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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 Grizzly Giant is the most renowned giant sequoia in Yosemite National Park. Standing at a solid 209 feet (63.7 m) it is the second largest tree in the Yosemite, and one of the most photographed. You’ll need to take a panorama to capture that in one image!
We can’t know for certain how old this tree is until we are able to count the annual rings in the wood – something we can’t do now without harming the tree. However, based on its diameter in comparison with other trees, researchers estimate that it could be around 2000 to 3000 years old. That’s long enough for this gentle giant to have a story or two to tell.
Ready to visit? Check out these must-know facts about this wonder before you get to meet in person!
The Grizzly Giant Ranked the 26th Largest Tree In the World!
In the world of trees, Giant Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) live up to their name. They are the largest trees in the world by volume. The Grizzly Giant, when measured in 1990, was 34,005 cubic feet (962.9 m3) in volume and roughly 2 million pounds in weight. That’s as heavy as a tower of 145 elephants standing on top of each other.
Even the branches of this mighty tree are noteworthy in their own right. The largest branch growing about 95 feet overhead is more than 6 feet (2 m) in diameter. If it were an independent tree growing out of the ground, just this branch would be much larger than many other non-sequoia trees. However, in context of the massive main trunk, it hardly attracts any notice.
Does that make you feel like a tiny pine cone in comparison? Consider that these massive trees all start their life as a small seed about the size of a flake of oatmeal.
These trees have done a lot of growing already, and unlike us humans, sequoias continue to grow larger with age. Expect generations ahead of us to be even more in awe.
Snag a Front Row Seat for a Sequoia’s Hardiness
As the Grizzly Giant aged, a snag formed at the top – those dead stems at the top of the tree. This is a feature that many mature giant sequoias share.
What causes those snags?
In its life, likely spanning thousands of years, the Grizzly Giant weathered many hardships that might have been the end of lesser trees. It has likely been hit by lightning more than a few times, and withstood droughts as well as both wind and snow storms.
It’s thick, spongy bark is estimated to be about 2 feet (0.6 m) thick. The tree is filled with tannic acid which increases its resistance to threats from fungus, insects and fire. Still, if you look at the base of the tree, you will notice charred hollows, fire scars that are probably hundreds of years old. The Grizzly Giant survived these lightning fires – a good thing since fires are an essential part of the Sequoia lifecycle. However, fire scars interrupt the flow of water from the roots to the tree tops. When this happens the top of the sequoia dies back to reduce the water requirement, producing a snag top. A new branch can take over as the leader, only to die back again when another fire comes through, or during an extensive drought.
For a giant sequoia, the presence of a snag in the top is a proud banner of its ability to endure across millennia.
The Grizzly Giant Gets A Little Help From Its Friends
As long-lived as giant sequoias are, they couldn’t do it without help from their neighbors. If you walk all the way around the Grizzly Giant, you’ll notice that it has a pronounced lean. The trunk lists almost 5 degrees to the south and 1.5 degrees to the west. Even with the 96.5-foot (29.5 m) circumference at ground level, that puts the roughly 2 million pounds (907 metric tons) of weight decidedly off center.
It looks so precarious that in 1904 supporting cables were proposed to help the Grizzly Giant remain standing. Though the cables were never installed, they have so far been unnecessary.
Do sequoia trees have a secret power that helps keep them upright?
Sequoia root systems don’t plunge deep into the ground with a tap root – instead they reach out to the side, remaining close to the surface. You can see this shallow root system in toppled trees like The Fallen Monarch. As the roots grow out to the side, they interlace with the roots of their neighbors so the trees can help hold each other up.
This shallow root system appears to be one key to the Grizzly Giant’s longevity. It’s also the reason that walking around the base of the tree and compressing the soil around these fragile roots can be so harmful to these ancient trees.
The Coolest Kid in the Grove
The Grizzly Giant Loop is one of the most popular trails in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. By now, you can probably see why. Who wouldn’t want to meet the Grizzly Giant in person?
The numbers and photos can’t do justice to this rare and ancient tree. You have to see it in person, tilting your head back – way back – to look into its massive branches, and contemplate all that it has seen in its lifetime.
The Mariposa Grove is home to more than 500 mature sequoias. Named after the county that it’s in, Mariposa, the Mariposa Grove was first visited by non-natives in the 1850s. Over the next few years, the Grizzly Giant would become a poster-child for this magnificent area, posing with such notables as Yosemite’s first guardian, Galen Clark, as well as President Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir. These famous photos were sent back east and became viral in their own way, helping to make a case for preserving this grove of trees for us to enjoy today.
If the Grizzly Giant were the only giant sequoia in the grove, it would be worth visiting, but luckily for you, it is surrounded by other notable giants that you’ll want to stop and greet along the way. Say hello to the Bachelor and Three Graces, and elegant grouping of giants that you’ll pass on the way. And don’t forget to continue a short distance beyond the Grizzly Giant to walk through the still-living California Tunnel Tree.
If you make it even further up the trail, you’ll encounter even more tree-mendous characters. The Faithful Couple Tree is united into a single trunk at the base, though overhead you can see that it is two sequoias that have grown together over time. Also keep your eyes open for the Clothespin Tree, the Telescope Tree and many many more.
Stay Nearby at The Redwoods In Yosemite
One of the best places to stay to explore the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and see the Grizzly Giant is in a private vacation home in Wawona. Be sure to explore the biggest selection of vacation cabins offered by The Redwoods In Yosemite.
Relaxing and private, these fully-equipped rental cabins are conveniently located in the charming community of Wawona. There are many things to do in Wawona itself. Plus, your cabin is inside the park gates, making it easy to explore other parts of Yosemite, as well as the Mariposa Grove.
Many cabins are pet-friendly, some feature spa tubs and all have private decks with BBQ’s and upgraded linens for that ‘home away from home’ experience.
If you’re planning a trip for a group, be sure to also check into the convenient Event Center for a centrally-located place to gather. The Event Center includes the use of the Fireside Room and the large adjacent deck, along with access to state of the art audio and visual equipment and a catering kitchen.