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
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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?
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.
- Lower Yosemite Falls trail takes you to the base of the famous waterfall.
- Cook’s Meadow is a flat walk with views of Half Dome and other majestic Yosemite Valley Cliffs
- The Mirror Lake trail has great views of the Merced River beneath the looming face of Half Dome.
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
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.
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
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.
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?
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:
- In March, the days are getting longer, but sunset is still around 6:30pm. Rather than retreating to your room with the TV, try a rental cabin that has a pool table or game room. Put together a puzzle or play a board game at the dining table. In a rental cabin there is just more space to spread out, and relax. You can put the kids to bed, and then curl up with a movie without disturbing them.
- Having your own private kitchen makes it easy to create your own favorite meals together – or a special dessert.
- Some cabins have a washer and dryer. If it does snow, you’ll be delighted to be able to toss a few wet items in the dryer so that they are warm and ready for the next day of exploring.
- Internet is hard in the mountains and especially in a national park. Choose a home with its own internet service. It may not be as fast as the city, but at least you won’t be sharing it with all of the other hotel guests.
- Select pet-friendly cabins make it possible to bring the fur family members with you on vacation.
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?