It's possible that wintertime in Yosemite is the loveliest time of all in this fabulous national park. The frost coats the landscape, waterfalls freeze mid-air and the pristine pines and oaks have sparkling icicles hanging from the branches. The cost of staying in Yosemite goes down at this time of year, giving you an additional bonus.
If you love snow sports, winter in Yosemite is for you! You'll find the crowds of summer have dissipated and there's plenty of elbowroom to enjoy the snowcapped mountains' activities and fun events.
Skiing in Yosemite
My top pick in Yosemite for skiing is Badger Pass Ski Area, right in the heart of the park. This is a great destination for the whole family, with at least ninety miles of marked trails and an additional twenty-five miles of groomed track. Badger Pass holds downhill skiing thrills as well as cross-country options.
Yosemite has three different areas, besides Badger Pass, where you can take advantage of the groomed cross-country skiing trails offered. Day skiing is offered at Glacier Point close to Badger Pass, at Crane Flat and at the Mariposa Grove. You'll find ten miles of track at no charge at Badger Pass.
If you want to do an overnighter, Tuolumne Meadows is for you! Of course you'll need to check in with park rangers who will give you numerous suggestions so your experience will be safe and enjoyable.
Every year in February, you can take part in a landmark cross-country skiing annual event – the Nordic Holiday Race. For a weekend of fun you can do a 21-mile trip to Glacier Point.
I recommend trying some exciting snowboarding to feel part of the winter extravaganza in Yosemite. You can do some snowboarding at the friendly Terrain Park at Badger Pass, with lots of room and more than 15 features to navigate. You'll find other popular areas around Crane Flat or Mariposa Grove. If you don't have your own board, you can rent them in many locations around the park.
Snowshoeing isn't just a fun sport. Years ago, it was normal transportation during the cold and snowy Yosemite winters. Now that it's turned into a popular snow sport, millions have found it affords great exercise, outdoor fun galore and a wonderful way to experience winter in Yosemite. You will find trails in Crane Flat and Mariposa Grove, as well as places to break ground at Badger Pass. It's a simple and easy sport for the whole family with no experience necessary. If you know how to walk, you can do some snowshoeing.
Of course at Badger Pass Ski Area, you'll discover a tubing area that is specially designed for the younger set to slide over the snow. It's a great family activity and is my suggestion to at least try it once while you are in Yosemite. It will add a great flavor of fun to any winter vacation.
At Curry Village, you can go ice-skating on an outdoor rink surrounded by Half Dome and Glacier Point. What a scenic place to have some fun! Frequenting this rink has been a tradition since the 1930s. A store is nearby so you can get hot drinks if needed.
Winter Events in Yosemite
Many great events take place in the winter at Yosemite National Park and if you get a chance, you should participate. There is special wine tasting and a wonderful dinner as part of the Vintners' Holidays in November and December. Meet some celebrated wine-makers and enjoy the wine-tasting seminars.
The Bracebridge Dinner is a Christmas feast you won't want to pass up. It's been maintained as a tradition since 1926, with a four-hour long pageant and an unforgettable 7-course meal at The Ahwahnee.
The annual Chefs' Holidays at Yosemite will impress you with the cooking demonstrations, the kitchen tours, and naturally the unbelievable dining experience. This event is held in January and February and celebrates some of the most prominent chefs in the country.
Road closures in Yosemite
When you drive anywhere during the months of heavy snows and cold, it's vital you become familiar with the roads and any closures that will interfere with your winter fun. Yosemite is no exception.
Yosemite Valley and Wawona are accessible all year by car, although the Tioga Road closes sometime in November, depending on the weather. When the Tioga Road closes, you won't be able to access Crane Flat or Tioga Pass. You won't be able to get to Tuolumne Meadows either, until Spring.
If you want to get to Glacier Point and the Badger Ski Area, the road is plowed from the middle of December through to early April.
Vehicles Driven through the Park in Winter
No matter whether you have a 4WD or not, you must always carry tire chains in the winter in Yosemite. You should also know how to use them. At any time it can become mandatory to put them on your car. If you have rented a vehicle, be sure to check with the rental company about their policy on and the availability of chains.
Winter Activities Outside of Yosemite
The wilderness areas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains surround Yosemite so if you want to travel for more adventures, you'll find them!
There's an abundant amount of winter recreational opportunities in the Stanislaus National Forest. There are two ski areas there where you can do some great downhill skiing - Bear Valley and Dodge Ridge. You can get in other fun snow play as well.
Explore the Sierra National Forest to the south of Yosemite, where you can do some Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing or dog sledding.