Winter is coming to the Big Trees, and free guided snowshoe hikes will once again be offered to the public every Saturday once the ground is blanketed with snow. The snowshoe hikes offer Park visitors a chance to get a close look at the Big Trees sequoia grove and surrounding forest in winter and to learn how plants and animals adapt to the cold season. It’s also a great opportunity for photography in a beautiful place.

Experience on snowshoes is not required. Visitors are given basic instructions. The group stays together, hiking at an easy pace. Participants are required to stay with the tour from beginning to end as a safety precaution.

As part of the effort to enhance interpretive and educational programs within the Park, Calaveras Big Trees Association provides the Park and the public with the free use of snowshoes for guided tours every winter. Visitors may choose to bring their own snowshoes or use one of the thirty pair available from CBTA during the tours. Children’s sizes are available as well as adult’s.

Tours originate from the Warming Hut at the east end of the Visitor Center parking lot and begin every snowcovered weekend Saturday at 1:00 p.m. It is a good idea to arrive about thirty minutes early to check out and try on the snowshoes, just in case there is more demand than supply.

The Saturday tours are led by experienced volunteers and usually take about one and one-half hours, depending on the weather. The exact route of the tour varies depending upon the snow cover, safety considerations and the guide’s choice of routes. It usually encompasses at least a section of the North Grove trail under the giant sequoias, the same route taken by warm weather tours.

Clothing should be appropriate for the weather. Layers are recommended as the weather can change on short notice. Boots or stout shoes are required for safe use of snowshoes. Children are welcome, accompanied by adults, if they are able to keep up with the group.

Each tour begins with volunteers helping first-timers strap on the snowshoes, a quick demonstration and a safety briefing. In extreme winter weather, the route will be altered to a safe path.

You can check the weather forecast for the park at this link.

Tours for organizations or large parties may be arranged (for a fee) for days other than Saturday by contacting ranger Robyn Mendoza at Robyn.Mendoza@parks.ca.gov.

By Sanders LaMont