Much of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park will be closed this summer due to heavy rain and runoff damaging bridges and washing out roads
SEQUIOA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK – Locals and tourists may have to postpone their Memorial Day weekend hiking trips at least until July, and for some attractions, possibly next year.
Many popular destinations in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are not likely to open this summer, according to Nationa Park Service officials. Extreme wet weather has piled up record snowpack, damaged facilities and washed out roads creating a huge backlog of repairs for county, state and park service road crews. In some cases, authorities are unable to reach sections of the park to even begin assessing the damage.
Winter storms brought over 86 inches of precipitation including 35 inches of snow down on the soggy Giant Forest area in the past months. About half the snow total has melted as of May 2, according to the weather station there.
The news comes just a few weeks before Memorial Day weekend, the traditional opening holiday for park visitors, and will likely put a big crimp in tourism activity in Tulare County, the gateway to the park.
Due to severe road damage along the Highway 180 corridor between Grant Grove and Cedar Grove, Caltrans does not expect repairs to be completed before the end of the summer season. This means public access is not expected into the Cedar Grove area of Kings Canyon National Park for the 2023 summer season. That area is a popular hiking trailhead.
It is not clear you will be able to visit iconic Mineral King Valley this summer either, after heavy rains and runoff damaged bridges and washed out roads. The local ranger could only describe repair schedules as uncertain.
Along the main Generals Highway up from Three Rivers, the park is closed and may not open until July, putting all the very popular destinations like the General Sherman Tree and Congress Trail off limits. Until it opens, visitors can’t experience the wonder of Giant Sequoias.
Even if the main access way opens this summer it is unlikely you will be able to visit Crystal Cave. The road to the cave suffered significant road damage and may be inaccessible for the entire 2023 season.
Hotel occupancy in Tulare County is already down about 10% so far this year compared to the year before. NPS statistics show Sequoia received 1.15 million visitors in 2022, up from 2020 and 2021 but down from 2019 pre-pandemic times. Four months into this very wet 2023, visitations are down by 90%.