Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
May 30, 2020 - SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. – Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local public health authorities, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are increasing recreational access to include roads, trails, restrooms, and picnic areas. The parks have been closed to visitors since March 25, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local public health authorities, and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.
The parks’ phased approach centers on protecting employees and the public from transmission risks through a variety of mitigation actions consistent with local, state and federal guidance. Key features and experiences will be accessible, including access to Giant Sequoia groves and High Sierra wilderness. Visitors will be encouraged to disperse and recreate responsibly. The parks will actively monitor changing conditions in the parks and surrounding counties and will maintain flexibility to adjust operations as conditions warrant.
“Our goal is to open safely and cautiously, and in a manner that reduces risk to our employees and visitors while helping local economies begin to recover,” Superintendent Woody Smeck said. “We ask visitors to please recreate responsibly, arrive prepared, and take advantage of the many tools in place to have an enjoyable and safe visit to these parks.”
The parks have implemented a range of mitigation actions based on CDC guidance, that includes encouraging the use of face coverings when social distance cannot be maintained, increasing cleaning frequency of facilities, adding signage at trailheads and restrooms, and increasing safety and trip planning messaging to visitors through a variety of methods.
What will be open in this initial phase of increased access?
- Entrance stations for distribution of the park newspaper and map.
- Roads and parking lots throughout both parks. Visitors should only park in designated parking spaces, if a parking lot is full, refer to the park newspaper for other options.
- Trails in developed areas and designated wilderness; if a trail is congested, please consider visiting another location with less people.
- Overnight wilderness access with reservations only. No walk-up permits will be available this summer.
- Restrooms and picnic areas. Please practice proper food storage, and per CDC guidance practice social distancing and frequent hand washing.
With public health in mind, the following facilities remain closed until later phases:
- Overnight campground accommodations. Please refer to our website for more information about reservations and changes to availability this summer.
- Visitor centers, bookstores, ranger stations and wilderness permit stations.
- Overnight lodging, restaurants, markets, and gift shops operated by the concessioner, Delaware North. Please refer to www.visitsequoia.com for more information.
- Guided horseback rides at Cedar Grove and Grant Grove operated by the concessioner, Cedar Grove Pack Station. Please refer to www.cedargrovepackstation.com or www.grantgrovestables.com for more information.
Key Changes to 2020 Summer Season:
- The Sequoia Shuttle will not be in operation this summer.
- Camping reservations through www.recreation.gov will be required, no walk-up camp sites will be available this summer.
- Reservations for overnight wilderness permits will be required ahead of park entry, no walk-up permits will be available this summer. No wilderness permit stations will be open. Bear canister rentals may not be available in the parks but continue to be required in many areas.
- Lodgepole visitor center will not be open this summer season due to renovation project delays.
Take Advantage of These Tools to Help Plan a Positive Sequoia and Kings Canyon Experience:
- Begin with the park website at www.nps.gov/seki. Here you will find the latest COVID-19 updates, a downloadable Junior Ranger Book, a digital park newspaper, a printable passport book stamp, and more.
- Download the free park mobile app. Search for NPS Sequoia & Kings Canyon in the Apple App and Google Play stores. Use this for maps, self-guided tours and information about nearly 200 park features and locations. Download before you leave home and use in the park where cell phone service is limited.
- Follow us on social media @SequoiaKingsNPS as we provide tips for a successful visit in these new conditions and phased reopening.
- Refer to the park newspaper you receive upon entering the parks. This will be the best resource available during your visit in this first phase. You can find a list of trails to enjoy for each district of the parks, a parking lot map for the Giant Forest, road construction delay schedule, safety information, and more, with new Spanish translations included!
- Area information and maps will be posted outside visitor centers.
- We encourage visitors to review tips for recreating responsibly at www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/recreate-responsibly.htm.
- When fee collection resumes, we highly encourage everyone to purchase a park pass in advance through www.recreation.gov, or be prepared to pay with a credit/debit card.
Campground UpdatesCampgrounds in Sequoia and Kings Canyon are not expected to open until after the 4th of July weekend, and that date may be extended as the parks increase access in phases. All campground reservations made prior to this announcement will be cancelled in order to allow the parks to adapt operations and create a more safe and enjoyable experience for visitors. Reservation holders will receive an email with details and a full refund through www.recreation.gov. In order to ensure that public health guidelines are met when camping in the parks, many campsites will remain closed for the season, ensuring proper distancing between sites.
Ahead of campgrounds reopening, the public will be able to once again make reservations for the remainder of the 2020 season. Some campgrounds that previously allowed for walk-up camping will be added to www.recreation.gov to increase the number of sites available for online reservations, and will allow for online payment, reducing in-person contact. All camping for the 2020 summer season will require a reservation made prior to visiting, and large group campsites will not be available.
While many areas will be accessible for visitors to enjoy, a return to full operations will continue to be phased and services may be limited. When recreating, the public should follow local area health orders, practice Leave No Trace principles, avoid crowding, and high-risk outdoor activities. They should also come prepared with food, water, hand sanitizer and face coverings. People who are sick should stay home. The CDC has offered guidance to help people recreating in parks and open spaces prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Visitors can protect themselves and others by skipping areas that are too crowded and always maintaining social distance from other people, including park staff.
The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners continues to be paramount. At Sequoia and Kings Canyon, our operational approach will be to examine each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. We continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health using CDC guidance to ensure public and workspaces are safe and clean for visitors, employees, partners, and volunteers.
Previously scheduled road construction along the Generals Highway will continue this summer. Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted to our website www.nps.gov/seki and social media channels @SequoiaKingsNPS. Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.
About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks
These two parks, which lie-side-by-side in the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, serve as a prime example of nature’s size, beauty, and diversity. Nearly 2 million visitors from across the U.S. and the world visit these parks for the world’s largest trees (by volume), grand mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and more. Learn more at http://www.nps.gov/seki or 559-565-3341.