Visiting Yosemite in October is like getting the backstage pass to a sold-out concert where you can hang out with the band after the big show. It’s more relaxed, quieter, and more intimate. The stadium show is over, the masses have gone home and it’s just you and Yosemite, hanging out and getting to know each other a little better.
Let us give you the backstage tour to set you up with everything you need to know about planning a visit to Yosemite in October.
Fewer People in October
One of the best things about a visit to Yosemite in October is the lack of crowds. There won’t be any need to fight through the throngs of other fans to get a good view. In October, everyone has front-row seats.
You’ll know right away that you’re not visiting during the peak summer season. Simply driving and finding a place to park will get easier.
The 2022 peak hour reservation system was designed to make traffic more manageable during the summer season. It ends September 30, 2022. So if you’re planning a visit in October cross that logistical point off your list. Feel free to be more spontaneous with your travel plans.
Parking lots become less congested too. That means you can plan to park close to the trailhead you’re interested in, or make a quick stop to pick up some snacks or something you forgot at the store.
Best of all, hiking trails and scenic vistas empty, leaving more space for you to notice the quieter sounds of nature all around.
October Weather in Yosemite
You’ll really appreciate that Yosemite home away from home for your visit in October.
At relatively low elevations like Wawona or Yosemite Valley, October’s high temperatures average around 71°F (22°C). That’s a perfect temperature for hiking or rock climbing. However, average nighttime temperatures drop to an average of 51°F (11°C). That can make it a little chilly for camping, but ideal for sipping a hot cup of coffee in the morning while looking out the window at the day to come.
While the average temperatures give you a sense of what to expect. The name of the game in October is variability. Anything is possible during October when the seasons are changing, from heat waves to snow storms.
October is also the month when Yosemite starts to get its first significant rain and snow storms of the year. If you ask us, this is wonderful. Dramatic cloudscapes magnify Yosemite’s majesty. The first rains recharge Yosemite’s rivers and the waterfalls spring to life again in the fall. Rain douses any lingering wildfires, and leaves the air smelling fresh and clean. However, it’s also true that rain can put a literal damper on hiking outdoors. Fortunately, many Redwoods In Yosemite cabins also have washer and dryer access. Rent one of these cabins and explore to your heart’s content knowing it will be easy to warm up and dry out all your layers for the next day’s exploration.
With the return of precipitation to the Sierra, it’s important to pay attention to road conditions in the days and weeks leading up to your visit. Most of the time, you’ll find clear roads. The temperatures are warm enough that even if it snows, it tends to melt quickly.
However, if a storm is forecasted to move in during your visit, you’ll want to be aware of the possibility of tire chain requirements. You can also listen to the latest in-park road conditions updates by calling 209-372-0200 (press 1 and 1 again).
Some high-altitude roads can also close when snow storms are expected. Tioga Road (the continuation of Highway 120 east of Crane Flat) normally closes for the season sometime in November. But once in a while, it will close for the season in late October. Other roads, such as Glacier Point Road or the Mariposa Grove Road, rarely close in October.
The timing of these road closures simply depends on the weather. You can see a list of historical opening and closing dates on the NPS website to get a feel for when this is likely to happen.
What to Pack for Yosemite in October
In October, the weather in Yosemite fluctuates wildly from year to year, and sometimes even week to week. Your best bet is to keep an eye on weather forecasts before your trip and adjust your packing list from there. However, in general, you will be grateful to have some of the following in your luggage:
- Since the temperatures can range from t-shirt to puffy jacket/raincoat weather, you’ll be glad to have a variety of clothes that you can layer over each other. If you’re starting to think about packing your entire closet, consider finding a vacation rental home with a washer and dryer.
- It’s not Montana-cold here, but you’ll see plenty of puffy jackets and fleece in Yosemite on cool October days.
- Bring a rain jacket. Even if it doesn’t rain while you’re visiting, this lightweight layer can also act as a windbreaker over your other warm layers if it gets chilly.
- Pack lightweight gloves, beanies, and/or buffs. These could come in handy if you’re planning to explore until relatively late, or get going early to make the most of the daylight.
- Speaking of exploring late, the days are getting shorter. It’s worth it to have a headlamp or other backup light in addition to your phone – after all, you will probably be tempted to take a LOT of photos and video.
Things to See in Yosemite in October
Opportunities for photography are always astounding in Yosemite. In October you add a few key conditions that are so over the top that it draws professional photographers from miles around. October offers color, dramatic skies, and easy sunrises and sunsets.
Yosemite may not be famous for its fall color the way New England is. However, while the conifers remain resolutely green year-round, deciduous trees add dashes of color to this already-remarkable landscape.
At peak season, a tunnel of yellow big-leaf maple trees greets you as you enter Yosemite Valley. Willows and alders add pops of yellow to the riversides and gullies, while the black oak trees turn gold. You’ll find brilliant stands of yellow aspen at higher elevations as well. Meanwhile, the dogwoods add peach and rose-colored hues to the forest cover.
If you’re lucky enough to have a small storm during your visit, you’ll see how sunshine shining through swirling clouds and mists. These conditions supercharge the lighting and make the white granite cliffs seem even more grand. That’s why you’ll often find serious photographers flooding into Yosemite at the slightest suggestion of rain.
Finally, as the days grow shorter, it becomes easier and easier to get up in time for the golden hour at sunrise as well as sunset. Many classic Yosemite scenes are of sunset alpenglow causing the cliffs to blush with reds and oranges. You’ll also find a similar golden light in the morning. In October, that will happen around 7 am instead of 5, making it that much easier to get up for.
One downside: The year-round waterfalls will still be flowing – waterfalls like Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil, but unless it’s already rained before you arrive, ephemeral waterfalls like the great Yosemite Falls may be dry or barely a trickle.
Find Yosemite Lodging with Great Deals
In Yosemite in October, everyone is a VIP. That makes it easier to find a great place to stay. There is more lodging availability, including comfortable cabins inside Yosemite National Park. For example, be sure to check out some of the great offers from The Redwoods In Yosemite.
With shorter days and longer nights, you’ll be delighted to have a spacious home to relax in during the evenings. Look for cabins where you can play games or enjoy a glass of wine in front of a crackling fireplace. Look for vacation homes with washers and dryers for an option of drying out or re-wearing layers if it is raining or snowing during your visit.
Full kitchens make it easy to choose to prepare meals on your own some days. Select cabins offer the luxury of a spa tub for a relaxing soak after a day of exploring the park.
The Redwoods In Yosemite makes it easy to find the features that you’re looking for in the ideal Yosemite vacation rental with plenty of filters to help you narrow down the wide selection of vacation homes. Search for places that allow pets, or have an EV changing station, for example.
Find your ideal base camp for an October visit to Yosemite at The Redwoods In Yosemite
Top Yosemite Hiking Trails in October
October is a Yosemite hiker’s paradise. Take advantage of more than 750 miles of trail, and cool temperatures ideal for spending a day walking through nature. With so many trails, leading to so many remarkable places, it’s hard to name them all. However, here are a few highlights that are excellent places to hike in October.
Wawona Area October Hikes
- Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – 500 mature giant sequoia trees beckon from this grove located close to Wawona. These trees are stunning in any season. (A variety of trails from 0.3 mi/0.4km for the Big Trees Loop to 7.0 mi/11.3 km for the Mariposa Grove Trail). The Mariposa Grove is just minutes from Wawona and the cabins at The Redwoods In Yosemite.
- Wawona’s Swinging Bridge – A short walk to a bridge that gently swings over the South Fork of the Merced River. Some delightful splashes of fall color along the way. (0.75 mi/1.2km round trip)
- Chilnualna Fall Trail – Explore a classic Wawona hiking trail with beautiful year-round cascades. (8.4 mi/13.5 km round trip)
- Mist Trail – The Mist Trail climbs from Yosemite Valley up past two waterfalls that flow year-round – Vernal and Nevada Fall. You can also still get a permit to climb Half Dome via the cables in the early half of October (they come down the day after the second Monday in October). (3 miles/4.8 km round trip to the top of Vernal Fall, 7 mi/11 km round trip to Nevada Fall, 14.2 mi/23 km round trip to Half Dome via the shortest route)
- Yosemite Fall Trail – No, there won’t be any water in the waterfall, but this is still an incredibly scenic trail that delivers on jaw-dropping views of Yosemite Valley. This trail catches a lot of sun and can be sweltering earlier in the summer, but is perfect for a brisk fall day. (7.6 mi/12 km round trip)
Tuolumne Meadows/High Country
- Soda Springs / Parsons Memorial Lodge – This is an easy walk (1.5 miles/2.4 km) round trip) with terrific views of the surrounding high country peaks and domes and an interesting spring where cold carbonated water bubbles up out of the ground.
- May Lake – One of many beautiful alpine lakes not far from the road (2.5 miles/4 km round trip). If that’s not far enough, extend your hike to the summit of nearby Mount Hoffmann via a use trail (6 miles/9.6 km round trip)
Other Things to Do
Looking for some alternatives to hiking? Whether you’re looking for a rest day activity or just a different way to explore Yosemite, there are plenty of activities for you to enjoy in and around Yosemite in October.
Explore Rock Climbing
Yosemite’s rock climbing opportunities have stolen the spotlight recently with popular films like Dawn Wall and Free Solo. If you’d like to get a better feel for what is involved, there is no better place than Yosemite.
The Yosemite Mountaineering School offers climbing lessons and guided climbs. Have a fun and exciting challenge, and enjoy the view of Yosemite from high on a cliff face. Cooler weather in October is ideal for climbing.
Or, if you’d rather watch from the ground, thank you very much, there are many places along the valley floor to watch rock climbers in action. One of the best is in El Capitan Meadow – an area that provides front-row seats to the adventures recently featured in the movies.
Enjoy a horseback riding trip with Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures. Get a horseback riding lesson, and then wind through beautiful forested trails and splash through cheerful mountain creeks. The ride schedule varies as the weather changes, so be sure to doublecheck availability. Yosemite Trails Horseback adventures is just over 10 miles from The Redwoods in Yosemite in Wawona.
Ride a Steam Train
Hear that steam whiste blow when you take a ride on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Steam train rides offer a tour through the national forest and through history. Take a 1-hour tour, or make an evening of it on the Moonlight Special or Jazz Train. And don’t forget to leave time to wander the museum and pan for gold at the station. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is just under 11 miles from Wawona and the cabins at The Redwoods In Yosemite.
Become a Junior Ranger
The Yosemite Junior Ranger program sparks a deeper appreciation for Yosemite National Park. Both kids and adults love becoming junior rangers. Simply participate in suggested activities and make a promise to care for and protect parks in the future. Pick up a Junior Ranger book at any visitor center in Yosemite.
Joining a ranger walk or program will open your eyes to the stories and connections in Yosemite that you might not realize at first glance. Check the Yosemite Guide to see which programs match your schedule.
Take an Art Class
Taking the time to practice art in Yosemite opens us all to details that we might normally overlook. Join a professional artist for a day in the park. Learn from art demonstrations and create a unique personal souvenir of your visit during an art class organized by the Yosemite Conservancy.
If it does start raining while you’re visiting in October, there are also many indoor activities to choose from to keep you and your loved ones more protected from the elements.
- The Thomas Hill Studio provides a peek into the life and tools of Yosemite artist Thomas Hill. Conveniently located in Wawona, the studio is also the visitor center, so save up your questions to ask our park rangers while you’re there.
- The Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Valley interprets the cultural history of Yosemite’s Miwok and Piute people from 1850 until the present. You can find demonstrations of basket weaving, beadwork, flint knapping, and more. An art gallery within the museum is also periodically open with fresh art exhibits.
- Tour Historic Hotels: Historic hotels like the Wawona Hotel or The Ahwahnee are fun places to explore with an eye toward different eras of architecture and design.
Other Questions About Visiting Yosemite in October?
Once you’re made your reservation at The Redwoods In Yosemite, you’ll find a helpful staff located on-site in Wawona to help ensure that you have the best Yosemite experience possible. Swing by the front desk and say hello.