Sequoia and Yosemite
For my third time camping in the month of January, I was heading back up the western side of the Sierra Nevada towards Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks. Storms from the past week had brought in enough rain and snow that road closures for cleanup were necessary, but were opened up and had been mostly cleared by the time we arrived.
The first campsite was South Fork Campground – technically in Sequoia National Park, but only accessible by way of an eleven-mile dirt road heading south from Three Rivers. After taking my truck for an adventure on a rocky road around a winding mountainside, we finally arrived at camp. Aside from the one other camper who showed up late and left early, we had the campground to ourselves.
On our first hike, we set out towards the Garfield Grove in search of some lesser known giant sequoias. The trail didn’t seem to be too well-traveled, likely due to it being much less accessible than most other trails in the more popular part of the park. The recent rains brought new life to the grass along the trail, radiating the feel of early spring. We walked past just a few giant sequoias before having to turn back due to more than a foot of snow built up on the trail.
My hammock at South Fork Campground
The next morning we headed back towards Three Rivers, and then east into Sequoia National Park. Roads were mostly ice free, up until the last stretch. I had to install my tire chains for the last 5 miles, but it proved to be necessary with the amount of shade the trees put on the road. We finally made it to the Giant Forest, and walked around the trails on what was likely three to four feet of snow. It was a beautiful scene to see the contrast between blue skies, green pine needles, red sequoia bark, and the thick layer of snow covering the ground.
Conifers in winter with the sun setting
We made it out of the Giant Forest and back out of the park around 2pm, and headed towards Yosemite. The goal was to make it to Tunnel View by sunset, but we missed it by about 30 minutes. Camp 4, where I camped at a month earlier to celebrate the new year, was blanketed in a foot of snow and almost completely empty.
Merced River in front of Yosemite Valley and El Capitan
Crawling out of your tent on a clear morning in Yosemite Valley is surreal. Blue skies clashing with the massive granite cliffs on every side of you is a humbling experience. It’s especially incredible on winter mornings, when you can hear the sound of ice sheets crashing down from the walls of Yosemite Falls.
We walked over to get a nice view of the snow-covered Half Dome and Yosemite Falls on Monday morning before heading out. On our way out, the final stops were at the Valley View pulloff and the always-incredible Tunnel View.
A month after buying the annual park pass, I’ve already gotten my money’s worth with three trips. If I could do anything differently, it would have been visiting the Giant Forest before driving up to South Fork Campground. I underestimated the amount of time it would take to get from Three Rivers to the campground, which ultimately threw a wrench in the timing getting to Yosemite.