The National Parks are most often thought of for summer vacations; a road trip once the kids are out of school. Or if you have the flexibility to avoid the crowds maybe you get in late spring or early fall instead. You see them at their best, with lush green fields of wildflowers, or painted rocks and deserts during the long summer hours. This is all wonderful and a piece of Americana traveling I’m just getting started with; and I’m so excited to do more of.
A few years ago I was living in the Yosemite area for a winter. Visiting one of America’s most spectacular National Parks during its high season wasn’t an option and I wasn’t about to let that stop me from seeing it. So instead of visiting Yosemite in July with the hordes of other tourists, we visited in February and it was of the best trips I’ve even done. It was a short trip, only 2 nights long but completely memorable.
Travel Information – I’m sure there are numerous books on the subject of traveling Yosemite, but I found that their website was able to provide me with everything I needed. Which also means the information is as up to date as possible.
Driving – Check the website! When visiting in the winter you need to stay up to date on road closures; and be ready to change your plans as need be. When we visited there was also a requirement to have chains in your car in case they were needed. If you don’t have chains for your car and are not interested in obtaining them you can rent them before entering the park.
Lodging – There are tons of options ranging from campgrounds to luxury accommodations. Of course in the winter there were few options depending on your exact dates; closure dates differ with each lodging option. All lodging information and reservations can be made here – and should be made as far in advance as possible.
We stayed at the Ahwahnee it was amazing. It was also not inexpensive, but it was completely worth it. If you haven’t had the experience of staying at any national park historic lodges you are missing out. This was not something I was aware of while living on the east coast but once I moved out to the west coast I quickly got up to speed. Without going into a history lesson I’ll just say that many of the national parks have at least one quintessential lodge and visiting them are an important part of visiting the park and being able to stay at one completes the whole experiences. – As I said we stayed at the Ahwahnee, we had brought food for breakfasts and lunches made in the room and enjoyed either in the room or in one of the “great rooms” open for hotel guests use. We had reservations in the Ahwahnee’ dining room for dinner both nights and it did not disappoint. After dinner we enjoyed playing cards in one of the “great rooms” taking in the atmosphere.
Who knows? – I know that’s not very helpful, but I’m not going to go into describing the sites too much because in the winter it’s always changing. There are giant sequoias, hiking trails, and beautiful waterfalls but what will be accessible during your winter visit will change with every season. But there will be something for you to see and it will be wonderful.
Visitor Center – The visitor center will not only provide you with the latest information on what there is to do in Yosemite during your visit, but history and general information about the parks; as well as a gift shop of course.
Winter Sports – Locations will vary, but there should be trails open for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and winter hiking, (rentals are available). I recommend getting out and doing something; whatever fits your fitness level. We did a short hike on mostly level paved trails around a field with views of both Yosemite Falls, and a second taking us right by Lower Yosemite Falls.
Favorite – On our second day there we woke up to 12 inches of perfect new snow and we layered up and headed out! We walked right out of the back door of the Ahwahnee onto untouched powder, strapped on our snowshoes and followed a well-marked trail, that the hotel had provided us a map for. We did a 5 mile out and back snowshoeing to Mirror Lake and didn’t see a single other person for the first 2 miles. It was picture perfect! The only thing that could come close to beating it were the oversized fireplaces awaiting our arrival back at the Ahwahnee!