We are planning a trip to Yosemite in 2010. When is the best time to visit to be able to experience all the best of the Park?
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Flora & Fauna, Hiking, Touring
9 years ago
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The best time to visit Yosemite depends largely on what you like to do because there really isn't a bad time to see this incredible park. I've outlined below some of the pros and cons of visiting during all four distinct seasons, but no matter when you visit, I'm sure you'll have a great time. Winter (December through March) Those who seek solitude and reflection will most likely want to visit the Park during the winter, when it is least crowded. It'll feel like you have the whole park to yourself—in fact, outside of the valley, you may not see another living soul. Areas to visit: While Yosemite Valley and Wawona remain accessible by car all year, the Tioga Road is closed (usually by sometime in November). Once closed for the season, vehicles are not permitted between Crane Flat and Tioga Pass, including in the Tuolumne Meadows area. The road to Glacier Point is also closed (usually sometime in November). However from mid-December though early April, the Glacier Point/Badger Pass Road is plowed to the Badger Pass Ski Area, where both downhill and cross-country skiing are popular. Tire chains are often required on park roads. When they are, you must carry and know how to use them, regardless of the type of vehicle you are driving. What to do: The Badger Pass ski area, the first in California, opens as soon as enough snow accumulates and is a great place for good place for kids and beginners learning to ski. It is home to a terrain park and mostly beginner and intermediate slopes. A free shuttle connects the ski area with the Valley. If you're a strong cross-country skier, consider taking an overnight, guided cross-country ski trip to Glacier Point. You can also go snow tubing or take a guided snowshoe hike. Three of Yosemite's most popular events occur in winter: • Bracebridge Dinner: A Yosemite winter tradition since 1926, the Bracebridge is the ultimate Christmas feast. The four-hour pageant features more than 100 cast members and a seven-course meal that is an unforgettable experience. • Chef's Holidays: Held in January and February, these events features cooking demonstrations and a dinner prepared by some of the country's most prominent chefs. Go for it all, or just enjoy the gala dinners served on Tuesday and Thursday nights. • Vintner's Holidays: Held in late October and November, this event features wines and winemakers, wine-tasting seminars and a gourmet dinner prepared especially to complement featured vintners' wines. Climate: Winter in Yosemite is snowy and cold, though sunny and chilly days are not uncommon. Yosemite Valley & Wawona (4,000 ft / 1,200 m): 53°F (12°C) / 28°F (-2°C) Rivers & Waterfalls: Water levels tend to be low, but once some snow and rain have fallen, Yosemite Falls begins flowing again (though not at springtime levels). If you get up early on a cold morning, you may see Yosemite Falls frozen solid and hear it as it expands and contracts (and eventually falls to the ground). SPRING: While Yosemite Valley and Wawona remain accessible by car all year, the Tioga and Glacier Point Roads remain closed due to snow, often until late May. Tire chains sometimes are required even during spring. When they are, you should carry and know how to use them, regardless of the type of vehicle you are driving. Climate: Highly variable, with sunny and relatively warm days, but still an occassional winter storm. Yosemite Valley & Wawona (4,000 ft / 1,200 m): 69°F (21°C) / 39°F (4°C) Rivers & Waterfalls: As warmer weather begins to melt the snow, the entire park begins rushing with water. You may see many small, unnamed waterfalls and cascades all along the Valley rim. Larger creeks and rivers, along with the better known waterfalls, tend to reach peak runoff in May or June. SUMMER (June through September) Summer has the most welcoming climate, and not surprisingly, is the season when most visitors come to enjoy the park. All areas of the park are usually accessible by car by late May or early June, although services along the Tioga Road often open a bit later in June. What to do: • Hike one of the parks many trails, including the Half Dome trail • Learn to climb at Yosemite Mountain Institute ( • Go tubing through Yosemite Valley down the Merced River • Visit the mariposa grove of sequoias • Visit the park's high country, • Take a ranger-led Valley Tour on the park's famed "green dragons" Climate: Warm to hot, with occasional rain (usually as afternoon thundershowers, especially at the higher elevations). Yosemite Valley & Wawona (4,000 ft / 1,200 m): 87°F (31°C) / 51°F (10°C) Rivers & Waterfalls: Most of the water flowing in Yosemite comes from snowmelt in the high country, so runoff decreases during the dry summer. Peak runoff typically occurs in May or June, with some waterfalls (including Yosemite Falls) often only a trickle or completely dry by August. Other waterfalls, including Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil, run all year, however their flow can be very low by late summer. Wildflowers: Yosemite Valley & Wawona: Most blooming occurs in June, with redbud, Sierra onion, lupine, Mariposa lily, pentstemon, and flowering dogwood beginning in May. Tuolumne Meadows: The season begins in late summer for subalpine flowers. Beginning around July, look for little elephant's heads, gentian, pentstemon, yarrow, and shooting stars. Autumn (October & November) Autumn is one of the best times to visit Yosemite. Crowds diminish with the start of the school season, but weather remains temperate. Lower temperatures make hiking and rock-climbing more comfortable. Cyclists prefer visiting during the fall because roads are far less congested and temperatures are far more pleasing. Areas to visit: All areas of the park usually remain open through October, and sometimes into November. However short-term closures may occur due to snow. Along the Tioga Road, services often are not available after September and overnight parking is not permitted after October 14th. Yosemite Valley and Wawona remain accessible by car all year, however tire chains may be required, depending on conditions. What to do: • Park your car at Tunnel View and ride your bike to Glacier Point (always wear a helmet). • Learn to climb or mountaineer • Visit Hetch Hetchy ( • Take a free guided photo walk with the Ansel Adams Gallery ( Climate: Quite variable, with weather ranging from hot to cold, dry to rainy or snowy. Yosemite Valley & Wawona (4,000 ft / 1,200 m): 54°F (12°C) / 35°F (2°C) Rivers & Waterfalls: Water levels tend to be very low, with waterfalls (including Yosemite Falls) containing little or no water. Some waterfalls, including Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil, run all year, however their flow slows to a trickle by fall. Fall colors: Yosemite is not known for having spectacular fall colors because most of the trees are evergreen. Still, big-leaf maples, black oaks, Pacific dogwoods, and other deciduous trees tend to be showy around mid-October.
9 years ago