Yosemite National Park Campgrounds – Yosemite National Park is open to visitors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but the experience can vary dramatically from season to season. Figuring out what you want or want to avoid from these national parks can help you choose the best time to go visit. Each season offers its own advantages and compromises. From the holiday crowd, availability, pricing, accessibility, and activities change significantly throughout the year. And here’s an overview of the four seasons in Yosemite.
An Overview of Yosemite National Park in Each Season
In this article, we give you a little overview of Yosemite National Park in each season, what is best for you to do and what is not. Here is the full review:
Yosemite National Park Campgrounds in Summer
Good to do: Biking, swimming, rafting, total access to the park, blooming wildflowers, and camping.
Weaknesses: Difficult booking, difficult traffic-free driving, difficult to watch the waterfall because of the many tourists visiting.
Summer offers the best and worst of Yosemite. The entire park is accessible during the warmer months, wildflowers are in bloom, stargazing at its most dazzling, and warm-weather activities are at hand. It’s also the busiest time to visit, and it’s easy to be disappointed or frustrated by the bustling hiking trails, overcrowded tourist attractions, sold-out campgrounds, and valley roads packed with cars.
How to Avoid the Crowds in Summer
There are several ways to avoid crowds in the summer. The easiest way is to explore the park in the morning. The morning is also one of the best times of the day for wildlife viewing.
Another trick for managing summer crowds is sticking to the less crowded eastern end of the valley, and then walking or taking the shuttle to avoid getting caught in daytime valley traffic. Exploring remote areas of the park is another way to enjoy a more peaceful summer in Yosemite.
Best Time to Book Accommodation in Summer
Accommodation reservations can be made 366 days in advance, and campground reservations open five months in advance. Campground reservations between May and September are booked within hours of becoming available. Some sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but even then they often fill up during the day during busy months.
Yosemite in Autumn
Advantages: Cool and mild weather and fewer crowds.
Bad for: Watching the waterfalls.
Fall offers a good balance of mild weather and fewer visitors. The entire park remains accessible throughout most of the season, and slightly cooler temperatures make outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing more comfortable. Summer activities such as cycling, horseback riding, guided evening walks, and art classes continue throughout the season.
Holiday Package Offers in Autumn
Off-season accommodation rates start in late October, but savings can vary drastically from property to property. For example, Ahwahnee lists the same rates any time of year, Yosemite Lodge has a $58 difference between in-season and mid-week rates, and Curry Village offers seasonal rates for some lodging types but not others. Motels, resorts, and B&Bs near the park may also adjust their rates seasonally.
Yosemite National Park Campgrounds in Winter
Advantages: Winter activities, least crowds, and cheapest accommodation.
Bad for: Exploring the entire park.
Winter in Yosemite is a very different world. The frigid temperatures and the fewest visitors this year transform it from a bustling national park into a snowy wilderness. Bonfires, winter sports, and hot chocolate are all things that can lure visitors in winter, can find cheaper rates, and last-minute availability at park accommodations. Winter prices are the lowest this year at Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, and Wawona.
Disadvantages of Visiting in Winter
The main drawback of winter trips is the limited road access to parts of the park. Tioga Street, Glacier Point, and Mariposa Grove are generally closed from November to April or May. However, the Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and Hetch Hetchy areas remain accessible throughout winter, although visitors should bring tire chains and be prepared for winter driving conditions.
Activities You Can Do in Winter
In the valley, ice skating and snowshoeing are available, along with year-round options such as walks and ranger talks, available. And at the Badger Pass ski area, winter visitors can choose from cross-country and downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and tubing.
Winter is the ideal time to see year-round residents such as coyotes and deer. And while spring is the best time to see the majestic waterfalls, they are active in winter and it’s time to see the tall snow cones at the top of Yosemite Falls.
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Yosemite in Spring
Good for: Watching the Falls, and the smaller crowds.
Bad for: Exploring the entire park.
Spring brings a lot to Yosemite. The waterfall is at its peak. Spring visitors will also find fewer people and less competition for accommodation. However, limited park access remained a problem until late May on roads like Tioga and Glacier Point.
Another Advantage of Visiting Yosemite National Park Campgrounds in Spring
Yosemite is known for its impressive concentration of waterfalls, and spring is the best time to see the spectacle of Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil, Vernal, and Nevada Falls. Spring is also the time to catch a glimpse of the lunar rainbow on the bridge at the base of lower Yosemite Falls on a clear full moon night.
Best Activities in Spring
Spring visitors can also take advantage of winter and summer activities. Still available until the end of the season are evenings by the fireplace in winter and open family afternoons. Summer activities such as cycling, guided dusk and evening walks, horse riding, golf, and art classes are also offered.
Spring Vacation Package Offers
In April, campsites begin to fill up, although visitors can secure a spot by booking in advance or arriving early at a first-come, first-served site. In lodges, high rates usually start in March, so spring doesn’t offer much in the way of reducing prices. However, booking should be easier, and visitors may have more choices about the types of rooms or packages available. Visitors can sign up to receive occasional announcements about special rates at various facilities.
Any Time of the Year
Regardless of the season, the park entrance fee is $20 per car, good for seven days. There are also two yearly passes that are good for repeat visits: $40 for a year’s Yosemite pass or $50 for an annual national park pass. People aged 62 or older can purchase a Golden Age National Park ticket for $10. And those who make it to the Yosemite National Park Campgrounds gates by foot, horse, or motorbike will only have to pay $10 to pass the seven days. In every season there is a compelling reason to visit.