Yosemite Winter Camping - 4 Comfortable Places Guide 2023

Yosemite winter camping – the best places

Yosemite National Park is the first national park in California, organized in 1890, and has become one of the most popular natural parks in the United States.

It is located in the northern part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, about 300 km from San Francisco, and occupies a fairly large area – 3027 km2.

Most tourists (and more than 4 million people come here a year) visit the very heart of the park – the amazingly beautiful Yosemite Valley, which is she made this place famous all over the world.

That is why while the peak season for visiting is summer, the winter season in Yosemite Park is considered the best for tourists and locals. Winter Yosemite can surprise you with its beautiful views, places, such as Half Dome, Mariposa Grove, Vernal Falls footbridge and so on.

Yosemite winter camping

Is it worth visiting Yosemite in winter?

Winter is the least busy and perhaps the most beautiful season in Yosemite. Crowds of people are coming home, wildlife is coming out, and hotel prices are going down. In the morning, frost covers the trees, and snowstorms can cover the valley with white.

Therefore, if you are still wondering whether it is worth visit Yosemite National Park in winter – the answer is definitely yes!

Yosemite winter camping

What to do in Yosemite in winter?

Here are some of the winter activities you can try in the Yosemite national Park:

  1. Make a camping trip
  2. Hiking
  3. Take a walk, explore Yosemite
  4. Have a picnic
  5. Ride a bike (The rental is closed in winter, but if you bring your bike, it will be very cool in good weather)
  6. Go ice skating (The ice skating rink, though small, but with beautiful views)
  7. Go skiing (cross-country or mountain) in Badger Pass.

In the park itself, there is a wonderful Yosemite ski area for skiers – Badger pass. Badger Pass ski area can be an ideal place for downhill skiing for beginners and those who just want to enjoy nature for a leisurely ride. We strongly advise you to visit Badger pass if there’s enough snow if you come with kids.

A few marked winter trails are available for skiing or snowshoeing in the Glacier Point Road, Mariposa Grove, and Crane Flat areas.

There’s also a snow tubing area at Badger Pass and another snow-play area near Crane Flat (the Big Oak Flat Road/Tioga Road junction), if there’s sufficient snow for playing.

Cross country skiing is another wonderful option for your vacation in Yosemite. Head to Badger Pass and strap on your skis to glide up Glacier Point Road, Yosemite Ski is the best venue for cross country skiing and downhill skiing.

Let’s look through these winter activities.

Yosemite winter camping

Yosemite winter camping and the best entertainment in Yosemite National Park

Winter camping has its advantages. There are fewer insects in winter, and there are significantly fewer people. In winter, you can fully experience the beauty and tranquility of the pristine winter wonderland.

There are 13 officially registered campsites in Yosemite Valley in winter. During the winter months, namely, from December to March, the number of tent camps in Yosemite National Park is slightly more than 5,000 tents per month.

In order to fully enjoy the beauty of winter landscapes, we have prepared a list of the most popular and convenient places in Yosemite National Park.


Upper Pines Campground

Camping Upper Pines is one of the most popular among tourists and local campsites in Yosemite. In total, there are 238 camping places at this camping point. This is a record number of places among all three Pines campsites located in the valley.

An amazing view, an overview of the valley opens from this campsite. Here, as you can understand from the name, there are a large number of pine and cedar trees, which provides an unusually beautiful winter fairy tale in winter.

You can easily walk from Upper Pines to the beginning of several trails, for example, trails that can bring you to Half Dome.

Upper Pines campsite is open all year round and places can be reserved. We strongly recommend you to visit this place first, when you will travel to Yosemite valley.

More Information

Hodgdon meadow campground

Hodgdon Meadow Campground is one of the campgrounds, located a little far from the heart of Yosemite Valley.

The main attraction of Hodgdon meadow is its convenience and year-round accessibility, and winter is the best season to visit this camp site.

More information

Wawona Campground

The Wawona campground is located near the southern entrance to Highway 41, on the road leading to the park from Fresno.

This is truly considered one of the most beautiful camping spots in the entire park. The Wawona campground is located along the South Fork Merced River, about 4,000 feet high.

More information


Camp 4

Camping Camp 4 is the very case if you are looking for a campsite with maximum amenities. You will have to pay a certain amount for renting a place, but you will have a source of clean drinking water, a protected area and some other amenities. In each campsite there is your own fire ring, a small picnic table and communal lockers for storing food.

As a rule, these points are discussed when booking.

No wonder this campsite is called the heart of the valley, because it is from here that you can find the shortest ways to the most beautiful sights of the park.

More information

Can I do camping at all camping points?

Camping is not allowed at these points: Tuolumne Grove Four Mail Trail Typically, sections of John Muir and Mist Trails. You can still enjoy the beauty of Tuolumne Grove if you go hiking to this place.

How to search for available campgrounds?

There are several options for finding available campsites in winter.

  1. Special camping booking website
  2. Official website of the Yosemite National park
  3. Maps and articles
  4. Travel guides

Things to think about when going to a camping

  • Setting up a camp in the snow: choose a place protected from the wind and free from avalanche danger, and then prepare a place for a tent. Make also a fire ring. You can also camp in the wilderness in the winter, but a wilderness permit is required. The permit may be obtained from the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center
  • Hot drink and calories: proper nutrition and hot tea will help you warm up. Prepare a picnic table and hot, nutritious breakfasts and dinners, do not forget to enjoy quick snacks and lunches. Make sure you don’t leave any garbage on the picnic table
  • Use camping supplies designed for winter camping: you will need a sturdy tent, a warm sleeping bag, two mats and a gas burner suitable for low temperatures
  • Choose warmer clothes: standard base layers of medium density, fleece trousers, down jacket, as well as a waterproof jacket and trousers. Don’t forget about accessories such as warm socks, a hat, gloves and sunglasses
  • Prevention of colds: unfortunately frostbite and hypothermia are typical problems during camping. Find out in advance how to avoid them.

How to navigate to the Yosemite Park camping in winter

By car

 It is the most convenient and most common way to move around the park. Car rental is a great option for visitors out of state. You can use Turo or other rental companies.
You can find more information on car rental options at captaingates.com. But keep in mind that there may be problems with parking during the winter season. You can only get to the beginning of the hiking trails.

By bus

Yosemite has a well-developed bus service within the Valley – free shuttles run from morning to evening. You can get to the beginning of all known trails to the campings.

On foot

The campsites can also be reached on foot, however, if you are well prepared for walking in winter weather conditions.

Which Yosemite entrance is best in winter?

In winter it should be taken into account that the entrance from the east side is closed, namely, these are Tioga Road and Glacier point Road (The 4-Mile trail).

As a result, the entrance to the Tuolumne meadows and Glacier point road is also closed.

Therefore, we advise you not to go through the 4 Mile trail, and to enter from the western entrance, along Highway 120, Hetch Hetchy, Highway 140 and Highway 41, which are open all the time.


Is it safe to drive to Yosemite in winter?

The Yosemite National Park is open to visitors around the clock seven days a week. You can either come here yourself or rent special cars, depending on the number of people.

All trails and roads along the Yosemite Valley are made specifically for the convenience of riders. So yes, it’s totally safe to drive to Yosemite National Park in winter, however you should study the weather and possible precipitation.

If there are more than the norm, we do not advise you to drive by yourself.

Is it safe to hike Yosemite in winter?

Winter hiking is a risky activity, you need to prepare for it and go only in a group. However, Yosemite National Park has created conditions for enjoying your winter hike. Even on snowy days, Yosemite Valley is suitable for hiking.

There are important rules of hiking, which we strongly advise you to familiarize yourself with before making a hike.


What interesting places and attractions can I visit?

Granite Rock Half Dome

Half Dome is a rock, which is really popular among tourists and citizens and is one of the symbols of Yosemite National Park. It is located in the central part of the Sierra Nevada range. It is one of the largest monoliths in North America. It is in winter that the beauty of this place is incomparable with other rocks.

From North Dome, visitors can see Half Dome from a stunning perspective. You will also be able to see Basket Dome, Tenaya Canyon, and Clouds Rest.

We strongly recommend you to visit the beautiful Half Dome in winter, as it offers an unimaginable view of the Yosemite Valley.

Tuolumne meadows

The area around Yosemite is diverse with its landscapes, including the high plateau of Tuolumne Meadows. The Tuolumne Flat Basin is located an hour’s drive northeast of Yosemite Valley and is surrounded by steep layers of granite rock.

An ideal destination for a family vacation, especially in winter, Tuolumne Meadows is a favorite destination for camping, fishing and swimming in the river. Here you can go on an excursion to the springs and walk along the John Muir Trail, or explore the most beautiful lakes of the region.


The most famous Yosemite falls

In all their glory, you can see waterflls of Yosemite Valley in winter, they become incredibly magical.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. It’s highest drop height of 740 meters, can you imagine it?

Yosemite Falls from the sheer cliff of Mount El Capitan. If you come to these parts in the summer, then you will just see a bare rock without a hint of a stormy and powerful stream. But from December to April, Yosemite falls impress with its scale and incredible speed.

The Yosemite Falls are divided into Upper Yosemite Falls (North Yosemite) and Lower Yosemite Falls (Southern Yosemite). The Snow Creek trail stays open year round.

The noise of the waterfall can be heard for a dozen kilometers.

Perhaps it is because of this hum of water that the American naturalist and philosopher, John Muir called Yosemite Falls the most melodious water in the world.

Horse Tail Waterfall

The fiery waterfall, whose height is 650 meters, got its name due to two streams falling down, resembling a horse’s tail. This waterfall became especially popular after the pictures of a famous photographer who managed to capture streams of water glowing bright red were published.

This amazing phenomenon can be observed only in February, being at the top of the eastern slope of the granite rock El Capitan.

Every year for several days in February, the sun illuminates the Horsetail Waterfall in Yosemite at such an angle that it seems to burn or cast in gold.

A lot of people are going to look at this phenomenon.


Bridlevale Waterfall

This waterfall is famous for the fact that throughout the entire fall (190 meters), the water practically does not touch the rocks. In winter, the beauty of this place is indescribable.

Nevada Falls. Vernal Falls

Nevada Falls with a height of 180 meters are located in the upper reaches of the Merced River, and Vernal Falls with a height of 96 meters is located in the lower reaches of the river.

A characteristic feature of the Nevada Waterfall is its shape, because of which the water does not fall exactly down, but flows down the steep slope of the cliff, creating a large amount of spray.

Because of this feature, the appearance of the waterfall reminds many people of an avalanche, which is why the name “Nevada” is an old Spanish word that literally means “Snowy”. Nevada is clearly visible from the Glacier Point Observation deck.

Vernal Waterfall is one of the tourist attractions of the park, past which there are many hiking trails organized for tourists.

Do the waterfalls in Yosemite freeze?

Only a small part of waterfalls of Yosemite in the winter can freeze, since most of them fall at an incredibly high speed, and do not have time to freeze.

Redwood Mariposa Grove

Glacier Point is located at an altitude of 2200 meters and offers magnificent views of the Yosemite Valley from above. This is the only observation deck that can be reached, all the others will require difficult ascents along the trails. But it’s worthy since you are able to overlook Yosemite valley.

However, this year Glacier point road is closed.

Glacier Point Observation Deck

Glacier Point is located at an altitude of 2200 meters and offers magnificent views of the Yosemite Valley from above. This is the only observation deck that can be reached, all the others will require difficult ascents along the trails. But it’s worthy since you are able to overlook Yosemite valley.

However, this year Glacier point road is closed.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is a small lake in Yosemite Park, which is located on Tenaya Creek, between the Half Dome and North Dome rocks in Tenaya Canyon. The lake is seasonal, that is, at the end of August and in autumn it dries up.

Mirror Lake is the last glacial lake in the Yosemite Valley. The lake has earned its name due to its perfectly flat surface. The Mirror Lake trail also comes from here.


Protected by the canyon from the winds, Mirror Lake is especially picturesque in the morning. The view from here will allow you to enjoy Yosemite in the winter fully.

Even in winter, while hiking, you will be amazed by the variety of plants that you will meet.

The fauna of the national park is represented by 300 species of vertebrates.

A rare species of black bear, the baribal, lives here. In addition, you can meet coyote, gray fox, black-tailed deer, thick-horned sheep, squirrels, marmots, hares and others. There are about 150 species of birds and reptiles in the Yosemite Valley.


Where to stay in Yosemite National Park in winter?

It is very important to know how to choose the right accommodation for yourself at the southern, western or eastern entrances to Yosemite National Park in order to get to its territory as early as possible in the morning, avoiding traffic jams on the roads, calmly put the car in one of the parking lots where there are still free places, and go to the observation decks or hiking, while crowds of tourists did not arrive.

There are several places in Yosemite where you can stay in winter. National park service allows us to stay in a very comfortable conditions.

Staying in the park is an incredible experience that allows you to get to the trails, parking lots and winter activities in Yosemite Valley faster.

Visiting Yosemite in December weather can be a very convenient way to spend a vacation, as the houses will be completely decorated, and national park service is at its highest level.

  • It is best to look for accommodation here before entering the park, in the small towns of Coarsgold, Oakhurst or Fish Camp. There is also an option to try to book a place in Wawona or Yosemite West right on the territory of Yosemite Park, but this is if you are very lucky.You’ll find the Wawona Campground near the Wawona Hotel while the Hodgdon Meadow is located near the Big Oak Flat entrance.
  • In the area of the southern entrance to Yosemite Park, it is convenient to settle down to see the Mariposa grove in the morning.
  • Several convenient places to spend the night are located near the western entrance to Yosemite, on Route 140, which leads to the city of Merced. These are the small towns of El Portal, Midpines and Mariposa. It’s even more convenient to settle here in order to quickly get to Yosemite Valley without traffic jams. And it’s also much more comfortable and cheaper here.
  • Yosemite village and Yosemite Valley lodge. Yosemite village is one of the convenient places for tourists to stop. From here you get a beautiful view of winter Yosemite.
  • Glacier Point Ski Hut. To reach this place, people need to get through cross country skiing. It’s easy to meet cross country skiers here, because Glacier Point Ski Hut one of the most convinient and beautiful places to do cross country skiing.Upon arrival, you will overlook Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, the Yosemite High Country all from 3500 feet above the Yosemite Valley. The view is really breathtaking, especially at the Half Dome.

We strongly recommend you to visit this wonderful park in the winter season to see firsthand all the wonders of winter nature. It’s hard to believe that most visitors miss this opportunity and choose a lively summer crowd.

Now you can start planning your own trip to Yosemite in winter!

Be sure to check the weather in Yosemite before heading to the park! Depending on the weather, roads leading to Yosemite may be closed. This year, heavy snow fell in Yosemite National Park, which damaged some Yosemite Valley structures and many trees.



How can I book a camping site?

If you want to prepare for the trip thoroughly and calculate every step, then, for sure, you will want to book places in campsites. If camping is popular, located in the center of the park, or you plan to spend the night on weekends / holidays, it is better to book places in advance.

In some camps, there may not be free places for several months, or even for six months. Therefore, we advise you to monitor the booking site.

Are there bears in Yosemite in winter?

Yes, a rare species of black bear, the baribal, lives here.

What month does Yosemite get the most snow?

Yosemite Park is located in the Mediterranean climate zone. This means that most precipitation falls in winter, and the rest of the seasons are almost dry. Namely, it’s from the September to the March.

Read also our Article about Winter Camping destinations and Tips for winter camping:


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