Yosemite Shines in Fall and Winter

Fewer people, all the beauty.

It's hard not to love Yosemite National Park. It is one of those places that breeds awe in adventurers and casual travelers alike. Families love it, solo explorers love it, and everyone in-between loves it, too.

With all this admiration, it's easy to see why Yosemite is such a popular destination, especially in the summer. But what many people don't experience is how magical Yosemite can be in the off-season as well. Sure, days may be shorter and you'll need extra layers because the air is cooler, but the magic of Yosemite still shines, and sometimes even brighter. 

How exactly does Yosemite shine in the off-season? Let me count the ways.

Room to Explore

Photo by Pat PT

When you visit Yosemite in the off-season, the roads and trails are quieter. All areas of the park are usually open through October, and both Yosemite Valley and Wawona keep their roads open all year. 

As soon as the park is blanketed with snow, the Yosemite Valley reaches new levels of beauty. Many trails will still be open, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to carve out a space to enjoy the park in solitude.

Stay in the Best Spots

Photo by Aramark, Yosemite National Park

Not only will the roads and trails be less busy, but you can enjoy lodging at an off-season rate, too. Snag a room at the iconic 1920s era Ahwahnee, or rest in the Yosemite Valley Lodge with a view of Yosemite Falls. 

The dining rooms will be less crowded, too, if a romantic dinner for two (or a relaxing dinner for one!) sounds enticing. Yosemite Valley also hosts several culinary events during the winter that are worth checking out, like winemakers' dinners, a traditional, Renaissance era traditional holiday dinner served within the Ahwahnee's dining room, and tastings and wine pairings with renowned chefs to kick off the New Year. 

Once the snow falls, Nordic skiers can make the 10.5-mile ski trip to the Glacier Point Ski Hut. Make a night of it by booking a bunk in the hut, and wake up to a panoramic view over Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and the Yosemite High Country.

Seek the Snow

Photo by Tiffany Nguyen

Even before the Yosemite Valley floor is covered in snow, you can often find a dusting (or more) of powder in the mountains. 

Catch a sunrise at Mirror Lake (a 2.4-mile round-trip hike) and photograph Half Dome, covered in snow, reflecting off the water. Hike to Lower Yosemite Falls to get closer to the snow line and to see the spectacular 320-foot waterfall, or make the more challenging 10-mile round-trip trek to Snow Creek. Stop by the Visitor's Center to check conditions before you head out.

Once winter has settled in throughout Yosemite, there is skiing and snowboarding, ice skating, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing available.

No matter when you visit Yosemite, you'll find a place of wonder and natural beauty. But if you go in the off-season, you'll get a feel for what the park was like before it was found.

Book your fall or winter stay at Yosemite National Park

Cover photo by Pat PT

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Sara SheehyAdmin

Writer | Nomad