Enjoy the warmth and hospitality of The Ahwahnee Hotel in fall and winter.
There are a hundred reasons to stay at The Ahwahnee Hotel in any season. The Ahwahnee Hotel, also recently known as The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, was completed in 1927, The Ahwahnee Hotel was designed to be a timeless and elegant place to stay while exploring Yosemite. The magnificent façade with its wood-beamed ceilings and the tall fireplaces in the grand lounge bring a sense of grandeur to any season and any stay in Yosemite. The hotel’s rich history reverberates throughout the year. The location of The Ahwahnee Hotel in the eastern end of Yosemite Valley puts it close to popular destinations and trailheads – only a few minutes from the front door by foot or free shuttle bus.
However, the quieter months from late fall through early spring enhance the level of experience at The Ahwahnee – a beauty and serenity that is unparalleled during other times of the year. Here are our top 7 reasons to choose fall and winter for your stay at The Ahwahnee Hotel.
The cooler Yosemite Valley temperatures provide the perfect atmosphere for relaxed strolls around the grounds at The Ahwahnee Hotel, or any of the park’s trails. By October average temperatures fall to a comfortable 71°F (22°C) from summer days which can sometimes crest into the triple digits.
Once you’re done soaking in the brisk mountain air, The Ahwahnee is the perfect place to warm up and relax in front of one the grand fireplaces in the public spaces. Curl up with a book, or a glass of wine from The Ahwahnee Bar in front of a crackling fire.
Clouds add drama to a winter scene from Valley View in Yosemite Valley.
While the endless sunshine of summer is easy and predictable, the occasional fall and winter showers lend drama to the landscape. Clouds decorate the sky and sometimes linger along the cliffs giving them an even higher and wilder feel. Sunshine always finds a way to break through the clouds and dances across the landscape shifting constantly to spotlight each iconic Yosemite feature in its turn.
Serious photographers plan fall and winter trips to Yosemite specifically to take advantage of these weather conditions. The play of light across the landscape is never more mesmerizing and unique – a treasure for the photographer that is in the right place at the right time.
Look for touches of color in the trees in Yosemite starting in late September. Fall foliage color typically peaks in mid-to-late October.
In addition to its prime location highlighting Yosemite’s iconic views, The Ahwahnee Hotel stands in a beautiful oak woodland. These oaks turn a rich golden yellow in the fall, further enhancing the views from the hotel. So when you’re relaxing at the Ahwahnee Dining Room, or in the Great Lounge looking out at the landscape beyond, the majestic sweep of granite becomes touched with the warm golden light shining through oak leaves.
Recently, the National Park Service has been devoting more attention to these precious oaks. Due to over-grazing by deer and other animals that eat acorns, young oak seedlings are relatively rare in Yosemite Valley. Thanks to recent efforts by NPS to open up these oak woodlands near The Ahwahnee Hotel and protect them against encroaching conifers, you’ll see more of them again.
Also remember to keep your eyes open also for the brilliant yellows of the big leaf maples and the orange and pinkish hues of dogwoods throughout the valley that have traded their large white spring blossoms for showy leaves in autumn.
Enjoy the golden quiet of Yosemite’s autumn season. Photo: William McIntosh
Many local residents consider winter their favorite season.
The park is at its most quiet from October through March – especially if you visit outside of the holiday season. Driving to different destinations within Yosemite Valley becomes a breeze. For most of the winter, expect front row parking at the Village Store and easy access to gift shops or photography walks at The Ansel Adams Gallery. Fewer people make the trails quieter, allowing you to focus on being surrounded with natural beauty.
If you’re lucky a dusting of snow settles on Yosemite’s features, wrapping them in winter white, and replenishing waterfalls and rivers. As these newly re-born waterways come back to life, rediscover Yosemite’s low-elevation wildflowers and waterfalls, including the spectacle of Yosemite’s natural firefall in February
Yosemite Valley roads are often clear most of the winter. However, at higher elevations especially, plan ahead to be prepared for winter driving conditions.
When autumn arrives the breathless excitement of summer vacation has settled down, and the whole valley takes a deep breath. There is no better place to experience that than The Ahwahnee Hotel, a hotel that has been named a National Historic Landmark for its timeless elegance and lasting beauty.
This is the perfect time to wake up to a long slow breakfast in The Ahwahnee’s historic dining room. Marvel at the 34 foot tall beamed ceilings. Enjoy the warm morning light, as it streams through the floor-to-ceiling windows capturing views of Yosemite Falls and the surrounding valley. Breakfast at The Ahwahnee Hotel is an old-world, elegant, refined and slower paced version of classic American breakfast, served one of our National parks grandest, most celebrated hotels.
Lunch and Dinner at The Ahwahnee Hotel are spectacular as well, however breakfast is our favorite way to start the day!
This period from late autumn to early spring is also your best chance for finding a great deal on rates at The Ahwahnee. The best prices on an overnight stay at the legendary hotel are typically found mid-week during non-holiday periods. Between all of these reasons to visit The Ahwahnee Hotel, plus a host of winter activities that allow you to experience this region in a whole new way, there is no better time to plan a visit.
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In a destination as timeless as Yosemite Mariposa County, it may seem on the surface that there wouldn’t be too much new to expect for returning visitors in 2023. But just like the landscape, Yosemite is ever-changing and always provides something new to experience.
Slow down and spend the day at Tenaya Lake – a beautiful and easy-to-get-to alpine lake cupped by granite domes. There is plenty to see and do right here, from kayaking on the water to climbing the magnificent domes above.
Discover the ‘other’ domes in Yosemite Mariposa County. From Sentinel Dome to Lembert Dome, there is plenty to explore and love beyond the famous Half Dome.