Winter Adventure in Sequoia National Park

01.26.12


Sequoia Serenity

California's first national park is home to world-famous trees, including the biggest one on Earth. Yet even with such mighty credentials, Sequoia National Park sees few visitors in the winter. Snow or no, this is the place to go!


Snowshoe Sequoia

Fairy Trail

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, which tree in the world is the largest of all?" At 275 feet tall and with a diameter of 36.5 feet, the General Sherman tree is the biggest living thing on Earth. Summer is when tourists buzz around this behemoth beauty, which keeps company with the other largest trees in the world. To have these natural skyscrapers all to yourself strap on snowshoes (or, if there’s no snow, lace up the hiking boots) and follow the yellow triangle markers through the Giant Forest. The only sound you'll hear is the crunching of your foot-gear as you make your way along a trail that meanders for 2.5 miles (one-way)—beneath 200-foot-tall trees—to Crescent Meadow. Inaccessible by car, the meadow is a dreamy landscape that John Muir described as the "gem of the Sierra." Head back the way you came...through the land of giants.

Rent snowshoes from Wuksachi Lodge. Pick up a trail map of Sequoia National Park at the lodge or visitor center. Follow the directions on the map for the Crescent Trail.

Sequoia National Forest Cross Country Ski

Big Easy

Want to cross-country ski but think you'll have the grace of a newborn calf? Not to worry. When there's snow head to Big Meadows, just north of Sequoia National Park. It has the cross-country equivalent of a bunny hill, with a cozy snack hut to boot. The flat, wide-open trail keeps you kicking and gliding for 2.5 miles among pine and fir trees. It's smooth sailing on skis with just enough ups and downs for a few whee-hees. At 2.5 miles you'll reach the tiny but hearty warming hut, nicely resting on the edge of Big Meadows. Volunteers stock the hut with delightful goodies like chicken noodle ramen soup, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, oatmeal, and water. Leave a little money in the honor-system donation box and help yourself to the treats. Then take a seat on the porch, kick up your feet, and enjoy the snowy surroundings. Easy does it!

Rent cross-country skis from Wuksachi Lodge. Big Meadows trailhead is 30 minutes north of the lodge on Generals Highway in Sequoia National Forest. Look for a sign on the right just a couple of minutes after passing Montecito Sequoia Lodge. Follow the wide trail 2.5 miles to Big Meadows and the hut. Return the way you came.

Wuksachi Lodge Sequoia National Park

Wake Up at Wuksachi

Imagine spending the night in a modern yet rustic lodge with vaulted wood-beam ceilings, grand stone fireplaces, panoramic windows overlooking a forest, and jagged mountain peaks all around. Now imagine that this lodge is reasonably priced and not overbooked. Sound good? Welcome to Wuksachi Lodge. Sequoia's only overnight accommodations (aside from camping) blends modern comforts with natural touches, making it a perfect—and perfectly situated—base camp for exploring the park. Trails literally leave right from your door. Wind down the day with a hearty meal in the friendly full-service dining room kept warm with a stone fireplace.

Find winter room rates at Wuksachi Lodge.

Fantasy Land

Before there was The Lord of the Rings, and the soon-to-be released prequel, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, there was New Zealand—quite simply one of the most beautiful countries in the world. With its unspoiled landscapes of turquoise ocean enclaves, crystal-clear rivers, high-rising mountains and mint-green rainforests, New Zealand is like nowhere else on earth ('Middle-earth', that is!). It's also one of the very best places to experience an epic fantasy that goes far beyond the movies.

How do you do it? Go tramping! When it comes to outdoor recreation, this tiny country south of the equator leads the pack with classic, accessible hiking (aka 'tramping' in Kiwi speak) routes, including The Finest Walk in the World—The Milford Track, and the Routeburn Track, consistently named one of the top 10 in the world. With nearly 30 percent of the country designated protected land open to the public, there are plenty of one-hour and day hikes or longer-trek options: pristine beaches, rugged coastal trails, high country farmland, giant glaciers, and high alpine passes—take your pick.

Among the choices, New Zealand has nine 'Great Walks' guaranteed to take you through the most magnificent places in the country. Check out all of New Zealand's hiking ideas and itineraries. Yep, some fantasies do come true.

BONUS: Fly direct to New Zealand from Los Angeles. Check out newzealand.com's hiking packages and deals.

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