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When you visit Yosemite in August, you find the park at its peak season. Everything is open so you’ll find the biggest selection for shopping, dining, and activities. Families are enjoying the last bit of summer travel time before school starts again with plenty of hiking options as well as refreshing trips to local swimming holes.

Important Note for 2024:  Yosemite National Park will require reservations to enter the park on select dates, including August 1-15, and Saturdays and Sundays during the remainder of the month. 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, so they can check your name off the list. You’ll be able to pay the entrance fee at the gate with a credit or debit card.

Pro tip: If you can, take advantage of the lull in late August. Because schools start earlier than they used to, kids often end up back in school by the middle of the month. Meanwhile, those without children often wait until after Labor Day to plan their fall trips, leaving a quiet period at the end of August when you can enjoy summer conditions with fewer people around. In fact, starting in mid-August you will also often find better discounts on Yosemite lodging.

August Weather in Yosemite

Kid on an intertube in the river

Wawona is well-known for its refreshing, and not too crowded swimming holes.

In Yosemite, August is the warmest and sunniest month of the year. High temperatures in Wawona or Yosemite Valley are often around 89°F (32°C), but mornings and evenings are cooler, averaging a delightful 57°F (14°C), perfect for hiking or other active pursuits. And when the sun is at its highest, delightful swimming holes with refreshingly cool waters invite wading, swimming, or floating.

Another popular option is to travel to higher elevations in the summer for hiking or exploration. For example, at 8,000 feet (2,622 m), in Tuolumne Meadows, the average high temperature is only 70°F (21°C). Just be sure you bring some warm layers if you want to visit the high country early or stay late because evening temperatures average just 37°F (3°C).

The month of August also has the lowest precipitation of any month, with only 0.2 inches (4 mm) of rain on average, making beautiful cloudless blue skies the August norm. The downside of California’s warm and dry August weather is the possibility for wildfire. Fire is a natural and essential part of this region’s ecosystem, but it can lead to smoky conditions if there are large fires in the area and the wind direction is just right (or wrong as the case may be).

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 air quality in different parts of the park so you’ll know what to expect.

What Clothes to Pack for Yosemite in August

With such a big temperature range, it can be hard to decide what to pack without bringing the entire closet. The first step is to figure out where you plan to spend the most time, and then bring a variety of layers that can be added or shed depending on the day’s conditions. For example, wearing a tank top plus sun shirt plus sweater plus a puffy jacket can provide plenty of warmth for cool mornings at altitude, and you can slowly shed those layers as the day warms up. If you plan to sleep in, explore Wawona or Yosemite Valley, and then retire to your cabin for a relaxing dinner, you won’t need as many warm layers. But if you’re planning to stay up until late for astrophotography or a stargazing program, you’ll be grateful for some extra clothes.

Because the sun is so powerful in the Sierra Nevada, many people find that clothing that provides shade can be as cool or cooler than a t-shirt or tank top. Consider a wide-brimmed sun hat or a lightweight, light-colored, long sleeve sun shirt to stay cool and protect yourself from the sun’s powerful UV rays.

And don’t forget a swimming suit to take the plunge at one of Wawona’s popular swim spots.

Things to Do in Yosemite in August

You won’t lack things to do in Yosemite in August. This is the height of the summer season, so whether you’re planning to hike through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, enjoy a horseback riding trip with Yosemite Trails, or gaze up at the starry skies with a park naturalist, you’ll find plenty of memorable activities for your visit. Here are a few highlighted suggestions to make the most of your August visit.

Hiking in August

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

With warmer temperatures, it’s time to think about high-elevation and shadier hikes. In Yosemite Valley, trails that face north, like the Four Mile Trail, will tend to be cooler than the Upper Yosemite Fall trail which faces south and can become a giant solar oven – amazing in January, but less welcome in August. The water in Yosemite Falls is usually minimal by this time of year anyway. The Mist Trail is a good selection because it’s in a relatively cool canyon, and the waterfalls along this trail flow year-round. The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias tends to have excellent shade from surrounding trees, so that is another good option.

Choosing hikes at higher elevations can also make a big difference in terms of temperature. Hikes along the Glacier Point Road or over in the Tuolumne Meadows area are significantly cooler than those that start at lower elevations.

An alternative strategy for finding cooler hiking conditions is to start hiking early when it is still fairly cool out and then plan more relaxed activities during the warmer part of the day. Spend the middle part of the day with a siesta in your cabin, relaxing by the water, or simply find a shady spot for a picnic. Then you can rally for more hiking as the day cools off again in the evening.

By choosing a local trail, like the one to Wawona’s Swinging Bridge, you can combine some trail time with a refreshing dip in the river.

Stargazing

Easily reached from the Bay Area, Fresno and Los Angeles alike, Yosemite and the surrounding area is great for watching the stars – a place to distance yourself from the city lights.  Whether you’re hiking solo on a backcountry trail, or parked with the family on a turnout along one of Yosemite’s many country roads, and whether you’re using the naked eye, a pair of trusty binoculars, or that brand new telescope, the night sky seems to go on forever, prompting visitors to scan the heavens, take a deep breath of fresh air and announce…wow, I’ve never seen so many stars.

For this month’s meteor showers, one can visit this calendar, and for other astronomic opportunities, there is a great source of information on Yosemite.com.

In August, it is not uncommon to spot amateur astronomers setting up telescopes at Glacier Point on Saturdays. The Yosemite Conservancy offers a few Stargazing events in Yosemite Valley as well, and we highly recommend them!

Biking

When you’re ready to give your hiking boots a break, consider exploring Yosemite Valley by bicycle. There are two bike rental stands – one at Curry Village and another at Yosemite Valley Lodge – that rent cruiser bikes for commuting around the valley. Pedal Forward bikes in Oakhurst also rents mountain bikes (and bike racks). These are ideal you’re more excited about descents and single-track options in the Sierra National Forest, or if you’re just accustomed to a higher-performance bike.

Ranger-led Programs and Guided Activities

Rangers and other guides offer many opportunities to learn about Yosemite from local experts. There is everything from art classes, to astronomy programs, rock climbing lessons, train rides, horseback riding and so much more.

Consult the Yosemite Guide for more information on ranger-led programs during your stay, and see this list of things to do near Wawona for even more ideas close to the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins.

Connect with Yosemite’s History

The Yosemite History Center, located right in Wawona, offers a tour of significant historic structures in Yosemite. These buildings tell the story of settlers, artists, and laborers that have helped make Yosemite what it is now.

Chat with Yosemite rangers, and peek into the studio of a locally famous 19th-century artist at the Thomas Hill studio. This small building close to Wawona Hotel is now part visitor center and part free museum.

Hop aboard a historic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad and then pan for gold, and visit their museum.

The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley is another wonderful history-filled stop. Displays illustrate the cultural history of the Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 until now. Discover what they used to eat, see demonstrations of basket weaving, beadwork, and learn about traditional games. Be sure to wander through a reconstructed village behind the museum to see some of the plants that they used, and the buildings they used to live in.

Staying at the Redwoods In Yosemite in August

When you’re planning your August trip, be sure to consider getting a vacation rental cabin reservation in Wawona with The Redwoods In Yosemite. Wawona’s location inside the park gates makes it easy to explore the park. Plus, you will be able to safely ignore all of the park reservation details. The convenient filters on the Redwoods In Yosemite site make finding the perfect rental home for you. Plus, you’ll save money by booking directly with The Redwoods.

For generations, people have come to Yosemite National Park to recharge their mental and spiritual batteries. Now you can recharge your EV battery too!

There are electric vehicle charging stations at The Redwoods in Yosemite, in Yosemite Valley, and in all of the gateway communities on your way to the park. You might have to worry about running out of energy hiking up Chilnualna Falls Trail, but you will be able to find plenty of energy to keep your car on the road.

EV Charging Stations in Wawona

The Redwoods in Yosemite has two Level 2 chargers with J1772 plugs at our central office on Chilnualna Falls Road in Wawona.

If you want the ultimate in convenience, rent one of our cabins with a dedicated EV charging station. After a day of hiking and exploring, just return to your home and plug in to be ready for the next morning’s activities.

Yosemite Hospitality is also working on installing some additional charging stations (J1772) in Wawona at the far end of the parking lot for the Wawona Store, close to the Yosemite History Center. As of this publication (May 2024) these are not active yet, but may be worth a drive through because they should be online shortly.

Electrical Vehicle Charging Stations in Yosemite Valley

NOTE: These EV charging stations are currently available at no charge courtesy of Yosemite Hospitality. There is also no idle fee for most chargers, so expect to find some spaces filled with fully-charged vehicles, especially if you arrive mid-day.

Yosemite Valley Welcome Center / Yosemite Village

The Ahwahnee

Yosemite Valley Lodge

Yosemite Falls Parking

EV Charging Stations in Tuolumne Meadows

Charging Stations Further Afield

Finally, there is a growing network of EV charging stations, including fast chargers, on the routes to Yosemite, so drivers can top up before entering the park.

So charge up that car and hit the road, knowing that you will be able to recharge in Yosemite National Park.

July in Yosemite is when everything is on the table, including a wide variety of family-friendly fun. By July, all the high-country roads are open, the snow is off all but the highest trails, summer ranger programs are in full swing and everything is up and running. July is also when Yosemite’s summer temperatures reach their highest, so you’ll want to plan your days to keep cool, and the strategy for that is simple: start early or go high (or both). (Before your visit, take a peek at the interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS website. 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.)

Note:  Yosemite National Park will require reservations to enter the park between on select dates, including July 1 through August 15, 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.

What To Do In Yosemite In July

With the entire park open from the lowest elevations to the highest, it can be hard to choose what to do in July in Yosemite. Bearing in mind that conditions vary from year to year, here are a few ideas.

Relaxing by a River or Playing in the Water with the Kids

Boy on an inner tube in the river near Swinging Bridge

The area near the Wawona Swinging Bridge is also excellent for swimming and inner tubing when the water levels are right.

Many travel guides will give you step-by-step guides for how to pack it all in and get as much done as possible during the time you have. We’re going to break with that and say that we think a July day sitting by a river letting the water and the time flow by is a perfect way to spend a day in Yosemite. It’s a great way to spend some quiet time while kids play or to have some quality family time.

In general, the big spring flows are over and it is a safer time, but remember that even in July, currents can be fast and the water can still be cold. So if you are coming to Yosemite in July with kids, it’s important that any waterplay location be carefully selected with safety in mind.

Couple relaxing by the Merced River near Swinging Bridge in Wawona

Wawona is also a great place to relax with a book down by the river. Photo: Theresa Ho

If you’re staying in Wawona, the South Fork of the Merced is never far. Like all Yosemite rivers, it can be a raging torrent and dangerous to enter in the spring. By July, however, it’s usually a meandering creek, perfect to sit by and read a book, listen for birds, dip your toes, and maybe even doze off while listening to the gurgle of the river or the unbridled laughter of the children as they splash about. The real pros might even bring a hammock to string between two shade trees. The area around Swinging Bridge in Wawona and near the picnic area between the village and Wawona Campground are great locations, but you can find your own spot anywhere along the river.

Naturally, a day spent on the banks of the Merced River in Yosemite Valley is another fine choice. There are countless options for this ranging from the “official” beaches like Cathedral Beach or Sentinel Beach, to any random spot that suits your fancy.

Even during the relatively mellow July days, be prudent about waterplay, especially with the little ones. Stay out of fast currents or “white” water (that is, any water with bubbles regardless of how tame it looks).

Rafting and Kayaking

Friends enjoying the river on innertubes near Wawona

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

There are two basic kinds of rafting available in the Yosemite area: wild spring whitewater just outside the park and a quiet meander down the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. July is rather late for the whitewater in most years.

Depending on the snowpack the previous winter, it can mark either the beginning of the season or the end of the season for the Merced Meander. This is not a thrill ride, but more of a family-friendly chill ride. Bring drinks and snacks and be prepared to jump in the water to cool off and then climb back in the boat to warm up. Experienced practitioners of the Merced Meander know that speed is not of the essence. Don’t wear yourself out paddling to break a record. Rather, relax and stare up at the Valley walls.

Raft rentals are available in Yosemite Valley. Those wishing to kayak or canoe need to bring their own watercraft. Note that in very low water years, the rafting may close before the end of July.

Ranger Walks

While ranger walks are few and far between in some seasons, in July there are usually multiple choices every day and in every section of the park. These walks are a great way to learn about the park and deepen your experience. If you have the kids along, don’t miss out on the chance for them to become Junior Rangers with their very own and very official Yosemite Junior Ranger badge. Consult the Yosemite Guide for a full schedule and details on the Junior Ranger program.

Hiking

Family walking next to the Merced River

Take a walk out into nature. You don’t have to go far to reap big rewards in Yosemite.

Hiking is the most common activity in Yosemite and for good reason. By July you typically have the full range of choices from low-altitude hikes like the Wawona Meadow Loop or the Valley Floor Loop to high-altitude hikes leaving from the Tioga Road. Some hikes are short and flat and accessible to even the youngest and oldest walkers. Others are fitness tests, not to be taken lightly. Which hikes you pick depends on your desires and your fitness level, but in general, you will want to choose hikes that offer some shade or you will want to start early.

Mariposa Grove

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia delights people of all ages. Photo: Nancy Robbins

The Mariposa Grove is one of the best July hikes in Yosemite. The grove is a bit higher than either Wawona or Yosemite Valley, and you walk under the shade of the tall trees, both giant sequoias and other conifers. The staggering size and beauty of the giant sequoias will naturally turn most hikes into a bit of a stroll. It’s hard not to stop and gawk and find it’s the trees, not the hiking, that take your breath away. And a picture of your small, young children next to an ancient, enormous sequoia tree is a memento they can cherish for the rest of their lives.

The Mist Trail

Vernal Falls and The Mist Trail

Yosemite’s Mist Trail is a popular must-visit destination, and the mist helps keep the trail cool in the summer.

The Mist Trail in Yosemite Valley is another excellent July choice for the same two reasons as the Mariposa Grove: it combines breathtaking scenery with nice shade cover. The trail takes you along one of the steepest parts of the Merced River as it cascades over the famous Vernal and Nevada Falls as well as through boulder-strewn riverbeds. That beauty does come at a price: the trail, like the river, is steep through this section. People unused to steep walking can find that the 2.5 miles to the top of Nevada Falls feels much longer and the rather large stone steps through the steepest part can be a challenge to younger children (or anyone, really, but young kids in particular). The good news is that the trail has excellent scenery along the entire length and there is no bad turnaround point. Walk as far as you want, have a picnic, declare victory and turn around. An excellent day out.

Wawona Meadow Loop

Take an easy stroll around the bike and dog friendly Wawona Meadow Loop.

The Wawona Meadow Loop offers a relatively flat and short outing with nice shade and is an easy way to quickly find a bit of quiet.

Go High

Another option is to gain some altitude. Sentinel Dome off Glacier Point is only a bit over a mile walk and brings you to over 8,000 feet with astounding panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the Clark Range. Additional hikes at high altitude are more of a drive, but well worth it. There are countless opportunities in Tuolumne Meadows where the hikes all start at over 8,000 feet. The season up this high is only a few months long and July offers a great opportunity to see the “high alpine.”

Go Early

The other time tested summer strategy for hiking is simply to rise early and get going. Mornings are typically cool and comfortable, so the trick for trails like the Chilnualna Falls Trail or the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail is to get there in the cool of the morning and gain some altitude early. Once you’ve gotten a bit of altitude, you can find pleasant hiking all day long.

Essential Equipment

Sun Protection

The areas of Yosemite where visitors spend most of their time are all at 4,000 feet or higher, in some cases much higher. That means that the UV rays are stronger and sun protection is essential. That means covering up where you can (long sleeves recommended) and applying sunscreen liberally and frequently to your exposed skin. A wide-brim hat will keep your ears and face from burning. This is especially important for the younger ones with younger sensitive skin.

Staying Hydrated

The relatively low humidity in Yosemite is great for summer comfort, but can lead to dehydration if you’re not careful. It’s essential to carry water and salty snacks. Aside from the shortest strolls, plan to carry water wherever you go.

Extra Layers

Up in the mountains, the nights can cool down quickly. Just because you’re comfortable in a thin shirt and light pants when you leave the car, doesn’t mean you’ll feel that way as the sun goes down. In addition, you might encounter afternoon thundershowers, especially close to the Sierra Crest (like up in Tuolumne Meadows). At the same time, July is perhaps the most predictable time of the year and it is rare for it to get particularly cold. So a relatively light second layer and a light rain layer should be all you need unless you’re backpacking at high altitude.

Essential Strategy

There’s no sugar coating this: parking can be at a premium in July and the middle of the day can be hot. Starting early is the best way to ensure that you don’t spin your wheels (literally) looking for parking. Parking aside, an early start has the added benefit of getting you up and out in the cool of the morning when the walking is pleasant and you are most likely to see wildlife.

Where to Stay

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

You’ll love the option of having a full living room to relax in at The Redwoods In Yosemite.

If you can swing it, getting a place to stay inside Yosemite National Park is the best option for many reasons. You’ll be closer to the sights and experiences that you are looking for. That means less time cooped up in the car, and more time surrounded by nature. Plus, you’ll have automatically eliminated any worries about waiting in lines at the entrance gates.

There are several hotels inside the park that range from glamping experiences to historic elegance. You’ll need to book these far in advance for July dates.

Another great option is to get a vacation rental home at The Redwoods In Yosemite. With more than a hundred cabins all located inside the park in Wawona (close to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias), choosing a Redwoods In Yosemite cabin has many advantages. There is room for the family to spread out, or put young kids to bed early without having to worry about disturbing them. Kitchens allow you the option to pack inexpensive picnic lunches instead of always eating out. Private decks and BBQs mean bonus time in the outdoors – sipping a cup of coffee surrounded by morning birdsong, or a comfy spot to look out at the stars in the evening, all literally at your doorstep. Also, because The Redwoods has a central check-in, the staff are on-site to assist you if you need anything, and also a wonderful resource for local information and park knowledge.

Final Thoughts

Because the full gamut of summer fun is up and running in Yosemite in July, it’s impossible to give a complete guide, and we’ve only scratched the surface here. We haven’t even mentioned horseback riding or fly fishing or rock climbing classes or many other possibilities for a July visit. It is a time of the year when there is so much to do, it’s more a question of narrowing down the options than of figuring out how to fill up your time.

The key thing to remember, though, is that more isn’t better. People have come to Yosemite for generations to find quiet, to slow down, to breathe in nature, pass on a love of the outdoors from one generation to the next and get away from the bustle of their day-to-day lives. All that takes time. We recommend that you plan your trip around a few “highlight” activities on your “must do” list, but also to plan some time where you have nothing planned.

Relax and enjoy!

There’s an incredible adventure waiting for you in Yosemite during the month of June. With a fantastic Mediterranean climate, you can expect brilliant sun-filled days surrounded by sparkling waterfalls, gleaming white granite cliffs, and jaw-dropping scenery to delight the whole family.

Is June a good time to visit Yosemite?

wildflowers blooming on the trail with a view of nevada fall

Yosemite’s most exquisite landscapes include this view of Nevada Fall
Photo: Nancy Robbins

As the weather warms, the park slowly unfurls like a flower in the spring, presenting more places to go and things to see. Spring wildflower blooms have moved up from the lower foothills into Yosemite Valley and higher. The waterfalls are thundering and the birds are singing. In fact, the biggest downside to visiting Yosemite in June is all the other people who have also realized how delightful it is during this season.

Important Note for 2024:  Yosemite National Park will require reservations to enter the park between on select dates, including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays (June 19) during the month of June 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.

Let’s get into specifics about a June visit.

What is the weather like in June in Yosemite?

The days in Yosemite Valley have really started to warm up by June. The average temperature there is 81°F (27°C) with still cool low temps averaging 51°F (11°C). For most people that’s short-sleeve shirt weather during the day, but in the evenings you’ll still be glad for an extra warm layer.

However, this is the mountains, so if you prefer cooler temperatures, seek out higher-elevation destinations. 4,600 feet (1,402 m) above Yosemite Valley, in Tuolumne Meadows the average high temperature is still only 65°F (18°C), and with night-time lows averaging just 39°F (4°C), you’ll find yourself suddenly in puffy jacket weather. Temperatures in the Crane Flat and Glacier Point areas will fall somewhere in between.

Thanks to the Mediterranean climate in Yosemite, you’ll also be glad to discover that June has settled comfortably into the warm dry season. You’ll be lucky to see a cloud grace the bright sun-filled skies.

Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

Just before your visit, visit 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 does that mean for packing?

Lightweight – Mediumweight Layers: Summer has arrived in Yosemite, so be sure to pack plenty of light layers, but morning and evening temperatures can still be in the low 50s (11-ish °C) or cooler depending on the elevation, so some long pants and sweaters or light jackets can help make an early start or a late evening on the trail much more comfortable.

Hiking shoes (or boots): If you plan to do a lot of hiking during your visit, something with a little extra traction can make a big difference when hiking across rocky, wet, or slippery trails.

Extra socks: If you aren’t renting a cabin with a handy washer and dryer consider bringing extra socks. When it’s dry, the amount of trail dust that can work its way into your socks while you’re exploring is astonishing. Plus, if there is a lot of water on the trails, an extra pair of lightweight wool hiking socks helps keep your feet happy over the long run.

Sun protection: There are so many amazing things to do out here in the sunshine, that it can be easy to over-do it on the sun exposure. A wide-brimmed sun hat can do wonders to keep you cool and reduce the amount of sunscreen you’ll need to put on your face. Outdoor athletes who spend a lot of time outside often choose loose light-weight sun shirts or sun hoodies to protect their arms and shoulders too.

Extras

If you have room in your pack, here are a few other ideas for things you might want to bring to Yosemite.

Yosemite Activities Close to Wawona

With the full array of park activities open or opening in June at your disposal, let’s focus for a moment on a few that are close to vacation rental cabins in Wawona.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Enjoy a moment at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia spans all ages.

Along Yosemite’s southern border, and about 15 minutes from The Redwoods In Yosemite, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is the largest and most spectacular of Yosemite’s three sequoia groves. The grove is open year-round for hikers, skiers, and snowshoers. However, in the summer, a convenient shuttle bus service can whisk you past the first 2 miles (3.2 km) of the walk, and drop you off at the lower grove. The shuttle service usually starts mid-June sometime depending on the conditions.

Once in the lower grove, wheelchair (and stroller)-friendly boardwalks make it easy to explore the most massive trees in the world. For the more adventurous, trails reveal more trees, connect the lower and upper groves, and extend out to Wawona  Point for an airy mountain view that overlooks the town of Wawona.

Chilnualna Falls Trail

Yosemite Chilnualna Falls

The Chilnualna Falls Trail starts in Wawona and wanders up past several waterfalls and cascades for a convenient and less-crowded waterfall hike close to home. Make the lower section part of an after-dinner stroll or challenge yourself to hike the full 8.4 miles (13.5 km) while climbing more than 2000 feet in elevation over the course of a longer day.

Swinging Bridge in Wawona

Bounce your way across Yosemite’s swinging bridge that actually still swings. Unlike its Yosemite Valley counterpart, Wawona’s Swinging Bridge still bobs gently with each step as you cross the South Fork of the Merced River. At less than a mile round-trip, and relatively flat, this is a great way to stretch your legs after you arrive in Wawona. It’s also a quiet scenic spot to enjoy a casual picnic lunch by the water.

Wawona Meadow Loop

early morning mist on the meadow in Wawona

Find peace, solitude, and wide variety of wildflowers (in season) along the Wawona Meadow Loop. Located just across Highway 41 from The Redwoods In Yosemite, this unassuming trail is perfect for a quick morning run. It’s also one of Yosemite’s dog-friendly and bike-friendly trails.

Step into the past at the Yosemite History Center

Yosemite Wawona Pioneer History Center

The Yosemite Pioneer History Center

The cluster of historic buildings at the Yosemite History Center is worth a visit. These picturesque buildings tell stories of how people have lived in the park in the past. Wander through and imagine yourself visiting Yosemite in the mid-1900s. You can read about the significance of each building in the interpretive plaque outside, or if you’re lucky you might find a friendly living history demonstrator who can share those stories with you in person.

Horseback Riding

Get the family out for some western-style fun while going horseback riding during your Yosemite visit.

The team at Yosemite Trails is the real deal when it comes to the western cowhand experience. This local family-owned and operated business raises their own quarter horses, and has a working cattle ranch. They are located roughly 25 minutes from Wawona in Fish Camp.

You can’t beat the Wawaona Stables for convenience. They are located right in the town of Wawona and are open for 2-hour and half-day rides.

Climb aboard 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.

Take a scenic train ride aboard a historic steam train at The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Just 23 minutes from Wawona you can climb aboard a steam train. Take a 1-hour ride and enjoy the museum while panning for gold, or enjoy a 3-hour evening tour that includes dinner and live music around the campfire too.

What Can I See/Do in June in Yosemite in General?

Hiking

By June most hiking trails in Yosemite will be open for exploration – though you may still find snow-covered trails in the highest elevation areas of the park. People of all ages will enjoy walks in Cooks Meadow, Chapel Meadow, or out to the bridge at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. The trail to Mirror Lake/Meadow is likely to still have water and can be a good place to wade into the water and stay cool depending on the conditions.

The famous Mist Trail is a favorite for a wide array of hikers. Boasting magnificent viewpoints all along the trail, it’s easy to customize a day on the Mist Trail to whatever the group feels up to on any given day. (Note: the steep steps leading to the tops of Vernal or Nevada can be especially challenging for younger/smaller hikers.)

Of the Yosemite Valley Trails, the Four-Mile Trail can be one of the last to open due to a shady stretch that avalanches and creates a hazardous section on the trail that can take a long time to melt out. Although it can open as early as April, in some years it has remained closed until mid-June.

In a typical year, Glacier Point Road will also be open by June, meaning that in addition to visiting the famous overlook of the same name, hiking trails like Sentinel Dome or Taft Point beckon to hikers looking for a more rolling hike to a spectacular spot.

The Half Dome cables also typically get installed sometime in June depending on the conditions. That bucket-list hike requires a permit, but you can enjoy views of Half Dome from dozens of locations in the park.

Will Tioga Road be Open in June?

The opening of Tioga Road dramatically expands the number of activities in Yosemite – from new places to hike, fish, or rock climb – as well as allowing easy access from Yosemite Valley to Lee Vining and all points east. So, each year in spring, guessing when Tioga Road will open becomes the question of the hour.

The answer: The road has opened as early as early May, and as late as early July depending on the snow conditions from the previous winter. Nobody knows what the date will be for sure, but there are great resources to help you guess.

The National Park Service shares plowing updates and a list of historical opening (and closing) dates. The roads open earlier during dry winters, and later when we’ve had a lot of snowfall during the winter months. Scroll through the list and look for years with an April 1 snowpack that is similar to the current year, to give you a rough idea of what to expect.

Rock climbing

young girl learning to climb in yosemite

Join the Yosemite Mountaineering School for a fun day on the rocks. Photo: Pacific SW Region USFWS

Rock climbing combines incredible perspectives from high up Yosemite’s cliffs with a thrilling and challenging activity in a destination that is widely considered to be one of the great centers of climbing worldwide. Take a lesson, or hire a private guide to quest up Yosemite’s granite cliffs on a custom excursion.

Biking

rent bikes at pedal forward

Pedal Forward in Oakhurst is The authority on mountain biking trails. Rent a bike here to explore Yosemite or take on the trails in the Sierra National Forest.

In June, biking is often one of the best ways to see Yosemite Valley. Arrive in Yosemite Valley early, park the car and then use your bike to explore at your own pace, without having to worry about finding parking for the rest of the day.

From Wawona, you’ll also find excellent mountain biking nearby in the Sierra National Forest. Stop by Pedal Forward in Oakhurst for the inside scoop on local trails.

Art Programs

Sitting down and taking the time to draw or paint a landscape immerses you in the place like no other activity. Bring your own supplies for spontaneous art making, or join an artist for demonstrations and guidance at a Yosemite Conservancy Art Program.

Ranger Programs

Allow a Yosemite National Park Ranger to open your eyes to the stories and connections that will surround you while in Yosemite. Young people (and the young at heart) love Junior Ranger activities. Pick up a Junior Ranger Guide at the Visitor Center, or download a copy here (4.8 MB) and check the Yosemite Guide for ranger programs in various parts of the park.

And More

The list of interesting, fun, and eye-opening activities that you might try in Yosemite in June goes on and on – from fishing, to rafting, to or simply reading a book on the deck of your Wawona vacation rental and listening to the birds singing in the trees.

Where to Stay in Yosemite in June. 

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

Wind down the day with story time in the living room before putting the kids to bed in a Redwoods In Yosemite cabin.

Naturally, we are biased, but we are hard-pressed to come up with a better option for Yosemite lodging than a Yosemite vacation cabin rental with the Redwoods In Yosemite.

With cabins exclusively located inside the park, you’ll be close to so much of what makes Yosemite special. Spend less time commuting and more time enjoying nature.

Plus, vacation rentals have all the comforts of home, including space to spread out, relax, and talk after putting the kids to bed, and save money by packing your own lunches or eating in when you want to.

Tips to Avoid June Busy-ness in Yosemite

Starting in June, you’re definitely hit Yosemite’s peak visitation season – and with good reason. There’s so much to do, with what seems like more opening almost daily. The weather settles into a pattern of nearly perfect, and as schools begin to let out, the park fills with excited nature-loving souls who are answering the call of the mountains.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid the crowds:

  1. Get started early. Yes, it’s vacation, but if you’d like to have a popular trail mostly to yourself, all you need to do is wake up a little bit earlier than the next group.
  2. Spend a day close to Wawona, or explore a lesser-known area on the days you’d like to sleep in or enjoy a relaxing morning. There’s so much to do in the area, that you don’t have to rush off every day to have a rewarding and restful vacation.
  3. Starting your day inside the park puts you in the pole position for the best start to a visit to Yosemite.

 

Updated: April 5, 2024

There are many good reasons that so many people look forward to visiting Yosemite in May. As the days grow longer and warmer, the Yosemite area comes to life.

The waterfalls are at their most impressive, fueled by melting snow in the high country, and singing their songs as they cascade over Yosemite’s granite cliffs. At lower elevations, like Yosemite Valley and Wawona, the flowers are blooming. The often-photographed dogwood blossoms peak in May, and no one cares that the brilliantly eye-catching white ‘flowers’ are not actually petals but are composed of bracts surrounding the true flowers clustered in the center. The dogwoods, oaks, alders and willow trees are decked out in vibrant spring-green leaves – a welcoming sight after a mostly monochromatic winter.

Important Note for 2024:  Yosemite National Park will require reservations to enter the park on select dates, including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays (May 27) during the month of May in 2024. Fortunately, guests staying at The Redwoods In Yosemite Vacation Home Rentals, are not subject to this 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.

If you’re tempted to visit Yosemite in May, read on for what you need to know to plan the best trip.

Yosemite weather in May

By the numbers, for Yosemite Valley and Wawona you can expect an average high temperature of 68F and an average low of 42F, and just three days of precipitation on average. That means that you might still want a puffy jacket and beanie if you’re spending time outside early or late in the day, but it’ll be just about the perfect temperature to hike mid-day.

Of course, it’ll be cooler as you gain elevation. If you climb from Wawona or Yosemite Valley at 4000 feet, to Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet elevation, you’ll find yourself back in more wintry conditions with average high temps of only 54F (12C) that fall to 27F (-3C) at night.

In either case, it’ll be nice to have a variety of layers if you’re planning to be out and exploring during the day.

Snowstorms that require chain controls are rare in May, but not unheard of. Snow on the roads tends to melt quickly this time of year, but be sure to check the weather prior to your visit to be sure you have the proper equipment just to be safe.

The interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page is a terrific resource for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, and water flow in different parts of the park. This will help you get a sense of what to expect. And if there is any concern about snowy road conditions, call 209-372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again) for the most current information on road conditions and chain controls.

What clothing to bring?

Like most times of year in Yosemite, it’s wise to pack a variety of layers that you can remove as the day warms up and then put back on when it cools off again in the evening.

Don’t forget rain gear. An average of 3 days of rain all month doesn’t seem like a lot, but Mother Nature still occasionally throws a snow storm into the mix, so be sure to watch the weather before your visit. Besides, if you decide to explore some of the amazing waterfalls, and it is waterfall season after all, you might want a bit of protection from the drenching mists. For example, in wet years, when the water is really flowing, people sometimes stop to wring out their socks at the top of Vernal Fall.

What can I see/do in Yosemite in May?

View of Vernal Fall from the John Muir Trail

A centerpiece of Yosemite in May is the beautiful waterfalls in the park. This is a view of Vernal Fall from the John Muir Trail. Photo: Theresa Ho

May in Yosemite is filled with water. Snow from the previous season is melting from the high country and rushing clean and cold through rivers and over cliffs. That makes lower-elevation areas like Wawona, Yosemite Valley or the valley in Hetch Hetchy ideal locations to go for a hike and marvel at the cascades and waterfalls.

The wildflower displays in the central valley and foothills are past their prime, and spring is moving up into the mountains. In addition to the dramatic flowering trees (dogwoods and planted apple trees), you’ll also find a myriad of wildflowers in bloom during this season. Look for the tall purple lupines in Wawona, or take a walk on the Wawona Meadow Loop to spot the many flowering signs of spring.

The wildlife is out and about as well, and the air is filled with bird song. Download apps like Merlin from The Cornell Lab, iSeek from iNaturalist or Yosemite Wildflowers from the Brecklings to learn about and identify some of the many sights and sounds you’ll find while out exploring. If you prefer a non-electronic version, we highly recommend The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada. The author, John Muir Laws, has a knack for including most of the plants and animals you are likely to come across, in a small and easily-packed guide. It even has a section on exploring stars and the night sky in the back.

Hiking

On a good snow year, May is still early for hiking in the high country without skis or snowshoes to help keep you afloat. The popular trails will be packed out by those who have gone before, but higher elevation roads like Glacier Point or Tioga Road are often still snow-covered and closed for the season, so if you decide to hike in those areas be prepared to encounter snow. Snow-covered trails can make travel difficult, and can also make it hard to navigate if you can’t see the trail beneath your feet.

From the Wawona area, near The Redwoods In Yosemite, check out the Chilnualna Fall trail. The trail passes many beautiful cascades along the way making it appropriate for an all-day journey or a quick after-dinner stroll depending on how far you want to go.

Another area close to Wawona and well worth your time is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Though not the tallest or the broadest, these ancient trees combine the best of both and are the most massive trees in the world. If you arrive before the Mariposa Grove shuttles start for the summer season, you can walk the Washburn Trail through the forest up to the Lower Grove.

Biking

Bikes at Pedal Forward bike shop in Oakhurst

If you have the opportunity to bring bikes with you, you’ll love being able to ride them up to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and around to different locations within Yosemite Valley.

There is also some amazing local single-track in the Sierra National Forest for the mountain bike lovers out there. Swing by Pedal Forward in Oakhurst to chat with the team there for all the inside tips.

Hop aboard a Steam Train

Board the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad for a fun trip into Yosemite’s past. Take a 1-hour history tour, or go all-in for a 3-hour evening special with family music, a theater performance or live jazz depending on the evening. While you’re there, you can also visit the Thornberry Museum, and learn to pan for gold.

Rock Climbing

young girl learning to climb in yosemite

Join the Yosemite Mountaineering School for a fun day on the rocks. Photo: Pacific SW Region USFWS

Whether or not you have tried rock climbing before, a visit to Yosemite is a great opportunity to experience a fun and challenging activity with uncommon and extraordinary views in a special place. Sign up for a beginner class at the Yosemite Mountaineering School for a great introduction, or if you have some climbing experience, consider springing for a private guided climb.

Art Programs

Cultivate your inner artist in an art class or workshop run by the Yosemite Conservancy, and create a personal memento of your time in Yosemite. Classes usually begin in May. Check the Yosemite Conservancy website for more details.

Stroll through the Yosemite History Center

Especially if you’re staying at The Redwoods In Yosemite, be sure to stop by the Yosemite History Center to visit historic buildings that have been relocated to Wawona from all around the park. Interpretive signs by each structure tell a story about an important piece of park history.

Horseback Riding

Grab the reins and go for a ride through scenic forests and meadows and cross mountain streams. Horseback rides at Yosemite Trails and the Wawona Stables typically start near the end of May, so double check the website to see if they will be available for your May visit.

And More

Find even more things to do in Wawona, Yosemite, and the surrounding area.

Staying at the Redwoods In Yosemite in May

When you’re planning your May Yosemite trip, be sure to consider booking a vacation rental cabin in Wawona with The Redwoods In Yosemite. As you can see, there is so much to do near Wawona, and being inside the park gates, it’s an easy drive to Yosemite Valley for even more of what May has to offer. The Redwoods In Yosemite rental cabin listings make it easy to find just the home you’re looking for, plus you’ll save money by booking direct.

(Featured image of dogwood blossoms by Theresa Ho)

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.