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Yosemite in a Day - Winter

There's an abundance of Winter activities and beautiful sights to experience in Yosemite

You’re here at a delightful time of year because you have the park almost entirely to yourself. Nature has carved out a special spot, a magical place where you can lose yourself in the beauty around you. From expansive meadows to dramatic rock formations blanketed in snow, to beautiful, cascading waterfalls, Yosemite delights the senses and refreshes the spirit. 

Note:  The shuttle bus to Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias typically remains open (weather dependent) through Thanksgiving weekend (end of November) and then will close for the winter and reopen early spring.  When the road is closed, visitors can snowshoe, cross country ski, or hike into the Grove.  Also, note that Glacier Point Road & Tioga Pass (Highway 120 East) is also closed for the winter.

Snowshoeing in Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Snowshoeing in Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

WAWONA - the Historical Heart of the Park

Things to see and do: 

Wawona Hotel (closes after Thanksgiving, reopens during Christmas holidays then closes again until Spring). 

Yosemite History Center – a collection of historic buildings brought from various locations throughout the park; self-interpretive. 

Walk the Meadow Loop (easy, 3.5-mile loop, flat). This is one of the few hiking trails in the park where you can take your dog (on a 6-foot leash; be prepared to clean up after Rover).

Badger Pass Ski Resort

Badger Pass is the perfect place for skiers at any level

Seasonal Activities | BADGER PASS SKI AREA: Take Glacier Point Road out 5 miles to Badger Pass turnoff; return the way you came. Note that the road is closed to vehicles beyond Badger Pass during the winter. 

Winter sports activities are available at Badger Pass, conditions permitting, including downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, snow tubing, ski lessons, etc. Please note, wilderness access along Glacier Point Road is open when enough snow accumulates to protect sensitive meadows.

Tunnel View in Winter

Tunnel View is spectacular in any season

Tunnel View is the unofficial entrance to Yosemite Valley from the south side and one of the most photographed vistas in the world! 

Traveling northbound on Highway 41 through the park will bring you to Tunnel View. Drive through a mile-long tunnel, emerging to the quintessential view of Yosemite Valley:  Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, Cloud’s Rest and El Capitan. Yosemite Valley is only 7 miles long and 1 mile wide--with some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Immediately after exiting the tunnel parking is available on the right or the left.

Half Dome Winter Wonderland

Half Dome covered in snow is an amazing site!

Below are our suggested Viewpoints and Stops in Yosemite Valley.  

Point of Interest: BRIDALVEIL FALL -  620 ft. high. It's a quarter-mile walk on-way to the base of the waterfall. (Closed in 2022 for trail improvements.)

Point of Interest: YOSEMITE CHAPEL - The oldest building still in use in Yosemite Valley (dating from 1879) and spectacular view of Yosemite Falls and the valley from outside the chapel. 

Point of Interest: SENTINEL BRIDGE: From Yosemite Chapel continue to Sentinel Bridge. Turn left over the bridge and park at Shuttle Stop 11. Walk back to the middle of the bridge. This is a quintessential photo opportunity of Half Dome reflected in the Merced River.

DAY PARKING: Park your car and take the free Yosemite Valley shuttle to the most popular sights in Yosemite Valley. The shuttle runs every 10 to 20 minutes. Check out the winter 2022 shuttle stop map to plan your trip

Point of Interest: YOSEMITE FALLS (tallest waterfall of its kind in North America at 2,425 ft)– a half-mile walk one way to the base of Yosemite Falls. When mornings are very cold (below 20 degrees or so) and there’s plenty of water in Yosemite Falls, check for the possibility of frazil ice. Also, watch for the “snow cone” at the base of upper Yosemite Falls. 

VALLEY VISITOR CENTER: Visitor Center & Bookstore – watch “Spirit of Yosemite” film (20 min.), alternating with “A Gathering of Spirit” in Yosemite Conservancy theatre, to gain an understanding of what you’re observing and see some seasonally-inaccessible parts of the park—so you can begin planning your next trip!

ANSEL ADAMS GALLERY (still owned by Ansel Adams’ family) and the Indian Museum – cultural demonstrations daily; Look for works from Julia Parker, Yosemite's master basket maker whose baskets are in museums the world over.      

Point of Interest: THE AHWAHNEE Hotel: Great for lunch (dining room (209) 372-1489 for dinner reservations only). You can lunch there (and enjoy the magnificent dining room with its 34-Foot-high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and huge sugar-pine trestles) for around $35 to $40 per person. Allow a good one-to-two hours for your lunch. If there are only two of you, ask for a window table, which seats two at a maximum. They aren’t always available, but it’s worth requesting.  Dinner prices are usually twice as high, require a dress code, and the view outside is DARK. 

Point of Interest: YOSEMITE VALLEY LODGE -Valley tours depart from here – info and reservations (209) 372-4386. Valley tours operate year-round, but will be conducted in an enclosed bus when the weather is inclement). 

Point of Interest: CURRY VILLAGE: Ice skating rink, generally open November to early March  

Point of Interest: HAPPY ISLES/MIST TRAIL: Hike to Vernal Falls Footbridge - 0.8 mile uphill both ways—can be icy and slippery in winter.

Point of Interest: MIRROR LAKE: Walk about 1 mile one-way past Mirror Lake (mostly flat) for an up-close view of the face of Half Dome. It’s an easy walk for a big payoff. Be prepared for snow and possibly ice on the trail in winter. 

Point of Interest: EL CAPITAN: This massive monolith, the largest single granite rock on earth, rises 3,569 feet from the base to the summit. Rock climbers from around the world converge to face the challenge of the tackling the ~3000 vertical feet of Big Wall climbing. From spring to fall (and yes - even sometimes into winter), they can be seen inching their way up the sheer wall along any one of nearly 100 different routes to the top.  

Point of Interest: VALLEY VIEW: Watch for the big pullout on the left as you approach the Pohono Bridge. The view from here is a panorama of Yosemite Valley from a different perspective, featuring spectacular vistas of El Capitan, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall, and other features of the Yosemite Valley landscape.  

Point of Interest: (If returning via Hwy 41) – FERN SPRING: Immediately after turning left over the Pohono Bridge, you’ll see turn out by a tiny cascade, known as Fern Spring, the smallest waterfall in Yosemite.

Point of Interest: (Toward Hwy 41) – BRIDALVEIL MEADOW: As you round the bend from, a sign on the right marks the spot where John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt met, in 1903, at Bridalveil Meadow. There Muir pled his case to protect the wilderness, combine the Yosemite Land Grant areas with the larger National Park, and establish a national park system. 

Snowshoes in Yosemite

Snowshoes are a must have in snowy Yosemite for unplanned and planned adventures

Alternative Park Exits: (1) Exit straight ahead on Hwy 140 through the Merced River Canyon. This is a lower-elevation road, and chain requirements are rare. In Mariposa, take Hwy 49 southbound to Oakhurst. Hwy 140 westbound to Merced for access to Highway 99 either north or south. (2) Take Hwy 120 westbound for the quickest way to San Francisco. Be very cautious of this road in winter. A section of it involves some treacherous hairpin turns. 

Special Note: When conditions dictate, you are required to carry tire traction devices (chains or cables) in your vehicle and be prepared to install them as necessary. You may be denied entry to the park if you don’t have them. You may also be subject to a substantial fine should road conditions make them mandatory and you don’t have them. Rental vehicles are NOT exempt from this requirement.  By the way, winter in the Sierra Nevada is dictated by weather conditions, not by calendar dates. We’ve (rarely) been known to get snow in May.  

Chain requirement codes are as follows:

R0 - No chains required
R1 - Chains required. Autos and pickups with snow tires OK
R2 - Chains required. 4-wheel-drive with snow tires OK
R3 - Chains required on all vehicles.  No exceptions.

Chains or cables can be purchased or rented at several locations in Oakhurst, Coarsegold, Fish Camp and Mariposa. Call or stop by the Visitor Center in Oakhurst for information - 559-683-4636.

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Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
Visit Yosemite - Madera County
Oakhurst Visitor Center, 40343 Highway 41, Oakhurst, CA 93644
(559) 683-4636
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