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  • Writer's pictureEcho Adventure Cooperative Members

The Best Adventures for a Winter Day in Yosemite National Park

Updated: Feb 21, 2023

Winter in Yosemite 101

First, Yosemite National Park is open and accessible all year round! High country roads like Tioga Road, Glacier Point Road and the Mariposa Grove Road are usually closed from November through April or May, but founding member and fly fishing guide, Bryant Burnette, believes that winter brings the best fishing in the region with the lake run rainbow trout up the Tuolumne River. Our Chief Experiences Officer Elisabeth Barton says that winter is one of the better times to visit Yosemite National Park in general because prices come down, waterfalls are amazing and visitor lines and traffic are almost nonexistent.

Winter conditions are common in Yosemite from late November - early April, with the chance of snow on main roads possible well into May. The weather in Yosemite varies greatly because there are literally 1000s of feet in elevation change; however, winter in Yosemite is usually snowy and cold, with the chance of standing snow increasing around 6000 feet. Yosemite Valley & Wawona, both around 4,000 ft / 1,200 m usually runs 53°F (12°C) / 28°F (-2°C).

In addition to the entrance fee and the cost of hot cocoa at the Ahwahnee Lodge, you will need to budget for tire chains/cables. The average cost is about $100.00 and you are required to have tire chains or cables in your car if you plan on driving anywhere in the Sierra. You can purchase tire chains in Groveland at Miners Mart, Yosemite Lakes Market and Trail Less Traveled Bike and Gear.

Have more questions about mountain adventures this winter!? You can call our adventure coordinators 7 days a week for more information!

Best 1 Day Winter Adventures

Biking the Yosemite Valley Loop | Easy | 13 miles Round Trip

The Valley Loop is one of our favorite for hiking or biking and offers the best way to see Yosemite Valley any time of year. This diverse trail travels near roads, up the talus slopes of the Valley wall, through meadows and along the Merced River, so we highly recommend that visitors take time to read the interpretive signs along the trail! You can absolutely hike any portion of the trail you choose, but we recommend that you reserve your mountain bikes at our Yosemite Basecamp. Pro-tip: Grab a map and some yak tracks or shoe spikes because the trail is often snowy and icy in places, particularly along the south side of Yosemite Valley. In these areas, use extreme caution as it may be hard to get traction on ice and route-finding may be difficult in snowy areas (the trail may be completely obscured by just a few inches of snow).

Snowshoe Adventure Around Mirror Lake | Moderate | 7 Miles Round Trip

Trade the typical winter tourist spots for a quiet and relaxing adventure starting at the historic Ahwahnee, past the famed Mirror Lake and deep into the Tenaya Canyon. In addition to the increased chance of spotting bobcats, deer, coyote and other wildlife, this walk is steeped in history and unique geology. The first mile is a moderate uphill on a paved, well marked path, but then becomes a bit more rugged as it travels beyond lake and into Tenaya Canyon.

Pro-Tip: You can usually hike it with a pair of yaktraks or shoe spikes, but we recommend renting snowshoes at Echo Adventure Cooperative or Rush Creek Lodge before your adventure. If you dont want to worry about tire chains and snowshoes, then just reserve our private Mirror Lake Snowshoe Adventure to get the most of your day in Yosemite Valley.

Hike from Yosemite Falls Trailhead to Columbia Rock Trail | Strenuous | 4 Miles Roundtrip

Not ready to summit North America‘s tallest waterfall in winter? No worries, you can still hike on Yosemite's oldest historic trail (built 1873 to 1877) and experience Yosemite Falls by stopping at Columbia Rock. This trail starts near Camp 4, along the Valley Loop Trail, and immediately begins its climb up a dozen switchbacks to a marvelous view of Yosemite Valley most iconic landmarks! Pro-tip Get chapstick and sunscreen. The wind and sun can get ya on a climb like this.

Fly Fishing on the Tuolumne River

Incredible winter fishing for lake run rainbow trout, brown trout and kokanee is available on the western side of Yosemite National Park along the main Tuolumne River. Beginning at the base of the O'Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy and continuing downstream to Clavey Falls, catch and release fishing with barbless hooks and artificial lures is available and amazing! Member guide Bryant Burnette suggests trying your luck with these massive trout midday using small midges. If you're struggling to bring these hogs to the net, then give us a call for our private full-day trips for solo anglers and small groups!

Pro-tip: Make sure to check the new fishing regulations for what is off-limits for off-season fishing. Also, make sure you get your valid California fishing license at our Yosemite Basecamp in downtown Groveland or Miner’s Mart in Big Oak Flat.

Hiking Wapama Falls Trail in Hetch Hetchy | Moderate | 5 Miles Round Trip

Another incredible adventure is located inside the Hetch Hetchy Entrance on the western side of Yosemite National Park. Follow the beautiful Hetch Hetchy road several miles down to the parking area. You'll begin this moderate 5-mile round trip hiking adventure at O'Shaughnessy Dam, through the mountain tunnel and along the reservoir to the 1200 foot Wapama Falls. Hetch Hetchy is a lower elevation adventure, so keep an eye out as you make your way to Wapama Falls as the road and trail are great places to see Yosemite black bears later in the season! The rich native culture, incredible flora and fauna, as well as the storied battle between John Muir and San Francisco and other tales of the infamous dam make this a great reason to book your private guided adventure with Echo Adventure Cooperative’s naturalists and historians!

Pro-tip: This road does close occasionally due to weather, so call the park at 209.372.0200 press 1 and then 1 for the most up to date road conditions.

Snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing from Badger Pass | 6 Miles Round Trip

All of our members agree that the 6 miles roundtrip snow trek to Dewey Point is the thing to do when visiting Yosemite in the winter! The snowshoe or cross-county ski loop trail begins near the Badger Pass Ski Area and continues through old-growth forests to the rim of Yosemite Valley! If you are not up for a long trek, then consider skiing, snowboarding or tubing at Badger Pass! You can reserve your snowshoes in advance through Echo Adventure Cooperative or just keep it simple and let our guides take care of the logistics on a private guided adventure. Pro-tip: The loop trail can be hard to follow after a fresh snow, so make sure and grab a map when renting your shoes or skis.

Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias | Moderate | 2 Miles Roundtrip

This 2.5 mile round trip trek into the Giant Sequoias is a classic winter adventure for guests and guides! You'll begin this adventure at the trailhead on Tioga Road, located within view of the winter road blockade. After you park you'll venture down into the Tuolumne Grove along an abandoned stagecoach road losing about 400 feet per mile. The trail is a little tough coming back up, but it will be well worth the time you have spent among the dark red behemoths laced in snow and surrounded by smaller pines and cedars. You can book a guided half day adventure through the Giant Sequoias on its own or combine it with a Yosemite Valley Discovery Tour for the perfect winter day!

If you are staying in the southern portion of the park, then talk to your hotel about conditions and access to the Mariposa Grove. Pro-tip: Depending on conditions you will likely need snowshoes or hiking with crampons or coils for traction. Check with an Adventure Coordinator at Echo's Yosemite Basecamp for the latest conditions in this grove!

Lounging In Yosemite Valley

We love taking our own families into Yosemite Valley when they visit during the winter months. For adventurous families we recommend starting your day with one of our snowshoe adventures along the abandoned stagecoach road, around Mirror Lake or up eastern ridge for views of Vernal Falls. You can also grab a map and some snowshoes to try these adventures on your own! If you are looking for a more relaxing day, then walk the 1 mile lower Yosemite Falls loop trail before heading over and enjoying a Hot Toddy next to one of the HUGE fireplaces in the famous Ahwahnee Hotel or check out Yosemite Village's Visitor Center and the Yosemite Museum! For a seriously full day, finish your incredible day with ice skating in the shadow of Half Dome at Curry Village! Pro-Tip: You should start the session enjoying the s'mores at the fire pit and then hit up the ice as the novelty wears off for other visitors!

About Echo Adventure Cooperative

Echo Adventure Cooperative is a socially and environmentally sustainable worker cooperative (with B-Corp Certification!) offering adventure goods and services to Yosemite visitors! Visit us at our Yosemite Basecamp in downtown Groveland, CA and experience our:

  • The Adventure Loft, a full-service, high tech, sustainable, accommodation for up to 4 adult adventurers!

  • The Basecamp Bunkhouse, is our full service, family friendly, ADA compliant accommodation for up to 6 visitors of any age!

  • The Basecamp Outfitter is our one stop shop for your adventure needs with park information, informational videos, guided adventures, a full-service fly shop, outdoor essentials and used gear store. Our store focuses on worker owned, us made and certified B-Corporations like Fish Pond, Patagonia and more!

Other Awesome Year Round Accommodations:

Other Year-Round Outfitters and/or Gear Supply

Trail Less Travelled Bike and Gear

Yosemite Adventure Supplies

Other Year-Round Places to Get Winter Information

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