Winter Driving & Tire Chains

A snowplow drives along a snowy road
The Generals Highway in winter

Kirke Wrench


Winter is a beautiful time to visit Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but you'll need to be prepared for snowy mountain roads. Tire chains may be required on any park road at any time. Weather and chain control advisories can change rapidly, often multiple times per day.

Check up-to-date 24-hour road conditions by calling (559) 565-3341 (press 1,1). Check the parks' current weather forecasts just prior to your visit.

For information about roads outside the park, visit the Caltrans website or call 800-427-7623.


Tire Chains

Chain control is in effect from late fall through spring in these parks when roads are snowy and slippery. Tire chains or cables may be required at any time. State law (CA Vehicle Code, Section 605, Sections 27450-27503) requires ALL vehicles (including 4-wheel/all-wheel drive) to carry tire chains or cables when entering chain-control areas.

To enter a chain-restricted area, you must carry or install chains that fit properly and are in good repair. Practice installing them prior to entering the parks to make sure they fit. Weather and chain control designations can change rapidly, often multiple times per day. When you drive with chains, the maximum speed limit is 25 MPH, even if posted otherwise.

If chain control is in effect, you will need to carry or install chains to drive to sequoia groves and designated snowplay areas. If you do not have chains with you and plan to enter the park, plan on renting or buying them before you get here.

Chain Control Designations

R1: Snow tires or chains are required.
Snow tires must have a tread depth of 6/32" with a "M & S" imprint on the tire's sidewall.

R2: Four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or chains are required.
Four-wheel drives or all-wheel drive vehicles must have snow tread tires on all four wheels. Four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas.

R3: Chains are required on all vehicles.
There are no exceptions.

Tire Chain Rental & Purchase

Three Rivers

  • A-1 Totem Market & Gifts
  • 1 mile west of Sequoia park entrance, 559-561-4463
  • Chevron Gas Station 6 miles west of park entrance, 559-561-3835
  • Gateway Restaurant & Lodge 0.5 miles west of park entrance, 559-561-4133
  • Kaweah General Store 9 miles west of park entrance, 559-561-3475
  • Princemart Gas Station 12 miles west of park entrance, 559-597-2411

Highway 180

  • Bear Mountain Auto Parts (purchase only) 21 miles west of Kings Canyon park entrance, 559-332-2800
  • Grant Grove Gift Shop (purchase only) In the park at Grant Grove Village, 559-335-5500
  • L&L Feed (purchase only) 17 miles from park boundary, 559-338-2729

Many car rental contracts do not allow for the installation of tire chains or cables. Be sure you understand the limitations of your contract. Renting a 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle may save you from having to install chains, even when you must carry them.

Watch our short Snow Chains and Cables video for a demonstration of how to install tire chains and information about when to use them.


Winter Driving Tips

  • Beware of poor visibility and reduced traction.
  • Always carry tire chains in winter and spring.
  • Reduce your speed.
  • Keep your headlights on for visibility.
  • Allow extra distance between vehicles.
  • Stay well back when following plows.
  • Use low gears, especially when driving downhill.
  • Never stop or park in a traffic lane. Your life may depend on it!
  • If your RWD vehicle skids: Reduce gas and steer where you want to go.
  • If your FWD vehicle skids: Accelerate slightly and steer where you want to go.
  • Brake sparingly to avoid skidding by locking your brakes.
  • Drive in the appropriate lane for your direction of travel. Avoid the center line.
  • Ensure that your chains fit your tires and practice installing them before you need them.
  • Stop in a chain-up area, pullout, or parking lot to install, adjust, or remove tire chains.
  • When parking, avoid setting your emergency brake. It may freeze.
  • Shady areas and bridge surfaces can be treacherously icy even when other sections of roadway are not.
  • Stay alert, use caution, anticipate hazards, and slow down!

Driving safely and lawfully is the first step in enjoying your winter activities in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks!

Visit the California Department of Transportation's website for road conditions in other areas and more information about winter driving.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

47050 Generals Highway
Three Rivers, CA 93271


(559) 565-3341
Recorded information is available 24 hours a day. Park staff answers calls on weekdays from 8:15 am - 4:15 pm.

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