Yosemite Mariposa County offers year-round recreation across a quartet of seasons, each with signature activities and attractions. All across this county of nearly 1,500 square miles, weather microclimates forged by elevation and topography further define seasonal theme and variation.
Yosemite National Park is the headliner, but the rest of Mariposa County has allure all its own, from national forests to historic Gold Rush towns, museums, bespoke shops, and an outsized food scene. Spring, summer, winter, fall – this is a place to revel in every rite of recreation: ski to swim, wildflower walks to leafy fall hikes, thundering waterfalls to lazy rivers. With such a symphony of options, Yosemite rewards travelers with a plan. Here’s a season-by-season tour to get you going.
Yosemite Weather Month by Month
Temperatures in Yosemite Mariposa County vary by season, but also by its far-ranging elevations. Check out our weather-wise chart below to get a feel for what to expect when you visit.
Driving note: while the vast majority of Mariposa County, including Yosemite Valley and Wawona, is accessible by car all year, Tioga Pass and Glacier Point Road seasonally close by late fall until late May or June (see historical opening dates).
Elevation: 1,949 ft., 594 meters
|58 / 37 F
14.4 / 2.8 C
|69 / 44 F
20.6 / 6.8 C
|91 / 31 F
32.7 / 15.9 C
|77 / 50 F
25.0 / 9.8 C
(Elevation 4,000 ft, 1219 meters)
|49 / 29 F
9.4 / -1.7 C
|64 / 39 F
18.0 / 3.8 C
|86 / 55 F
30.1 / 12.6 C
|70 / 42 F
21.2 / 5.7 C
(Elevation 5,000 ft, 1524 meters)
|47 / 34 F
8.3 / 1.0 C
|63 / 37 F
17.4 / 3.0 C
|78 / 48 F
25.4 / 8.9 C
|54 / 31 F
12.2 / -.5 C
|Tioga Road/ Tuolumne Meadows
(Elevation 8,600 ft, 2621 meters)
|40 / 10 F
4.6 / -12.2 C
* Snow closure
|48 / 19 F
9.1 / -7.4 C
* Snow closure
|69 / 36 F
20.7 / 2.0 C
|56 / 25 F
13.3 / -4.1 C
Nature renews in spring. Winter’s stormy tumult turns to sunbeams and sparkling blue skies. Yosemite’s frozen high country begins its annual thaw and Southern Mariposa County foothills go emerald green. Every corner of Yosemite Mariposa County comes to life in vibrant and kinetic ways. Waterfalls recharge, dogwoods blossom, and butterflies alight on the first waves of wildflowers in lower Gold Country elevations.
Spring See & Do
Water is the star of the season. Yosemite’s celebrated waterfalls typically approach peak flow in May. In addition to the divas – Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil, Wapama, Vernal and Nevada falls – there could be any number of small, upstart cascades tumbling over the granite rim of Yosemite Valley. whitewater rafting ramps up on the Wild & Scenic Merced River. Dip your paddle with expert outfitters for an exhilarating guided tour.
Spring is when the Mariposa Butterfly Festival takes wing. This colorful jamboree begins with a parade through downtown Mariposa (Mariposa means “butterfly” in Spanish) followed by two days of live music and tasty food, classic car & truck show, kids’ bouncy houses, pony rides and more. For the updated list of Yosemite Mariposa County events, click here.
Spring Suitcase Essentials
- Waterproof shell for spring rain showers and waterfall mist
- Water-resistant hiking shoes
- Shirts, shorts, and pants that perform double-duty for warm days and cool nights
Yosemite’s peak season, summer is high time to embrace the great outdoors. Visitors from near and far come to experience a sun-drenched wonderland under deep blue Sierra skies. High country hiking and lower-elevation swimming come into play. Rainfall is rare, though you might see an afternoon thundershower in higher mountain elevations off Tioga Pass or Glacier Peak Road. Northern Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows is just one of Yosemite’s many pristine meadows where the Sierra summer absolutely shines.
Summer is also Yosemite’s peak season meaning that the chances that you’ll encounter traffic at park entrances and in Yosemite Valley are higher. It also brings peak temperatures. If you’re planning a summer visit, we recommend a mid-week stay away from holiday weeks.
Summer See & do
The vast trail network of Yosemite Mariposa County opens fully in the summer. Extended daylight hours allow for longer hikes, with tent camping conditions ideal for multi-day treks. Trails for a wide range of hiking ability, both inside and outside the Park, beckon.
Late spring to early summer is the sweet spot for wildlflowering in Yosemite Mariposa County. Most mid- to lower-elevation blooms light up by June with redbud, Sierra onion, lupine, and Mariposa lily, to name a floral few. In the Tioga high country, wildflower season marches uphill into late summer with aster, Sierra penstemon, yarrow, shooting star and more subalpine varieties.
By late summer, Yosemite’s signature waterfalls often run dry until winter precipitation plugs them in for their seasonal recharge. On the other hand, summer is high season for swimming in Yosemite Mariposa County. Whether it’s a granite bowl-lake within Yosemite National Park, the lower portions of the Merced River as it cuts through historic goldfields, or a four-star hotel pool – grab your flotation device of choice and jump in. Fishing and water sports are in play at Lake McClure, Lake McSwain and Lake Don Pedro, the trio of large reservoirs in Northwest Mariposa County.
Temper summer’s go-go pace with a leisurely Yosemite Mariposa County picnic. Throw your blanket down on El Capitan Meadow, any sandy bend of the Merced River, over a soft clearing in the Sierra National Forest, or atop a granite peak off Tioga Road where your “table” with a view awaits.
Summer Suitcase Essentials
- Hiking Boots/Athletic Shoes: for getting out on the trail
- Swimsuits & Beach Towels: for taking a dip in the pure Yosemite H2o
- Eco-Friendly Sunblock
- Hiking Socks: wool or poly for fast drying.
- Lightweight shorts for hike/swim hybrids
For many Yosemite insiders, fall is the preferred time of year to visit. Cooler temperatures and lower visitation make exploring easier; everywhere feels just a bit more spacious. While humans gear down in the fall, Yosemite Mariposa County’s wildlife gets busy! With winter coming and edible resources running thin, animals are more likely to be out and about. Download Beast Mode Yosemite for our fun and informative board game/guide to local creatures great and small.
Fall See & Do
Sip and savor the harvest with a Mariposa County tasting excursion. From zesty zins to orchard-pressed hard cider, places like Sierra Cider Farm and Cidery off Triangle Road to tasting rooms and bottle shops in old town Mariposa, the Sierra Foothills AVA is the place to celebrate the grape and embrace the apple.
Autumn paints from a blazing leafy palette of red, orange, and yellow leaves. With those hues, who needs filters! Pack your camera and take a hike or bike ride in Yosemite Valley or venture to Hetch Hetchy, one of the quietest corners of the Park. Consider joining an outdoor photography class with the shutterbugs at the Ansel Adams Gallery and walk in the footsteps of Yosemite’s famed photographer.
Fall caps off the short but sweet season of national park golf in Yosemite. The Wawona Golf Course is a nine-hole wonder, woven into the forest surrounding Wawona Meadow.
The chill nature of autumn makes a grove of giant sequoias even more awe-inspiring. There are several to choose from, including the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Southern Yosemite. Fall colors elevate leaf peeping to a spectator sport, with big-leaf maples, black oaks, Pacific dogwoods, and other deciduous trees flashing by late October.
Fall Suitcase Essentials
- Warm layers, bonus points for bold flannel plaids
- Thin glove liners for warmth and dexterity when taking awesome autumn pics
- A cozy scarf and beanie
Winter in Yosemite Mariposa County is a season of austere enchantment. Soaring, ice-encrusted towers of granite surround the sparkling snow globe of Yosemite Valley. Depending on the intensity of winter storms passing through, the Valley can hold anything from a light dusting to a thick blanket of the white stuff. Across the Park, there’s skiing and snowshoeing. You may find yourselves the only ones winter hiking along famous trails in Yosemite Valley. And, the season’s lower visitation translates into some of the sweetest lodging deals of the year.
At lower county climates outside the Park, places like Stockton Creek Preserve in Mariposa offer meditative settings for recreation and reflection. Rainy day activities can range from museum-hopping and shopping, to simply reclining in your cozy hideaway and watching winter outside your window. On clear nights, winter stargazing is out of this world.
Winter See & Do
National Park ski areas are few and far between, but Yosemite is a fortunate exception. Badger Pass Ski Area was established in 1935 as California’s original ski resort. One of the Sierra’s most family-friendly slopes, Badger Pass offers downhill skiing, snowboard terrain park, cross-country skiing, and tubing, just off Glacier Point Road.
Ice-skating is a classic Yosemite Valley pastime. With signature views of Half Dome and Glacier Point on high, the outdoor ice rink at Curry Village is a Yosemite winter tradition for almost 100 years strong! Post-skate, grab a spot by a cozy fire pit, perfect for tallying up the judges’ scores and making s’mores while warming toes and fingers. Starting in mid-November, Tenaya at Yosemite’s covered ice-skating rink is another winter-wonderful option.
Here for the holidays? Yosemite Mariposa County is the perfect place to chill and escape the seasonal hustle and bustle. Check out our Holiday Gift Guide for ways to bring that Yosemite vibe home for friends and family.
Winter turns toasty spas into even more enticing propositions, and an immersion in Yosemite Mariposa County wellness will tune you up for tomorrow’s adventures.
Winter Suitcase Essentials
- Hat and warm gloves
- Insulated and waterproof outerwear
- Thermos for hot cocoa and other warming libations
- Snow boots