As winter nears, there’s already lots of chilly fun to enjoy in Yosemite National Park. It’s easy to see the park’s most famous waterfalls and rock walls any time of the year.
Here’s what to expect now and this winter in Yosemite, from ice skating to sipping drinks in front of the park’s best fireplaces.
What Yosemite roads are open and closed?
All but one road into Yosemite, Tioga Road, is open year-round. Tioga Road, which crosses over the Sierra in the park, is temporarily closed due to snow, and will likely close for the season soon.
Yosemite Valley can still be reached through entrances along Highway 41 (Wawona Road), Highway 120 West (Big Oak Flat Road), and Highway 140 (El Portal Road). Day-use reservations are no longer needed to enter the park.
Glacier Point Road also remains open. After the winter season, it’s scheduled to be closed in 2022 for road repairs.
Snow tire chains or cables were not required along any open park roads on Wednesday. When storms hit, they are often required for all without all-wheel and four-wheel drive, or required to be carried just in case. This usually happens between November and March. Snowplows are active clearing roads when it snows.
Check Yosemite road conditions on the park’s website, nps.gov/yose, or by calling 209-372-0200, then pressing 1 and 1 again. Information about highway conditions and restrictions outside Yosemite are available on the Caltrans website or by calling 1-800-427-7623. There are also several park webcams online.
Ways to enjoy winter in Yosemite
—Ice skating: Curry Village Ice Rink in Yosemite Valley is scheduled to open for the season in early December. The weather has been too warm to make ice, said Yosemite Hospitality, a subsidiary of Aramark, the park’s concessionaire. The rink is in historic Curry Village with views of Half Dome.
Just outside Yosemite, in Fish Camp, ice skating began this week at Tenaya Lodge.
—Winter sports: Badger Pass Ski Area along Glacier Point Road is scheduled to open Dec. 17 and will stay open until March 27, conditions permitting.
Badger Pass has 10 ski runs and five chairlifts for all levels of downhill skiers and snowboarders. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers can enjoy groomed trails along Glacier Point Road when it closes to vehicles past the ski area this winter.
Visitors can also cross-country ski and snowshoe along Tioga Road and Mariposa Grove Road.
—Hiking: Here are a few Yosemite Valley hikes that are among the safest winter bets:
Cook’s Meadow: A flat, 1-mile loop trail that meanders through the meadow closest to Yosemite Falls.
Lower Yosemite Fall: A nearly-flat 1-mile loop to the base of Yosemite’s most famous waterfall. (Another iconic one, Bridalveil Fall, remains closed due to ongoing construction, but can still be seen from the road.)
Mirror Lake: An easy-to-moderate round-trip hike, a little over 2 miles without the park shuttles operating, to a lake that looks more like a wide river, with close-up views of Half Dome towering above.
—Park programs: There’s a number of guided activities provided by park rangers and park partners, including Yosemite Conservancy, Yosemite Hospitality, and The Ansel Adams Gallery.
Just outside the park, Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is still taking reservations for train rides, at least through Nov. 28.
—Snow play: Once there’s enough snow, here are a few popular snow play areas in the Yosemite area to check out:
Goat Meadow Snowplay Area in Sierra National Forest is just outside Yosemite’s south entrance along Highway 41 in Fish Camp.
Crane Flat Campground is near the junction of Big Oak Flat and Tioga roads in Yosemite.
Best lodges for drinks by the fire
And last but not least, some of the most charming Yosemite area lodges for a favorite winter activity: Getting cozy by a fire.
—The Ahwahnee: The grandest of Yosemite Valley hotels features several large fireplaces. Visitors can take drinks purchased at The Ahwahnee Bar to comfy couches beside roaring hearths in the historic hotel’s majestic Great Lounge.
—Wawona Hotel: There’s only a few days left this year to enjoy this historic hotel near the park’s south entrance. Wawona Hotel is scheduled to close Nov. 29, with a planned reopening on March 25.
—Tenaya Lodge: A little farther south, this large lodge in Fish Camp also has a few big fireplaces, in its lobby and restaurants.
—Evergreen Lodge: This homey destination just to the north of the park is a great place to get cozy in the woods near Hetch Hetchy.
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