Written By Christina Kantzavelos
There is still time! November is a grand time to visit Yosemite National Park. Crisp mornings and cool evenings, sunny days, chromatic views, and the chance of first snow all paint your next perfect travel picture. It is the least crowded time to visit the park, which means quieter and more intimate outdoor adventures. Plus, you can catch a last glimpse of Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows and Mariposa Grove before they close for the season.
We’ve come up with eight reasons your visit to Yosemite should be in the few remaining weeks of November. And remember to pack layers and tire chains, just in case!
1. Explore Tuolumne Meadows (before they close for the snow season!)
Take advantage of having access to Tuolumne Meadows/Tioga Roads before they close for the snow season. The fall really transforms each of these majestic locations into chromatic wonderlands. Plus, you get to enjoy their beautiful hikes and views in serene solitude, as neither will be as busy as in the summer.
2. Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Park
Enjoy creating a wonderful memory by hosting a Thanksgiving feast in the comfort of your cabin, surrounded by your family, and friends. Not in the mood to cook? Here are three wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner options in the park. Be sure to make a reservation!
3. Visit the Grizzly Giant in Mariposa Grove
If you haven’t visited the newly restored Mariposa Grove, then you’re in for a treat. Hike its beautiful (and partially ADA compatible) trails before it closes for the snow season. Grizzly Giant has never looked more majestic with its colorful leaves!
4. Bike in the Valley
Explore the valley via bicycle, and enjoy the crisp air, colorful leaves, and beautiful views as you bike by or stop to visit the less-crowded Yosemite valley staples.
5. Explore the Museums in the Park
Don’t let November rains scare you! Is it too rainy or snowy to go exploring? Or, are you looking for a relaxing stroll? Then visit the Yosemite Museum in the valley, or walk through the Ansel Adams Gallery, which displays his work as well as other contemporary photographers and artists. If you’re in Wawona, be sure to visit the Yosemite History Center, which explains the history of Yosemite National Park and how it inspired the growth of national parks across the county and the world.
6. S’mores and BBQs!
Is there a more delicious food group? Gather around the fire, and enjoy roasting juicy fillets and gooey s’mores with your friends and loved ones.
7. Pet Friendly Yosemite Trails to Hike and Enjoy
Take your pup on the Chowchilla Mountain road (the original road to Yosemite), or Wawona Meadow Loop Trail in Wawona. Or, you and your canine can explore Bridalveil Fall trail, Hodgdon Meadow, Glacier Point, Cook’s Meadow Loop, or even Lower Yosemite Falls. You can also bring along your fur-baby on the Mirror Lake Trail, or take the perfect holiday card photo with them in front of Tunnel View. For both you and your pet’s safety, they are not allowed in the meadows, back country, in public buildings, or on shuttle buses. Looking for a pet friendly cabin? We have you covered!
8. Cozy Fireplaces and Hot Tubs
Snuggle up with a mug of delicious steaming cocoa next to the fireplace in your cabin. Or relax with a soothing cup of hot tea next in your hot tub. Not much compares to spending quality time in your cozy cabin, or hot tub, especially when it’s snowing or raining outside.
Looking for a cabin to get cozy in for November?
Our 120 Redwoods In Yosemite cabins are located in Wawona, at the Southern entrance of Yosemite, just a few miles from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Relaxing and private, these fully equipped vacation cabins border the wild and scenic South Fork of The Merced River, the Wawona swinging bridge and Chilnualna Falls (the second highest vertical drop waterfalls in Yosemite)! Our Event Center includes full use of the Fireside Room and adjacent deck, with audio and visual equipment and a catering kitchen. Many of our 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. Relax, explore, escape!
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 have a sense of what to expect during your visit. For current road conditions the best and most up-to-date information call the hotline at 209-372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again) to listen to the recording.
Are you thinking about visiting Yosemite National Park in September? You’re in luck! September is an ideal time to explore the park. In September, Yosemite combines the vast array of activities available during the summer months with comfortable cooler temperatures – perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities.
Important Note for 2024: Yosemite National Park will require reservations to enter the park between on select dates, including Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays (September 2) during the month of September. Fortunately, guests staying at The Redwoods In Yosemite Vacation Home Rentals, are not subject to the reservation system because all cabins are in Wawona, inside the park. If you have a valid Redwoods In Yosemite cabin reservation, simply show a copy of your booking confirmation (a screen capture is OK too), and a photo ID matching the reservation. You’ll be able to pay the entrance fee at the gate with a credit or debit card.
Keep reading for a deep dive into everything that Yosemite has to offer, and what to expect during a September visit.
Weather in September
Choose Your Own Temperatures
There isn’t just one answer to what to expect for temperatures in September in Yosemite.
Because Yosemite spans sun-soaked foothill climates at 1,800 feet (549 m) to craggy alpine summits at 13,114 feet (3,997 m), you can find a range of temperatures in the park on any given day. This allows you to choose your own temperatures by choosing activities at lower or higher elevations.
If you’re exploring Yosemite Valley or Wawona, you’ll be at around 4000 feet (1,220 m). The average high temperature for September in Yosemite Valley or Wawona is 83℉ (28℃) and the lows are 51℉ (11℃) on average.
However, if there’s a heat wave during your visit, or you prefer cooler temps, consider visiting Tuolumne Meadows. At 8,600 ft (2,622 m), the high temps average a very comfortable 65℉ (18℃) while evenings drop to a brisk 32℉ (0℃).
Looking for something in between? Try hikes along Glacier Point Road that are around 7000 ft (2,134 m)
Precipitation in September
September is still comfortably within Yosemite’s “dry season”. However, we will occasionally see some afternoon thunderstorms that tend to build over the high country in Tuolumne and can spill down into the lower elevations as well.
Because September tends to be dry, there is also a possibility of smoke and fire throughout California between late June and the beginning of the wet season – usually in mid- or late-October. It’s a price we pay for so much glorious sunshine.
Before your visit, check the interactive Current Conditions map on the NPS page. It is a terrific resource for information on weather, forecasts, webcams, and air quality in different parts of the park so you’ll have a better sense of what to expect.
What to Pack to Wear in Yosemite in September
You may have noticed that Yosemite’s temperatures fluctuate a lot between day and night. Plus, since you’ll probably want to explore several different areas within Yosemite National Park, it’s important to arrive with a variety of layers of clothing.
This layering strategy allows you to start with a puffy jacket in the morning. Pull off that jacket and enjoy long sleeves as the day starts to warm up, and then shed even that layer to be comfortable in short sleeves for mid-day.
We recommend carrying a light rain jacket too. It can double as a wind-breaker, and adds a lot of warmth for the amount of space it takes in your pack. Plus, if you are treated to an afternoon thunderstorm, you’ll be glad you have it with you.
Similarly, you might want to trade a warm wool beanie for early morning outings for a sun hat later in the day.
Hiking or trail running shoes with good traction are ideal for walking Yosemite’s sometimes-polished granite.
September is often still warm enough to enjoy a refreshing swim in one of Yosemite’s rivers or lakes. If that sounds like the perfect end to a day of hiking and exploration, be sure to grab a suit and towel too.
How Busy is Yosemite in September?
By September, Yosemite National Park feels calmer, especially mid-week. Schools are back in session, so there are fewer families traveling. There are still plenty of people visiting, but it’s like the park has taken a nice deep breath.
Weekends are busier than weekdays. If you have flexibility in your travel plans, be sure to take advantage of quieter mid-week days in Yosemite.
Yosemite National Park Service has started a text messaging service with information about when parking fills in various parts of the park. We’d recommend signing up for that a few weeks before you plan to visit so you can get an idea of what areas fill (and which do not) and at what times. That will give you a rough sense of when you should plan to arrive in different locations.
Sign up for current traffic conditions by texting YNPTRAFFIC to 333111.
Where to Stay in Yosemite in September
While Yosemite’s visitation is past-peak in September, we still recommend booking your lodging reservations early to get the best selection. Yosemite Valley lodging in particular can fill far in advance.
Check out booking a vacation rental cabin in Wawona instead. The Redwoods In Yosemite has the largest collection of cabins inside the park and plenty of filters that make finding the perfect place, and don’t forget to check out the special offers to get the best deal.
Best Hikes in Yosemite in September
September is a hiker’s paradise in Yosemite. The high country trails are open with many options for walking to an alpine lake or past soaring cliffs. Water flow has receded as the high-country snow melted away, so the waterfalls will be smaller (or gone) but you will be more likely to keep your feet dry by crossing on stones over small creeks rather than having to wade.
Mist Trail/John Muir Trail
Yosemite Valley lies at the heart of the national park, and there are many trail options ranging from short wheelchair and stroller-friendly walks through Cooks Meadow, to the steep trails that climb up from Yosemite Valley floor that provide birds-eye views.
However, with two big waterfalls that run year-round, the Mist Trail is the best, most popular, and most-scenic hike any time of year, and particularly in September. The trail is steep, but there are so many jaw-dropping destinations along the way it’s easy to customize to the hiking ability of your group. Whether you turn around at the Vernal Fall footbridge after getting that view of Vernal Fall (1.6 miles/2.6 km round-trip), the top of Vernal Fall (2.4 mi/3.9 km round trip) or make it all the way to the top of Nevada Fall (5.4 mi/ 8.7 km round trip), you’ll be in for a real treat.
Take the free shuttle in Yosemite Valley to Happy Isles (Shuttle Stop #16) or walk the extra 1.5 miles round trip from Curry Village.
Taft Point / Sentinel Dome
The trailhead for these two destinations starts at the same spot along Glacier Point Road. You can either do them one at a time or combine them into a longer loop with stunning views looking down into Yosemite Valley.
Taft Point is known for its striking fissures and the dizzying view from the guard rail down into the valley. Sentinel Dome provides an impressive 360 view of Yosemite’s high country as well as looking across at Half Dome and down into Yosemite Valley.
As separate hikes, each destination is 2.2 miles/ 3.5 km round trip with mostly rolling terrain – although the final climb to the top of Sentinel Dome is quite steep – take your time and enjoy the scenery.
As a loop, expect about 5 miles/ 8 km. The section of trail connecting the two destinations follows the valley rim and is a less-traveled treat.
As long as you’re driving out along Glacier Point Road, don’t forget to stop at Glacier Point too. It’s a particularly good destination for sunset.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – Grizzly Giant Loop
The Mariposa Grove is the largest of the three giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park and is located close to Wawona and the South Entrance Gate. A stroll among these ancient giants is always worth the time, especially if you haven’t had the chance to see a giant sequoia before.
In September, most people will park near the South Entrance and take the free shuttle bus to the Arrival Area at the Lower Grove, though you can also walk the Washburn Trail (2 miles/3.2 km) if you want to stretch your legs.
From there, the most popular hike is the Grizzly Giant Loop (2.0 mi/ 3.2 km round trip) which takes you past the Fallen Monarch, Bachelor and Three Graces, and up to the Grizzly Giant (one of the largest trees in the grove). Just past the Grizzly Giant, you can walk through a living sequoia, the California Tunnel Tree.
However, you could also simply follow the wheelchair-friendly boardwalks around the Big Trees Loop (0.3 mi/0.4 km) for a shorter walk. For more time among the giants, hike the Mariposa Grove Trail plus Guardians Loop (7 mi/ 11.3 km round trip) to take in the (quieter) Upper Grove trees as well.
Cathedral Lakes Trail
Like Yosemite Valley, it’s hard to choose just one best hike in the Tuolumne region, but the Cathedral Lakes Trail is certainly a strong candidate. On this trail, you combine the serene beauty of Lower Cathedral Lake with the striking summits of Cathedral, Echo, and Tressider Peaks rising all around. The round-trip is 7-8 mi (11.2-12.8 km) depending on whether you want to see Lower Cathedral Lake, Upper Cathedral Lake, or both of them.
What to Do in Yosemite in September
Yosemite’s hiking is spectacular, but September offers much more than just hiking. If you’re ready to give your legs a break check out some of these other options.
Come join us for the biggest Yosemite Clean Up event of the year with Yosemite Facelift!
All participants should register and you can do so here: https://www.yosemiteclimbing.org/yosemitefacelift2023
There are great prizes (including a chance to win a two night stay at The Redwoods), fun activities, and above all, one great goal of collecting as much trash as we possibly can! Event begins September 20, 2023 through September 24, 2023. Please register before September 11, 2023!!!!
Swing into the saddle for a horseback riding experience. Ride a Quarter Horse with family-owned and operated Yosemite Trails, or take a 2-hour ride along the Wawona Meadow Loop at the Wawona Stables.
Museums and the Yosemite History Center
Wawona’s Yosemite History Center takes you back in time to the era of horse-drawn wagons. A collection of historically significant buildings from around the park sheds light into a part of Yosemite’s history.
Stop by the Wawona Visitor Center at Hill’s Studio to see an exhibit of paintings by Yosemite artist Thomas Hill, and chat with friendly rangers there.
Biking is a fun way to see Yosemite Valley. Plus, mountain bikers will love the nearby trails in the Sierra National Forest.
Cast a line into one of Yosemite’s creeks, rivers or lakes. The region around Wawona is known for brookies, browns, and rainbows. The guides at Yosemite Sierra Fly Fisher have all the details.
Ride a Historic Steam Train
Get a chance to climb aboard an authentic steam train at Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. They have 1-hour tours during the day or spend a magical 3-hour evening that includes dinner, a train ride, and live music around the campfire.
Junior Ranger / Ranger Programs
Learn more about what you’re seeing in Yosemite from one of the park rangers. The Junior Ranger program is appropriate for children and appreciated by people of all ages as a way to experience the park more deeply. See the Yosemite Guide to learn what programs are happening during your stay.
Sightseeing / Wildlife Viewing in Yosemite
So much of Yosemite’s beauty can be appreciated from roadside stops. Take a scenic tour up toward Glacier Point or out along Tioga Road as well as through Yosemite Valley.
Be sure to keep your speed down and your eyes open for some of Yosemite’s magnificent wildlife as you go. If you’re lucky, you may see one of Yosemite’s black bears (they can be brown or even blonde), mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, and so many more.
It may be hard to take a bad picture in this amazing place, but if you’re interested in coming away with the best photos possible, also consider joining The Ansel Adams Gallery for one of their photography walks.
Fall foliage in Yosemite Valley and Wawona usually peaks in mid-October, but keep your eyes open for small pops of color starting in September.
Go Climb a Rock. Yosemite is world-famous for amazing rock climbing. You’ll love the unique experiences and views from high atop Yosemite’s cliffs. Yosemite Mountaineering School offers beginner classes all the way up to multi-day ascents of El Capitan, and the Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides can introduce you to climbing just south of the park.
The days are still warm enough in September to enjoy a refreshing swim in Yosemite’s rivers or lakes. Wawona is particularly known for its delightful swimming holes. You might also enjoy swimming in the Merced River in Yosemite Valley or the sandy beach at Tenaya Lake along Tioga Road.
There’s nothing quite like finding a quiet spot away from the bright lights of the city to appreciate the beauty of the night sky. In September, you might even see a shooting star. The September Epsilon Perseids (not to be confused with the August Perseids from the Swift-Tuttle comet) add an extra spark of celestial excitement to the experience.
More Things to Do in Yosemite
This is a long list, but there are even more things to do in Yosemite. It’s truly a destination with something for everyone.
See You in Yosemite in September!
It’s easy to see that September in Yosemite is an idyllic time to explore the park in more ways than one. We hope to see you soon!
Tioga Pass Road aka Highway 120 makes way for perfect summer and early fall adventures in Tuolumne Meadows. After a heavy winter, the waterfalls are still strong, and there is even some snowmelt on some of high country trails. We have a list to plan your perfect day of trail hiking, whether you’re just looking for a short and sweet stroll or something to test those limits. The best part? Even with its popularity, and short season, Tuolumne tends to be much less crowded than Yosemite Valley (cue prayer hands).
Check out the free Tuolumne Meadow Shuttle if you’re planning to knock out a few trails in a day.
Cathedral Lakes (7-8 miles/Moderate)
Part of the John Muir Trail, this is a gorgeous and very popular scenic hike surrounded by peaks like Cathedral Peak (hence the name) and by Echo and Tresidder Peaks, all standing at 10,000 ft in elevation. The reason Cathedral Lakes is plural is that there is a detour for Lower Cathedral Lake, as well as Upper Cathedral Lake. Lower Cathedral Lake is a more popular destination, but why not visit both?
Tenaya Lake (2.5 miles/Easy)
Get ready for postcard views on this hike, featuring one of Yosemite’s most beautiful and picturesque lakes surrounded by granite domes and peaks. A naturally beautiful hike, its short length and ease makes it popular for good reason.
Elizabeth Lake (4.6 miles/Moderate)
Have you caught on to Tuolomne’s lake theme yet? This hike isn’t as popular as Tenaya Lake, likely because of its steep uphill beginning. However, it’s just as picturesque. The lake is surrounded by evergreens and large gorgeous granite like Unicorn Peak.
Glen Aulin (13 miles/Strenuous)
Alright, so this one isn’t a lake, however, it is a trail that guides you to beautiful Tuolumne Falls and White Cascade. It’s also popular because it’s part of the Pacific Crest Trail and is a gateway to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Yes, Tuolumne Meadows has it all.
Gaylor Lakes (2 miles/moderate)
Easily one of Yosemite’s most underrated hikes. A steep climb rewards you with spectacular views of Dana, Mammoth, Gibbs and other mountains as well as Dana Meadows. In addition, it has five lakes that seem untouched, picturesque, almost like a Hollywood backdrop. If that’s not enough, there’s even an abandoned 1870’s mine that sits above Gaylor Lake.
Mono Pass (8 miles/moderate)
This trans-sierra trail takes you through wet meadows and rushing creeks, providing you with amazing views of Bloody Canyon and stunning Mono Lake. Not nearly as crowded as other trails in the area.
Lyell Canyon via the John Muir Trail (8 miles/Easy)
A pleasant hike that passes through the Lyell fork of the Tuolumne River, as well as the bridged Rafferty Creek and Ireland Creeks. At the eight-mile mark, you are awarded with the Kuna Creek’s cascade. Looking for something shorter? You can walk ½ hour each way to and from the Twin Bridges. Keep in mind, this trail can get muddy and you will likely run into some Pacific Crest Trail and/or John Muir hikers.
Dog Lake (2.8 miles/Moderate)
No, there are no puppies to be found here. Though, there is a still mountain lake, bordered by evergreens and granite mountains. You’re already en route to Lembert Dome, why not continue forward and get a beautiful view of Tuolumne Meadows?
Lembert Dome (2.8 miles/Moderate)
Lembert Dome does not feature a lake or cascade, but it does offer some fantastic views of Tuolumne meadows. If you stay straight at the junction it will lead you to Dog Lake, making it a solid four miles. It may get windy, so hold onto your hats. And as always, stay off domes during chances of thunderstorms.
Soda Spring and Parsons Lodge (1.5 miles/Easy)
Also located in the same parking lot as the Lembert Dome and Dog Lake trailheads. The third hike of the day is a charm, right? This trail takes you to springs that spew cold bubbling water right out of the ground. This is where your carbonated beverages come from. Kidding. And there is an enclosure to ensure you don’t try testing the carbonation levels.
Looking for a home base for your hikes?
All of our 120 Redwoods In Yosemite cabins are located in historic Wawona, near the South Entrance of Yosemite National Park, just a few miles from the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias (free shuttle access to grove when you stay with us!). Relaxing and private, these fully equipped vacation homes border the wild and scenic South Fork of The Merced River, the Wawona swinging bridge and Chilnualna Falls (the second-highest vertical drop waterfalls in Yosemite)! Our Event Center includes full use of the Fireside Room and adjacent deck, with audio and visual equipment and a catering kitchen. Many of our 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. Come on up! Relax. Explore. Escape!
Written By Christina Kantzavelos