Getting away for the holidays calls for a festive destination worthy of the occasion, and that’s where a special swatch of the Sierra sparkles. The stretch of Yosemite Mariposa County from postcard-pretty Wawona to the charming hamlet of Fish Camp becomes a winter wonderland with warm, old-timey vibes. There’s a cheery sense of glee and quietude during this magical time that brings everyone together as high spirits reign.
And snow play for all: skiing, sledding, and snowshoeing, against a backdrop of powdery peaks and ancient evergreens. Vacation cabin rentals and all-in resorts make for an inviting and memorable retreat. Dreidels, Kwanzaa candles, sugar plum fairies… all dreams are in play when you spend the holidays in Yosemite Mariposa County’s holiday hub.
Filling a high meadow bowl at 4,000 ft. elevation (same as Yosemite Valley), Wawona is one of Yosemite’s most historic waystations. Fish Camp, about seven miles south at around 5,000 feet, is slightly elevated on the western slope of the central Sierra Nevada range. Between the two is Yosemite National Park’s south gate. Both offer classic mountain lodge resorts and vacation cabins bedecked for the holidays. Book early for the best selection!
Yosemite Mariposa County sets the stage for epic family getaways, with the more generations tagging along the merrier. The holidays are when fully-outfitted local vacation cabin rentals hit their stride. Take a Sierra escape that honors your arc of generations and stay in a multiple-bed-and-bath vacation rental where you can save money, share time together, and experience the holiday wonder of Yosemite with your family. Holiday cooking? Check. Most vacation rentals are equipped with spacious, updated kitchens with all the tools you’ll need to create a proper feast. Select from hundreds of vacation rentals– any way you book, it’s a grand getaway.
Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders offers more than 125 homes, cabins and condominiums, many within the gates of Yosemite National Park including Yosemite West, Wawona, and Fish Camp.
The Redwoods in Yosemite offers more than 120 vacation cabins and spacious luxury homes located off Chilnualna Falls Road. Options range from cozy one-bedroom cabins to the Yosemite Luxury Estate, an eight-bedroom, seven-bath cluster perfect as a multi-generational holiday base camp. Think crackling fireplaces, tree-lined decks, and bubbling hot tubs where you can keep a lookout for Rudolph & team.
Tenaya at Yosemite’s Explorer Cabins make for great places for a winter stay.
The four-diamond resort located just two miles from Yosemite’s south gate, Tenaya at Yosemite is the perfect place to decamp for the holidays. Accommodations include deluxe rooms, suites, cottages and Explorer Cabins. Tenaya’s majestic lobby sets the measure with a soaring Christmas tree decorated with enough lights to rival the starry Sierra night sky. Seasonal activities decorate the holiday calendar with gingerbread house workshops, ice-skating, sledding and more, from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve.
The Wawona Hotel welcomes holiday guests every December for a singular season of merriment. After all, this is a Yosemite National Park keynote lodge, a National Historic Landmark and one of California’s original mountain resort hotels. Stately with Victorian-era design, the Wawona features antique furnishings and authentic period décor. The property’s holiday season runs from early December to January 2, with special events daily. Each evening, guests can gather around the hotel’s grand piano and enjoy holiday songs, cookies, warm drinks, and cheerful conviviality.
The marvel of winter is all around when you spend time outdoors during the Park’s least visited season. Bundle up and experience all that these short, sweet fun-filled days have to offer. You may have the forest for yourselves.
Located just off Glacier Point Road at 8,000 feet, Badger Pass Ski Area was established in 1935 as California’s first ski resort. One of the Sierra’s leading family-friendly hills, Badger Pass offers downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and tubing. It’s just the right size for holiday runs, with five lifts providing access to mostly beginner and intermediate trails, making this a great place to learn to ski. “Ski” for yourself with the Badger Pass Web Cam!
Pictures never quite do justice to the immense scale of these giant sequoias. You just have to visit them yourself. (Picture: the Grizzly Giant tree in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias)
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is set between Wawona and Fish Camp on Wawona Road, just inside Yosemite National Park’s South Gate. It’s the most expansive of Yosemite’s big tree hubs (Merced and Tuolumne being the others) with some 500 mature titans. During the holidays, Yosemite’s ruddy giants are often dusted with snow and the Grove becomes even more cathedral-like in aspect. Pack a pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis to make things even more fun.
The Wawona Meadow Loop Trail starts across from the Wawona Hotel and orbits one of the largest mountain meadows in the entire High Sierra. In winter, the trail is framed by evergreens and, wait, was that a Northern Pygmy Owl or fairy flying by? There’s ample space to perfect your snow angel technique as snowflakes flutter and float like butterflies across the meadow.
Discover Goat Meadow Snowplay Area near Fish Camp for pure sled ecstasy. The Sierra National Forest hill is the best for old-fashioned, free-falling fun. The top of the run starts at the edge of the parking area and drops into a broad clearing below. Saucer, sled, toboggan, flexi flyer, luge, or sleigh; the slope is just right for epic runs and gravity-fueled glee. Goat Meadow is also a great starting point for “chill” snowshoe walks.
Chilnualna Falls trail follows cascading Chilnualna Creek for a steep but satisfying holiday hike. The trail provides multiple views of the icy cascades as well as the Wawona Basin below. Due to the gain in elevation (4,000 to 6,400 feet), only the lower portions of this hike may be accessible but icy after winter snowfall so be sure to check conditions. Find the trailhead in Wawona just off the Chilnualna Falls parking area, two miles up from Chilnualna Falls Road.
A busy trail during the warm seasons, Dewey Point transitions into one of Yosemite’s most rewarding snowshoe hikes during the winter. Starting at the parking lot for Badger Pass Ski Area, walk along Glacier Point Road (closed to cars but open for snowshoeing/cross-country skiing in winter) for a little over a mile until you reach the signed trailhead for Dewey Point Meadow Trailhead. From there, follow the trail to the rim of Yosemite Valley for a breathtaking vantage point.
Originally built in 1910, the Yosemite Transportation Office, once the arrival station in Yosemite Valley, is now restored and located in the Yosemite History Center in Wawona.
Take a winter wander through the Yosemite History Center in Wawona, a collection of historic Park structures including a mid-1800s covered bridge (one of just a handful in California) and the powder house, a tiny building built with thick granite walls. New to the Yosemite History Center is the Chinese Laundry, a long-lost building that was recently dedicated to honor the many contributions of Chinese and AAPI immigrants to the region. Park near the Wawona Store and Pioneer Gift Shop, both fantastic for holiday shopping too (just sayin’).
Whether celebrating around a crackling fire or a fully laden dinner table at the end of a magical Yosemite winter’s day, sharing stories of the past or dreaming of the future, this is where lasting memories are made. So, bring everyone together under one icicle-lined roof and decorate your family legacy by staying in Yosemite Mariposa County for the holidays. Cheers!
The stretch of Yosemite Mariposa County from postcard-pretty Wawona to the charming hamlet of Fish Camp becomes a winter wonderland with warm, old-timey vibes. There’s a cheery sense of glee and quietude during this magical time that brings everyone together as high spirits reign.
Finding an idyllic scenic location for a picnic lunch can be an exciting opportunity all on its own in Yosemite Mariposa County. Here are a couple of sure-to-please locations and tips for a picture-perfect picnic.