Sequoia National Park was initially open, and then closed for the government shutdown. I had planned on visiting between my days at Yosemite and Death Valley, as Sequoia is an ideal halfway stop, so I made a hotel reservation for a single night to break up the drive. When I left for my trip, however, the park was closed and I knew I would not be able to visit, but I kept my hotel reservation to keep with my plan of breaking up my long drive between parks.
Sequoia’s closure was the result of “overflowing trash and unsanitary conditions”, which is extremely disheartening. I don’t understand how people could view such a beautiful area and decide to leave trash or vandalize because there is no one around to stop them. We are responsible for our own actions, whether or not someone is around to witness them, so please think twice before doing something you would not want a ranger to observe. Okay lecture over, continuing on to my experiences:
The night before I was to leave for my hotel near Sequoia, I doubled checked the park’s website to see which roads would be closed in the area, and learned that the park would actually be open on the day I had originally planned to visit. Right before Martin Luther King Day, the Sequoia Parks Conservatory made a donation to open the park for the holiday as a weekend surprise. I would be driving in on MLK day itself, so I would have one chance to visit before it closed again.
Entering into the park, there was a ranger at the gate, handing out park maps, who cautioned me to carry chains and that there would be limited staff on hand to assist with any weather-related issues. A very small area of the park was open, due both to the shutdown and due to the recent snowstorm that had left the top of the park covered in a thick layer of snow. The visitor center, the Giant Forest Museum, and a few restrooms were open, the former two with limited hours.
As I reached the Giant Forest and General Sherman Tree trail, I was surprised by the number of cars parked and the high number of visitors, especially in light of the very snowy conditions. Many families had decided to visit and enjoy a snow day (as the valleys around the park were simply rainy). It was nice to see so many families out enjoying nature, but I was shocked and dismayed that most of had decided to sled around the Sherman Tree trail instead of hike the fenced path. There are a few designated sledding and cross country skiing areas of the park where sledding is welcomed, but this particular trail and area was not one of them.
No rangers were present in the area, but the trail was clearly fenced and there were signs around about staying on the trail to protect restoration areas. I only had a few hours in Sequoia, so I could not speak to the other areas that were open, but I was disappointed by the behavior of the other visitors, especially since the park was opened for the holiday as a special occasion.
If you decide to visit Sequoia during a government shutdown or simply post-shutdown, please consider donating to The Sequoia Conservatory in lieu of paying an entry fee or to help make up for revenue loss, volunteer or clean as much as you can, and stay out of closed trails and respect road closures.