Grab your camera, and hiking boots, wax your skis, and get ready for a magical visit to Yosemite in December. December is a great month for visiting Yosemite National park. If you’ve already managed a visit to Yosemite during the winter months, you know the special charm of a snow-covered landscape, beautiful enough when it was bare, now decorated in a soft blanket of white to heighten the grandeur.
December welcomes the winter season with promises of evergreen trees naturally garlanded in fresh snow, sparkling with icicles, and topped with all the stars of the Milky Way above.
It’s a time when the park naturally slows down. The hustle and bustle of the summer months settle into a more peaceful and restorative rhythm. Perfect for the kind of quiet year-end holiday celebration that values family and a connection with nature
There is so much to explore in this winter landscape, and tons to do. Plus, without the summer throngs, it’s easier to find last-minute lodging at great rates for a spontaneous trip to a winter wonderland.
What is the weather like in Yosemite in December?
In December the temperatures in Wawona or Yosemite Valley (at 4,000 ft/ 1,200 m elevation) range from a balmy average high of 53°F (12°C) to a still-mild average low of 28°F (-2°C). Those temperatures drop as you go up in elevation to places like Badger Pass Ski Area which ranges from 7,200 to 8,000 feet in elevation. Because you can adjust the temperature by going higher or lower in elevation, it’s easy to find things to do at the perfect temperature.
December also sees an average of 5.6 inches (142 mm) of precipitation on average. After a summer of nothing but dry it’s delightful to finally see moisture in the forecasts again. The sky celebrates with clouds that light up in purple and peach colors for sunrise and sunset. Just as it’s likely to get colder as you go up in elevation, the higher you get the more likely that precipitation will fall as snow.
When snow accumulates on the road, particularly during snow storms, rangers could ask for vehicles to put on tire chains for extra traction. Because there are different levels of chain controls, the best way to avoid needing to install tire chains on your vehicle is to drive (or rent) a 4WD or AWD vehicle, though you will be required to carry chains in your vehicle even if you don’t have to put them on. Learn the essentials of chain controls in Yosemite.
The best way to find out about current Yosemite road conditions is to call the hotline at 209-372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again) to listen to the recording.
What to Do in Yosemite in December
Yosemite’s hiking options are legendary. Walking is the perfect pace to appreciate all the small exquisitely beautiful details of this magnificent landscape. And even then, you’ll want to stop to enjoy your favorite scenes.
In a dry year, you may be able to find snow-free hiking at lower elevations, like in Wawona or Yosemite Valley. A few of the most popular hiking trails on Yosemite Valley’s floor are even cleared of snow to make year-round access easier, such as the Lower Yosemite Fall loop.
You’ll also find that after a day or two, most of the popular Yosemite trails have a footpath packed out through the snow, making hiking possible practically year-round. Consider bringing hiking poles or snow traction devices like Stabilicers for extra grip on the hard-packed snow.
Photography and Sightseeing
While you’re out exploring, make sure you don’t forget your camera! December conditions lead to some of the best opportunities for stunning photographs. Yosemite is naturally photogenic, and you’ll find the largest gatherings of professional photographers at Tunnel View when there is a storm in the forecast looking for that unique play of light and clouds.
All of the incredible and iconic viewpoints in Yosemite Valley are open year-round. After the first storms of the season, the waterfalls reappear and begin flowing again, and if you’re lucky enough to be there during a cold snap, you might even have a chance to see Frazil Ice.
[insert video embed of Frazil Ice from Nature Notes]
Sledding and Snow Play
There is nothing quite like snow to bring out the inner child in us all. Once the snow starts to fly, you’ll find opportunities for snow play around every corner. The small hills in Wawona Meadow provide gentle slopes for sledding, and the open spaces fill with snow people of all shapes and sizes.
There is a designated snow play not far from Wawona, at Goat Meadow, just outside the park boundary with plenty of parking. If you get up early, you might also find a place in a pull out along the road to Badger Pass Ski and Snowboard Area, though the parking here is very limited.
You can also go snow tubing (for a fee) at Badger Pass Ski and Snowboard Area, but sledding is not allowed at the ski area.
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
The Badger Pass Ski and Snowboard Area usually opens in mid-December (conditions permitting). Spend time outdoors enjoying the fresh air while carving down snow-covered slopes. Rent skis or snowboards, and take a lesson from the friendly Badger Pass ski instructors.
Cross country Skiing
Once you’ve gotten the hang of skiing at Badger Pass Ski Area, be sure to take the next step by exploring Yosemite’s winter landscapes on cross country skis. With lighter boots that have a “free heel” and a patterned base that helps you grip the snow, cross country skiing combines everything you love about hiking, with the fun of gliding downhill.
Take a lesson at the Nordic Center at Badger Pass, and then set off on your own adventure. Trails specifically groomed for cross country skiing lead to Old Badger Summit and all the way out to Glacier Point via the snow-covered Glacier Point Road. Plus, marked (but ungroomed) ski trails lead you to overlooks like Dewey Point where you can look down into Yosemite Valley.
You’ll also find excellent opportunities for ungroomed cross country skiing at Crane Flat, and in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
In the winter, a good pair of snowshoes also opens up miles of beautiful terrain. Float on top of the snow instead of sinking in.
At Badger Pass, join a guided ranger snowshoe walk, or head out with a Yosemite Mountaineering School snowshoe guide for a more wide-ranging adventure.
Snowshoe rentals are available locally at the Nordic Center, a smaller building across from the main lodge at Badger Pass.
Outdoor Ice Skating
Whether you’re lacing up your ice skates for the first time, or perfecting that triple toe loop, Yosemite offers two outdoor ice skating rinks for your skating pleasure. The ice rink at Curry Village sits below the iconic face of Half Dome. The slightly smaller rink at Tenaya at Yosemite has a covered roof that provides more protection from the elements while still allowing you to look out at the beautiful outdoor scenery while you skate. You can rent ice skates at either rink and both have a nice warm fire pit perfect for warming up or roasting marshmallows.
What’s Open (or not) in December in Yosemite?
The majority of Yosemite is open and accessible all year long. However, some roads and trails do close during the winter months.
The high-elevation Tioga Road that cuts through the park from east to west closes for the winter.
Beyond the Badger Pass Ski Area, Glacier Point Road turns into a groomed cross country ski trail in the winter. Parking is available at Badger Pass once the ski area opens, but beyond that, you’ll need to ski or snowshoe 10+ miles (16 km) one way to visit the iconic overlook at the end of the road.
Those looking to hike to Vernal Fall or Nevada Fall in December should plan to take the Winter Route – which avoids the ice hazards of the Mist Trail and the Upper Ice Cut. And the 4-Mile Trail is closed at the gate near Union Point.
How is Yosemite for the December Holiday Season?
Whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, or just time off of work and school, there is no better place to be than Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite is an ideal place to gather family and loved ones at any time of year. When you rent a vacation cabin at the Redwoods In Yosemite, you don’t need to worry about who sleeps where. You can rent a home away from home that is the perfect size for the extended family or your group of best friends. Some people prefer multiple houses close to each other for extra space and privacy without sacrificing the convenience of being able to easily gather and mingle when you want.
Vacation rental cabins with full kitchens mean you can cook up your favorite holiday recipes, with everyone pitching in to fill the house with laughter and the best aromas of the season. And after the meal, there is plenty of space to relax together, spreading out on sofas or in front of roaring fireplaces.
Because your Redwoods in Yosemite cabin is located in the small community of Wawona, inside the park boundary, you’ll have great access to all that the park has to offer. That makes it easy to organize the crew for a day of park exploration.
If you have a really big group, ask about using the centrally located Wedding and Event Center at The Redwoods In Yosemite. This beautiful area accommodates up to 100 for group meetings and 80 for formal dining, so everyone can join in.
As you can tell, there is plenty to do in Yosemite for all ages and activity levels. An unforgettable landscape like Yosemite sets the perfect scene for memories that will last a lifetime, and a tradition of gathering that will span generations.
And Don’t Forget – December Deals!
Winter is also a great time to find some of the best deals of the year on lodging. Talk about a great value – some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, with your favorite people, at a magical time of year, and at some of the best prices you’ll find. What are you waiting for? Plan that December visit to Yosemite now.
For generations, people have come to Yosemite National Park to recharge their mental and spiritual batteries. Now you can recharge your car battery too!
There are electric vehicle charging stations at The Redwoods in Yosemite, in Yosemite Valley, and in all of the gateway communities on your way to the park. You might have to worry about running out of energy hiking up Chilnualna Falls Trail, but you will be able to find plenty of energy to keep your car on the road.
Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Wawona
The Redwoods in Yosemite has two Level 2 chargers with J1772 plugs at our central office on Chilnualna Falls Road in Wawona.
If you want the ultimate in convenience, rent one of our cabins with a dedicated charging station. After a day of hiking and exploring, just return to your home and plug in to be ready for the next morning’s activities.
Electrical Vehicle Charging Stations in Yosemite Valley
In addition to the chargers at The Redwoods, there are also four charging stations in Yosemite Valley. Two Level 2 charging stations with J1772 plugs are available at Yosemite Valley Lodge. Meanwhile, one J1772 and one Tesla Level 2 charger are available at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
Charging Stations Further Afield
Finally, there is a growing network of charging stations, including fast chargers, on the routes to Yosemite, so drivers can top up before entering the park.
So charge up that car and hit the road, knowing that you will be able to recharge in Yosemite National Park.
Visiting Yosemite in October is like getting the backstage pass to a sold-out concert where you can hang out with the band after the big show. It’s more relaxed, quieter, and more intimate. The stadium show is over, the masses have gone home and it’s just you and Yosemite, hanging out and getting to know each other a little better.
Let us give you the backstage tour to set you up with everything you need to know about planning a visit to Yosemite in October.
Fewer People in October
One of the best things about a visit to Yosemite in October is the lack of crowds. There won’t be any need to fight through the throngs of other fans to get a good view. In October, everyone has front-row seats.
You’ll know right away that you’re not visiting during the peak summer season. Simply driving and finding a place to park will get easier.
The 2022 peak hour reservation system was designed to make traffic more manageable during the summer season. It ends September 30, 2022. So if you’re planning a visit in October cross that logistical point off your list. Feel free to be more spontaneous with your travel plans.
Parking lots become less congested too. That means you can plan to park close to the trailhead you’re interested in, or make a quick stop to pick up some snacks or something you forgot at the store.
Best of all, hiking trails and scenic vistas empty, leaving more space for you to notice the quieter sounds of nature all around.
October Weather in Yosemite
You’ll really appreciate that Yosemite home away from home for your visit in October.
At relatively low elevations like Wawona or Yosemite Valley, October’s high temperatures average around 71°F (22°C). That’s a perfect temperature for hiking or rock climbing. However, average nighttime temperatures drop to an average of 51°F (11°C). That can make it a little chilly for camping, but ideal for sipping a hot cup of coffee in the morning while looking out the window at the day to come.
While the average temperatures give you a sense of what to expect. The name of the game in October is variability. Anything is possible during October when the seasons are changing, from heat waves to snow storms.
October is also the month when Yosemite starts to get its first significant rain and snow storms of the year. If you ask us, this is wonderful. Dramatic cloudscapes magnify Yosemite’s majesty. The first rains recharge Yosemite’s rivers and the waterfalls spring to life again in the fall. Rain douses any lingering wildfires, and leaves the air smelling fresh and clean. However, it’s also true that rain can put a literal damper on hiking outdoors. Fortunately, many Redwoods In Yosemite cabins also have washer and dryer access. Rent one of these cabins and explore to your heart’s content knowing it will be easy to warm up and dry out all your layers for the next day’s exploration.
With the return of precipitation to the Sierra, it’s important to pay attention to road conditions in the days and weeks leading up to your visit. Most of the time, you’ll find clear roads. The temperatures are warm enough that even if it snows, it tends to melt quickly.
However, if a storm is forecasted to move in during your visit, you’ll want to be aware of the possibility of tire chain requirements. You can also listen to the latest in-park road conditions updates by calling 209-372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again).
Some high-altitude roads can also close when snow storms are expected. Tioga Road (the continuation of Highway 120 east of Crane Flat) normally closes for the season sometime in November. But once in a while, it will close for the season in late October. Other roads, such as Glacier Point Road or the Mariposa Grove Road, rarely close in October.
The timing of these road closures simply depends on the weather. You can see a list of historical opening and closing dates on the NPS website to get a feel for when this is likely to happen.
What to Pack for Yosemite in October
In October, the weather in Yosemite fluctuates wildly from year to year, and sometimes even week to week. Your best bet is to keep an eye on weather forecasts before your trip and adjust your packing list from there. However, in general, you will be grateful to have some of the following in your luggage:
- Since the temperatures can range from t-shirt to puffy jacket/raincoat weather, you’ll be glad to have a variety of clothes that you can layer over each other. If you’re starting to think about packing your entire closet, consider finding a vacation rental home with a washer and dryer.
- It’s not Montana-cold here, but you’ll see plenty of puffy jackets and fleece in Yosemite on cool October days.
- Bring a rain jacket. Even if it doesn’t rain while you’re visiting, this lightweight layer can also act as a windbreaker over your other warm layers if it gets chilly.
- Pack lightweight gloves, beanies, and/or buffs. These could come in handy if you’re planning to explore until relatively late, or get going early to make the most of the daylight.
- Speaking of exploring late, the days are getting shorter. It’s worth it to have a headlamp or other backup light in addition to your phone – after all, you will probably be tempted to take a LOT of photos and video.
Things to See in Yosemite in October
Opportunities for photography are always astounding in Yosemite. In October you add a few key conditions that are so over the top that it draws professional photographers from miles around. October offers color, dramatic skies, and easy sunrises and sunsets.
Yosemite may not be famous for its fall color the way New England is. However, while the conifers remain resolutely green year-round, deciduous trees add dashes of color to this already-remarkable landscape.
At peak season, a tunnel of yellow big-leaf maple trees greets you as you enter Yosemite Valley. Willows and alders add pops of yellow to the riversides and gullies, while the black oak trees turn gold. You’ll find brilliant stands of yellow aspen at higher elevations as well. Meanwhile, the dogwoods add peach and rose-colored hues to the forest cover.
If you’re lucky enough to have a small storm during your visit, you’ll see how sunshine shining through swirling clouds and mists. These conditions supercharge the lighting and make the white granite cliffs seem even more grand. That’s why you’ll often find serious photographers flooding into Yosemite at the slightest suggestion of rain.
Finally, as the days grow shorter, it becomes easier and easier to get up in time for the golden hour at sunrise as well as sunset. Many classic Yosemite scenes are of sunset alpenglow causing the cliffs to blush with reds and oranges. You’ll also find a similar golden light in the morning. In October, that will happen around 7 am instead of 5, making it that much easier to get up for.
One downside: The year-round waterfalls will still be flowing – waterfalls like Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil, but unless it’s already rained before you arrive, ephemeral waterfalls like the great Yosemite Falls may be dry or barely a trickle.
Find Yosemite Lodging with Great Deals
In Yosemite in October, everyone is a VIP. That makes it easier to find a great place to stay. There is more lodging availability, including comfortable cabins inside Yosemite National Park. For example, be sure to check out some of the great offers from The Redwoods In Yosemite.
With shorter days and longer nights, you’ll be delighted to have a spacious home to relax in during the evenings. Look for cabins where you can play games or enjoy a glass of wine in front of a crackling fireplace. Look for vacation homes with washers and dryers for an option of drying out or re-wearing layers if it is raining or snowing during your visit.
Full kitchens make it easy to choose to prepare meals on your own some days. Select cabins offer the luxury of a spa tub for a relaxing soak after a day of exploring the park.
The Redwoods In Yosemite makes it easy to find the features that you’re looking for in the ideal Yosemite vacation rental with plenty of filters to help you narrow down the wide selection of vacation homes. Search for places that allow pets, or have an EV changing station, for example.
Find your ideal base camp for an October visit to Yosemite at The Redwoods In Yosemite
Top Yosemite Hiking Trails in October
October is a Yosemite hiker’s paradise. Take advantage of more than 750 miles of trail, and cool temperatures ideal for spending a day walking through nature. With so many trails, leading to so many remarkable places, it’s hard to name them all. However, here are a few highlights that are excellent places to hike in October.
Wawona Area October Hikes
- Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – 500 mature giant sequoia trees beckon from this grove located close to Wawona. These trees are stunning in any season. (A variety of trails from 0.3 mi/0.4km for the Big Trees Loop to 7.0 mi/11.3 km for the Mariposa Grove Trail). The Mariposa Grove is just minutes from Wawona and the cabins at The Redwoods In Yosemite.
- Wawona’s Swinging Bridge – A short walk to a bridge that gently swings over the South Fork of the Merced River. Some delightful splashes of fall color along the way. (0.75 mi/1.2km round trip)
- Chilnualna Fall Trail – Explore a classic Wawona hiking trail with beautiful year-round cascades. (8.4 mi/13.5 km round trip)
- Mist Trail – The Mist Trail climbs from Yosemite Valley up past two waterfalls that flow year-round – Vernal and Nevada Fall. You can also still get a permit to climb Half Dome via the cables in the early half of October (they come down the day after the second Monday in October). (3 miles/4.8 km round trip to the top of Vernal Fall, 7 mi/11 km round trip to Nevada Fall, 14.2 mi/23 km round trip to Half Dome via the shortest route)
- Yosemite Fall Trail – No, there won’t be any water in the waterfall, but this is still an incredibly scenic trail that delivers on jaw-dropping views of Yosemite Valley. This trail catches a lot of sun and can be sweltering earlier in the summer, but is perfect for a brisk fall day. (7.6 mi/12 km round trip)
Tuolumne Meadows/High Country
- Soda Springs / Parsons Memorial Lodge – This is an easy walk (1.5 miles/2.4 km) round trip) with terrific views of the surrounding high country peaks and domes and an interesting spring where cold carbonated water bubbles up out of the ground.
- May Lake – One of many beautiful alpine lakes not far from the road (2.5 miles/4 km round trip). If that’s not far enough, extend your hike to the summit of nearby Mount Hoffmann via a use trail (6 miles/9.6 km round trip)
Other Things to Do
Looking for some alternatives to hiking? Whether you’re looking for a rest day activity or just a different way to explore Yosemite, there are plenty of activities for you to enjoy in and around Yosemite in October.
Explore Rock Climbing
Yosemite’s rock climbing opportunities have stolen the spotlight recently with popular films like Dawn Wall and Free Solo. If you’d like to get a better feel for what is involved, there is no better place than Yosemite.
The Yosemite Mountaineering School offers climbing lessons and guided climbs. Have a fun and exciting challenge, and enjoy the view of Yosemite from high on a cliff face. Cooler weather in October is ideal for climbing.
Or, if you’d rather watch from the ground, thank you very much, there are many places along the valley floor to watch rock climbers in action. One of the best is in El Capitan Meadow – an area that provides front-row seats to the adventures recently featured in the movies.
Enjoy a horseback riding trip with Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures. Get a horseback riding lesson, and then wind through beautiful forested trails and splash through cheerful mountain creeks. The ride schedule varies as the weather changes, so be sure to doublecheck availability. Yosemite Trails Horseback adventures is just over 10 miles from The Redwoods in Yosemite in Wawona.
Ride a Steam Train
Hear that steam whiste blow when you take a ride on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Steam train rides offer a tour through the national forest and through history. Take a 1-hour tour, or make an evening of it on the Moonlight Special or Jazz Train. And don’t forget to leave time to wander the museum and pan for gold at the station. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is just under 11 miles from Wawona and the cabins at The Redwoods In Yosemite.
Become a Junior Ranger
The Yosemite Junior Ranger program sparks a deeper appreciation for Yosemite National Park. Both kids and adults love becoming junior rangers. Simply participate in suggested activities and make a promise to care for and protect parks in the future. Pick up a Junior Ranger book at any visitor center in Yosemite.
Joining a ranger walk or program will open your eyes to the stories and connections in Yosemite that you might not realize at first glance. Check the Yosemite Guide to see which programs match your schedule.
Take an Art Class
Taking the time to practice art in Yosemite opens us all to details that we might normally overlook. Join a professional artist for a day in the park. Learn from art demonstrations and create a unique personal souvenir of your visit during an art class organized by the Yosemite Conservancy.
If it does start raining while you’re visiting in October, there are also many indoor activities to choose from to keep you and your loved ones more protected from the elements.
- The Thomas Hill Studio provides a peek into the life and tools of Yosemite artist Thomas Hill. Conveniently located in Wawona, the studio is also the visitor center, so save up your questions to ask our park rangers while you’re there.
- The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley interprets the cultural history of Yosemite’s Miwok and Piute people from 1850 until the present. You can find demonstrations of basket weaving, beadwork, flint knapping, and more. An art gallery within the museum is also periodically open with fresh art exhibits.
- Tour Historic Hotels: Historic hotels like the Wawona Hotel or The Ahwahnee are fun places to explore with an eye toward different eras of architecture and design.
Other Questions About Visiting Yosemite in October?
Once you’re made your reservation at The Redwoods In Yosemite, you’ll find a helpful staff located on-site in Wawona to help ensure that you have the best Yosemite experience possible. Swing by the front desk and say hello.
When you visit Yosemite in August, you find the park at its peak season. Everything is open so you’ll find the biggest selection for shopping, dining, and activities. Families are enjoying the last bit of summer travel time before school starts again with plenty of hiking options as well as refreshing trips to local swimming holes.
Pro tip: If you can, take advantage of the lull in late August. Because schools start earlier than they used to, kids often end up back in school by the middle of the month. Meanwhile, those without children often wait until after Labor Day to plan their fall trips, leaving a quiet period at the end of August when you can enjoy summer conditions with fewer people around. In fact, starting in mid-August you will also often find better discounts on Yosemite lodging.
August Weather in Yosemite
In Yosemite, August is the warmest and sunniest month of the year. High temperatures in Wawona or Yosemite Valley are often around 89°F (32°C), but mornings and evenings are cooler, averaging a delightful 57°F (14°C), perfect for hiking or other active pursuits. And when the sun is at its highest, delightful swimming holes with refreshingly cool waters invite wading, swimming, or floating.
Another popular option is to travel to higher elevations in the summer for hiking or exploration. For example, at 8,000 feet (2,622 m), in Tuolumne Meadows, the average high temperature is only 70°F (21°C). Just be sure you bring some warm layers if you want to visit the high country early or stay late because evening temperatures average just 37°F (3°C).
The month of August also has the lowest precipitation of any month, with only 0.2 inches (4 mm) of rain on average, making beautiful cloudless blue skies the August norm. The downside of California’s warm and dry August weather is the possibility for wildfire. Fire is a natural and essential part of this region’s ecosystem, but it can lead to smoky conditions if there are large fires in the area.
What Clothes to Pack for Yosemite in August
With such a big temperature range, it can be hard to decide what to pack without bringing the entire closet. The first step is to figure out where you plan to spend the most time, and then bring a variety of layers that can be added or shed depending on the day’s conditions. For example, wearing a tank top plus sun shirt plus sweater plus a puffy jacket can provide plenty of warmth for cool mornings at altitude, and you can slowly shed those layers as the day warms up. If you plan to sleep in, explore Wawona or Yosemite Valley, and then retire to your cabin for a relaxing dinner, you won’t need as many warm layers. But if you’re planning to stay up until late for astrophotography or a stargazing program, you’ll be grateful for some extra clothes.
Because the sun is so powerful in the Sierra Nevada, many people find that clothing that provides shade can be as cool or cooler than a t-shirt or tank top. Consider a wide-brimmed sun hat or a lightweight, light-colored, long sleeve sun shirt to stay cool and protect yourself from the sun’s powerful UV rays.
And don’t forget a swimming suit to take the plunge at one of Wawona’s popular swim spots.
Things to Do in Yosemite in August
You won’t lack things to do in Yosemite in August. This is the height of the summer season, so whether you’re planning to hike through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, enjoy a horseback riding trip with Yosemite Trails, or gaze up at the starry skies with a park naturalist, you’ll find plenty of memorable activities for your visit. Here are a few highlighted suggestions to make the most of your August visit.
Hiking in August
With warmer temperatures, it’s time to think about high-elevation and shadier hikes. In Yosemite Valley, trails that face north, like the Four Mile Trail, will tend to be cooler than the Upper Yosemite Fall trail which faces south and can become a giant solar oven – amazing in January, but less welcome in August. The water in Yosemite Fall is usually minimal by this time of year anyway. The Mist Trail is a good selection because it’s in a relatively cool canyon, and the waterfalls along this trail flow year-round. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias tends to have excellent shade from surrounding trees, so that is another good option.
Choosing hikes at higher elevations can also make a big difference in terms of temperature. Hikes along the Glacier Point Road (when it re-opens in 2023) or over in the Tuolumne Meadows area are significantly cooler than those that start at lower elevations.
An alternative strategy for finding cooler hiking conditions is to start hiking early when it is still fairly cool out and then plan more relaxed activities during the warmer part of the day. Spend the middle part of the day with a siesta in your cabin, relaxing by the water, or simply find a shady spot for a picnic. Then you can rally for more hiking as the day cools off again in the evening.
By choosing a local trail, like the one to Wawona’s Swinging Bridge, you can combine some trail time with a refreshing dip in the river.
When you’re ready to give your hiking boots a break, consider exploring Yosemite Valley by bicycle. There are two bike rental stands – one at Curry Village and another at Yosemite Valley Lodge – that rent cruiser bikes for commuting around the valley. Pedal Forward bikes in Oakhurst also rents mountain bikes (and bike racks) if you’re more excited about descents and single-track options in the Sierra National Forest.
Ranger-led Programs and Guided Activities
Rangers and other guides offer many opportunities to learn about Yosemite from local experts. There is everything from art classes, to astronomy programs, rock climbing lessons, train rides, horseback riding and so much more.
Connect with Yosemite’s History
The Yosemite History Center, located right in Wawona, offers a tour of significant historic structures in Yosemite. These buildings tell the story of settlers, artists, and laborers that have helped make Yosemite what it is now.
Chat with Yosemite rangers, and peek into the studio of a locally famous 19th-century artist at the Thomas Hill studio. This small building close to Wawona Hotel is now part visitor center and part free museum.
Hop aboard a historic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and then pan for gold, and visit their museum.
The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley is another wonderful history-filled stop. Displays illustrate the cultural history of the Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 until now. Discover what they used to eat, see demonstrations of basket weaving, beadwork, and learn about traditional games. Be sure to wander through a reconstructed village behind the museum to see some of the plants that they used, and the buildings they used to live in.
Staying at the Redwoods In Yosemite in August
When you’re planning your August trip, be sure to consider getting a vacation rental cabin reservation in Wawona with The Redwoods In Yosemite. Wawona’s location inside the park gates makes it easy to explore the park. And the convenient filters on the Redwoods In Yosemite site make it easy to find just the home you’re looking for, plus you’ll save money by booking direct.
Families from around the world travel to Yosemite for the iconic scenery, abundant natural experiences, and a chance to relax and unwind in a beautiful setting. There are plenty of short hikes, beautiful scenery, and fun activities to keep your kids entertained as you explore. It may take a little extra planning to design the ideal trip with your family, but rest assured there is plenty to do. Keep reading for activities galore and tips for traveling to Yosemite with kids.
Is Yosemite Kid-friendly?
Let’s start here with an unequivocal yes. With many stroller-compatible trails and easy access to the most-iconic viewpoints, Yosemite is strikingly easy to get around. That makes it a great national park to visit with young kids and people with mobility limitations.
What Is There To Do in Yosemite for Families?
Hold on tight. There is so much to do in Yosemite with kids that the answer to this question is going to take a while.
Simply being out in the fresh air and attentive to what is happening around you is a way to become more connected with natural spaces, and make fascinating discoveries about the world we live in.
First thing on the list – Junior Rangers! The junior ranger program includes fun activities that get kids to engage with what they are seeing and experiencing in the park, encourages them to interact with park rangers, gives them a chance to earn a cool junior ranger badge, and even serves as a souvenir and memento of their time in the park. There’s nothing like experiencing Yosemite through the eyes of a would-be junior ranger.
Note: Junior Ranger activities can be fun for all ages. If you look in the Junior Ranger log book in Yosemite, you’ll find people from pre-school to post-retirement ages who have taken the time to become Junior Rangers. Try it!
Whether you’re traveling with a budding young artist, or simply want a quiet day outdoors, The Yosemite Conservancy offers a wide range of art activities. Taking time to paint or draw in nature gives you time to be still and enjoy the scenery around you, fills the soul, and creates a unique souvenir of your time in Yosemite.
Sometimes kids want to walk, and sometimes they just want to explore. Fortunately, you’ll find many short walks with great views that are also perfectly suited to a kid’s pace. Here is a small selection of trails you to investigate.
Yosemite History Museum
The Yosemite History Museum has an array of historic buildings on display, including an old jail that kids are free to explore. Best of all, during the summer months, if you’re lucky you can take a ride on a horse-drawn stage coach or watch a blacksmith in action over a forge.
Wawona Swinging Bridge: 0.75 miles (1.2 km) round trip.
Wawona Meadow Loop
Just across Highway 41 from the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins, this peaceful trail circles the Wawona meadow (and golf course), and is a great place to discover a variety of wildflowers in the spring. In true family-friendly spirit, this is one of the few mostly non-paved trails in Yosemite that is open to leashed pets and bicycles.
Wawona Meadow Loop: 3.5 miles (5.6 km) with a 5-mile (8 km) variation.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias:
Park in the main lot and take the shuttle bus to the lower Mariposa Grove. Explore the boardwalks near the shuttle stop on the Big Trees Loop (0.3 miles) take a longer walk to visit the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Trees (2 mile loop), or hike all the way up to the Upper Grove of Giant Sequoias (6.5 – 7 miles).
Lower Yosemite Falls & Cooks Meadow
In the spring and early summer when the water is flowing, the short loop to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall gives you a chance to see this waterfall up close. The trail is even paved and stroller-friendly, though steep in spots. As an alternative, or a way to extend the walk to Lower Yosemite Fall, cross the road at the bus stop and walk through Cook’s Meadow on paved trails and boardwalks to zoom out on Yosemite Falls, and take in grand views of Half Dome at the same time.
Lower Yosemite Falls Loop: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Cooks Meadow Loop: 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
Happy Isles & The Fen
East of Curry Village, there are two beautiful kid-friendly strolls to explore. The fen is a lush wetland filled with songbirds, which connects to Happy Isles, a short trail out to two islands in the middle of the Merced River. A highlight of the Happy Isles area is the Art and Nature Center with kid-oriented exhibits and art programs.
Both trails are less than 0.5 miles (0.8 km)
This beautiful location is going through an identity crisis. A beautiful, reflective pond in spring, it dries to an open meadow by late summer. In the right part of this transition, the sandy shores create a popular family-friendly beach with shallow pools for swimming and splashing.
Mirror Lake/Meadow: 2.4 miles (3.8 km) round trip.
Indian Village behind the Yosemite Museum
A very short walk behind the Yosemite Museum provides a glimpse into the traditional homes and buildings built by the Miwok people in the late 1800s and early 20th century. If you keep your eyes open for the interpretive signs, you can also learn about some of the plants that were used to make arrows or baskets and food. Within the museum, you can also sometimes find cultural demonstrators who can provide even greater insights into how these people used to live.
Note: Local tribes have requested to be referred to as Indians.
The trail is less than a quarter-mile (0.4 km).
Swinging Bridge – Yosemite Valley and Wawona versions
There are actually two “Swinging Bridges” in Yosemite. The one in Yosemite Valley sports a river-side picnic area with tables and grills and doesn’t actually swing, but provides nice views of Yosemite Valley. In contrast, Wawona’s Swinging Bridge still bounces and sways as you cross, making it a fun adventure for small kids. Both are popular swimming spots once spring run-off has slowed and the water temperatures have warmed.
Yosemite Valley Swinging Bridge: just a few steps from the parking area.
Figuring out Nap Time for Kids While Visiting Yosemite
If your kids are young enough that you want to protect nap time during your visit, there are a couple of easy solutions.
- If you’re staying in one of the cabins rented by the Redwoods In Yosemite, you can try to combine a short local excursion with a return to your vacation rental home for nap time. There is a wealth of options, but a few along those lines might include: the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite History Center exploration, a trip to a local swimming hole, or a walk to the first cascade along the Chilnualna Fall Trail.
- Your car is another great place to retreat for a satisfying nap time. It can take a while to drive to various destinations in Yosemite, and many scenic overlooks to stop at along the way where you can keep an eye on the sleeping babes and still take in some amazing scenery. If there are two of you, you can also take turns stretching your legs while the other person keeps an eye on the napping kids. Try doing this on a trip to explore Tuolumne Meadows, for example.
- Admittedly, this solution is more gear-intensive, but some local parents have had great luck getting their kids to nap outdoors by bringing along small tents that can be easily set up anywhere. The tent walls help block out all the things that are going on all around to help little ones relax and rest, as well as protect them from the sun and any mosquitoes or other insects.
More Yosemite Activities for Kids that are a Little Older
If you’ve got a natural climber on your hands, your kid will love a class with the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Learn rope work, safety systems, and get great views while rock climbing. Kids need to be aged 10 or up to join a group lesson (12+ to attend the class without an adult present). However, younger kids (with their parents) can also sign up for a private lesson. This personalized format allows the climbing guide to give their full attention to their young protégé.
There are two kinds of rafting in the Yosemite area. You can take a scenic float through Yosemite, or paddle through the whitewater rapids just west of Yosemite with one of the guide services there.
Get the family together for a relaxing downstream float through Yosemite Valley. You can rent a raft that holds 2-4 people at Curry Village. Kids need to weigh at least 50 lbs to go ride in a rental raft, and you need to have at least 2 capable paddlers on board (at least 5 ft. tall and 12 years old).
Whitewater rafting options are a little further away, but provide a rollicking ride through the waves on a guided rafting trip. Age requirements will depend on the river conditions, so be sure to check with the whitewater rafting guides ahead of time. In spring when the rivers are at their fullest and most wild this will only be appropriate for older kids, but younger kids will be able to join as the water levels drop in late summer.
We like to recommend Yosemite Trails for nearby trail rides. Yosemite Trails is a small family-run business, and these folks really know their horses. No previous experience necessary. You’ll get a quick riding lesson before you set off on the trail. You can sign up for one or two-hour rides through the beautiful Sierra National Forest and experience getting to cross a mountain stream on your mount. Kids need to be at least 7 years old.
You can also take a ride along the Wawona Loop Trail from the guides at the Wawona Stables. The Wawona Stables are even closer to the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins than Yosemite Trails, but a little less remote-feeling. The age requirement here is also 7 and up, and the kids also need to weigh at least 52 pounds and be at least 52 inches tall.
Best Places to Stay in Yosemite with Kids
Of course we’re biased, but we can’t say enough about how great the Redwoods In Yosemite rental cabins are for families visiting Yosemite National Park.
Vacation rental cabins give your family enough room to spread out while remaining together. This means that you can put the kids to bed, close the door, and still have some space for yourselves to relax and talk or watch TV. Or the kids can play happily in the living room while you’re making dinner or getting lunches together in the kitchen.
Rent a large cabin for extended family gatherings so there is room for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents too. Sometimes we also see extra-large family reunions split up into multiple cabins next to each other for a little extra space and privacy, with the convenience of having more family right next door.
Some cabins also have some laundry access. This is ideal if you have a couple of dirt-lovers in the family, and helps keep the luggage size under control by allowing you to clean as you go. In the winter months, the drier can also come in handy to ensure that jackets and other clothes are warm and dry for the next round of outdoor fun.
Older kids and adults will also find better internet connectivity in a private cabin compared to other in-park hotels. Now, this is the mountains, so you can’t expect city internet in the best of circumstances, but hotel internet is shared between all other hotel guests. That means that in the evenings when everyone is trying to connect sometimes even checking email can be an exercise in patience, to say nothing of trying to stream entertainment.
Note: Regardless of where you stay, plan ahead and download the kids’ movies before you travel to Yosemite. It’ll take less time in the long run, and you won’t have to worry whether the internet capacity is sufficient.
What to Pack for Kids in Yosemite
Of course, you’ll need the normal things you would pack for traveling with kids – diapers, wipes, water bottles, snacks, plenty of clothing, toiletries, etc. Plus, here are a few additional items that could come in handy for a visit to Yosemite.
- Strollers or Collapsible wagons. There are a lot of paved trails where you can use them. And also…
- Baby carriers and backpacks. Strollers aren’t always easy to wrangle.
- Car toys. It’s a big park, and if you want to visit different areas, the kids will be spending time in the car each day.
- Outdoor discovery tools. Binoculars, magnifying glasses, bird guides, or any number of nature apps make outdoor discovery even richer. We love the John Muir Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. It seems to contain all of the most common plants, animals, and even constellations that you’re likely to see.
- Pre-downloaded movies or other kid entertainment. Yeah, we just mentioned that above, but it’s worth repeating because mountain internet is likely to be slower than what you’re used to in the city.
- Foldable play mat / mini tent shades come in handy for impromptu nap time or just a comfortable place to stretch out for the little ones.
- Small first aid kit. Because letting kids run, jump and scramble in the woods is beautiful, and you might want to be ready with a few band-aids just in case.
There are many good reasons that so many people look forward to visiting Yosemite in May. As the days grow longer and warmer, the Yosemite area comes to life.
The waterfalls are at their most impressive, fueled by melting snow in the high country, and singing their songs as they cascade over Yosemite’s granite cliffs. At lower elevations, like Yosemite Valley and Wawona, the flowers are blooming. The often-photographed dogwood blossoms peak in May, and no one cares that the brilliantly eye-catching white ‘flowers’ are not actually petals but are composed of bracts surrounding the true flowers clustered in the center. There are fresh green leaves on the oaks, alders and willows. The dogwoods, alders and willow trees are decked out in vibrant spring-green leaves – a welcoming sight after a mostly monochromatic winter.
If you’re tempted to visit Yosemite in May, read on for what you need to know to plan the best trip.
Yosemite weather in May
By the numbers, for Yosemite Valley and Wawona you can expect an average high temperature of 68F and an average low of 42F, and just three days of precipitation on average. That means that you might still want a puffy jacket and beanie if you’re spending time outside early or late in the day, but it’ll be just about the perfect temperature to hike mid-day.
Of course, it’ll be cooler as you gain elevation. If you climb from Wawona or Yosemite Valley at 4000 feet, to Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet elevation, you’ll find yourself back in more wintry conditions with average high temps of only 54F (12C) that fall to 27F (-3C) at night.
In either case, it’ll be nice to have a variety of layers if you’re planning to be out and exploring during the day.
Snowstorms that require chain controls are rare in May, but not unheard of. Snow on the roads tends to melt quickly this time of year, but be sure to check the weather prior to your visit to be sure you have the proper equipment just to be safe.
What clothing to bring?
Like most times of year in Yosemite, it’s wise to pack a variety of layers that you can remove as the day warms up and then put back on when it cools off again in the evening.
Don’t forget rain gear. An average of 3 days of rain all month doesn’t seem like a lot, but Mother Nature still occasionally throws a snow storm into the mix, so be sure to watch the weather before your visit. Besides, if you decide to explore some of the amazing waterfalls, and it is waterfall season after all, you might want a bit of protection from the drenching mists. For example, in wet years, when the water is really flowing, people sometimes stop to wring out their socks at the top of Vernal Fall.
What can I see/do in Yosemite in May?
May in Yosemite is filled with water. Snow from the previous season is melting from the high country and rushing clean and cold through rivers and over cliffs. That makes lower-elevation areas like Wawona, Yosemite Valley or her sister valley in Hetch Hetchy ideal locations to go for a hike and marvel at the cascades and waterfalls.
The wildflower displays in the central valley and foothills are past their prime, and spring is moving up into the mountains. In addition to the dramatic flowering trees (dogwoods and planted apple trees), you’ll also find a myriad of wildflowers in bloom during this season as well. Look for the tall purple lupines in Wawona, or take a walk on the Wawona Meadow Loop to spot the many flowering signs of spring.
The wildlife is out and about as well, and the air is filled with bird song. Download apps like Merlin from The Cornell Lab, iSeek from iNaturalist or Yosemite Wildflowers from the Brecklings to learn about and identify some of the many sights and sounds you’ll find while out exploring. If you prefer a non-electronic version, we highly recommend The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. The author, John Muir Laws, has a knack for including most of the plants and animals you are likely to come across, in a small and easily-packed guide. It even has a section on exploring stars and the night sky in the back.
On a good snow year, May is still early for hiking in the high country without skis or snowshoes to help keep you afloat. The popular trails will be packed out by those who have gone before, but higher elevation roads like Glacier Point or Tioga Road are often still snow-covered and closed for the season, so if you decide to hike in those areas be prepared to encounter snow. Snow-covered trails can make travel difficult, and can also make it hard to navigate if you can’t see the trail beneath your feet.
From the Wawona area near The Redwoods In Yosemite, check out the Chilnualna Fall trail. The trail passes many beautiful cascades along the way making it appropriate for an all-day journey or a quick after-dinner stroll.
Another area close to Wawona and well-worth your time is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Though not the tallest or the broadest, these ancient trees combine the best of both, and are the most massive trees in the world. If you arrive before the Mariposa Grove shuttles start for the summer season, you can walk the Washburn Trail through the forest up to the Lower Grove.
If you have the opportunity to bring bikes with you, you’ll love being able to ride them up to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and around to different locations within Yosemite Valley.
There is also some amazing local single-track in the Sierra National Forest for the mountain bike lovers out there. Swing by Pedal Forward in Oakhurst to chat the team there for all the inside tips.
Hop aboard a Steam Train
Board the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad for a fun trip into Yosemite’s past. Take a 1-hour history tour, or go all-in for a 3-hour evening special with family music, a theater performance or live jazz depending on the evening. While you’re there, you can also visit the Thornberry Museum, and learn to pan for gold.
Whether or not you have tried rock climbing before, a visit to Yosemite is a great opportunity to experience a fun and challenging activity with uncommon and extraordinary views in a special place. Sign up for a beginner class at the Yosemite Mountaineering School for a great introduction, or if you have some climbing experience, consider springing for a private guided climb.
Cultivate your inner artist in an art class or workshop run by the Yosemite Conservancy, and create a personal memento of your time in Yosemite. Classes usually begin in May. Check the Yosemite Conservancy website for more details.
Stroll through the Yosemite History Center
Especially if you’re staying at The Redwoods In Yosemite, be sure to stop by the Yosemite History Center to visit historic buildings that have been relocated to Wawona from all around the park. Interpretive signs by each structure tell a story about an important piece of park history.
Grab the reins and go for a ride through scenic forests and meadows and cross mountain streams. Horseback rides at Yosemite Trails and the Wawona Stables typically start near the end of May, so double check the website to see if they will be available for your May visit.
Find even more things to do in Wawona, Yosemite and the surrounding area.
Staying at the Redwoods In Yosemite in May
When you’re planning your May Yosemite trip, be sure to consider booking a vacation rental cabin in Wawona with The Redwoods In Yosemite. As you can see, there is so much to do near Wawona, and being inside the park gates, it’s an easy drive to Yosemite Valley for even more of what May has to offer. The Redwoods In Yosemite rental cabin listings make it easy to find just the home you’re looking for, plus you’ll save money by booking direct.
(Featured image of dogwood blossoms by Theresa Ho)
Rock climbing in Yosemite re-entered the spotlight recently with documentary movies like Free Solo and Dawn Wall. In Free Solo, Alex Honnold’s ropeless ascent of El Capitan more than earns its acclaim from the sheer audacity of tackling such a long and difficult climbing route without any protection – never mind the amazing storytelling by climbing filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi. Meanwhile, in the Dawn Wall story, the strong bonds between climbing partners take center stage, as Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson dig deep to complete a visionary climbing project together.
These films underscore the fact that Yosemite has long been known as a rock climbing Mecca. Serious climbers from around the world aspire to test themselves on the soaring granite walls of cliffs like El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock and so many more. But make no mistake, there are plenty of shorter and easier climbs here in Yosemite as well that are more suitable for mere mortals and aspiring rock climbers.
Whether you’re interested in trying rock climbing in Yosemite yourself, or you’d prefer to enjoy the stories from the safety of the ground, read on.
Watching Rock Climbers in Yosemite
One of the remarkable things about Yosemite Valley and Tuolumne Meadows is how easy it is to get to steep cliffs and excellent rock climbing. For example, one of the most popular places to watch climbing in Yosemite is from below El Capitan. You barely need to get out of your car. Just find a spot to park on the side of the road, and look up. It can be hard to spot the climbers however, and you’ll want a pair of binoculars to see more than just tiny specks on the vast granite walls.
Fortunately, during the late spring, summer, and early autumn months, the Yosemite Conservancy sponsors a free program called “Ask a Climber”. Climbing stewards set up telescopes near the bridge at El Capitan meadow so you can see the El Capitan climbers up close. Plus, they are ready to share their knowledge and answer questions about different climbing routes, techniques, and more. Here are some of the most frequently asked climbing questions that the climbing rangers get.
If you keep your eyes open, you’ll also see rock climbers on numerous other cliffs around Yosemite Valley. Please be respectful when you see them. They may be happy to talk with you, but they may also need to focus on their climbing and safety.
Going Rock Climbing in Yosemite
Naturally, if you’re interested in rock climbing, and planning to visit Yosemite, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Of course, you will be able to tick “rock climbing in Yosemite” off your bucket list, but there are so many more reasons than that. Climbing Yosemite’s clean granite routes is pure pleasure – whether you’re dancing up thin slabs on dime-edge holds, pulling for all you’re worth on splitter cracks, or pinching crystals in Yosemite’s high country. Plus, the view really is better when you’ve earned unique views from above the treetops and eye-level with the birds.
Experienced rock climbers will already know to grab a Yosemite climbing guidebook in advance to treat themselves to photos, stories, and plenty of advice before they arrive. Mountain Project also has plenty of beta/detailed advice on climbing routes. Swan Slabs near Camp 4 has a nice collection of easy routes to get started on, though during the summer months Tuolumne climbing areas like Puppy Dome are cooler and more comfortable to climb. Some of the best easy multi-pitch climbs can be found at Manure Pile aka Ranger Rock just east of El Capitan, or if you’re ready to turn it up a notch, choose one of the really long easy classics like Royal Arches, Snake Dike on Half Dome or a classic route on Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne.
From your cabin rental at The Redwoods In Yosemite, you can also make a quick exploration of the rock climbing right in Wawona. Look for areas like Mortar Rock or Powerline Rock for nearby climbs. Plus, there are also many routes on nearby Wawona Dome, though there is a longer hike to get there.
Best Time to Go Rock Climbing in Yosemite
There are opportunities to go rock climbing in almost every season in Yosemite. You can find comfortable climbing in the winter at lower elevations along Highway 140, and it’s easy to beat the heat on high country granite in Tuolumne Meadows even during the summer. The climbs in Yosemite Valley are most inviting during the spring and fall months, though you can find top-notch climbers exploring big walls well into the winter months as well. Just be sure you always keep an eye on the weather.
Yosemite Rock Climbing for Beginners?
Yosemite can be an intimidating place for people who are very new to rock climbing to climb independently. There are a small number of climbs where you can walk or scramble to the top to set a top-rope, but for most climbs, you’ll want to find someone who can lead up from the ground – putting in gear as they climb to protect themselves from a fall. There are also a few sport climbs in Yosemite, but most routes require placing stoppers or cams into natural features rather than simply clipping to pre-existing bolts for protective gear. Managing and placing your own gear introduces another level of skill and experience.
However, if you don’t have those skills, or simply don’t want to pack your full rack of gear for your Yosemite vacation, don’t despair. Simply hire a climbing guide.
Yosemite Climbing Guides
There is only one rock climbing guide service authorized to take you climbing in Yosemite National Park, the Yosemite Mountaineering School (YMS). YMS offers rock climbing lessons, guided climbs, and special skills workshops that can walk you through learning to lead, self-rescue techniques, or even help you prepare for your first big wall.
The climbing guides at YMS are expert climbers who are fun, friendly, and eager to share their extensive knowledge of rock climbing and Yosemite’s cliffs with you. They can accommodate all ages and all levels of climbers – from those who have never tied into a rope before to those ready to take on El Capitan – so if you want to go climbing in Yosemite, give them a call (209-372-8344).
YMS also leads guided hikes and backpacking trips. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, and simply listen to stories of rock climbing (as well as learning about Yosemite’s plants, animals, geology, and more), you can sign up for a hike instead. Group and private hikes are both available.
For those staying in Wawona with The Redwoods In Yosemite, another option for a rock climbing experience is the Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides (SYMG). SYMG’s rock climbing offerings all take place just south of the park on scenic cliffs in the Sierra National Forest. Like YMS, SYMG’s guides are top-notch and have climbing options for beginners and experts alike.
Whether you are excited to try something new in a beautiful setting or looking to challenge yourself on Yosemite’s legendary rock climbs, you’ll love your experience in Yosemite.
The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Visit to Yosemite in March
Yosemite in March is the sweet spot of winter’s first blossoming into spring. It’s a season of sandals and snow, of solitude and sunshine, and on top of all that, some of the most spectacular scenes Yosemite can dream up. Ready to plan a visit to Yosemite that will be ready for anything that March has in store? Read on.
Yosemite Weather in March
March weather conditions vary from year to year and from day to day. The average high temperature is 58F/14C, the average low is just above freezing at 33F/0.5C, and we get roughly 9 days of precipitation on average. It’s still winter here, but the temperatures are rising and the days growing longer. Combine that with warmer temperatures at lower elevations and cooler temperatures at altitude, and it becomes possible to bundle up for downhill skiing in the morning and then find a spot to relax in the sunshine in a t-shirt in the afternoon.
Another thing that the averages don’t tell you is the range of weather conditions that you could expect. We have had snowstorms in March that drop multiple feet of snow over the course of just a few days. However, more commonly we find ourselves in comfortably warm temps with plenty of sunshine inspiring people to relax by the river in t-shirts and sandals. Especially lately, we’ve seen more of the latter, but Mother Nature is fickle in March, and you never know when she might switch things up just for fun.
That playfulness includes some of the most stunning displays Yosemite has to offer. You’ll just want to pack some rain gear and a reasonable tolerance for rain/snow to get out and enjoy it. A few clouds turn the grandiosity of Yosemite’s landscapes to up to 11, with rose and gold clouds creating celestial landscapes upon landscapes at sunset or sunrise, or low-hanging clouds enhancing the drama of the steep cliffs and spires. It’s no coincidence that serious photographers scan the forecasts for these storm-filled sessions, and rush to the park at the first hint of precipitation.
What to Pack for March in Yosemite?
Given the unpredictability of the weather, there are two keys to ensuring that you have the right clothing packed for a visit to Yosemite in March.
- Keep an eye on the weather forecast. The weather forecasts 3-7 days out are reasonably reliable and should give you a sense of what to expect in the moment. If there is precipitation in the forecast, it’d be wise to pack a few extra warm layers and consider waxing the skis. However, if the forecast is for 60F and sunny, you’ll want to have enough lightweight layers, short-sleeves, or lightweight hiking pants.
One of the best sources for this information is the National Park Service weather map because it has links not only for a general Yosemite forecast but for point forecasts of destinations in and around the park. This is critical because on the same day, you might find highs of 60F/ 15C in El Portal at 2500 feet ASL while the highs at Badger Pass Ski Area will be more like 40F/4.5C at 7700 feet ASL.
Of course, if you’re staying at one of the cabins managed by The Redwoods In Yosemite, we also have a full-time staff who lives and works in the area. Just give us a call the week before your trip. We’re happy to fill you in on what has been happening weather-wise and what to expect in the upcoming week.
- Pack a variety of layers. Plan your clothing so that you can put on or shed layers like an onion. For example, on the coldest mornings, you might start with a t-shirt topped by a long-sleeved shirt or sweater, a warm puffy layer, and a rain jacket/windbreaker. Then, as the day warms up, you can gradually peel off those layers to match whatever the day brings.
Hats and buffs are small items that add up to a lot of warmth, and you can even layer warmer mittens over thin gloves if your hands tend to get cold (just don’t squeeze them on – tight-fitting shoes and gloves can actually make your feet and hands feel colder.)
The California sun is powerful. Even in summer, most people are grateful for an extra layer when the sun dips behind the mountains. Expect to add and subtract layers over the course of any given day.
What Can I See in Yosemite in March?
Most of Yosemite’s most well-known attractions are viewable in March. Yosemite Valley landmarks like El Capitan are easily accessible, and ephemeral waterfalls, like Yosemite Falls, while not yet at peak spring run-off, have at least returned to life with the winter rain and snowfall. You can visit Tunnel View to get its iconic perspective on the length of Yosemite Valley and watch the sun rise over the Merced River from Valley View.
In a good year, much of the higher elevation cliffs like Half Dome or Cloud’s Rest will still be covered in a shawl of white snow. This makes them more difficult to hike to, but also enhances their drama and beauty from the comparative warmth of Yosemite Valley.
Wawona will, of course, be open. The tranquility of the season is doubly apparent in this peaceful valley, with the Wild and Scenic Merced River and several smaller but still scenic creeks winding their way through the landscape. The luxury of warming up in a cozy cabin in Wawona with a roaring fire after a day of exploring Yosemite can’t be overstated.
Nearby, the ancient sequoia trees in the Mariposa Grove will be drinking their fill of early spring run-off and melting snows. If there is still snow on the ground, you can rent cross-country skis or snowshoes to visit these majestic giants. Usually, the trail is relatively packed within a few days after a fresh snowfall which can help keep you from sinking too far into the snow, though waterproof footwear or some extra changes of socks are still recommended.
The far end of Glacier Point Road, like the higher elevation Tioga Road across the sierra, will be covered with snow and closed to vehicles. Instead, the Glacier Point Road stops at the Badger Pass Ski Area, where you can enjoy views of the snow-capped Sierra mountains from the chair lift and while skiing or boarding the family-friendly slopes.
Badger Pass is also a delightful starting point for exploration by cross country ski or snowshoe. Marked trails through quiet conifer forests and lead to snow-covered vistas. A groomed trail along the snow-covered portion of the Glacier Point Road leads all the way to the famous overlook. However, most people opt for the much shorter (7-8 mile/11-13 km round-trip), but still spectacular trail to Dewey Point for a view down into Yosemite Valley or an even shorter option to the top of Old Badger Summit for views of the High Sierra peaks.
What Activities Can I Do in Yosemite in March?
Often the lower-elevation hiking trails will be mostly clear of snow by March, making for peaceful and easy hiking. Explore some of the short hiking trails in Yosemite Valley.
- Lower Yosemite Falls trail takes you to the base of the famous waterfall.
- Cook’s Meadow is a flat walk with views of Half Dome and other majestic Yosemite Valley Cliffs
- The Mirror Lake trail has great views of the Merced River beneath the looming face of Half Dome.
For longer hikes that lead up from Yosemite Valley or Wawona, you will be more likely to encounter snow the higher you go. These popular trails are usually packed out within a day or two of any fresh snowfall making snowshoes less useful. However, many people feel more comfortable on these slippery trails with microspikes like Stabilicers or YakTracks on their shoes, or with hiking poles.
Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing
If you want to get off the beaten path, both cross country skis and snowshoes will help you stay afloat in less-consolidated snow. As previously mentioned, you’ll find marked winter routes at Badger Pass and within the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Depending on the snow conditions, these are also great ways to explore the meadows and golf course in Wawona for some closer-to-home options.
Cross country ski and snowshoe rentals are available at the Nordic Center at Badger Pass. You can also take cross country ski lessons or go on a guided snowshoe walk or ski tour.
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Badger Pass Ski Area is fun and easy way to take advantage of the winter season. Badger Pass is a wonderful, family-friendly ski area where you can rent skis or snowboards, and take lessons. The mellow open slopes make it easy to stay connected with your group, and lift lines are rarely more than a few people deep.
Badger Pass has 5 chair lifts, 10 runs and a vertical drop of 800 feet. The expansive sun-filled deck is the perfect place to relax, grab a bite to eat, and keep an eye on the action slope-side.
The outdoor ice skating rink at Curry Village is surrounded by history and stories of Olympic dreams, not to mention the extraordinary views of Half Dome you’ll have while gliding across the ice. Rental skates are available and be sure to bring some s’more fixings so you can roast marshmallows by the warming fire in between skating.
Even closer to the cabins in Wawona, you can practice your triple-toe-loops on a rink with views looking out across the Sierra National Forest at the Tenaya Lodge Ice Skating rink.
Immerse Yourself in Yosemite’s Past
Wander through the Yosemite History Center where each of the buildings represents different chapters of Yosemite’s past. As you explore, interpretive signs fill you in on the historical significance of each building so you can imagine what it would be like to live as an artist along the banks of the Merced River in the early 1900s, or imagine trying to escape from a building intended to contain explosives that was later turned into a jail.
Yosemite’s sunsets warm the winter landscapes with ruby and orange displays. There are several classic winter sunset locations that take advantage of that magical light reflecting off of Half Dome, such as Sentinel Bridge, Cook’s Meadow, or the ever-popular Tunnel View. You can also admire the sunset directly by pulling off the road on your way home from Badger Pass to watch the sun setting over the western hills, or stopping to enjoy the views along Highway 41 on your way back to Wawona from Yosemite Valley.
Soak in a private hot tub or jacuzzi
Congratulate yourself on your adventures in a wintry wonderland by returning to your home away from home at The Redwoods In Yosemite, and drawing yourself a nice hot bath in a jetted tub or a gloriously long soak in a private hot tub.
Curl up by the fire with a glass of wine or cup of hot chocolate
There is nothing quite like the crackle of a flickering fire to settle the mind and soothe away worries. Many of the vacation rental homes in Wawona feature fireplaces, and wood is provided during the winter months by The Redwoods In Yosemite so that you can settle in with a glass of wine or a mug of hot chocolate and reminisce about the discoveries of the day.
Getting Around Yosemite in Winter
While there is a great deal to see and do, March is still one of the wintery months in Yosemite. And while most of the time getting around is easy enough, the sometimes snow-covered roads deserve respect and a measure of caution. When road conditions warrant, you will start to see chain control areas in Yosemite and the surrounding Sierra. Chains give your vehicle extra traction to navigate the slippery roads and get you where you want to go. Especially if you see some winter weather in the forecast for your trip, you will want to be prepared by knowing about chain requirements and tips on winter driving here.
Where to Book Your Stay?
Naturally, we’re biased. Of course, you can reserve a hotel room in Yosemite Valley, but we think renting a private home is a better call for a month like March, and here’s why:
- In March, the days are getting longer, but sunset is still around 6:30pm. Rather than retreating to your room with the TV, try a rental cabin that has a pool table or game room. Put together a puzzle or play a board game at the dining table. In a rental cabin there is just more space to spread out, and relax. You can put the kids to bed, and then curl up with a movie without disturbing them.
- Having your own private kitchen makes it easy to create your own favorite meals together – or a special dessert.
- Some cabins have a washer and dryer. If it does snow, you’ll be delighted to be able to toss a few wet items in the dryer so that they are warm and ready for the next day of exploring.
- Internet is hard in the mountains and especially in a national park. Choose a home with its own internet service. It may not be as fast as the city, but at least you won’t be sharing it with all of the other hotel guests.
- Select pet-friendly cabins make it possible to bring the fur family members with you on vacation.
The Redwoods In Yosemite website makes finding the ideal vacation rental home for your group easy with plenty of filters to help you find the features that are important to you.
Plus, if you still have any questions about what to expect during your March trip, feel free to reach out to the friendly and knowledgeable staff at The Redwoods In Yosemite. Our staff lives nearby and will naturally be up-to-date on weather patterns and local conditions to help you fine-tune your vacation plans as well.
Take Advantage of March Deals
And last, but not least, keep your eyes open for great deals on rental cabins in March. The park’s relative quiet makes this a great time to take advantage of lower prices to extend your stay for the same cost or to upgrade to a rental home in the Luxury Collection to treat yourself to a few extra perks during your trip. How about a private fireplace or jetted hot tub for a long soak after exploring the park?
Let’s be clear, there is no “bad time” to visit Yosemite National Park. Every season has its own particular charm, and its own set of devotees who can sing the season’s myriad praises. However, February stands out, even among the delightful winter months, as a particularly inspiring time to visit Yosemite.
Why Visit Yosemite in February?
February is a prime time to see Yosemite in all her winter majesty. It’s the perfect place to discover wintery wonders, and the perfect time to take advantage of low off-season lodging rates.
During the middle to late parts of the month people flood into the park for a chance to photograph the Natural Firefall at Horsetail Falls. Everyone is hoping that all the conditions will come together to turn this normally unassuming waterfall into a molten cascade with the light of the setting sun.
Combine all that winter wonder with a romantic Valentines Day evening celebration. The cabins at The Redwoods In Yosemite provide all the comforts of home paired with the exciting freshness of a mountain getaway – a place to prepare a special home-cooked meal or snuggle up in front of a fireplace after a day of exploring the park.
Not to mention that this is a great time to get discounted rates on those very same lodging options. Take advantage of great deals on Yosemite cabins at The Redwoods In Yosemite.
Things to Do in Yosemite in February
February Hiking Options in Yosemite
Can you hike in Yosemite in February? Absolutely. Many of the popular lower elevation trails in Yosemite Valley are either cleared of snow or quickly packed by other people so that you can explore without sinking far into the snow. Walking out to the Lower Yosemite Fall lookout, taking in Half Dome from Cook’s Meadow, or exploring the trail below Half Dome toward Mirror Lake are all easy hikes that you can do in February.
On steeper trails like the John Muir Trail or the trail to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall, you’ll encounter more snow as you climb. The snow on these popular trails gets packed out fairly quickly, so snowshoes are often unnecessary, though some people will still be more comfortable with shoe spikes that you can slip over your boots like Stabilicers or hiking poles that can help provide traction on the packed snow.
For a quick outing, take a walk through the Yosemite History Center in Wawona. The historic buildings capture various chapters of Yosemite history and give you an idea of what living or working here as an artist or trail builder would have been like.
Getting out into Yosemite’s true winter wonderland is as easy as strapping on a pair of snowshoes. It’s everything you love about hiking with the added excitement of giant shoes on your feet. Snowshoes provide both float and traction so you can feel confident exploring wherever you find snow.
Just a few minutes from the rental cabins in Wawona, you’ll find excellent snowshoeing (or cross country skiing) up to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. These ancient trees look even more otherworldly with their red bark shining against a backdrop of snow.
There are also many trails leading from Badger Pass Ski Area including the popular hike out to views overlooking Yosemite Valley at Dewey Point. That eight-mile round trip may be further than you think with snowshoes on your feet, so for a shorter outing, consider exploring Old Badger Summit, or taking a guided snowshoe walk with Yosemite Rangers or the naturalists at the Yosemite Mountaineering School to get an introduction to snowshoeing and learn more about Yosemite’s winter ecosystem.
Snowshoe rentals are available at Badger Pass.
Cross Country Skiing in Yosemite
Add a little adventure to your winter wanderings with some cross country skis. In addition to exploring the quiet snow-covered landscapes, cross country skiers also get to experience the joy of gliding over the snow. The lightweight skis and flexible boots make covering ground quick and easy – and gravity does all the work on downhill sections of trail.
There are a few groomed trails at Badger Pass, plus many skier-packed trails at Badger Pass, Crane Flat, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and more.
The Nordic Center at Badger Pass offers lessons and rentals for cross country skiing, skate skiing, and even backcountry touring and telemarking.
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding at Badger Pass Ski Area
Of course, you may just want to ride a lift to the top of the hill and ski or snowboard down from there. The Badger Pass Ski Area is the oldest in California, with a long history of welcoming skiers to the joys of winter activities. Families, as well as beginner and intermediate skiers, love this friendly, unpretentious, and relatively inexpensive ski area.
You can also rent equipment and take skiing or snowboarding lessons at Badger Pass.
Sledding and Snow Play
When there is snow on the ground, any small hill inspires hours of fun sledding or making snow people. Here are some of the best places for sledding and snow play.
You don’t have to go far from Wawona to find great snow fun. When there is enough snow, the golf course across the street boasts some fun family sledding with wide-open spaces. Plus an official snow play area is just a few minutes away just outside the Yosemite National Park boundary. As you drive south from Wawona on Highway 41, keep an eye open for the first road on your left that leads to the snow play area.
Sledding isn’t allowed at the Badger Pass Ski area, but you can enjoy tubing on the tubing hill. Check in at the Nordic Center to sign up. You might find families parked in the pull-out lanes along the Glacier Point Road on the way to Badger Pass enjoying the snow as well. However, these aren’t designated sledding areas though so be very careful not to hit any of the trees, and make sure you can pull your car fully off the road.
Outdoor ice skating rinks are another popular Yosemite winter activity. The outdoor ice rink in Curry Village has a long history, including aspirations of hosting the Winter Olympics in 1932. Although Yosemite ultimately lost the Olympics bid, the current ice rink still boasts one of the best views of Half Dome.
Just 10-15 minutes from the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins, you can also glide across the ice at an outdoor rink at Tenaya Lodge, where the covered ice rink provides a little more protection from the elements while still providing scenic views of the surrounding National Forest.
And don’t forget one of the most important ice skating traditions – s’mores! Fire pits located at both Curry Village and Tenaya Lodge are perfect for staying warm, and roasting marshmallows for a delicious winter treat.
Parting Tips for Exploring Yosemite in February
- Pack lots of layers. You don’t need an arctic parka to enjoy winter fun in Yosemite, in fact having many layers that you can adjust to the right temperature is best. Winter hats (beanies) and gloves or mittens complete the winter wardrobe.
- Especially if you don’t have waterproof boots, be sure to bring extra socks. Warm feet are essential to happy winter exploration.
- Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses (or goggles) and sunscreen. Sunlight reflecting off the snow is bright – and can give you a sunburn if you’re not paying attention.
- Brush up on winter driving skills and know about chain control requirements.
- Excited about curling up by a fire in the evening after a day outdoors? It’s easy to find a vacation rental home with a fireplace, hot tub, clothes drier, or other amenities you might want for a winter stay. Simply click on the Show More Filters button to find your ideal Yosemite cabin.
- Don’t forget to check out the great deals on Yosemite cabins at The Redwoods In Yosemite!
See you in Yosemite in February!
Looking for what to do in Yosemite?
There are a lifetime of things to do in Yosemite. The park is the size of Rhode Island, and encompasses many different ecosystems within its borders, so it can be hard to figure out what to do. However, here is a 5-day itinerary that hits the best must-do sights and activities in the park.
Day #1: Settle in and Local Exploration
Welcome to Yosemite! After a long travel day, your private home away from home awaits in Wawona. Get acquainted with your rental, settle in, and then when you’re ready head for a walk around town to stretch your legs after your trip. There is a lot to see right in Wawona. Stop in at the Visitor Center and learn about Yosemite painter, Thomas Hill. Wander through some of Yosemite’s historic buildings at the nearby Pioneer History Center. If you have the energy, this is a great time to scope out Swinging Bridge for possible swimming later in your trip as well.
Enjoy dinner in your cabin and get packed up for your big hiking day in Yosemite Valley.
Day #2: Yosemite’s best and brightest
When people think of iconic Yosemite landmarks, they are almost always thinking of Yosemite Valley. With majestic cliffs like Half Dome and El Capitan towering above and waterfalls plunging over cliffs into plumes of mist, you will want to spend more than a single day in this part of the park if you can.
There are many walks to choose from. Easy strolls take you to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls or out into one of the valley meadows, like Cook’s Meadow, with great views of the surrounding cliffs. Mirror Lake / Mirror Meadow is another popular easy hike with views straight up at Half Dome and across at Mount Watkins.
If you’re up for something more challenging, hike the Mist Trail. Although it’s steep, there are so many things to see along the way. By the time Vernal Fall first comes into view, you’ll already have passed views of Upper Yosemite Fall and Illilouette Fall (1.6 miles/2.6 km round trip). And if you have the energy, continue up through the mist of Vernal Fall to the top of the waterfall (a 2.4 mile/ 3.9 km round trip). Beyond that, the top of Nevada Fall is a 5.4-mile/8.7 km round trip.
On cool or cloudy days, the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls also beckons with promises of a warm, sun-filled hike.
Biking is another great activity to explore Yosemite Valley. Bike trails in the eastern end of the valley keep you out of the flow of traffic and allow you to cover more ground than you might on foot. But it’s still easy to stop at any point and admire the view without having to find a parking space. If you can’t bring your own, cruiser-style bikes are available for rent at Yosemite Valley Lodge and Curry Village. Or, you may want to rent a mountain bike at Pedal Forward in Oakhurst on your way in. You’ll find many uses for it during your visit.
Regardless of what you choose, be sure to leave plenty of time to appreciate the magical scenery and take photos.
Day #3: Walk Among the Giants
From Wawona, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is only a short drive (or a long walk) from your cabin. When the shuttle buses aren’t running, there is a 2-mile/3.2 km walk one-way from the parking lot at the Welcome Plaza to the lower grove of Giant Sequoias. The trail winds peacefully through the forest along the Washburn Trail. Though you can see some giants from the Arrival Area in the lower grove, most people continue on to marvel at the Grizzly Giant and walk through the California Tunnel Tree. This is an additional 1.5 miles/2.4 km round-trip. If you have the energy, keep going to become acquainted with other named giants like the Faithful Couple tree or the Clothespin Tree.
If you have a bike, you can ride up the road all the way to the parking lot for the Grizzly Giant, and start your walk from there. It is uphill on the way in, so you’ll enjoy coasting down at the end of the day.
Day #4: Rest Day Activities: Ride Don’t Walk
After a few days of hiking, it may be time to give your legs a break. Fortunately, there are many options for this as well.
Option 1: See something new – outside the park
Saddle up for a real western experience and let your trusty steed do the walking. The team at Yosemite Trails provides a top-notch riding experience through the scenic national forest and across mountain streams.
Spending time on the water is a great way to stay cool and rest weary legs in general. Combine that horseback ride with Yosemite Trails with a trip to Bass Lake where you can rent anything from jet skis and wakesurf boats to kayaks and stand up paddleboards at Millers Landing Watersport Rentals (Guests of The Redwoods In Yosemite get 15% off.) But you don’t have to go far for some relaxing time in the water. Wawona itself is well-known for its local swimming holes.
Ride a Steam Train
On the way back to Wawona from Bass Lake, climb aboard a vintage steam engine with Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. The soulful song of the steam whistle will take you back in time to another era. The 1-hour narrated tour is a delight. Also, consider treating yourself to the Moonlight Special. Close the day with a delicious dinner, the narrated tour, and entertainment during a stop in Lewis Creek Canyon.
Option 2: Relax in Wawona and Yosemite Valley
No matter how much you did on Day 1, I guarantee there is more to see in Yosemite Valley. Here are just a few ideas for what to do.
Shop for Gifts
Not everyone got to visit Yosemite like you did. Let them know you’re thinking of them with a few presents from one of the gift shops.
Express Yourself with Art
Pause for a few quick sketches of Yosemite Valley. You’ll notice more beauty when you take the time to observe and record the environment around you. The Yosemite Conservancy offers daily art classes during the summer months for a nominal fee. While you’re in the mood, stop by The Ansel Adams Gallery where you can see amazing photography and artwork exhibits, and pick up a few things for friends.
Lunch at The Ahwahnee
The beautiful history and decor of The Ahwahnee make the lodge a destination on its own. Order lunch and enjoy it on the back lawn, and don’t forget to stroll through the public area. See how many animals you can find in the Mural Room, and reminisce about the old days with historic photos of Yosemite’s winter activities in the Winter Club Room. The magnificent dining room gives Hogwarts a run for its money.
Return to Wawona for your western horseback riding experience. The Wawona Stables offers guided tours around Wawona Meadow / the golf course on horses and sure-footed mules.
The River Beckons
Wrap up the day with a dip in the South Fork of the Merced River or one of the nearby creeks. Wawona is well-known for its many swimming holes, such as the one near Swinging Bridge. (Crossing the bridge, which unlike the one in Yosemite Valley actually does swing, is an extra bonus for this short walk.)
Day #5: A Birds-Eye-View from the Glacier Point Road
Glacier Point Road provides access to the South rim of Yosemite Valley and there are several gorgeous hikes to get the bird’s eye view of the valley below. (Drones are not allowed in Yosemite National Park, but you can get drone-like photos from the edge looking down into the valley.)
NOTE: The Glacier Point road is scheduled to close for construction and renovation work in 2022, so be sure to take advantage of this corner of the park while you can.
Taft Point and Sentinel Dome
Either of these destinations is a short roughly 1-mile (one-way) hike from the parking area along Glacier Point Road. Standing at the railing at Taft Point provides a dizzying view down to the valley below. Keep your eye open for fissures that hint at the geological process that resulted in the steep Yosemite cliffs. Standing on the summit of Sentinel Dome gives you a 360-degree view of Yosemite’s high sierra, as well as Half Dome and other iconic Yosemite cliffs. Connect the two with a trail along the rim of Yosemite Valley for more extraordinary views. The full loop is about 5.5 miles.
End the day with a visit to Glacier Point’s famous overlooks for sunset. The broad side of Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest catches the light from the setting sun and turns fiery oranges and reds as the sun goes down.
Bonus Day #6: High Country Sights
5 days in Yosemite, and you still haven’t seen one huge region of the park – Tuolumne Meadows! This area is the furthest away from your cabin in Wawona, and with so much to do nearby, it can be a hard sell. However, if you have the extra time, you might want to slide it in mid-itinerary as part of a rest day. It’s an incredibly scenic drive with many views worth stopping for along the way.
What to do:
- See the backside of Half Dome at Olmsted Point.
- Tenaya Lake is a jewel among granite domes. Stop for the view, and then take a swim or hang out on the sandy beach at the east end of the lake.
- Walk one of the trails through Tuolumne Meadows to admire Cathedral Peak and other huge granite domes.
- Check out the natural soda spring.
- A little internet research will lead you to a myriad of gorgeous hikes from the Tuolumne Meadows area.