Sequoia National Park is an easy 5-hour drive from San Diego and even closer if you live in Los Angeles. So many people take day trips up there, but if you want to stay the night, it's always best to try to book a campsite or hotel ahead of time. Being a National Park and a quick drive from major cities, it can be difficult finding lodging, ESPECIALLY during holidays. Nick and I were unable to find parking in the National Park itself just because it was so busy on New Year's Day! So also take that into consideration when planning. We were able to drive through the National Park, but we spent most of our time in Sequoia National Forest which allows dogs on all trails! If you want to getaway this winter in Sequoia National Park, then this post is for you!
We started our trip in Sequoia National Forest. The National Forest is intertwined in both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Our first stop was in Kernville just South of the main entrance of Sequoia National Park. We wanted to do a hike to allow my dog Finnegan to stretch his legs, as dogs are not authorized on trails in U.S. National Parks. They ARE allowed in the National Forests, though! We went for New Year's Eve and Day 2020/21 to give you an idea of the timeframe. It was cold (mid 30-40 deg F and got even colder at night). If you plan on hiking, just be sure to bring layers like a wicking layer, fleece, and hard shell. You want to stay dry as best as you can. Avoid cotton and bring a change of wool socks! Even if you don't hike long enough to need to change your socks, a fresh pair of dry, warm woolies are the BEST when you get back to your car.
Before your departure, it's best to pre-download all your stops in Google Maps, as service can be spotty in this area! Bonus: If you're looking for hot springs in the area, check out Remington Hot Springs and practice leave no trace! I have heard it can be crowded, but you might get lucky!
If you decide to go to ANY National Park during a holiday weekend, I highly suggest you book a campsite, hotel well in advance. I can't tell you how many times I have failed to do that, as I've usually ended up figuring something out last minute. To avoid any unnecessary stress, make a plan a few weeks out. For bigger National Parks like Yosemite, I suggest MONTHS out. My boyfriend and I got really lucky, finding one of the last places to stay at a very affordable price. For $100 a night plus a $20 pet fee, we stayed at the Riverview Lodge in Kernville. The cool thing about this motel-style lodge is that it is pet-friendly (always a plus when I'm traveling with my dog, Finnegan. It gives you a quaint cabin-y vibe and comes with all of your necessities (wifi, shower, fridge, microwave, etc). It's also fixated along the Kern River for a beautiful view. The lodge is within walking distance of EVERYTHING this town has to offer. Because Kernville is traditionally a white-water rafting town, it has a ton of outdoor tour centers, breweries, restaurants, breakfast places, etc within walking distance of each other.
Due to COVID, most restaurants were closed or take-out only. So, we rang in the new year with some wings and spinach dip to-go from the Kern River Brewing Co and went all out granola with a 6-pack of their hazy IPAs and some of my favorite, Mother Earth Cali Creamin Ale!
In Sequoia National Forest, the Unal Trial was the perfect hike. It was an easy 3 miles with gradual switchbacks to lessen the incline. There was some snow that did not make it difficult to hike. However, you can't go wrong with bringing crampons or snowshoes just in case. There were a few slippery spots, but nothing drastic.
We ran into only 2 people on the hike itself. It is bear territory, so just be mindful of your surroundings! The trailhead marker (right) is NOT facing the road. It's facing towards the tree line, so it can be difficult to tell if you're in the right spot at first. You'll notice it is a double-panel sign for reference.
Finnegan absolutely loved this trail. We let him run around for a few minutes to get out a bit more energy. I don't often let him off leash simply to be respectful of others and for his and my own safety, but I used my best judgement here. I only recommend that if you dog has excellent recall skills. Thankfully Finnegan likes me enough to listen when called!
Other attractions worth seeing in the winter in Sequoia National Park are the General Sherman Tree, the view of Mount Whitney (even hiking it if you're prepared to), the Tunnel Log, and the Crystal Cave.
Side Note: Especially if you don't have 4-wheel drive, it's best to have some tire chains in your trunk just in case! I highly recommend everyone grab some just to be safe. You can typically find them at Walmart!
Hi! I'm Kelsie Marie-welcome to my blog! I'm a San Diego-based Travel and Lifestyle Blogger, and I'm thrilled to have you here!About Me