Visiting Yosemite in Winter

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Yosemite National Park is unbelievably popular – especially between June and September when half the visitors for the year show up. Visiting Yosemite in winter is no less beautiful – just different and obviously not everything is open.

"The road up to Yosemite National Park"

The road up to Yosemite National Park via El Portal

But it’s very peaceful and incredibly picturesque especially when dusted with snow.

And there is plenty to do should you care to do it.

I have wanted to visit Yosemite for years now – and on the trip up to the Yosemite Valley – even on my slow as molasses bus ride – I felt a palpable excitement to see the granite domes I’ve heard so much about.

Nothing about my winter visit to Yosemite disappointed. And it has left me wanting more.

"The view from the trail to Lower Yosemite Falls - just after the first major snowfall of the year"

The view from the trail to Lower Yosemite Falls – just after the first major snowfall of the year

I spent the better part of three days walking any trails that were open and availed myself of a free Ansel Adams photography class. I could have gone skating on a smooth as glass ice rink with a Half Dome view but I ran out of time. And if I was around one week later the Badger Pass Ski Area - complete with a shuttle service would have been open for both downhill and cross country skiers.

I stayed in the historic town of Mariposa for a couple of nights before I had the luxury of a one night stay at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel right in the Yosemite Valley. Mariposa is a great base to access Mariposa Grove and the Giant Sequoias and if there hadn’t been a major dump of snow it would have been an equally awesome place to access the Yosemite Valley.

But on the first day I visited the Yosemite Valley you needed snow tires and chains or a combo – and the Park Rangers were checking every car. I had a rental car that wouldn’t have made it so I hopped on the local bus. Three hours later (normally it’s one) I arrived.

I got off at the Ahwahnee Hotel and came up with a plan for the day.

It went like this. Follow what ever trail I come across. Find something to eat. Don’t miss the shuttle back down to Mariposa.

So off I went for close to five hours of hiking and photography, with one quick stop in Yosemite Village to get a sandwich and check out the Ansel Adams Gallery.

My day looked like this.

"There may be snow on the ground but I was overheated most of the day"

There may be snow on the ground but I was overheated most of the day

"Lower Yosemite Falls rarely flows in the winter as all its water comes from melting snow"

Lower Yosemite Falls rarely flows in the winter as all its water comes from melting snow

"Yosemite Falls - when the lower and upper falls are combined is the longest waterfall in the US"

Yosemite Falls – when the lower and upper falls are combined is the longest waterfall in the US

"Easy walking paths take you through the Yosemite Valley"

Easy walking paths take you through the Yosemite Valley; there’s also a shuttle bus

"Yosemite moods"

There’s a moodiness to some of the scenes when the sun disappears

"Everywhere you look you find granite domes in the Yosemite Valley"

Everywhere you look you find granite domes in the Yosemite Valley

"A view from the meadows in Yosemite Valley"

A view from the meadows in the Yosemite Valley

"Half Dome dominates the skyline in Yosemite Valley"

Half Dome dominates the skyline in Yosemite Valley

"Close-up of Half Dome"

Close-up of Half Dome

"The skating rink in Curry Village - with a view of Half Dome on a clear day"

The skating rink in Curry Village – with a view of Half Dome on a clear day

"The Ahwahnee Hotel loses the light early on a winter's day"

The Ahwahnee Hotel loses the light early on a winter’s day

Have you ever visited Yosemite in winter? Did you ski at Badger Pass?

I’m linking up with Budget Travelers Sandbox where you can find even more photo inspiration.

Leigh McAdam

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 ***A big thank you to Visit California for making this trip possible.***

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