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Winter beckons in Yosemite National Park. It’s a time of sparse crowds, crisp air, great views, deep snow, and forests of giants. Head out in the morning on your snowshoes and watch for the tracks of snowy denizens of the forest, or take a heart-pounding skate-ski up a road until the valley vista presents itself.

Or, ski into a wonderland of some of the grandest trees on earth. It’s a whole different world in the winter. If you’re a fan of muscle-powered winter recreation, one of the best Yosemite activities in the winter is a ski or snowshoe trip into the Tuolumne Grove of Sequoias in the Crane Flat area in the northern part of the park. To access the Tuolumne Grove and its giant trees, park near the Crane Flat Campground. There’s a gate to the north and the trail follows a forest road. There are no groomed ski trails in the Crane Flat area, however, so you may be breaking trail.

It’s only a round-trip of two miles, and it’s a gentle grade down, but a bit of hike back up to the trailhead. Plan your trip well and you’ll have a great experience. Once in the grove, you can hear the whumping sound as snow hits the ground, dropped from branches hundreds of feet up. Watch out for falling snow, and even pinecones the size of bread loaves, so you don’t get clobbered.

You’ll more than likely find yourself alone with the giant sequoias, unlike the summer months when throngs of tourists walk about with their heads craned back as they try to see the tops of the trees. The trails in the grove are well marked, and the silence is overwhelming. If there’s a slight breeze, you’ll hear the trees themselves groaning under the weight of the snow and creaking in the wind.

Remember to be courteous and don’t snowshoe in the ski tracks, and vice versa please. Also, hikers post-holing through the snow add an extra hazard. Take along water and snacks for a picnic under these towering behemoths.

Winters can turn the Yosemite Valley into a wonderland attractive to snowshoers, skiers, and hikers/NPS

The Sequoia is real, but it’s a primeval reality. At first, no one believed Augustus T. Dowd in 1852 when he described finding such giant timber in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada on one of his hunting trips to supply the miners with meat. Fortunately, in 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, setting aside a swath of wilderness like no other.

And, though not the oldest trees in the world, the Sequoiadendron giganteum may still have a lifespan exceeding 3,000 years, and by total volume the giant sequoias are the largest living thing on Earth. With their round, overlapping scaled foliage, distinctive cones, and spongy fire-resistant bark, they are symbols of another era. Look for animal tracks too: you may spot a black-tailed deer, bobcat, and sometimes ravens and eagles swoop through the forest.

There’s another grove of these tall trees in the park, the Mariposa Grove down near Wawona. However, restoration work there has closed the grove to the public until spring 2018.

But if you’re anxious to see more of these big trees, two other sequoia stands can be found in the area: the Merced Grove and Rockefeller Grove just outside the park’s northwest entrance. Both are accessed from the Merced Grove parking lot west of Crane Flat.

Rockefeller Grove is a little more than 2 miles one-way, and in low snow years you may be walking. Merced Grove is a mile-and-a-half, with the first part level, and the last two-thirds a steep, heart-pounding ascent. Save some energy for the walk back up.

And, then, nothing could be better afterwards than getting back to your cozy cabin, condo, or home, reserved ahead of time from Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders Vacation Rentals. With more than 100 rental properties at Yosemite West, Wawona, and Oakhurst, you’ll be able to find the perfect place for you and your family or joined by a passel of your friends. It’s a great time of year to enjoy the snowy forests.

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