Yosemite National Park was one of the first National Parks established in the United States and it is pretty massive. Not to mention, there is so much to see and experience there! The good thing about a park like Yosemite is that no matter when you go, there is something for you to do. But that doesn’t mean that depending on what you want to see or do there isn’t a best time to visit Yosemite…
Best time to visit Yosemite
The peak season at Yosemite is summer. While families are taking advantage of summer vacations and getting to know our National Park System, the spring wildflowers begin to fade. And as their blooms disappear, the crowds take their place. During the summer, all of Yosemite’s tours operate. I recommend taking one of the open-air tram tours to learn more about the park and if you happen to visit on a full moon night, the moonlight tour is pretty spectacular!
Summer is the only time of year you can do some of Yosemite’s most popular hikes, climbs, and trails. If you want to can climb Half Dome, hike to the High Sierra Camps, see the view from Olmstead Point or visit Tuolumne Meadows and Hume Lake on your way east, you’ll want to visit in the summer months.
Tioga Pass usually opens by late June if you’re wanting to go to Tuolumne Meadows or head into eastern California. If you want to climb Half Dome or hike to the Yosemite High Sierra Camps, you’ll need to start planning for the permit lottery. Since summer is the only time you can climb or hike these famous points of interest, the lottery can get competitive.
I know this kind of makes it sound like summer is the best time to visit Yosemite, but I actually think spring is. Unless you plan on doing very specific things in the park spring is when the park really shines.
The best time to visit Yosemite, in my opinion, is the spring. The park is blanketed with flowers in bloom, waterfalls are at their peak, and it’s not too crowded.
Yosemite waterfalls, in the spring, flow at their highest levels and dogwood trees are in full bloom. In years when the melting snow fills the Merced River, park visitors can go rafting. For smoother rafting, stay inside the valley. But if you’re looking to experience level 2 to 4 rapids, stay along the Merced River. The warmer weather melts snow so small creeks start rushing with water. It isn’t uncommon to see smaller, unnamed waterfalls and cascades along the Valley rim.
Spring is also a time where the National Park starts seeing some wildlife. So bird watchers and wildlife viewers will especially appreciate visiting the park this time of year.
If you visit Yosemite in the fall, a bit of fall colors and cooler temperatures are a welcome change. This time of year is popular for cyclists who not only enjoy the nicer weather but also benefit from the less congested roads. Hiking and rock-climbing are also a little easier in the fall than in the summer.
You still have time to climb Half Dome as long as you do so before the second week in October when the trail usually closes. Whether you are spending a week or a day in Yosemite, during the fall you can enjoy the scenic roads to view wildlife.
If you visit Yosemite in the winter, you’ll see the park dressed in snow and experience a sight not many do. The crowd-free experience gives you a sense of tranquility, something that I love about our national parks. During this time of year, frost clings to the trees in the morning and snowstorms can leave the valley blanketed in white.
If you’re willing to brave the cold, it is worth visiting. A snowy Yosemite is a beautiful sight and many who love the park will tell you that it is their favorite way to see the park. You can’t do many of the activities that Yosemite is known for, but to see the valleys blanketed with white powdery snow is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
No matter when you choose to visit Yosemite, it will always be a beautiful and majestic sight. Depending on what you want to do though, there are some times of year that are better to visit than others. I’m sure you’ll love visiting one of America’s most beloved national parks!