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Attractions, Family, mariposa, yosemite

Top Tips for Winter Travel to Yosemite

October 2, 2016

As the last of the autumn leaves drop to the valley floor and bears ramble off to their winter dens, Yosemite becomes a calm, winter refuge.

What is Yosemite like in winter? Imagine massive snow-capped granite monoliths veiled in mist and delicate streams of water flowing over ice, where once great falls thundered. Sometimes there is snow covering the grasses, but depending on the year much of the valley floor may also be clear, with access to trails. You can also check out the Yosemite webcams to see live conditions in the park.

Winter is one of the most beautiful times to experience Yosemite National Park but many visitors have concerns about driving and what the conditions are like. Watch our winter travel video to see what to kind of road conditions to expect and how to prepare for them.

Our Top Three Must-Do Winter Experiences

  1. Take in the Sights

If you think El Capitan and Half Dome are beautiful in summer, you should see them in the cool, grey days of winter, which might feel dreary anywhere else but in Yosemite reveal an austerely beautiful landscape. You will certainly understand why this season is so popular with photographers. Take in the sights on the East Valley Loop Trail, including Sentinel Rock and views of Half Dome.

  1. Visit The Majestic Yosemite Hotel

Built in 1927, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (also known as The Ahwahnee) features stunning architecture and Native American motifs throughout the grand sitting rooms. Both guests and day visitors are welcomed to sit at the stone fireplaces and sitting rooms to enjoy the ambiance of this historic hotel. In wintertime, one of the best experiences is to get a hot cocoa and sit among the elegant tapestries and stained glass windows, watching the snow fall from the grand windows. Our insider tip would be to ask for the “Queen’s Table” when booking a reservation at the dining room. This table is positioned for the best views of the valley and makes for an incredible spot to watch the snow fall or watch wildlife forage around in the snow drifts.

  1. Enjoy Yosemite’s Oldest Ski Area

The Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area (known locally as Badger’s Pass) is California’s oldest ski area and includes In addition, cross-country skiing is available for those visitors interested in a back country experience. Hire a guide or take a beginner ski course or go directly to one of the six available runs. For a very special experience enjoy a cross country or snow shoe excursion on some of the more than 22 miles (35 km) of groomed cross-country track and 90 miles (145 km) marked trails. One of our winter time favorites is to take a guided ski trip on intermediate groomed terrain through magnificent Yosemite back country to the Glacier Point Ski Hut. Here you can stay overnight and wake up to unsurpassed views of Half Dome.

You should also review the Yosemite Guide prior to your visit to see what’s happening during your stay.