Sequoia Park visits fall as pandemic passes

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have seen a 22% drop in overnight stays through May of this year with record gas prices, inflation and the threat of wildfires

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK – After a year of being locked down at home, more people ventured outdoors and visited Sequoia National Park in 2021. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the trend is continuing even as travel restrictions, and COVID, continue to wane.

In 2021, Sequoia Park visitation bounced back to more than 1 million people from pandemic-impacted lows of just under 800,000 in 2020. But so far this year through April, visitation is down 28%. That includes a 22% drop in overnight guests year to date as fires and snow closed overnight venues in both Sequoia and Kings Canyon until recently. The only campground seeing an increase is low elevation Potwisha, just up from Three Rivers, and backcountry camping, which is up 70% from last year. Lodgepole saw the most significant drop from nearly 4,300 through May of 2021 to just over 800 through May of this year. The popular Wuksachi Lodge has seen only 5,750 guests through May compared to 20,789 for the first five months of 2021.

The biggest months are June through September with Californians eager to get on the road but with gas prices perhaps keeping them close to home. There is also no snow to worry about but the last contagions of COVID-19 and the scare of more wildfires could throw a wrench in the deal yet.

Last summer saw several wicked wildfires destroy a large percentage of giant Sequoia trees for which the park is named and its main attraction to both domestic and international visitors. In total 27 giant sequoia groves were fully or partially in the path of the KNP Complex Fire and the Windy Fire, particularly in the Redwood Canyon/Mountain area. Sixteen groves burned in the KNP Complex Fire and 11 groves in the Windy Fire. Combined, both fires burned 6,109 acres of giant sequoia groves. The big Giant Forest escaped largely unscathed.

Those looking to hike without shouldering gas price hikes always have the option of taking the Sequoia Shuttle. It’s just $20 per person and provides “unlimited shuttle service inside the park.” The shuttle features stops at a few of the major sights, including the General Sherman Tree, Tunnel Log and Wuksachi Lodge. There are four in-park routes, running 15 to 20 minutes, and you can see the attractions that each route features at SequoiaShuttle.com. Crystal Cave, one of the most popular destinations inside Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, remains closed in 2022 due to the KNP Complex Fire but is scheduled to re-open in 2023.

The Sequoia Shuttle is running through Sept. 11, 2022, and its hours, where it rolls, and more adventuresome details can be found at its site, SequoiaShuttle.com.

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