The Sierra sun warms your face as the days grow longer. High country snowmelt fills the streams to brimming, then arcs gracefully over polished granite. Wildflower meadows pop with a kaleidoscope of colors, while in the scented forests a carpet of pine needles bounces underfoot. The curtains are suddenly drawn and a life-affirming revival shimmers all around you…welcome, friends, to spring in Yosemite Mariposa County.

Here are some of our favorite ways to celebrate this season of new beginnings. From misty walks to frisky wildlife and engaging museums, it’s easy to build your own itinerary of casual ramblings and intrepid explorations. Here are even more ideas to enjoy the symphony of Yosemite in spring.

Most important of all? Enjoy the show!

Dogwood tree blossoms Field of orange wilflowers - california poppies
Day 1 Spring Fun

Wildflower Wandering

We have a saying in Yosemite Mariposa County….spring marches uphill. And with elevations ranging from 1,000 feet to 13,000 feet that translates to a long viewing season for our pigment-blessed cast of wildflowers.

Wildflowers and Nevada Fall
Nevada Fall

We have a saying in Yosemite Mariposa County….spring marches uphill. And with elevations ranging from 1,000 feet to 13,000 feet that translates to a long viewing season for our pigment-blessed cast of wildflowers.

The show begins in March throughout the rolling, oak-studded ranch lands of Southern Mariposa County and Northwest Mariposa County. As you drive or bike (It’s BYOB, bring your own bicycle) these vintage country roads, washes of poppies can be seen dancing in the distance, and puffy clouds add dimension while the occasional spring shower keeps the garden well-tended.

Our uphill procession reveals a variety of blooms in the steepening, mixed forests of Central Mariposa County and Northern Mariposa County. Get your hue on at the main stage of vivid-osity known as the Hite Cove Trail where California Poppies paint the Merced River Canyon’s walls orange, or drive from Coulterville to Buck Meadows along the John Muir Highway (J132) and stop to explore the backroads and hiking trails of the Stanislaus National Forest.

Lupines in Yosemite's high country
High mountain peaks and meadows fill with late spring flowers.

The third act brings us to Yosemite National Park. Mid-spring is an exuberant season here, with waterfall mist spritzing the wildflowers along the Valley Loop Trail, and picnics among the blossoms of Wawona Meadow in Southern Yosemite. There are countless wildflower encounters along the hiking trails of Yosemite Mariposa County if you feel like stretching your legs.

As late spring gives way to summer and trails reappear through the last patches of snow, it’s the High Country’s time to shine. Everything from lupine to monkeyflower and paintbrush, you’ll have plenty of time to discover these little darlings in all their technicolor glory (with some — like the snow plant — peeking up through the white stuff in all its crimson glory)!

Posy Pointer: It is illegal to pick wildflowers so encourage kids to bring crayons and a sketchbook, or take photos for a collage back home. Use this Yosemite wildflower illustration guide to help identify these mood-brighteners.

kingfisher black bear cub
Day 2 Spring Fun

Spring Wildlife Viewing

In Yosemite Mariposa County spring wildlife viewing is like fauna from heaven.

fawn in the grass
Fawns are often alone while mom eats. Don’t disturb them.

Yosemite black bears and their cubs come out from their dens in search of a much-anticipated feast. Throughout the county, California mule deer nibble fresh grasses, flower buds, and tender spring shoots until their spotted fawns are born late in the season. Coyotes, foxes, and lots of busy squirrels will keep you company, too, including the Douglas squirrel which John Muir described as “fiery, sputtering bolts of life.” Be sure to keep score with Beast Mode Yosemite! — our family-friendly game that provides more information on the animals you might spot.

Northern pygmy owl
Northern pygmy owls are only 16-18 cm tall, but prey on animal bigger than they are.

Spring is a birding bonanza in Yosemite Mariposa County when visitors can expect to hear the songs, squawks, and screeches of the nearly 300 species that call this home. Located along the Pacific Flyway — a prolific route for migratory birds — the county also plays spring host to nesting birds as they welcome hatchlings into the world. Try a walk in the lush Stockton Creek Preserve after lunch in the charming Gold Rush town of Mariposa, or for bonus points spot a water ouzel along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Kids love these busy birds as they dive underwater for tiny fish and build nests behind waterfalls.

View Clue: Be sure to bring binoculars and a telephoto lens.

couple standing in front of waterfall
Day 3 Spring Fun

Pssst …. Secret Mariposa County Waterfalls All To Yourself

In a region that is world-famous for its waterfalls, it might seem hard to find alone time with a Yosemite Mariposa County waterfall. Try this…

waterfall along the chilnualna falls trail
The waterfalls and cascades along the Chilnualna Fall

Okay, between you, me, and the trail marker, totally alone might be a stretch, but the number of fellow waterfall aficionados will be greatly reduced by exploring Mariposa County outside of the ever-popular falls in Yosemite National Park. Fortunately for us, spring snowmelt doesn’t demand an audience to cascade over cliffs!

Top hidden falls: The modest 20-foot cascade and bathing suit-ready Diana Falls and Swimming Hole; the multi-tiered granite bowls of Fish Camp Falls (aka Jackson Hole/Lewis Fork Ditch) near the world-class resort Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite; the surprisingly strapping Foresta Falls as viewed up-close-and-personal from a footbridge perched majestically atop of the Merced River Canyon; and Chilnualna Falls — the often overlooked gem in Wawona which has all the pomp and circumstance of its more famous cousins in the Valley.

Best time of year for maximum waterfall flow? Late April through early June, though earlier in the spring is no slouch.

Spraying It Safe: Bring a waterproof shell for keeping dry beneath misty waterfalls, and likewise a small towel for drying your camera lens.

wapama fall and bridge view of Hetch Hetchy reservoir
Day 4 Spring Fun

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Northern Yosemite

Time to explore Hetch Hetchy. This sister-canyon to Yosemite Valley has cliffs and waterfalls… and fewer people.

Cumulus clouds reflecting off steel-blue water. Granite massifs sheering vertically into its depths. A rough-hewn tunnel that begs for silhouette photos. An accessible dam with enlightening plaques and views that plunge into the Tuolumne River Canyon. And, oh yes, another killer waterfall. These are just a few of Hetch Hetchy’s calling cards as it holds court in the less-visited region of Northern Yosemite.

Whether you just feel like taking a drive for some dramatic views or want to lace up and navigate the north shore’s gauntlet of cascades, Hetch Hetchy shouldn’t be missed. The relatively flat 5.5-mile round-trip trail to 1,000-foot Wapama Falls absolutely gushes in spring, with several footbridges crossing smaller tributaries along the way. Photographers get snap happy over Hetch Hetchy’s crisp reflections, while Kolana Rock is impossible to ignore as it knifes into the water.

Reservoir Score: The Hetch Hetchy Entrance to Yosemite National Park is only open during daylight hours so plan your visit accordingly. Overnighters can find the right base camp for their spring fling with plenty of lodging options in Yosemite Mariposa County ranging from world-class resorts to sleeping under the stars.

Woman enjoying Hetch Hethcy
Discover the other valley in Yosemite National Park – Hetch Hetchy.
Group at the stamp mill at the Mariposa Museum and History Center Yosemite Museum By California Revealed
Day 5 Spring Fun

Museum Hop

If you need to use your indoor voice for a spell after all that outdoor fun, Yosemite Mariposa County has just the solution — a museum hop of historic proportions. With multiple museums to choose from, there’s a compelling saga for everyone.

The picturesque Gold Rush town of Mariposa boasts three of its own including the Mariposa Museum & History Center, the California State Mining & Mineral Museum, and the recently opened Yosemite Climbing Museum. Clip in and discover!

The hop continues at the Northern Mariposa County History Center. Located in the authentic Mother Lode monument of Coulterville, the museum offers a self-guided outdoor walking tour for a full-contact mining town experience. After an afternoon of exploring, sit down for some tasty eats on the patio at the Coulter Cafe.

Yosemite National Park backs up its stellar reputation with an astute coterie of museums. From the multi-cultural Yosemite History Center in Wawona to the Yosemite Museum and the kid-centric Happy Isles Nature Center in Yosemite Valley, visitors can get a deeper understanding of the natural beauty that surrounds them, not to mention the stories of those who came before. Hidden away in Yosemite Valley (just behind the Yosemite Museum and theatre) is the village of the Ahwahneechee, a replica of how Yosemite’s first inhabitants lived in the miraculous valley.

Archival Advice: Be sure to check hours of operation for all museums when planning your visit, and dress in warm layers for your spring indoor/outdoor experience — Mariposa County’s weather can vary greatly due to its range of elevations.

climbing exhibit at the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery in Mariposa
Yosemite is one of the great climbing Meccas of the world and stepping into Yosemite Climbing Association’s Museum and Gallery brings those stories of adventure to life.

To explore lodging options, things to do and places to eat, visit, the #1 trip planning site for vacations to Yosemite National Park and historic Mariposa County. To stay up to date, follow @YosemiteNation on social media and subscribe to our newsletter, “The Wanderer”. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for great videos on the people and places of Yosemite Mariposa County.