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Are you getting ready for an epic adventure in one of America’s most iconic national parks? Yosemite is the land of soaring waterfalls and towering granite cliffs, and Yosemite puts on a real show for April visitors.

Spring has sprung, and this season of rebirth is the perfect time to explore the breathtaking scenery of Yosemite National Park. Grab your hiking boots, pack your camera, and prepare to be amazed by the beauty of this natural wonderland.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take you through all the must-see sights, best hiking trails, and hidden gems that Yosemite has to offer during the month of April. Plus, we’ll share some insider tips on how to make the most of your trip, including where to stay, what to pack, and what to expect.

Important Note for 2024:  Yosemite National Park will require reservations to enter the park between on select dates, including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays during the month of April in 2024. Fortunately, guests staying at The Redwoods In Yosemite Vacation Home Rentals, are not subject to the reservation system because all cabins are in Wawona, inside the park. If you have a valid Redwoods In Yosemite cabin reservation, simply show a copy of your booking confirmation (a screen capture is OK too), and a photo ID matching the reservation. You’ll be able to pay the entrance fee at the gate with a credit or debit card.

So, whether you’re a seasoned hiker, a nature lover, or simply seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, Yosemite in April is the perfect destination for you. Let’s dive in and discover all the magic this incredible park has to offer!

The biggest reasons to visit Yosemite in April

Yosemite Valley

This incredible view of Yosemite Valley is one of your first glimpses of Yosemite Valley when you enter via Highway 41 from Wawona.

April Waterfalls

As the days get warmer and longer, the snow in the high country starts to melt. It flows down through small gullies and large granite basins, and then tumbles over Yosemite’s great cliffs in exuberant, rushing waterfalls. April is a remarkable time for waterfall watchers in Yosemite.

Pre-peak season

April is still a relatively quiet month in Yosemite National Park, especially if you can manage to visit during the week days. This means more of Yosemite just for you! With fewer visitors to the park, you’ll also still be able to find some excellent deals on lodging.

Low-elevation wildflowers

Purple lupines covering Wawona's meadows

Fields of gorgeous purple lupines blossom in the meadows surrounding Wawona.

Starting in April, the wildflowers in Yosemite Valley and Wawona begin to appear. The Wawona Meadow Loop is an excellent place to go looking for a wide variety of these blossoms, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to see the expansive blooms of lupine covering the meadows and roadsides with purple.

April weather in Yosemite

Orange poppies blooming in Wawona

April’s wildflower displays start a lower elevations and spread upward.

April likes to do its own thing when it comes to weather. And every April is a little different.

In an average April, the weather is shifting from the cool crisp days of winter into a more summer-like weather pattern. The average high temperatures in Yosemite Valley are a comfortable 63°F/17°C, while the average low temperature drops to 38°F/3°C. That means most people will want long pants and warmer layers for the morning and evening that you can shed when you’re in the sun mid-day.

The average precipitation in Yosemite Valley in April is 3.2 inches/81 mm. That puts us nicely halfway between the 7.0 inches/177 mm of precipitation in an average January and the negligible 0.2 in/4mm that you can expect in an average August. In real terms this means that there are a lot of beautiful sunny days in April, but it might still rain or snow occasionally. It just depends.

Of course, when you ascend or descend in the mountains, especially during these transitional spring months, you can choose your own season. Temperatures for El Portal, a small town just downhill of Yosemite Valley along Highway 140 has an average high of 72°F/22°C for the month, while in the high country of Tuolumne Meadows, it’s still a chilly average high of 45°F/7°C.

The bottom line on April weather in Yosemite is to come prepared for all kinds of weather. Dress in layers so that you can put on an extra sweater or jacket for mornings or cooler days, and then shed those layers for mid-day or warmer days.

A rain coat is a good idea. Even on sunny days, the misty blast from Yosemite’s waterfalls can be more comfortable with a good rain jacket.

Waterproof shoes or hiking boots can also be a nice-to-have if you’re planning on hiking. As the snow melts you’ll find water everywhere – running in rivulets down the trail or standing in wide puddles. If you don’t have waterproof footwear, extra socks can help keep your feet warm and dry. Or you can try adding plastic bags over your socks but inside your shoes. Your feet will sweat a lot, but they will stay warmer overall.

Finally, just before your visit, make sure you take a peek at the interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page. It is a terrific resource for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, and water flow in different parts of the park so you’ll know what to expect.

Road Conditions and Chain Controls

A quick side note before we get to the fun stuff:

While storms grow increasingly rare in April in Yosemite, there is still a chance of snow during this month, and if that happens to overlap with your planned trip, you’ll be happy to have tire chains in your vehicle to help with traction on Yosemite’s mountain roads. Higher-elevation roads are more likely to have chain requirements, but they can be in place on any park road.

Keep your eye on the weather forecast for Yosemite in the days/week before your trip. You might want to adjust your layering systems, and see if you’re likely to need chains for your car. If there is a storm in the forecast, be sure to read up on our guide to chain requirements in Yosemite.

The Tioga Road that crosses the Sierra Nevada through Tuolumne Meadows, and the Glacier Point Road which connects Highway 41 to Glacier Point, are usually still closed due to snow in April. This is the tradeoff you make for rushing waterfalls. That high-elevation snowpack is what is turning into roaring waterfalls down low. It’s also another good reason to plan multiple trips to Yosemite during different times of the year.

Right before your trip, the best way to learn about road conditions inside Yosemite National Park is to call the road conditions hotline at 209-372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again to listen to the recording).

What to do in Yosemite in April

wildflowers blooming on the trail with a view of nevada fall

Discover gorgeous wildflower displays throughout Yosemite National Park in April, including on the trail to Nevada Fall. (Photo Nancy Robbins)

Lower elevation areas like Yosemite Valley, Hetch Hetchy or Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are all excellent places to visit during the month of April with relatively easy accessibility. These locations provide the best of the aforementioned waterfall wandering, mountain meandering, and fun flower viewing opportunities.

Waterfall Wandering

Yosemite Valley holds many of the park’s most notorious waterfalls, and after a warm day in April, you’ll find them all flowing fast and free. You don’t even have to leave your car (though we recommend that you do) to see Bridalveil Fall or Yosemite Falls.

In April, you will probably also be treated to the elegant cascades of Sentinel Fall or the tallest single drop waterfall in the park, Ribbon Fall. Parts of the Mist Trail and the John Muir are often closed in winter, but you can hike the Winter Route to see both Vernal and Nevada Fall using the parts of both trails that remain open.

Don’t forget to visit Wawona’s waterfall while you’re here as well. The Chilnualna Fall trail starts just a few minutes from the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins, and leads up past a series of gorgeous waterfalls and cascades.

Tips for exploring snow-covered trails: Traction devices like Stabilicers or Yak-Tracks can help with footing on packed out snow on popular trails, and don’t underestimate the utility of a pair of hiking poles. The snow will be more firm (and slippery) early in the morning and late in the evening when the temperatures are cooler, and will soften during the day. That means that you may be able to walk on top of the snow in the morning, but will sink through as the day goes on, making travel more difficult.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequioas

Grandpa and grandson admiring the sequoias in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias together

Just a short distance from Wawona, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is Yosemite’s largest and most impressive grove of sequoia trees.

There are over 500 giant sequoia trees in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Estimated to be thousands of years old, each is a testament to longevity and endurance. An ancient wisdom permeates the entire grove.

To get there, park at the large parking area near the south entrance gate to Yosemite National Park. If the winter has been relatively warm and dry, there could be a free shuttle service to the Arrival Area at the lower grove. If not, you can walk the Washburn Trail that starts at the far end of the parking area, or stroll up the road to get to the lower Mariposa Grove. It’s about 2 miles each way. This is more effort, but also means that you’ll have the grove more to yourself when you get there.

Beyond that you have a selection of trails to explore. Most people try to take in the Grizzly Giant Loop (2.0 miles/3.2 km) which includes named trees like the Fallen Monarch, the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree, but there are shorter and longer options available.

Stopping to Smell the Flowers

Each spring a wave of wildflower blossoms start in the central valley and slowly makes its way up into the mountains. By April, the fields of orange poppies have often passed their peak, and are now giving way to great swaths of purple lupines that line the roads through Wawona. The keen-eyed will also marvel at the variety of wildflowers to be found along the Wawona Meadow Loop, and scattered throughout the forest at that elevation.

Our Furred and feathered friends

As spring’s warmth spreads, you’ll also find more birds and other wildlife filling Yosemite’s landscape too. Bears awaken from a winter’s rest and begin to frequent Yosemite’s meadows looking for food. Peregrine Falcons, still listed on California’s endangered species list return to their nests and begin preparing for the next generation.

Rock Climbing

As soon as the weather warms, rock climbers return to Yosemite’s clean granite cliffs. In addition to spotting them on bold ascents of El Capitan, keep your eyes open at smaller crags as well, like the rock wall at the back of the Churchbowl Picnic area.

If you, or someone in your group, would like to try climbing Yosemite’s famous rock walls, the Yosemite Mountaineering School has a variety of classes and guided climbs to introduce climbers and would-be climbers to the area.

Don’t forget the simple pleasures too

There are also plenty of small pleasures that you can expect when taking a relaxing vacation in the mountains. Curl up in front of a roaring fire with a good book and good company. Slip out to the hot tub, or relax in the Jacuzzi. Get entirely too caught up in a board game with friends. Or hold a debate about what kind of animal might have left that strange track you found in the snow. Ultimately, these quiet activities and small moments of discovery can be among the most rejuvenating and precious.

Where to Stay

Sign to the Redwoods In Yosemite with wildflowers

Choose a vacation rental cabin from the Redwoods In Yosemite located inside Yosemite National Park in the community of Wawona.

There are many accommodation options inside Yosemite National Park, from camping to the historic luxury. However, the best option for a place to stay in April has to be a rental cabin in Wawona. Yes, of course we’re biased, but hear us out.

Naturally, it’s nice to stay inside Yosemite National Park. You’re closer to all that the park has to offer, and you can spend more of your vacation being here instead of getting here.

Unlike a hotel room, a vacation rental cabin has more of the conveniences of home. You can save money by bringing groceries with you and preparing the food you enjoy. There’s room to spread out and relax. Private homes are… well, more private. No need to worry about the noise coming from the room next door. And if the stray April storm does blow through during your visit, some homes even give you access to laundry facilities. A dryer can come in handy to dry everyone out at the end of a day of exploration. Plus, if you have fur family you can rent a vacation cabin that is pet-friendly, and bring your pup with you.

With some services, it can be hard to tell if the rental cabin that you’re looking at is inside the park or not. With The Redwoods In Yosemite, you know that you’ll be located in Wawona, close to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and inside the park gate. Plus, The Redwoods In Yosemite makes it easy to find a place that is the perfect fit for you, with convenient filters for amenities like EV chargers, or a fireplace.

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

spring wildflowers at lower elevations

March is already the beginning of spring at lower elevations as hillsides blossom into beautiful natural bouquets. Photo: Theresa Ho

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.

majestic wintery view from tunnel view

March can also be filled with winter’s quiet and majestic snow-covered cliffs. Photo: Heather Anderson

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.

Before your visit, take a peek at the interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page. It is a terrific resource for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, and water flow in different parts of the park so you’ll know what to expect.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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?

Hiking

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.

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

family snowshoeing in Yosemite

Snowshoeing is an easy way to get around and explore Yosemite’s sights when there is snow on the ground.

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.

Ice Skating

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

w

The beautiful covered bridge at the entrance to the Yosemite History Center is one popular spot for Yosemite wedding photos in Wawona.

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.

Photograph sunset

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?

cozy Yosemite cabin in the winter

When you’re done exploring for the day, it’s time to snuggle into the comfort of your rental cabin. Be sure to check out The Redwoods In Yosemite’s easy-to-use website to find the perfect place to stay in March.

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:

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.

Important note for 2024: Yosemite National Park is requiring reservations to enter the park on weekends during the Firefall/Horsetail Fall event season, however guests staying at The Redwoods In Yosemite Vacation Home Rentals, are not subject to the reservation system because all cabins are in Wawona, inside the park. If you have a valid Redwoods In Yosemite cabin reservation, simply show a copy of your booking confirmation (a screen capture is OK too), and a photo ID matching the reservation. You’ll be able to pay the entrance fee at the gate with a credit or debit card.

But the Natural “Firefall” is not the only magical winter scene in Yosemite. Keep your eyes open for Frazil Ice which turns Yosemite’s streams into flowing slushies. Snow rollers on warm days can become their own sculptures – or the spontaneous beginnings of snow people. Not to mention delicate icicles that hang from rich green conifers and sparkle in the sun or snow-covered ledges on Yosemite’s giant cliffs.

The interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page is a terrific resource for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, water flow in different parts of the park so you’ll know what to expect just before your trip.

Combine all that winter wonder with a romantic Valentine’s 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 and skip the day-use reservation requirement when you rent a cabin with 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.

Go Snowshoeing

family snowshoeing

Snowshoes make it easy for everyone to explore Yosemite’s winter wonderland. Photo: Nancy Robbins

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

bride and groom sledding in Wawona

There’s nothing quite like snow to bring out the child in us all. Wedding couples can get married in Yosemite by the river at their vacation rental cabin, hold a reception in the Wedding and Event Center at The Redwoods In Yosemite, and get out for a little sledding, all right within the small community of Wawona.

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.

Ice Skating

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

cozy snow-covered cabin

February is usually a great time to find discounts on cozy Yosemite cabins.

See you in Yosemite in February!

Yosemite in January sleeps under a blanket of snow. The bears and squirrels and other hibernators have gone to ground. A feeling of quiet lies on the land. The holiday revelers are also gone making it easy to find quiet spaces where you can pause and reflect on the year, either solo or in the company of those closest to you.

There is plenty to keep you busy during the days, and the long winter nights mean that it is more important than ever to have some room to spread out in a warm and inviting Redwoods in Yosemite cabin.

In a typical January, the full set of Yosemite winter activities is on the menu from skiing and snowboarding at Badger Pass, to quiet exploration on cross-country skis or snowshoes, to ice skating, sledding, tubing, and of course, family game night with a warm cup of hot chocolate in a cozy cabin. At lower altitude, visitors to Yosemite in January can hike without any special equipment, enjoying the views of the classic Yosemite sights dressed up with accents of snow on the cliffs and peaks.

So grab your winter gear and come explore. If you don’t know Yosemite in winter, you don’t know Yosemite!

January Weather in Yosemite

January temperatures in Yosemite Valley and Wawona, both at an altitude of about 4,000 ft (1,200 m), clock in at an average high of 48°F (9°C) and an average low of 29°F (-2°C). Keep in mind that those are just averages. On a cold, snowy day, you will need a winter coat and hat and full winter garb, while on a warm, sunny day, you can find yourself relaxing in the sun in just a shirt and light pants.

As elevation increases, temperatures decrease. So, when you go up in altitude to places like the Badger Pass Ski Area, which ranges from 7,200 to 8,000 feet in elevation, you’ll find more wintry conditions. 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.

January sees an average of 7.0 inches (177 mm) of precipitation, enough to recharge Yosemite Falls in most years and create the famous ice cone at the base. At higher altitudes, the majority of this precipitation falls as snow, opening up the full suite of winter recreation.

When snow accumulates on the road, particularly during snow storms, rangers could require 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. Remember, though, that even if you are not required to put the chains on your wheels, state and federal law requires you to carry chains when entering a chain control area, even if you are in a 4WD or AWD. 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.

Finally, just before your trip, make sure to check the interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, and more in different parts of the park.

What to Do in Yosemite in January

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

January is a special time for locals, because the Badger Pass Ski and Snowboard Area usually opens in time for Christmas. It can be busy over the holidays but come January, you often feel like you have the place to yourself. In addition, it is one of the most affordable ways in California to learn to ski or snowboard with attractive “learn-to” packages for both skiing and snowboarding. With lots of beginner-friendly terrain and all trails feeding into a central base area, Badger Pass is particularly enticing for families who want to introduce the kids to winter sports. It’s also just a fun, affordable place for any skier or snowboarder to lay down some turns and revel in the crystalline beauty of winter.

Cross-country Skiing

For more of a winter nature experience, cross-country skiing lets you venture far from the developed areas. 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.

If you’re new to cross-country skiing, a lesson will get you off on the right ski! The Nordic Center at Badger Pass has rentals and instructors who can give you the tools you need to set off on your own adventures. Trails specifically groomed for cross-country skiing lead to Old Badger Summit, a relatively short and beginner-friendly tour. For those looking for a serious challenge and some of the most beautiful winter scenery in the world, the 21-mile round trip to Glacier Point will fit the bill. While this 21-mile round trip is only for very fit skiers, there is plenty of beautiful scenery along the way, such as the views of the Clark Range at about the halfway point. You can go turn around at any point. Just remember to save enough energy to get back!

In addition, marked but ungroomed ski trails lead to numerous destinations both near and remote. It’s about a 3.5-mile trip each way to Dewey Point with its incredible views across Yosemite Valley to El Capitan. For those comfortable navigating off trail, a deep bed of snow covers the underbrush and makes it possible to travel to places that are all but inaccessible in the summer as you quietly stride and glide above the bushes and fallen logs that normally block the way. Just make sure you know how to get back!

You’ll also find excellent opportunities for ungroomed cross country skiing at Crane Flat, and close to Wawona in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. There are few things more awe-inspiring than a sequoia grove under a blanket of fresh snow.

Snowshoeing

snowshoeing in Yosemite in December

In the winter season, snowshoeing becomes an easy way to explore the snowy landscapes of Yosemite National Park.

Cross-country skiing is not for everyone. It takes some practice before you can venture into challenging terrain. So, if you want to get out and experience the high-country beauty of Yosemite in January without investing that time, snowshoes are the ticket. Though it takes some getting used to, in a few minutes you’ll be walking anywhere your feet can carry you, buoyed up by a good pair of snowshoes.

To get started and learn about Yosemite’s winter environment, start with a guided ranger walk at Badger Pass. Or head out with a Yosemite Mountaineering School snowshoe guide for a more wide-ranging adventure. Once you have your confidence, then the entire Yosemite backcountry awaits you.

Cross country ski and snowshoe rentals are available locally at the Nordic Center, a smaller building across from the main lodge at Badger Pass.

Can You Hike In Yosemite in January?

With all this talk of snowsports, you might wonder whether Yosemite’s iconic hiking destinations are accessible in January. Yes they are!

Many hikes are perfectly accessible with little or no specialized equipment. Hikes around Wawona like the Wawona Meadow Loop and the Swinging Bridge hike are convenient choices for people staying at the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins. Also, the hikes on the floor of Yosemite Valley such as the Valley Loop Trail and Mirror Lake are also good winter walks.

The Yosemite Falls Trail will commonly have considerable snow at the top, but the hike to Columbia Rock yields wonderful views of the Valley and Half Dome. The best views of the falls are from about the halfway point on the trail and this is usually snow-free or packed out for easy walking. Though sometimes a bit icy, it melts out quickly once the sun gets to work on it.

The famous Mist Trail is closed in sections and hikers need to take the somewhat longer winter route that combines parts of the John Muir Trail with parts of the Mist Trail to make for a safe winter route.

It is often handy to have some sort of traction device for the feet such as “microspikes” as well as trekking poles. Even the low-elevation trails can have icy sections and the traction devices and poles can save you from a fall.

Photography and Sightseeing

Winter snows create some of the most stunning landscapes Yosemite has to offer. A blanket of white on the peaks and the play of winter light adds relief and drama to the views, making for excellent photos and excellent memories. When storms arrive, places like Tunnel View draw dozens of professional photographers seeking to capture the unique conditions of Yosemite in January.

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.

Sledding and Snow Play

You don’t need an Olympic bobsled run to feel the thrill and joy of sliding downhill in the winter on nothing but a thin sheet of plastic. The kids love it, but the smiles on the parents show that sledding is not just for the kids. 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 also 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 there 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.

Outdoor Ice Skating

Imagine gliding across the ice on an outdoor rink with a view of Half Dome! The Curry Village ice skating rink lets you do exactly that. You can’t find a backdrop like that just anywhere!

The slightly smaller rink at Tenaya at Yosemite doesn’t have a view of Half Dome, but it does have a roof that provides more protection from the elements while still providing an outdoor feel among the tall pines, firs and cedars.

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 January 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. That makes it a pretty long ski to Tuolumne destinations.

Beyond the Badger Pass Ski and Snowboard 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) each way to visit the iconic overlook at the end of the road.

Those looking to hike to Vernal Fall or Nevada Fall in January 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.

January Lodging in Yosemite (and Deals!)

The Redwoods In Yosemite winter cabin

Be sure to rent a vacation rental cabin from The Redwoods for your trip to Yosemite in January. Short days are nicer when you have a whole home to spread out in, and all Redwoods in Yosemite are located inside Yosemite National Park, so you’re close to the park attractions.

The Redwoods in Yosemite offers a full range of rental cabins from small to large, and from simple to lavish, so you can find a place to stay that fits your group perfectly.

Because January in Yosemite is truly a quiet season, it’s also a great time of year for availability and excellent lodging deals.

If you have a large group, consider renting one big house or multiple homes near each other. For really large groups, The Redwoods has a Wedding and Events Center that accommodates up to 100 people for group gatherings and 80 for formal dining. This can also be a great option for businesses or non-profits looking to strategize for the year ahead or families looking to celebrate special occasions.

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.

With so much 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.

Book that January trip now!

Yosemite’s scenery is especially stunning during the winter months. You’ll find a halo of snow along the high peaks and clinging to ledges along the famous cliffs. The park is open, and in one of its most-quiet and majestic seasons. Even if you’ve visited before in another season, you’ll find winter in Yosemite to be a unique and magical experience.

On most days, getting around in winter is easy enough with just a little extra preparation. Let’s get into the details so you know exactly what you need to do for a fun and easy Yosemite winter adventure.

When and where are Chains Required?

When the roads start to get snowy, rangers set up chain control areas around the slippery sections to help you make sure you get where you are going safely.

Everyone entering a chain control area must have chains with them in their vehicle. That includes rental and four-wheel drive vehicles.

However, just because you need to have them with you, doesn’t mean you have to install them on your car. There are two factors that play into whether or not you will have to put chains on your vehicle. One is the current road condition, and the second is how much traction your vehicle has.

When to Bring Chains?

The park service strongly recommends having chains if you’re visiting between November and March. You might even need them as early as September or as late as May. The weather can change quickly in the mountains and even the best forecasts can be off. Be sure to check on weather conditions right before your trip.

Where to get Chains that Fit?

Chains are available at most automotive stores as you get close to Yosemite National Park. Look for a places like a NAPA Autoparts store or O’Reillys.

Diamond pattered chains, like the Quick Fit chains available from Les Schwab are more expensive, but provide excellent traction and are easy to put on. As of this writing, Les Schwab also has a policy that allows you to return unused chains for a full refund at any Les Schwab Tire Center with proof of purchase. Please double check this before you buy.

m+s rating on tires

Look for an M+S rating on the side of your tires to see if they are Mud and Snow rated.

In order to get chains that fit your vehicle, you’ll need to know the size of your tires before you go into the store. These will be printed on the side of the tire. While you’re looking, this is a good time to confirm that your tires are Mud and Snow rated. If they are, you’ll see a M+S designation on the tire as well.

Where Can I Go In Yosemite Without Chains?

There aren’t any specific regions of the park that always require or don’t require chains in the winter. If it’s February, but the roads are dry and snow free, you won’t encounter any chain control areas. If it’s May, and a huge cold storm just rolled in, all roads within Yosemite National Park could have chain controls in place.

In general, you’re more likely to have chain controls at higher elevations and less likely to have them on lower elevation roads. For example, as one of the higher winter roads, the Badger Pass Road often has some level of chain control requirement in the winter.

What Are the Current Road Conditions & Chain Requirements?

Chain controls are not unique to Yosemite. You might also encounter chain controls on California Highways outside the park. You can get information about those road conditions outside the park on the Caltrans website, or by calling 1-800-427-7623.

The best way to find out the current road conditions inside Yosemite Park is to call the road conditions hotline. This is absolutely the most up-to-date information.

For current road conditions dial 209-372-0200, and then press 1 and 1 again.

How Will I Know When To Put My Chains On?

Chain control signs, explainedPlan ahead by calling the road conditions hotline, then look for the chain control signs.

You’ll find them located close to a wide pull-out that will allow you to pull safely out of the flow of traffic to put your chains on. Don’t pass this up! Not only can you get a citation for driving past these points, sometimes the conditions will deteriorate before you can get to the next safe place to pull off the road.

These signs will not only tell you where you need to put your chains on, but also whether you need to put chains on your vehicle.

R1, R2 and R3 Exemptions

There are three levels of chain controls. If your vehicle meets certain requirements you can leave your chains in your car without having to put them on.

R1 – Autos & Pickups Snow Tires OK. This the least restrictive level, cars and trucks (less than 6,000 pounds) with mud and snow rated tires don’t need to put chains on as long as the tread of the tires is 6/32 of an inch or deeper. If your tires are mud and snow rated, they will have something similar to M+S written on them.

R2 – 4W Drive with Snow Tires OK. If you satisfy the requirements for R1 and you have four-wheel or all-wheel drive engaged, you don’t need to put chains on. For this reason alone, if you are renting a car for your winter Yosemite trip, it may be worth it to upgrade to an AWD or 4WD vehicle.

R3No Exceptions.  That’s clear, right? At this level everyone needs to put their chains on. Roads are rarely at R3. If the conditions are this slippery, the road is usually closed.

What about Rental Vehicles?

Rental companies often prohibit chains, and installing them on your rental vehicle violates the rental agreement and leaves you responsible for any damage that occurs. This is a tricky situation without a great solution.

Most damage from chains is due to improper installation. Your best protection against this is simply to make sure your chains are put on correctly. Take your time, follow the instructions carefully, drive slowly and you shouldn’t have any trouble.

It’s also yet another reason to upgrade to a 4WD or AWD rental vehicle, since usually you won’t need to put chains on except in the rare event of R3 conditions.

Tips on Snow Chain Installation

Once you know how to do it, it only takes a few minutes to stop and put your chains on when needed. Different cables and chains are installed differently, so it’s best to follow the instructions that come with your chains.

Still, here are a few general tips to make it as quick and easy as possible to get the chains on and get on your way.

General Tips for Driving in the Snow and With Chains

When it comes to winter driving, slow and steady wins the race. If you’ve done any driving in the snow, you’ll know that there are a few simple rules for driving on snowy surfaces.

That’s It! Enjoy your winter Yosemite experience!

The Redwoods in Yosemite cabins are located in the small town of Wawona. Wawona is high enough to receive a healthy helping of snow during the winter months. There is enough snow that you’ll love looking out the windows of your cozy cabin to see snowflakes floating gently through the air, and you’re close to the grand winter beauty in the park. At the same time, Wawona is low enough to remain more manageable than higher elevations in terms of driving and shoveling.

We hope we’ll see you here at The Redwoods In Yosemite for your next winter trip to Yosemite.

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.

Finally, just before your trip, make sure to check the interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, water flow in different parts of the park.

What to Do in Yosemite in December

Hiking 

snowshoeing in Yosemite in December

You can hike year-round in Yosemite National Park. Lower elevation trails are often snow-free or packed out so that you can easily walk them in hiking boots (we recommend traction devices or hiking poles to keep from slipping), and snowshoes make it easy to keep hiking when the snow gets deeper.

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.

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.

Snowshoeing

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.

winter Yosemite vacation rental cabin

Snuggle in to a warm and welcoming Yosemite vacation rental cabin for your December visit. Find cabins inside Yosemite National Park when you book through the Redwoods In Yosemite.

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.

Yosemite National Park abounds in natural beauty and opportunities for adventure and discovery in a relatively safe, welcoming environment. This makes it an ideal destination for solo female travel.

Yosemite National Park has World-Famous Scenery

wildflowers blooming on the trail with a view of nevada fall

Yosemite’s most exquisite landscapes are appreciated just as well, or better, on a solo trip.
Photo: Nancy Robbins

Yosemite’s iconic landscapes are famous the world over – from the dizzying heights of cliffs like El Capitan to the roar of spring waterfalls or the unique façade of Half Dome rising up over Yosemite Valley. Soaking in the sweetness of that natural beauty is just as easy on your own as with a group, except that on a solo trip you don’t need to make any compromises. See the things you want to see and do the things that you want to do the most.

Yosemite Brims with Activities for the Solo Traveler

Carol Coyle loves solo-hiking in Yosemite National Park.

Carol Coyle has been enjoying solo hiking in Yosemite for decades. Be sure to get her best tips for making the trip special.

With more than 750 miles of trails, studded with scenic overlooks and natural wonders around every bend there is enough for a lifetime of exploration. Choose from popular trails with plenty of company or opt for the path less traveled for more alone time. The solo traveler will find herself with a wealth of choices to design the trip of her dreams.

At 83 years old, Carol Coyle has visited many different destinations, and often travels alone, especially now that her husband has passed. However, Yosemite is the spot that has captured her heart.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Yosemite hike that Carol hasn’t enjoyed over the years. Although she visited Yosemite often with her young family back in the 70s, hiking was often her own special activity. For her, Yosemite’s trails have provided treasured alone time, a healthy distance from her to-do list, and a way to find spiritual comfort and healing. Although it’s hard to pick a favorite, some of the trails she recommends include the Four-Mile Trail and Panorama Trail. When it’s running, you can take a bus from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point and walk back downhill to your car!

Purple flowers blooming in Wawona

Spring means gorgeous carpets of wildflowers like these lupines. Enjoy the open meadows near Wawona during your visit.

Carol also recommends the Wawona Meadow Loop as a peaceful easy trail that is located close to the vacation rental cabin that she now owns inside Yosemite in the community of Wawona.

For those looking for a little more interaction, there are plenty of opportunities for that in Yosemite too. Join a group on a free ranger-led walk to dive deep into a topic of interest. Sign up for a rock climbing lesson, guided hike, or a horseback riding tour at the Wawona Stables or Yosemite Trails in nearby Fish Camp. There are art classes for all abilities, photography walks, and so much more.

Yosemite also brims with opportunities to learn more about the park and its natural ecosystems. In addition to group activities, there are many trails like the one through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias not far from Wawona that include interpretive signs that share the stories of these ancient and magnificent trees. Historic exhibits like the Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley or the Yosemite History Center in Wawona help put the park into perspective.

Where to Stay

Coyles Cabin, managed by The Redwoods In Yosemite

Carol’s home, Coyles Cabin, with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths might be a bit big for most solo travelers, but it is one of many managed by The Redwoods In Yosemite. Be sure to check out their selection of rental cabins in Yosemite for something that is the perfect fit for you.

When Carol is away, her home, Coyle’s Cabin, is managed as a vacation rental by the Redwoods In Yosemite. When Carol travels she always prefers a vacation rental. She loves having all the comforts of home, including a kitchen of her own so she can save money and prepare the foods that she enjoys most. Plus, cabins tend to be situated “closer to nature”, and she’d gladly trade a bustling lobby area for a private deck where she can easily wander outside to enjoy the sounds of nature or look up at the stars.

Carol also appreciates the fact that the Redwoods In Yosemite is based in Wawona. For a solo traveler, it’s comforting to know that the staff is just up the street if she needs anything. Because they live and work in the area, the Redwoods In Yosemite staff are also a helpful resource for current conditions and can provide an insider’s perspective on what to expect. Many repeat visitors at the Redwoods In Yosemite stop in at the front desk just to say hello and catch up on what’s new.

Safety Considerations on a Solo Trip

In addition to the reassuring presence of a local vacation rental property management staff, Carol prefers National Park destinations in general when she is traveling alone. As she puts it, there are no “bad neighborhoods” to watch out for when exploring inside a national park. So, you can feel assured that you’ll be in a neighborhood where you can feel safe.

Naturally, when traveling alone, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and be responsible for yourself. Because it’s possible to choose more traveled or less traveled destinations to explore, in Yosemite it’s easy to find just the right level of adventure for you. Still, remember to let someone know what you’re plans are, so they know when to expect you back, and can let someone know if you haven’t returned as planned.

In her many years of exploring Yosemite, Carol has never had to call on Yosemite Search and Rescue. However, just knowing that the Yosemite Search and Rescue staff and medically trained park rangers are some of the best search and rescue outfits in the nation also provides some reassurance.

With the many things for a solo/female traveler to do and discover it’s easy to see that Yosemite National Park is one of the best destinations for getting out and discovering nature safely and on your own terms.

Wind the clock back.

Travel back in your mind to a time long before paved roads and the cars that travel them; before the buildings now preserved in the Yosemite History Center were built in the early 1900s; and before Yosemite was designated as a National Park in 1890. Let’s go back to the edges of the times we know about today – to stories of people who lived here for generations, the people whose ancestors lived here when the ancient sequoias we admire today were still saplings.

Imagine a rich landscape, sparkling, clear rivers filled with sweet Sierra water, and beautiful open meadows teeming with wildlife. Does the scene make you want to stop and stay a while? It certainly seemed that way to the people that lived here then.

One name for this place was Pallachun, meaning “a good place to stop.” And it’s still a good place to linger today, to appreciate all of the quiet and beauty nearby, even though we now call it Wawona.

(The new name was given in 1882 after what is believed to be the Mono Indian name for giant sequoias – Wah Who Nau. It is thought to come from the sound of the hoot of the great horned owl that was the guardian spirit for these ancient trees.)

The Earliest Residents

Ta-buce collecting acorns in Yosemite Valley

Ta-buce, or Maggie Howard, collecting acorns in Yosemite Valley. Photo taken in 1936.

Archaeological evidence suggests that people lived in the Yosemite area as long as 8000 years ago. In the old Miwuk stories, people were created by Ah-ha’le (Coyote) to have the best characteristics of the animals, and the cleverness of the coyote himself to gather and use the richness of the plants and animals there. Today, we have evidence that these earliest known residents crushed seeds on flat rocks, and hunted using spears and atlatls.

The most current understanding is that by the late 18th century, most of Yosemite was populated by the Southern Miwok people, with some Central Miwok people in the northern reaches of what is now Yosemite National Park.

However, the history of precisely which tribes and sub-tribes lived in Wawona is complex and hard to define. Currently, seven tribes are recognized as having ties to areas inside Yosemite National Park. These include the Bridgeport Indian Colony, Tuolumne Band of Me-wuk Indians, Mono Lake Kootzaduka’a, Bishop Paiute Tribe, Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, and the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California, as well as the Southern Sierra Miwuk Nation.

Finding Signs of Early Native Civilization Today

Pounding Rocks

Lucy Brown pounding acorns

Large mortar rocks were used to process foods, like these acorns. When we find these special places, we can imagine people here preparing food for their families.

If you know where to look along the South Fork of the Merced River and along the Wawona Loop Trail along the edges of the meadow, you can find mortar rocks that were used to process food. Look for circular depressions in the tops of boulders, often in a place where a person preparing food would have easy access to water. These places now often provide a good view of a nearby meadow or river.

These were used like we might use a mortar and pestle now, except on a much grander scale. Each pestle weighed from 5 – 12 pounds and could be used to pound a gallon of acorns at a time. The resulting acorn flour would be sifted, and then the coarser pieces pounded again until the fine flour could be rinsed free of the bitter tannins and used to make dough.

If you look carefully, you’ll see many sizes and depths of the mortar holes. Each mortar was designed for a specific use. For example, shallow mortars were better for pounding acorns, while deeper mortars were preferred for preparing manzanita berries.

Arrowheads and Spear Tips

obsidian knives excavated in Yosemite

Obsidian knives have been discovered throughout Yosemite, leaving important traces of native culture.

If you look carefully you might also spot obsidian arrowheads and spear points in Wawona and throughout the region. Be sure to leave these where you found them! These important archeological artifacts provide important information about where native people lived and traveled. Removing these artifacts erases an important piece of tribal history.

While the shafts of arrows are made from local mock orange or spicebush shoots, and the feathers came from local birds, you can’t find the obsidian needed for arrows and other tools in this area.

To get these, you would need to get them from the east side of the Sierra.

Obsidian caches found along known trade routes and other archaeological findings demonstrate that the people living in Wawona before the mid-19th century had a robust and well-established network of trade and commerce that extended from beyond the Sierra Nevada mountains to the east and all the way out to the west coast.

In fact, when Stephen Powers travels through the region in 1877, he’s struck by how easy it is to communicate. While there are, of course, many different dialects, often the root remained close enough that many people could communicate effectively. He wrote, “An Indian may start from the upper end of Yosemite and travel with the sun 150 miles… without encountering a new tongue, and on the San Joaquin make himself understood with little difficulty.”

Trade included obsidian from the eastern Sierra to sea shells from the coast, as well as finely crafted baskets with a wide range of uses. In the mid-19th century, the Miwuk were renowned for their brilliantly crafted arrows, made from local plants such as Mock Orange or Spicebush.

Disruption and Devastation in the 19th Century

woman standing with acorn granaries called chuckas

People built acorn granaries to preserve this important food resource.

It’s hard to pin precise dates on how far back the many generations of people followed the natural rhythms of the year. They followed animal migrations and harvested many plants and mushrooms as they came into season. In late summer or early fall, the people would set fires to promote the growth of plants that were useful to them and clear the ground to make gathering food easier. In the fall, they collected acorns for food and stored them in granaries called “chuckahs”. Dried meat and dried mushrooms were prepared for the long winter months. Some people would move to lower elevations for the winter, returning again in spring.

However, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, their lives changed dramatically. California’s Gold Rush of 1849 brought thousands of non-Indian miners to the region in search of gold and began to “lay claims” to pieces of land. In 1850, volunteer militias like the Mariposa Battalion were formed to “protect” the newcomers by forcing the native residents out.

Thousands of native people were killed or died of starvation following this disruption. By 1910, only 1 in 10 of the original Ahwahneeches (the people who lived in Yosemite Valley) were alive and accounted for.

Many tribes signed treaties with the new government, moving to the Fresno Indian River Reservation as agreed. But like so many similar treaties of the time, these were only honored when it was convenient. Soon enough the reservation was overgrazed by the herds of white cattle ranchers, treaties were ignored, and less than 10 years later, in 1860, the failed Fresno reservation closed. Now landless and without legal status, the people were forced to move again.

Return

indian cultural demonstrator

As they returned to the area, some found work demonstrating their cultural practices, as well as other jobs in the community. Photo Grace Anchor making manzanita cider as visitors watch.

Having nowhere else to go, many of the people moved back to their traditional homelands. They resettled in Yosemite Valley, Wawona, El Portal, and other areas, and adapted to lives with the newcomers in order to survive. By the time President Lincoln was presented with the Yosemite Grant in 1864, protecting vast stretches of land as part of “America’s Best Idea”, native people were once again living year-round in places like Yosemite Valley. In addition to their traditional practices, they also worked with and for their new neighbors, including providing services to early hotels. But it still wasn’t easy.

Although archaeologists have identified over 30 different historic villages in Yosemite Valley, by the early 1930s, they had been consolidated into one “old Indian village” that was located near the site where the medical clinic is now.

To make room for the hospital, the people were relocated to the “new Indian village” (Wahoga) just west of Camp 4, which was in place from 1931 to 1969.

Unfortunately, at that point, the housing policies changed, and the residents of Wahoga were once again asked to leave, just as their ancestors had been, and their cabins were removed from the site.

Fortunately, the Wahoga area has recently been set aside again for the preservation of Indian cultural heritage. Tribal elders have envisioned a sixty-foot Hangngi’ (traditional round house) and other structures built in the old ways as much as possible, and including a community building and cultural center. You can see them under construction now in Yosemite Valley.

Learn More

baskets on display at the Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley

Learn more about Yosemite’s history at a local museum. (Photo: displays at the Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley)

For more information on Native History, be sure to stop in at a local museum. The exhibits and knowledgeable staff there can bring the cultural history of indigenous people to life.

The Sierra Mono Museum and Cultural Center is worth a side trip to North Fork (about an hour from Wawona). The center is dedicated to sharing a wide variety of artifacts that have been important for the Mono tribe’s cultural history, including the largest Mono Basket collection in the state, and over 100 animal exhibits.

The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley is another delightful place to get information on the cultural history of indigenous people as well as other exhibits. Talk to the Indian Cultural Demonstrators who work there, and admire the beautiful basketry on display. Behind the museum, you’ll also find a reconstructed Indian village with examples of different kinds of structures, as well as information on some of the traditional uses of local plants.

The Smithsonian Institute calls The Mariposa Museum and History Center in downtown Mariposa, CA “The Best Little Museum of its Size West of the Mississippi”. There, among stories of the gold rush and pioneer history, you’ll also find an exhibit with native plants, mortar rocks, baskets, and photographs that tell the story of local Miwuk heritage and culture.

Are you thinking about visiting Yosemite National Park in September? You’re in luck! September is an ideal time to explore the park. In September, Yosemite combines the vast array of activities available during the summer months with comfortable cooler temperatures – perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities.

Important Note for 2024:  Yosemite National Park will require reservations to enter the park between on select dates, including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays (September 2) during the month of September. Fortunately, guests staying at The Redwoods In Yosemite Vacation Home Rentals, are not subject to the reservation system because all cabins are in Wawona, inside the park. If you have a valid Redwoods In Yosemite cabin reservation, simply show a copy of your booking confirmation (a screen capture is OK too), and a photo ID matching the reservation. You’ll be able to pay the entrance fee at the gate with a credit or debit card.

Keep reading for a deep dive into everything that Yosemite has to offer, and what to expect during a September visit.

Weather in September

Family taking a horse-drawn stagecoach ride at the Yosemite HIstory Center

It’s easy to imagine early Yosemite park visitors bumping down dirt roads on the way to visiting Yosemite after taking a horse-drawn stagecoach ride at the Yosemite History Center.

Choose Your Own Temperatures

There isn’t just one answer to what to expect for temperatures in September in Yosemite.

Because Yosemite spans sun-soaked foothill climates at 1,800 feet (549 m) to craggy alpine summits at 13,114 feet (3,997 m), you can find a range of temperatures in the park on any given day. This allows you to choose your own temperatures by choosing activities at lower or higher elevations.

If you’re exploring Yosemite Valley or Wawona, you’ll be at around 4000 feet (1,220 m). The average high temperature for September in Yosemite Valley or Wawona is 83℉ (28℃) and the lows are 51℉ (11℃) on average.

However, if there’s a heat wave during your visit, or you prefer cooler temps, consider visiting Tuolumne Meadows. At 8,600 ft (2,622 m), the high temps average a very comfortable 65℉ (18℃) while evenings drop to a brisk 32℉ (0℃).

Looking for something in between? Try hikes along Glacier Point Road that are around 7000 ft (2,134 m)

Precipitation in September

September is still comfortably within Yosemite’s “dry season”. However, we will occasionally see some afternoon thunderstorms that tend to build over the high country in Tuolumne and can spill down into the lower elevations as well.

Because September tends to be dry, there is also a possibility of smoke and fire throughout California between late June and the beginning of the wet season – usually in mid- or late-October. It’s a price we pay for so much glorious sunshine.

Before your visit, check the interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page. It is a terrific resource for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, and air quality in different parts of the park so you’ll have a better sense of what to expect.

What to Pack to Wear in Yosemite in September

Fall view of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley

You may have noticed that Yosemite’s temperatures fluctuate a lot between day and night. Plus, since you’ll probably want to explore several different areas within Yosemite National Park, it’s important to arrive with a variety of layers of clothing.

This layering strategy allows you to start with a puffy jacket in the morning. Pull off that jacket and enjoy long sleeves as the day starts to warm up, and then shed even that layer to be comfortable in short sleeves for mid-day.

We recommend carrying a light rain jacket too. It can double as a wind-breaker, and adds a lot of warmth for the amount of space it takes in your pack. Plus, if you are treated to an afternoon thunderstorm, you’ll be glad you have it with you.

Similarly, you might want to trade a warm wool beanie for early morning outings for a sun hat later in the day.

Hiking or trail running shoes with good traction are ideal for walking Yosemite’s sometimes-polished granite.

September is often still warm enough to enjoy a refreshing swim in one of Yosemite’s rivers or lakes. If that sounds like the perfect end to a day of hiking and exploration, be sure to grab a suit and towel too.

How Busy is Yosemite in September?

By September, Yosemite National Park feels calmer, especially mid-week. Schools are back in session, so there are fewer families traveling. There are still plenty of people visiting, but it’s like the park has taken a nice deep breath.

Weekends are busier than weekdays. If you have flexibility in your travel plans, be sure to take advantage of quieter mid-week days in Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park Service has started a text messaging service with information about when parking fills in various parts of the park. We’d recommend signing up for that a few weeks before you plan to visit so you can get an idea of what areas fill (and which do not) and at what times. That will give you a rough sense of when you should plan to arrive in different locations.

Sign up for current traffic conditions by texting YNPTRAFFIC to 333111.

Where to Stay in Yosemite in September

Cabins at the Redwoods In Yosemite

Escape to a cabin in Yosemite. You’ll find a great selection (and deals) at The Redwoods In Yosemite.

While Yosemite’s visitation is past-peak in September, we still recommend booking your lodging reservations early to get the best selection. Yosemite Valley lodging in particular can fill far in advance.

Check out booking a vacation rental cabin in Wawona instead. The Redwoods In Yosemite has the largest collection of cabins inside the park and plenty of filters that make finding the perfect place, and don’t forget to check out the special offers to get the best deal.

Best Hikes in Yosemite in September

September is a hiker’s paradise in Yosemite. The high country trails are open with many options for walking to an alpine lake or past soaring cliffs. Water flow has receded as the high-country snow melted away, so the waterfalls will be smaller (or gone) but you will be more likely to keep your feet dry by crossing on stones over small creeks rather than having to wade.

Mist Trail/John Muir Trail

Vernal Falls and The Mist TrailYosemite Valley lies at the heart of the national park, and there are many trail options ranging from short wheelchair and stroller-friendly walks through Cooks Meadow, to the steep trails that climb up from Yosemite Valley floor that provide birds-eye views.

However, with two big waterfalls that run year-round, the Mist Trail is the best, most popular, and most-scenic hike any time of year, and particularly in September. The trail is steep, but there are so many jaw-dropping destinations along the way it’s easy to customize to the hiking ability of your group. Whether you turn around at the Vernal Fall footbridge after getting that view of Vernal Fall (1.6 miles/2.6 km round-trip), the top of Vernal Fall (2.4 mi/3.9 km round trip) or make it all the way to the top of Nevada Fall (5.4 mi/ 8.7 km round trip), you’ll be in for a real treat.

Take the free shuttle in Yosemite Valley to Happy Isles (Shuttle Stop #16) or walk the extra 1.5 miles round trip from Curry Village.

Taft Point / Sentinel Dome

The trailhead for these two destinations starts at the same spot along Glacier Point Road. You can either do them one at a time or combine them into a longer loop with stunning views looking down into Yosemite Valley.

Taft Point is known for its striking fissures and the dizzying view from the guard rail down into the valley. Sentinel Dome provides an impressive 360 view of Yosemite’s high country as well as looking across at Half Dome and down into Yosemite Valley.

As separate hikes, each destination is 2.2 miles/ 3.5 km round trip with mostly rolling terrain – although the final climb to the top of Sentinel Dome is quite steep – take your time and enjoy the scenery.

As a loop, expect about 5 miles/ 8 km. The section of trail connecting the two destinations follows the valley rim and is a less-traveled treat.

As long as you’re driving out along Glacier Point Road, don’t forget to stop at Glacier Point too. It’s a particularly good destination for sunset.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – Grizzly Giant Loop

The Mariposa Grove is the largest of the three giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park and is located close to Wawona and the South Entrance Gate. A stroll among these ancient giants is always worth the time, especially if you haven’t had the chance to see a giant sequoia before.

In September, most people will park near the South Entrance and take the free shuttle bus to the Arrival Area at the Lower Grove, though you can also walk the Washburn Trail (2 miles/3.2 km) if you want to stretch your legs.

From there, the most popular hike is the Grizzly Giant Loop (2.0 mi/ 3.2 km round trip) which takes you past the Fallen Monarch, Bachelor and Three Graces, and up to the Grizzly Giant (one of the largest trees in the grove). Just past the Grizzly Giant, you can walk through a living sequoia, the California Tunnel Tree.

However, you could also simply follow the wheelchair-friendly boardwalks around the Big Trees Loop (0.3 mi/0.4 km) for a shorter walk. For more time among the giants, hike the Mariposa Grove Trail plus Guardians Loop (7 mi/ 11.3 km round trip) to take in the (quieter) Upper Grove trees as well.

Cathedral Lakes Trail

Like Yosemite Valley, it’s hard to choose just one best hike in the Tuolumne region, but the Cathedral Lakes Trail is certainly a strong candidate. On this trail, you combine the serene beauty of Lower Cathedral Lake with the striking summits of Cathedral, Echo, and Tressider Peaks rising all around. The round-trip is 7-8 mi (11.2-12.8 km) depending on whether you want to see Lower Cathedral Lake, Upper Cathedral Lake, or both of them.

What to Do in Yosemite in September

Yosemite’s hiking is spectacular, but September offers much more than just hiking. If you’re ready to give your legs a break check out some of these other options.

Come join us for the biggest Yosemite Clean Up event of the year with Yosemite Facelift!

All participants should register and you can do so here: https://www.yosemiteclimbing.org/yosemitefacelift2023

There are great prizes (including a chance to win a two night stay at The Redwoods), fun activities, and above all, one great goal of collecting as much trash as we possibly can! Event begins September 20, 2023 through September 24, 2023.  Please register before September 11, 2023!!!! 

Horseback Riding

Swing into the saddle for a horseback riding experience. Ride a Quarter Horse with family-owned and operated Yosemite Trails, or take a 2-hour ride along the Wawona Meadow Loop at the Wawona Stables.

Museums and the Yosemite History Center

Wawona’s Yosemite History Center takes you back in time to the era of horse-drawn wagons. A collection of historically significant buildings from around the park sheds light into a part of Yosemite’s history.

Stop by the Wawona Visitor Center at Hill’s Studio to see an exhibit of paintings by Yosemite artist Thomas Hill, and chat with friendly rangers there.

Biking

Mountain bike in the snow

There are many options for biking in the Yosemite area. Photo: Yuli Gotsev

Biking is a fun way to see Yosemite Valley. Plus, mountain bikers will love the nearby trails in the Sierra National Forest.

Fishing

Cast a line into one of Yosemite’s creeks, rivers or lakes. The region around Wawona is known for brookies, browns, and rainbows. The guides at Yosemite Sierra Fly Fisher have all the details.

Ride a Historic Steam Train

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Take a ride on a historic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad!

Get a chance to climb aboard an authentic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. They have 1-hour tours during the day or spend a magical 3-hour evening that includes dinner, a train ride, and live music around the campfire.

Junior Ranger / Ranger Programs

Learn more about what you’re seeing in Yosemite from one of the park rangers. The Junior Ranger program is appropriate for children and appreciated by people of all ages as a way to experience the park more deeply. See the Yosemite Guide to learn what programs are happening during your stay.

Sightseeing / Wildlife Viewing in Yosemite

So much of Yosemite’s beauty can be appreciated from roadside stops. Take a scenic tour up toward Glacier Point or out along Tioga Road as well as through Yosemite Valley.

Be sure to keep your speed down and your eyes open for some of Yosemite’s magnificent wildlife as you go. If you’re lucky, you may see one of Yosemite’s black bears (they can be brown or even blonde), mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, and so many more.

Photography

It may be hard to take a bad picture in this amazing place, but if you’re interested in coming away with the best photos possible, also consider joining The Ansel Adams Gallery for one of their photography walks.

Fall foliage in Yosemite Valley and Wawona usually peaks in mid-October, but keep your eyes open for small pops of color starting in September.

Rock Climbing

Go Climb a Rock. Yosemite is world-famous for amazing rock climbing. You’ll love the unique experiences and views from high atop Yosemite’s cliffs. Yosemite Mountaineering School offers beginner classes all the way up to multi-day ascents of El Capitan, and the Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides can introduce you to climbing just south of the park.

Swimming

Friends enjoying the river on innertubes near Wawona

There is a splashing good time to be had on the rivers in Wawona.

The days are still warm enough in September to enjoy a refreshing swim in Yosemite’s rivers or lakes. Wawona is particularly known for its delightful swimming holes. You might also enjoy swimming in the Merced River in Yosemite Valley or the sandy beach at Tenaya Lake along Tioga Road.

Go Stargazing

There’s nothing quite like finding a quiet spot away from the bright lights of the city to appreciate the beauty of the night sky. In September, you might even see a shooting star. The September Epsilon Perseids (not to be confused with the August Perseids from the Swift-Tuttle comet) add an extra spark of celestial excitement to the experience.

More Things to Do in Yosemite

This is a long list, but there are even more things to do in Yosemite. It’s truly a destination with something for everyone.

See You in Yosemite in September!

It’s easy to see that September in Yosemite is an idyllic time to explore the park in more ways than one. We hope to see you soon!

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.

Important Note for 2024:  Yosemite National Park will require reservations to enter the park between on select dates, including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays (October 14) during the month of October. Fortunately, guests staying at The Redwoods In Yosemite Vacation Home Rentals, are not subject to the reservation system because all cabins are in Wawona, inside the park. If you have a valid Redwoods In Yosemite cabin reservation, simply show a copy of your booking confirmation (a screen capture is OK too), and a photo ID matching the reservation. You’ll be able to pay the entrance fee at the gate with a credit or debit card.

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.

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.

Finally, just before your trip, make sure to check the interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, water flow in different parts of the park.

Road Conditions

Golden trees on the way into Yosemite Valley

In October in Yosemite, you can find golden trees lining the roadways into Yosemite Valley.

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:

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

Father and daughter reading a book together in a Redwoods In Yosemite cabin

If you do end up with a day or rain or snow in October, you’ll love the option of having a full living room to relax in at The Redwoods In Yosemite.

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

Grandfather and boy admire Giant Sequoias together

A stroll through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is an absolute must for your Yosemite Visit. Photo Nancy Robbins

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

Yosemite Valley

Tuolumne Meadows/High Country

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.

Horseback Riding

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

The steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad

Step back into history with a ride on a narrow gauge steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Photo: courtesy Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.

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.

Ranger Programs

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.

Indoor Activities

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.

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.