year-round!
The best time to visit the Sequoia National Park is in the summer. The weather is nice, there’s no precipitation, all of the popular attractions are easily accessible, and all the campgrounds are open.
Sequoia national park is most popular for hiking and wildlife watching. Trail conditions are optimal in the summer, which is why that’s the most popular season in the park. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the elevation varies drastically throughout the park. It’s always warmer and more pleasant at lower elevations, and you can find some snow at higher elevations even in June.
Spring and fall are equally good options if you can’t visit in the summer. Plan a winter visit only if you’re okay with the cold and have no intention of camping in the national park.
No matter when you decide to visit, it’s essential that you’re adequately prepared for the trail conditions. Look up recent reviews on sites like AllTrails, ask the park rangers for advice, and check with other hikers who might have done the trail before you.
If you can’t make it to the park during summer, spring is the second-best season to go. It’s still quite cold at the park, but night temperatures are more often in the 40s than they are in the 30s. Day temperatures are in the 50s most of the spring, but it feels warmer when you’re out on the trail.
May is the best spring month to go to the park. It has the warmest weather and the least amount of precipitation. Most trails are open and even the free shuttle service within the park starts working again in late May.
The best thing about spring in the park is that all the wildflowers at lower elevations are in bloom. This looks phenomenal, and it’s one thing that you don’t really get from a summer visit.
Even though it’s spring season, it’s still common for areas of the park to be covered with snow. Because of that, it’s important to dress appropriately and wear adequate shoes. If you’re not sure about the conditions on a particular trail, don’t be afraid to ask the rangers. It’s better to inquire about the conditions and then dress appropriately than to hike for hours only to come across a snowy path while you’re wearing trail runners.
Also, it’s important to note that some roads and trails remain closed until late spring/early summer. The road to Moro Rock is usually closed until May and the road to Cedar Grove often stays closed until mid-April. If you don’t care too much about the popular attractions, it’s okay to visit the park whenever. There’s still plenty of things you can do, the views are spectacular throughout, and you get to enjoy the beautiful landscapes with minimal crowds.
But if you want to go see some specific attractions in the park, you will need to check whether they are open for the season. Keep in mind that accessibility depends on the weather and the conditions inside the national park. It changes every year, so it’s not like there’s a set date when everything opens.
Summer is the best and most popular season to visit the park. Everything is open so you’re free to explore as much of the park as you want. The weather is nice without any precipitation, while all the sequoia trees ensure there’s enough shade you’re hardly ever in direct sunlight.
The weather is the nicest in the summer with average highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. May through October is also the dry season in the park, so chances of rain ruining your plans for the day are minimal.
However, this also means that summer is when the national park is at its busiest. There are large crowds throughout the park, it’s not so easy to find a camping spot, and you’ll encounter a lot of other people on the trails. One upside of this is that most wild animals stay far away from all the noise, so it’s unlikely you’ll cross paths with a black bear. Then again, if you’re visiting the park just to observe wild animals this won’t be such a positive thing.
All the campgrounds are open in the summer, there are free rangers’ programs in the park, and there’s even a shuttle service that operates from the park to the closest towns, as well as a shuttle service within the park. The free shuttle services make it easy to reach the park without a personal vehicle, and it’s the best option for people who plan to visit the park without a car.
It’s worth noting that most campgrounds operate on a first-come-first-served basis and only a few of them let you reserve your spot in advance. Because of that, it’s best to arrive at a campground early in the day, especially if you’re planning to spend a weekend at the park. If you want to guarantee a camping spot for the weekend, you’ll have the best chance of getting one if you arrive at the park on a Thursday.
Sequoia National Park sees the highest number of visitors on the weekends. If your schedule is flexible, plan to arrive at the park on a weekday. Monday crowds are minimal even during the park’s busiest season, and it’s much easier to enjoy the hikes and views when there’s not a crowd of 20 people getting in your way.
Early fall is a good time to visit the national park. The weather is still nice but the crowds are much smaller in September. The average highs are in the 60s and 70s and the lows are in the 40s, except for November when the lows are in the 30s. But the weather quickly starts being unpredictable, and snowfall is possible as early as October. In general, it’s better to visit in early fall, if you want to avoid winter weather in this national park.
There’s virtually no difference between late summer and early September at the park, so you’ll still be able to do anything you want. If you visit later in the fall there are certain restrictions you should know about.
Park facilities start reducing their working hours in the fall, and some attractions close entirely for the season. But there’s still plenty of things to see and do at the park and the landscapes around it are at their most beautiful.
Summer brings warm weather to the park and spring brings wildflowers in bloom, but fall brings vibrant colors to Sequoia national park. The reds and oranges start coming out in the tree trunks and if there is snow on the ground, the contrast is astonishing. Be sure to pack your camera for some postcard-worthy landscape shots!
Additionally, you can find free campgrounds near the national park, which is great if you’re traveling on a budget. They usually have reduced facilities, but hey – you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!
Winter is the least popular season in the park. There’s quite a lot of snow that makes the park difficult to navigate and many trails are closed for the season. But, there’s also something magical about seeing the park during the winter with that white blanket on the ground. If you are okay with the cold and take all the necessary precautions, you can still have a great time at Sequoia national park.
The better prepared you are the easier it will be to avoid any accidents. Also, winter is when all the wildlife at the park is least active, so it’s a great season for all visitors who are not too keen on being close to black bears. Close encounters are rare even in the summer but seeing such a majestic creature with your naked eyes can be quite scary.
Another advantage of visiting the NP in the winter is that you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself. Crowds are minimal, especially if you visit on weekdays.
One thing worth noting is that it’s better to stay at the park lodging than to camp in the winter. Night temperatures are in their 20s in January and February and keep in mind that’s just the average. They can get much lower, especially on the higher elevation. That’s why campgrounds within the park close for the season, but you can still find campsites a little outside the NP.
Sleeping in a tent will not be comfortable, even if you surround yourself with live geese for warmth. It’s a different story if you have an RV with heating you can stay in, but remember that extreme colds could drain your vehicle battery. If you’re intent on camping in the park during winter, just make sure to have some jumper cables in your car.
You should stay at the Sequoia national park for as long as you want. It can be anywhere from three days if you just want to see some trees and go on a couple of hikes, or as long as three weeks if you really want to explore what the national park has to offer.
Keep in mind that this is a really big national park. You could stay there for a month straight, and the next time you visit you’d still be discovering new trails and sights.
If you’re coming to the park for hiking, try to plan out which trails you want to explore. That way you can figure out exactly how much time you need to cover everything you want to see. Avid hikers should plan to spend at least 4-5 days at this national park – the more time you have, the better your stay at the Sequoia NP will be.
Hiking is the number one thing to do at Sequoia national park. There are more than a hundred different trails you can explore, from ones that are quick and easy to those that will take an entire day to complete.
The trails are all incredibly rewarding, whether you’re doing an easy lake loop or hiking to the top of a mountain peak for some astonishing views. The Congress Trail and the General Sherman Tree trail are the two most popular hikes in the park, but they are certainly not the only ones worth doing. With some 800 miles of hiking trails, there’s plenty of different treks for everyone.
Wildlife watching is another popular thing to do at the national park. If this is what you are interested in, there are a few tips to ensure you have a good experience observing all the animals in their natural habitat. The obvious tip is to familiarize yourself with the types of animals that are present in the national park. That way you can know when they are most active and visit during the season you’re most likely to see them.
Always keep your distance and don’t disturb the animals. It’s okay to observe them from afar, but it’s not okay to disturb their peace. Plus, they will just run away if they notice you. So, take your binoculars or a great zoom lens, find some cover, and admire the wonderful creatures for as long as you like.
Horseback riding, fishing, and rock climbing are also popular in the park, especially with visitors who stay for more than just a couple of days. The national park even offers a few astronomy programs, for all of you who enjoy photographing the night sky.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.