Four Seasons of Yosemite – The Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park
Giant granite cliffs, deep valleys, majestic lakes and rivers, and abundant flora and fauna, the Yosemite National Park is truly a sight to behold. Covering over 1200 square miles of protected land, the park enchants millions of visitors from around the world every year while still enveloping you in the privacy of its vastness.
There is no wrong time to visit Yosemite. The best time to visit Yosemite simply depends on what you want to see and experience. Whichever time of the year you come, you’ll find the park maintains its magic.
Read on for the best time to visit Yosemite:
Yosemite in Summer
Summer in Yosemite is often plagued with precautions of long lines, heavy traffic, and overcrowding. But it doesn’t have to be all that bad, especially with the new Yosemite National Park’s reservation system. The early bird catches the worm…especially on the weekends. Avoid sharing the trail by booking your permits for early weekday mornings. 5am isn’t a bad time to hit the trailhead at Yosemite in summer! Trust us, it’s worth it!
Yosemite weather in July and throughout summer ranges from warm to hot, with some precipitation in the afternoon in higher elevations. While Yosemite Valley gets the bulk of the heat in summer, higher-alpine meadows like Tuolumne Meadows tend to be more refreshing and serene. Wildflowers start to bloom in June and July, making the trip a real treat.
Though most of the waterfalls start running dry by midsummer, Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil often trickle throughout the year. If you’re looking for a bigger rush, try rafting around Merced River!
Hiking and backpacking in Yosemite are epic in summer. Most trails, including Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and Hetch Hetchy, are snow-free and open by June. Tuolumne Meadows, Glacier Point (although closed for the whole of 2022 for rehabilitation), and Mariposa Grove areas are also accessible by vehicle in summer.
If you want to camp out, summer is the best time to visit Yosemite when most seasonal camping grounds open, and you don’t need to prepare winter camping gear.
Yosemite in Spring
Spring is arguably the best time to visit Yosemite. The waterfalls are flowing and majestic, rivers and creeks are rushing with water and the trees are green and luscious. Not to mention the crowds are far smaller! The thing you’ll want to consider when visiting Yosemite in spring is that some trails and high elevation areas, such as those accessible to Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road, may be closed due to lingering snow from winter. This includes two of the parks’ most notable spots, Tuolumne Meadows and Glacier Point.
The weather in Yosemite during spring is also a plus. With slightly lower temperatures and a gentle breeze, it is perfect for hiking and biking around Yosemite Valley during the day and cozying up by the campfire at night. The hiking trails found in lower park elevations, including Cook’s Meadow Loop in the Yosemite Valley, Wawona Meadow Loop in Wawona, and Wapama Falls in Hetch Hetchy, are also in full bloom during spring – providing an even more beautiful hiking experience.
Yosemite in Fall
Fall is a good time to visit Yosemite if you want to enjoy the park without the crowd. It’s great for hiking and rock climbing around Yosemite Valley as the daytime temperature is cool, but note that the waterfalls may still be dry into mid-October. Early snowfall may also close trails at higher elevation.
Don’t expect a deep range of fall colors, though, as most of Yosemite’s trees are evergreen. The oak trees, big-leaf maples, and dogwoods, will show off flashes of color, but the park won’t have an ombre of yellows and oranges this season.
Yosemite in Winter
While winter in Yosemite is not a very popular season for hiking and backpacking (many trails are closed due to snow), Yosemite in winter is a must-see. Awe-inspiring snow-capped mountains, meadows blanketed with snow, frozen waterfalls…it’s another kind of dreamland. You may even have a chance to witness the Firefall, one of Yosemite National Park’s most sensational phenomenons. Winter in Yosemite is an entirely different yet equally wonderful experience.
If you love winter sports, head to Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area for downhill and cross-country skiing or to Mariposa Grove for snowshoe hiking.
So, what is the best month to go to Yosemite?
If you have to pick just one, May would be the best month to go to Yosemite. The weather in Yosemite is perfect for hiking, the crowds are thin, the waterfalls full and the foliage lush and green. The end of May also signals the opening of several trails off-limits in winter.
The truth is: Yosemite National Park is beautiful all year round. Each season brings a different kind of wonder and experience. So, visit Yosemite when you can. Once you do, you’ll want to experience Yosemite in every season!
Travelers tip: if you’re heading to Yosemite via Fresno Yosemite International Airport, stay at Fresno City Inn for an affordable and relaxing stay just a 90 minute drive from Yosemite. It’s a great “base camp” if the park is full, the weather is less than ideal or you have an early flight to catch.