Snowshoeing Yosemite National Park: Winter Adventure Afoot

snowshoeing Yosemite

Surrounded by blue sky, white peaks, and evergreen everywhere, visitors to Yosemite Mariposa are treated to an ample dusting of winter activities yet one is always a waffle-step ahead - snowshoeing.  Snowshoeing Yosemite provides adventurous explorers and playful families with the opportunity to explore uncharted trails, partake in rejuvenating physical activity, and, above all, find inspiration during the park's most tranquil and underexplored season.

Winter in Yosemite Mariposa holds a special beauty. Glimmering yet moody, excitable yet serene, kinetic yet motionless like the crystal-clear water that trickles down the vertical granite face of El Capitan and freezes overnight. Winter here just feels different. On New Year's Day, 1872, soon after Yosemite was designated as public land, John Muir sent a dispatch to the people back home thus beginning a new era of tourism for one of the world's most beautiful mountain wildernesses:

Yosemite Snowshoeing Tours & Guided Snowshoe Hikes

Getting started with something new like snowshoeing in Yosemite is a fund and easy way to explore Yosemite's higher elevation areas in winter. Especially if you choose to go snowshoeing with local guides who offer an expert instruction and handy tips on taking the first step into a new winter sport. YExplore Yosemite Adventures offers guided hikes for all skill levels throughout the year, including guided snowshoe hikes.

We also recommend checking out Incredible Adventures and their snowshoe tour in the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias. The package offers lunch, transportation to and from select hotels on Highway 140 in Yosemite Mariposa County and stops at Tunnel View, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.

Where is the best starting point to snowshoe Yosemite? Badger Pass Ski and Snowboard Area in Yosemite National Park. Guided snowshoe trips are available at the Nordic Center and National Park Service Rangers lead ranger snowshoe walks starting from the A-Frame building.

Yosemite Snowshoe Rentals

Yosemite snowshoe rentals are the gateway to a magical winter adventure in one of the most breathtaking national parks in the United States. Whether you're a seasoned snowshoer or a newcomer to the sport, rental services provide you with access to the ideal equipment for traversing the snow-blanketed trails of Yosemite. A great starting point for people new to the sport is the Badger Pass Ski and Snowboard Area in Yosemite National Park. Rentals are available at the Nordic Center. 

Yosemite Snowshoe Trails in Mariposa County

Yosemite is a paradise for visitors seeking well-established snowshoe trails. Here are some of our top picks:

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

A man standing in the snow and taking a photograph of a tree in Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park.
Mariposa Grove with snow on the ground is a magical place to see. (Stock Photo)

With a number of trail options and designated parking, snowshoing doesn't get much better than at Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.  Start near the South Entrance of the Park and wind your way through the tranquil paradise to see such evergreen icons as the Grizzly Giant (3,000 years old) and the Fallen Monarch, or continue to the Upper Grove for such stately specimens as the Clothespin Tree and the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree.

Dewey Point/Glacier Point Road

The trek to Dewey Point demands a touch of winter resilience but promises an unforgettable experience as it leads Yosemite Mariposa snowshoers to the edge of Yosemite Valley, offering unparalleled vistas of the majestic granite formations below. Start at the parking lot near Badger Pass Ski Area and follow Glacier Point Road, which is closed to vehicle traffic in winter and designated for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. After a little over a mile, you'll come across the clearly marked trailhead for Dewey Point Meadow Trailhead (keep an eye out for the restroom). Head left at this point and continue for 2.5 miles to revel in the rewarding scenery. This out-and-back trail spans approximately 7 miles, with a 600-foot elevation gain. If you're venturing out shortly after a fresh snowfall, when tracks may not be readily visible, look for the yellow triangles affixed to trees along the trail to guide your way.

Check out these other winter trails off Glacier Point Road.

Snowshoeing Trails in Yosemite Valley

Is there a more magical place to snowshoe than in Yosemite Valley with a blanket of fresh snow?

With an elevation of only 4,000 feet, Yosemite Valley feels like it's tucked somewhere much higher in the heavens. The depth of snow varies by month and year, but when it gets dusted there may be nowhere more beautiful on the planet. Want to see Half Dome reflected in the ice-framed mist of Mirror Lake? Check. Want to gaze up at the snow catching in the vertical cracks of El Capitan? Check. Yosemite Valley offers any number of flat trails perfect for snowshoeing, all you need is a recent snowfall to strap on and get moving.

Crane Flat Winter Trails

Located just a few miles from the Big Oak Flat Entrance to Yosemite National Park, the Crane Flat area features eight designated winter trails that meet the snowshoeing needs of beginners and experts alike. The Clark Range View Trail (four miles roundtrip) follows an old logging road and offers breathtaking views of the Wild & Scenic Merced River Canyon, or for a bigger challenge try the Tuolumne Grove Trail (2.5 miles r/t) which descends through the forest to a small grove of ancient sequoias with names such as Red Giant and Tunnel Tree. Good climb on the way back!

Goat Meadow Snowplay Area

Exploring from Goat Meadow Trailhead. (Photo by Theresa Ho)

Goat Meadow stands out as a versatile winter playground. Here, you'll find an exciting sledding hill, along with a network of trails suitable for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. These gently sloping routes mostly follow the historic logging roads of the Sierra National Forest, providing a range of options to suit your preferences. If you're up for a more strenuous adventure or wish to challenge yourself with an overnight snow camping experience, there's a 15-mile round-trip route from Goat Meadow to Mariposa Grove. For a shorter yet navigationally engaging outing, consider parking a second vehicle in downtown Fish Camp and connecting via Star Lake Road, creating a memorable loop trail.

Located in Fish Camp, the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite provides guided snowshoe trips, snowshoe rentals, and delightful amenities like fire pits and dining options for your post-snowshoe revelry. Keep in mind that Goat Meadow rests at an elevation of 5,300 feet, so it's advisable to check current snow depth conditions before planning your visit.

Gearing Up for Snowshoeing Yosemite National Park

The first step for all successful snowshoe adventures is gearing up. Respect the season, stay warm, stay dry. Here is a basic checklist to get you started:

  • A pair of snowshoes - try them on for proper fit before you get to your trailhead.
  • Waterproof snow boots  - that fit your properly-fitted snowshoes.
  • Wool Socks - keep those toes toasty!
  • Gloves - keep those fingers fiery!
  • Snow poles - to help with balance; sometimes kids are more agile without.
  • Insulating layers and waterproof shell/pants - stay warm, stay dry.
  • Sunglasses - snow blindness is a thing!
  • Goggles - if actively snowing.
  • Beanie - warm the noggin!
  • Water bottle - remember to hydrate (even though you're surrounded by snow)
  • Snacks - snowshoeing burns lots of calories so fuel up!
  • Trail Map/Compass - don't rely on cell coverage in the backcountry!
  • Waterproof matches - in case of emergency.
  • Headlamp with fresh batteries - ditto.
  • Camera - to capture the wintry majesty of Yosemite Mariposa!

Pro Tips Snowshoeing in Yosemite's Winter

On how to snowshoe Yosemite Mariposa like an audacious adventurer of the snowy expanse!

  • Always check the weather ahead of time.
  • Share your route and entry/exit times with friends/family back home.
  • Allow extra time to account for short winter days and early sunsets.
  • Practice "Leave No Trace" snowshoeing and pack out all that you bring in.
  • Avoid snowshoeing directly upon cross-country ski tracks to keep the groves groovy. To the side is ok.
  • Learn to navigate with a compass and'll be free to explore!
  • Finally, check out where to stay in Yosemite Mariposa County for our lodging options.
  • Bring snow chains/AWD and park clear of any road-clearing activity. See the video below for more info on snow chains

Why Snowshoe?

Snowshoeing in Yosemite is a great way to fill your lungs with fresh mountain air while taking in the beautiful sights and sounds of nature around you. (Stock Photo)

Discovered in 2003 on a melting glacier in Italy's Dolomite mountains, the world's oldest snowshoe, crafted from birch wood and bearing an oval shape, astonished scientists with its nearly 6,000-year-old age. This remarkable artifact serves as a testament to the enduring excellence of its design, highlighting how little has changed in the realm of exploring winter wonderlands over millennia. In addition to its time-honored tradition, snowshoeing offers a healthy pursuit for mind and body.

Families seeking a reprieve from indoor screens and a breath of fresh air can effortlessly embrace the joys of snowshoeing in Yosemite Mariposa. A simple drive off the road opens up a world of possibilities among the park's numerous meadows. Consider bringing along a thermos of steaming hot chocolate to treat your young ones as they gleefully revel in the soft, snow-covered landscape, their laughter echoing through the winter wonderland.Yet another compelling aspect of snowshoeing in Yosemite National Park is the unparalleled freedom it offers for exploration. When the pristine snow covers the landscape, you have a wide-open canvas to venture wherever your heart desires. While it's essential to be well-prepared and exercise caution while navigating, the exhilaration of such freedom is truly remarkable. Couple this with the serene solitude that comes with visiting Yosemite during its least crowded season, and the adventure becomes an unforgettable peak experience.
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