If you have never visited Yosemite in winter then you are missing out on one of the most beautiful times to see the park. In general the conditions are mild during most days with cool temps and sunshine, aside from when the occasional snowstorm comes in and covers the landscape with a sparkly blanket of powder.
If you are planning to explore the Valley Floor you will find most pathways and trails cleared for walking and the most popular sites such as Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls still easily accessible for viewing. If you are looking for outdoor recreation, then head up to Badger Pass for world-class snowshoeing and cross country skiing, as well as downhill skiing and snowboarding.
You should also be prepared for very cold or icy conditions should they arise. See our top tips for enjoying your winter trip to Yosemite.
What to Wear:
Your feet are the most important aspect of a walk around Yosemite Valley, if your feet get cold, wet or just plain uncomfortable, you’re not going to get around that easy. Bring a pair of shoes that are reasonably water resistant and keep your feet warm. Also it is always a good idea to wear plenty of layers in Yosemite, a warm hat, usually a baselayer (thermal or long sleeved shirt), mid-layer (flannel or fleece) and waterproof jacket, gloves (waterproof – if you want to throw around snowballs), and pants that are preferable not jeans (denim doesn’t dry quickly).
What to Bring
Flashlight or headlamp Yosemite can be experienced day or night but because there is no ambient street lighting in Yosemite, you will need a flashlight. Getting out on a clear sky evening can give you spectacular views of the stars, nighttime wildlife and amplify some of the natural sounds of the valley. Also a refillable water bottle is a must! There are several water filling stations in Yosemite Valley which allow you to get fresh water without purchasing a disposable water bottle and creating more trash accumulation in the park. A food cooler is a great option for food into Yosemite or buying supplies in the park. But be Bear Aware – never leave any scented items in your car at any time no matter how small or sealed you think it is. And, don’t forget your sunblock! Even in winter Yosemite receives a good amount of sunny days and sometimes you can get sunburnt when you least expect.
How to Get Here
Always get road conditions before heading into Yosemite National Park during winter, it’s easy as dialing 209-372-0200 press 1 then 1. Check conditions before you leave and on the road, as you never know when a rock fall or snow can accumulate on your chosen route.
Also, chains can be required if the conditions call for them. If you plan to drive to Yosemite you should carry them in your car and practice putting them on your vehicle before you come. A mat or towel is helpful to have in case you need to put them on to avoid kneeling in the wet snow. No chains? No problem! If you stay in one of the gateway areas of Mariposa, Midpines or Fishcamp you can take the YARTS bus into Yosemite and avoid driving altogether. Once in Yosemite a free shuttle bus arrives to transport visitors to all their favorite valley destinations.
Instructional video on chain installation can be found here (Trucks/SUV’s)
Instructional video on cable installation can be found here (Sedan/Compact cars)
Thankfully the physical impact left behind is incredibly minimal within Yosemite National Park’s boundary. Tourists can enjoy all the icons they have been dreaming to see, and most will not even be aware the event took place as they take in the famous jaw-dropping scenery.
There’s no better way to cap off the end of the year than to get away to Yosemite Mariposa County for the holidays this year.
With the seasons changing, the breathtaking sunsets over the summits and striking granite cliffs against a crisp, morning sky, capturing the perfect fall Instagram photo is easily within your grasp.