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.
Best of all, in 2023, if you have rented a cabin in Wawona from the Redwoods In Yosemite, you don’t need to worry about getting a reservation that is now required on the weekends during the “Horsetail Fall season”.
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 at The Redwoods In Yosemite.
Things to Do in Yosemite in February
February Hiking Options in Yosemite
Can you hike in Yosemite in February? Absolutely. Many of the popular lower-elevation trails in Yosemite Valley are either cleared of snow or quickly packed by other people so that you can explore without sinking far into the snow. Walking out to the Lower Yosemite Fall lookout, taking in Half Dome from Cook’s Meadow, or exploring the trail below Half Dome toward Mirror Lake are all easy hikes that you can do in February.
On steeper trails like the John Muir Trail or the trail to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall, you’ll encounter more snow as you climb. The snow on these popular trails gets packed out fairly quickly, so snowshoes are often unnecessary, though some people will still be more comfortable with shoe spikes that you can slip over your boots like Stabilicers or hiking poles that can help provide traction on the packed snow.
For a quick outing, take a walk through the Yosemite History Center in Wawona. The historic buildings capture various chapters of Yosemite history and give you an idea of what living or working here as an artist or trail builder would have been like.
Getting out into Yosemite’s true winter wonderland is as easy as strapping on a pair of snowshoes. It’s everything you love about hiking with the added excitement of giant shoes on your feet. Snowshoes provide both float and traction so you can feel confident exploring wherever you find snow.
Just a few minutes from the rental cabins in Wawona, you’ll find excellent snowshoeing (or cross country skiing) up to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. These ancient trees look even more otherworldly with their red bark shining against a backdrop of snow.
There are also many trails leading from Badger Pass Ski Area including the popular hike out to views overlooking Yosemite Valley at Dewey Point. That eight-mile round trip may be further than you think with snowshoes on your feet, so for a shorter outing, consider exploring Old Badger Summit, or taking a guided snowshoe walk with Yosemite Rangers or the naturalists at the Yosemite Mountaineering School to get an introduction to snowshoeing and learn more about Yosemite’s winter ecosystem.
Snowshoe rentals are available at Badger Pass.
Cross Country Skiing in Yosemite
Add a little adventure to your winter wanderings with some cross country skis. In addition to exploring the quiet snow-covered landscapes, cross country skiers also get to experience the joy of gliding over the snow. The lightweight skis and flexible boots make covering ground quick and easy – and gravity does all the work on downhill sections of trail.
There are a few groomed trails at Badger Pass, plus many skier-packed trails at Badger Pass, Crane Flat, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, and more.
The Nordic Center at Badger Pass offers lessons and rentals for cross country skiing, skate skiing, and even backcountry touring and telemarking.
Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding at Badger Pass Ski Area
Of course, you may just want to ride a lift to the top of the hill and ski or snowboard down from there. The Badger Pass Ski Area is the oldest in California, with a long history of welcoming skiers to the joys of winter activities. Families, as well as beginner and intermediate skiers, love this friendly, unpretentious, and relatively inexpensive ski area.
You can also rent equipment and take skiing or snowboarding lessons at Badger Pass.
Sledding and Snow Play
When there is snow on the ground, any small hill inspires hours of fun sledding or making snow people. Here are some of the best places for sledding and snow play.
You don’t have to go far from Wawona to find great snow fun. When there is enough snow, the golf course across the street boasts some fun family sledding with wide-open spaces. Plus an official snow play area is just a few minutes away just outside the Yosemite National Park boundary. As you drive south from Wawona on Highway 41, keep an eye open for the first road on your left that leads to the snow play area.
Sledding isn’t allowed at the Badger Pass Ski area, but you can enjoy tubing on the tubing hill. Check in at the Nordic Center to sign up. You might find families parked in the pull-out lanes along the Glacier Point Road on the way to Badger Pass enjoying the snow as well. However, these aren’t designated sledding areas though so be very careful not to hit any of the trees, and make sure you can pull your car fully off the road.
Outdoor ice skating rinks are another popular Yosemite winter activity. The outdoor ice rink in Curry Village has a long history, including aspirations of hosting the Winter Olympics in 1932. Although Yosemite ultimately lost the Olympics bid, the current ice rink still boasts one of the best views of Half Dome.
Just 10-15 minutes from the Redwoods In Yosemite cabins, you can also glide across the ice at an outdoor rink at Tenaya Lodge, where the covered ice rink provides a little more protection from the elements while still providing scenic views of the surrounding National Forest.
And don’t forget one of the most important ice skating traditions – s’mores! Fire pits located at both Curry Village and Tenaya Lodge are perfect for staying warm, and roasting marshmallows for a delicious winter treat.
Parting Tips for Exploring Yosemite in February
- Pack lots of layers. You don’t need an arctic parka to enjoy winter fun in Yosemite, in fact having many layers that you can adjust to the right temperature is best. Winter hats (beanies) and gloves or mittens complete the winter wardrobe.
- Especially if you don’t have waterproof boots, be sure to bring extra socks – synthetic or wool if possible. Warm feet are essential to happy winter exploration.
- Protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses (or goggles) and sunscreen. Sunlight reflecting off the snow is bright – and can give you a sunburn if you’re not paying attention.
- Brush up on winter driving skills and know about chain control requirements.
- Excited about curling up by a fire in the evening after a day outdoors? It’s easy to find a vacation rental home with a fireplace, hot tub, clothes drier, or other amenities you might want for a winter stay. Simply click on the Show More Filters button to find your ideal Yosemite cabin.
- Don’t forget to check out the great deals on Yosemite cabins at The Redwoods In Yosemite!
See you in Yosemite in February!