Sequoia National Park reopens with limited big tree access as KNP Complex Fire still smolders

Joshua Yeager
Visalia Times-Delta

Access to the big trees and Sequoia National Park's world-famous Giant Forest will reopen to the public on a limited schedule beginning this weekend.

The beloved sequoia grove, which includes the Earth's largest tree, General Sherman, will reopen beginning Saturday. The grove will be open four days a week to start, from Thursday through Sunday.

The park will be open for a seven-day period between Christmas and New Year's,  weather and conditions permitting, park officials announced.

General Sherman and sequoia groves have been closed to the public since September due to the KNP Complex Fire, which burned more than 88,000 acres across Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. The fire remains 80% contained but is now burning only in remote areas of the park that pose no threat to the public, park officials said.

Thousands of sequoia trees are dead or dying as a result of the lightning-caused blaze, park officials said last month. A fifth of the world's mature giant sequoia were severely scorched or killed by California wildfires in the past two years alone.

The Giant Forest Grove was shielded from the KNP Complex thanks to several prescribed burns that the National Park Service has done in the area since the 1970s.

Crews have been working around the clock since November clearing hazardous trees and repairing roadways to get the iconic park back open to visitors. Last month, the foothills reopened to visitors without access to sequoia trees.

“We have been working hard to restore access to the Giant Forest as quickly as we responsibly can,” said Clay Jordan, superintendent of Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. “As we continue to mitigate risks, get employees back into their homes, and contend with the obstacles posed by the winter season, we hope we can continue to get closer to a level of access that’s normal for this time of year.”  

Visitors should be aware the park currently has no potable water or food available and will need to bring their own. Generals Highway may close at any time due to inclement weather, rock slides or debris fall, which may be more common in the fire's aftermath.

Tire chains may be required at any time due to winter storms and snowy conditions.

Snow falls near the Kings Canyon National Park entrance on Dec. 9, 2021. Sequoia National Park will reopen with limited big tree access this month after the KNP Complex Fire shuttered the park in September.

Sequoia National Park reopening schedule

  • Saturday, Dec. 11 – Sunday, Dec. 12: OPEN (only two days due to forecasted winter weather) 

  • Monday, Dec. 13 – Thursday, Dec. 16: CLOSED 

  • Friday, Dec. 17 – Monday, Dec. 20: OPEN 
  • Tuesday, Dec. 21 – Thursday, Dec. 23: CLOSED 
  • Thursday, Dec. 24 – Monday, Jan. 3: OPEN 

The following areas will be open, according to NPS.

"This reopening extends from Hospital Rock to just above the intersection with Wolverton Road. The Giant Forest Museum will be open for visitor information and retail services. Moro Rock/Crescent Meadow Road is closed to vehicles but open for pedestrian access to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. Lodgepole and the road between the parks remains closed. Visitors should plan for these areas to remain closed at least into spring of 2022. The Sequoia Shuttle will be operating in the Giant Forest during the holidays from December 24 through January 2."

Joshua Yeager is a reporter with the Visalia Times-Delta and a Report for America corps member. He covers Tulare County news deserts with a focus on the environment and local governments. 

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