Looking for an active outdoor vacation during the winter months? Yosemite in winter is a singular experience. Fewer crowds, off-season rates for lodging, and a multitude of possibilities for active adventure and exploration await the whole family. Experienced winter back country enthusiasts have the place almost completely to themselves, and those visiting for shorter periods have a lot to choose from. Winter activities in the Park include easy nature walks, strenuous hiking challenges, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, and ice skating at the outdoor Yosemite Valley Ice Rink.
Winter visitors can reserve lodging inside the Park at the historic Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, Yosemite Valley Lodge, Half Dome Village, or Big Trees Lodge, or, book affordable and convenient off-site accommodations within a short drive from the meeting spots for these trips.
Winter Hikes with Yosemite Conservancy
The Yosemite Conservancy is a non-profit dedicated solely to funding programs and projects to protect and enhance Yosemite National Park for the enjoyment of all by helping restore trails and habitat, engaging in scientific research, and providing special nature education and outdoor activity programs for youth.
The Conservancy also offers expert-guided winter hikes, nature walks, and snowshoe adventures – including teaching the basic techniques of snowshoeing on easy-to-travel, well-maintained trails winding amongst the giant Sequoia redwood trees, a perfect starting point for snowshoe beginners. Explore the startling beauty of wintertime Yosemite, view ephemeral ice formations, the awe of Yosemite’s granite rock outcrops shrouded in mist and snow, and stunning, snow-covered giant Sequoia redwood trees while traversing a network of well-maintained, unpaved trails. For a more advanced Yosemite snowshoe adventurer, consider the challenge of a guided, strenuous trek to one of the best viewing locations above Yosemite Valley – Dewey Point.
Choose from their programs of walks, hikes, and pre-arranged snowshoe excursion trips, or design your own private adventure accompanied by the Conservancy’s experienced and trained outdoor guides, providing you with their insider knowledge of the many natural wonders in the Park. On private trips, you choose the starting time and your naturalist guide meets you at a location near your lodging. Then, you set out on a bring-your-own-lunch adventure, exploring the majestic beauty of the Yosemite back country in winter. For details on their trips, visit the Yosemite Conservancy Outdoor Adventure page.
Winter temperatures in the Park can vary, consider travel conditions while planning your trip. Besides your lunch, be sure to pack plenty of layers of clothing for warmth, rain gear, sturdy hiking boots, sunscreen, water bottle, sunglasses, and a hat. And don’t forget to bring your camera!
Ice Skating in Yosemite Valley
Located in Half-Dome (formerly Curry) Village, the Yosemite Valley Ice Skating Rink has offered visitors an outdoor Yosemite adventure on the ice since 1928. Considered by many to be the most beautiful ice rink in the country, the Yosemite Valley Ice Skating Rink is located in full view of the monumental Half Dome granite formation. Originally situated in a parking lot flooded to provide the ice, the rink has now been relocated to an even more perfect nearby location.
Skaters at the rink can pause and warm themselves by the crackling fire-pit while taking in the magnificent view of Half Dome. Reasonably priced admission tickets and skate rentals allow for two full hours of ice skating fun, and you can book the entire rink for private parties on weekdays. For more information and current conditions visit the Yosemite Ice Rink web page.
Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area
In earlier days, Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area was known as Badger Pass. Located on Glacier Point Road in Yosemite and established in 1935, Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area is the oldest ski resort in California where families have visited for generations to learn and enjoy downhill and cross-country skiing and other winter sports. The non-intimidating slopes and casual atmosphere make it perfect for beginning skiers and provide a fine setting for a relaxing family day in the snow and sunshine. And when you’re ready to relax and warm up, slide on over to the Lodge and enjoy the sweeping views in cozy comfort.
Easy access, convenient equipment rental facilities, and plenty of friendly, expert ski instructors gives you and your family an opportunity for a thrilling ski and snowboard Yosemite adventure. Beginners can learn new skills on short and gentle downhill courses, and advanced skiers can challenge themselves to exhilarating Alpine runs from the top of the mountain by simply hopping on the ski lift, one of only three located inside a national park.
A 90-mile network of groomed back country trails is waiting for everyone who wants to explore Yosemite on cross-country skis, guided by expert ski guides from the Yosemite Mountaineering School. A challenging terrain park awaits avid snowboarders, and small children and adults alike can zoom the gentle slopes of the bunny hill on inner tubes.
If you are looking for an overnight Yosemite ski adventure, you will not be disappointed. Cross-country enthusiasts can take advantage of remote, overnight accommodations at Ostrander Lake and Glacier Point, accompanied by guides giving you the inside scoop on local wildlife and natural history. Tour guides arrange expeditions to match all levels of skiing expertise, from beginners to experts.
Getting there is easy. Drive there in your own vehicle (as long as you have snow tires and chains), or take the free shuttle bus connection from Yosemite Valley which runs twice each day. Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area is normally open from December through March, depending on snow conditions. For current conditions, visit the Yosemite Ski Area website.
REI Extended Winter Adventure Tours
For the ultimate wintertime Yosemite adventure, consider the five-day, four night Yosemite National Park tour package offered by REI. By day you will be walking, hiking, and snowshoeing through the icy granite peaks of Mariposa Grove, Dewey Point, Mirror Lake, and other nearby destinations. Follow trained and experienced local guides through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world during a time when Yosemite has its lowest level of visitors.
Hike or snowshoe to magnificent waterfalls and one-of-a-kind granite rock formations each day, and then settle down to cozy and comfortable accommodations at the Lodge at night where you will be served delicious, home-cooked meals and can share your day’s adventure with other like-minded travelers.
The REI Extended Winter Adventure in Yosemite National Park is a unique and impressive opportunity to experience one of the wonders of the world during an extended stay at this national treasure. Highlights of these tours include:
- Exploring the giant Sequoia redwood trees of Mariposa Grove
- Enjoying fantastic views at Mirror Lake and Dewey Point
- Hiking from Yosemite Valley to the Yosemite observation point
- Four nights lodging at the comfortable and private Yosemite West Lodge
- The professional expertise of local naturalists and guides, showing you the wintertime wonders of Yosemite National Park as you have never experienced before.
Yosemite adventure travel is rich with possibilities for enjoying wintertime snow, ice, views, and nature in one of the most spectacular locations on earth in the company of your family and friends. But iff winter slips by you can still escape the crowds and experience the Yosemite region in a pristine state, even during peak season. Join us for a whitewater rafting trip on the Merced, Tuolumne, or Class V Cherry Creek-Upper Tuolumne!