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Yosemite Through the Seasons

Yosemite National Park in California, USA

Stretching across the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountain range, it is easy to see why Yosemite is one of America's most popular national parks. Located in California, just hours from San Francisco, the park offers plenty of accessible wilderness trails for people of all abilities, incredible waterfalls and unique local wildlife. The park experience vastly different weather, depending on the time of year you visit. This means you can make multiple trips to Yosemite during different seasons and experience new activities every time! Here is a guide to help you plan your vacation.

Yosemite in Summer

Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

To access more of the park, summer is a great time to visit Yosemite. The falls are still spectacular during this time of year, with Yosemite Falls reaching its peak in late May and early June. Many of the native wildflowers start blooming in summer, so you will be able to snap some great photos.

Temperatures can be a lot hotter during this time, and be aware that there will be a lot of other people visiting the park so be prepared to spend some time at more popular roads like Glacier Point. There is also a greater risk of fires at this time of year. Fires are commonly started in Yosemite because of lightning strikes.

  • Follow walking trails in Yosemite Valley to enjoy spectacular views. Hiking trails around Yosemite Falls are definitely worthwhile.
  • Visit the Tuolumne Meadows.
  • Hike the Four Miles trail up to Glacier Point. It is a good idea to start this trail early, as temperatures can get quite hot through the day. Glacier Point is not accessible through many of the winter months, so summer is the perfect time to enjoy this unique view.

Yosemite in Fall

Yosemite in Fall

Fall is a great time to visit Yosemite if you are looking to avoid the crowds of summer. Most areas of the park will still be open, however there is the potential for road closures due to snow. Temperatures will be lower at this time of year, allowing for more reasonable hiking weather.

Although Yosemite is not particularly well known for its fall colors, the trees do turn shades of yellow, providing some great views over the valley. The waterfalls will be almost dry at this point as well, with Yosemite Falls could potentially have no water. If you have visited in summer, you will appreciate the vastly different views!

  • Hit the hiking trails and capture stunning pictures of Yosemite without the crowds.
  • Try rock climbing! There is no better view than from the edges of Half Dome or El Capitan. Keep in mind that to climb Half Dome you will need to apply for a permit. Only a certain amounts of permits are given out, so make sure you make your application so as not to miss out!
  • Get a classic photo from Tunnel View. During summer, the traffic might make it difficult to get a vantage point at this popular spot, so visit during fall!

Yosemite in Winter

Yosemite National Park in winter

Winter is the perfect time to visit Yosemite if you want to take part in some exciting winter sports. There are a number of ski areas in the national park, which are also great for snowboarding. Some trails in Yosemite Valley remain accessible, offering stunning winter vistas without the crowds.

You may need to have chains fitted to your tyres if you are planning on exploring Yosemite at winter time. Some roads may be closed all together, and temperatures can get quite cold. However don't let that deter you from visiting the park. The views are amazing in winter!

  • Try cross country skiing or snowboarding. Take the ski lifts to one of Yosemite's many designated skiing areas.
  • An ice-rink set up under Half Dome is a great experience.
  • Explore Yosemite and enjoy the beautiful winter scenery. Frozen waterfalls and the valley coated in snow makes for some great photos.
  • It is important to note that many of the roads, including the popular Glacier Point road, may be closed for the season. However, you can still visit all the top sights in Yosemite Valley!

Yosemite in Spring

Yosemite Falls in Spring

There is no better time to see Yosemite's waterfalls in their full glory than in spring. The park is quite popular at this time due to the pleasant temperatures, and it is a great time for hiking in the Yosemite Valley. This is the perfect time of year to see Yosemite Falls.

Because of the popularity of spring, you can expect some delays at the park entrance. The walking trails may be a little busier at this time of year, with visitors eager to see the beautiful waterfalls. However, the bustling summer crowds haven't quite arrived yet, meaning you'll still have a bit of space to explore the trails.

  • Go rafting on the Merced River
  • See the wildlflowers along the highways into Yosemite
  • Be sure to see Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Fall, and Horsetail Falls, which are at their peak toward the end of spring. Try visiting through the week, as the parking lots at the falls can get quite busy over the weekend. 
  • Keep your eyes peeled for any wildlife that may be active at this time of year. Many visitors have spotted black bears in the meadows surrounding Yosemite during spring. 

If you are planning to visit Yosemite, there are a few different options for you when it comes to picking up your rental car. The most popular destination to pick up a rental car for visitors to Yosemite is San Francisco, which is only a few hours west of the park. You may also choose to pick up your car from Los Angeles, and visit other popular sights in the Sierra Nevada mountains. 

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