By Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau
Published on May 6, 2021

A year in Yosemite Mariposa County is composed of four epic seasons, each with its own magic and music. Still, there’s something extra about Yosemite in spring. Nature’s electric reawakening turns up full blast, with things to do that multiply with the expanding arc of daylight.

Choosing the perfect place to stay is the first step to your Yosemite spring breakthrough! There is a grand variety of lodging options in Yosemite Mariposa County, from full-service, four-diamond resort lodges to vacation home rentals. Hope springs eternal ““ but don’t count on hope alone to score the best prime-time accommodations. Plan to book early for the best selection.

Here’s an insider’s guide to getting into a Mariposa County springtime groove. But these are just our picks for things to do in Yosemite in Spring. Feel free to swap days to build your own playlist.

Day 1: Spring It On

craft beer at the alley in mariposa
Tune in to local rhythms with a craft brew at a place like The Alley.

Come on up to Mariposa County, unpack, take a walk to stretch your driving legs and breathe. Take that first magic hour selfie (tag #YosemiteNation). Hit a local happy hour, find some tasty eats and take the opportunity to double-check trip plans for visiting Yosemite now that you’re finally here. Try to get a good night’s rest for the days of glory ahead. Yes, glory. Take it from John Muir, a big fan of Yosemite in spring:

Along the river, over the hills, in the ground, in the sky, spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm, new life, new beauty, unfolding, unrolling in glorious exuberant extravagance, new birds in their nests, new winged creatures in the air, and new leaves, new flowers, spreading, shining, rejoicing everywhere.

Day 2: Wildflower Waltz

yosemite mariposa county wildflower display
The most spectacular wildflower display in the area is located outside Yosemite along Highway 140.

Ranging from low grasslands to alpine meadows, Mariposa County’s tilted elevation gradient rises from 1,000 to more than 10,000 feet. The result? An upward cascade of wildflowers bursting into a symphony of color at different times through spring and summer.

One of California’s top wildflower walks is the Hite Cove Trail. A popular bloom destination, this trail follows the Wild & Scenic Merced River canyon while passing through dozens of wildflower varieties. The trail begins just off Highway 140 at Red Bud Lodge (parking is just across the highway from the trailhead). After a short initial elevation gain, you’ll discover a verdant meadow filled with flowers.

While the trail is a 9-mile round trip in total, the wildflower bounty happens within the first few miles. Petal preservation tip: staying on the trail will give the flora growing here a chance to last longer for all.

Day 3: National Park Notes

vernal fall from yosemite's mist trail
Don’t miss the thundering chorus of water pouring over cliffs and scattering into multiple rainbows. The Mist Trail below Vernal Fall is a springtime must-see.

Spring is the season of waterfalls in Yosemite National Park. Waterfalls peak as snowmelt succumbs to gravity and flows in wild torrents down the granite walls of Yosemite Valley. The aquatic roar of Yosemite Falls, ethereal beauty of Bridalveil Fall and of course Vernal and Nevada Fall along the epic Mist Trail are top draws, but there are dozens more to enjoy. Waterfalls go full-throttle starting around April before gradually tapering off into summer, so if you want to catch ephemeral falls like Ribbon Fall, it’s good to come early.

One of the best ways to enjoy the show is walking the scenic (and sometimes drenching) waterfall hikes accessed via Yosemite Valley. It’s a full-contact experience, from the waves of snowmelt mist to the thundering roar of the waterfall trails.

When traveling in spring, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on road conditions to plan your Yosemite National Park approach. The opening dates for seasonal roads like Glacier Point Road or Tioga Road vary from year to year depending on the amount of snowfall. Another way to get an idea of current weather and waterfall conditions is via the Yosemite Webcams.

Sierra Nevada spring being what it is, you may also get passing squalls, silver linings, rainbows, and cloudless blue sky ““ in one afternoon!

Day 4: Water Music

whitewater rafting on the merced river
Go for a uptempo whitewater ride on the Merced River south of Yosemite.

In spring, snowmelt plummets over the cliffs of Yosemite Valley and turns the Merced River into a thrill ride of varying amplitude. Welcome to whitewater rafting season in Yosemite Mariposa County. Beginning in April and running through summer, the Merced River offers a range of rafting experiences. Floating and paddling along the flatter, smoother waters of Yosemite Valley, rafters can look up and marvel at what Ansel Adams called “a vast edifice of stone and space.”

For an adrenaline-charged trip, the Merced gets attitudinal during spring as it leaves the Park and drops through the narrow canyon below El Portal. Spring snowmelt from the High Sierra rumbles through the steep Merced River canyon creating high and fast runs (Class IV) then, as summer progresses and the flow decreases, transforms into easy Class I ripples. Get a guided rafting experience with local Yosemite Mariposa outfitters such as Sierra Mac, OARS, Whitewater Excitement and Zephyr.

Day 5: Bicycle Beats

Today’s the day to saddle up for some two-wheel time. Mariposa County is a biking paradise. Whether you bring your own mountain bike or rent some fat tires from places like in Yosemite Valley or at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite (free for hotel guests), there are many tracks to explore.

Located just outside the south entrance of Yosemite, Fish Camp is a hub for mountain biking, with Sierra National Forest trails spoking out in every direction. Take an easy glide down Jackson Road or longer ride to the Nelder Grove of Giant Sequoias. Ready for more? There’s the 24-mile loop to the historic fire tower at Signal Peak. The killer 360-degree views span Yosemite and the Central Valley alike, with summits such as Mount Conness (12,590 ft/3,837 m) and Mount Clark (11,522 ft/3,511 m) visible in the distance.

Overlooking Lake McSwain, Exchequer Mountain Bike Park offers 700 acres of bike-only trails for riders of all skill levels. Tracks such as Adaptation and Roadrunner (green) to the fabled Flying Squirrel (black diamond/736-foot descent) aim to thrill. A detailed trail map can be found here.

Is Spring a Good Time to Visit Yosemite?

Spring is an excellent time to visit Yosemite since waterfalls are flowing, and the area is in bloom. It’s a beautiful season to see attractions and partake in activities.

Wherever you play your tune in Yosemite Mariposa County, from the rolling green Sierra foothills to the granite and ice tableau of Yosemite’s high country, the ascending scale of spring is sure to earn a standing-o encore. Having a solid setlist to follow is important, but the freedom to improvise can lead to notable discoveries, too. Go with the flow to maximize your Yosemite in spring experience!

Categories: Itineraries, Spring