The Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park

The Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park

The best time to visit Yosemite National Park is in the late summer or early fall, between the months of August and September.

During this time, there are usually smaller crowds and cooler temperatures.

Additionally, while snowfall can happen at any time of year in Yosemite, significant snowfall is unlikely during August and September. Therefore, most of the park’s roads, trails, and attractions are open and accessible.

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Best time for good weather

The best time for good weather in Yosemite National Park is summer, particularly June through August.

In Yosemite Valley, the average summertime high temperatures are between 81º to 89ºF (27º to 32ºC) while Tuolumne Meadows normally gets daytime highs of just 65º to 72ºF (18º to 22ºC). While afternoon thunderstorms are fairly common during the summer months, the average monthly precipitation is just 0.7” (18cm).

During this time, the majority of the park’s roads are completely snow-free, though snow can linger on higher elevation trails well into June and sometimes July. Keep in mind that summer is often the start of California’s fire season, so smoke and haze are common.

Best time for camping

Camping in Yosemite

The best time for camping in Yosemite National Park is late summer and early fall, especially the first 2 weeks of September.

During this time, the vast majority of campgrounds are open, including seasonal options like North Pines, Lower Pines, Tuolumne, Porcupine Flat, Summerdale, and Bridalveil Creek.

However, unlike mid-summer, it’s often easier to get campground reservations if you choose to camp after Labor Day (the first Monday in September) as most school districts begin classes soon afterward.

Plus, the temperatures during the late summer and early fall are still comfortable, so it’s unlikely that it will be too cold at night.

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Best time for hiking

Hiking in Yosemite

The best time for hiking in Yosemite is late summer (August) as nearly every trail in the park will be snow-free.

Additionally, by August, almost every road in the park will be open so you’ll be better able to access Yosemite’s various trailheads. However, these snow-free trails and great weather also bring in large crowds, so you’ll likely share your trail with quite a few other people.

Summer is also the only time that you can climb the Half Dome Cables Route as the cables are only up from about Memorial Day through mid-October.

Read More : Hiking trails in Yosemite National Park

Best time to avoid crowds

The best time to avoid crowds in Yosemite is during winter.

During this time substantially fewer people visit the park so you can expect very short lines at any of the open entrance stations and relatively little competition for campsites.

That being said, winter in Yosemite, while beautiful and serene, comes with some caveats. Many of the park’s most popular campgrounds are closed, though there are some year-round options including Upper Pines, Camp 4, and Hodgdon Meadow.

Moreover, Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road are closed during the winter months because of heavy snowfall. Conditions can be fickle in the park during the winter, so all visitors should come prepared with tire chains and know how to use them.

Best time for rock climbing

Rock Climbing in Yosemite

The best time for rock climbing in Yosemite is spring (May) and early fall (September through October) if you’re looking to climb in Yosemite Valley.

This is because there tend to be smaller crowds at this time, as well as cooler temperatures.

For climbing in Tuolumne Meadows, June through August are popular options. Since Tuolumne is located at about 8,600’ (2,620m) in elevation, it is generally much cooler than the low-lying Yosemite Valley. While you’ll still see large crowds during this time, the weather is much more reasonable for climbing.

Best time to see the waterfalls

See the Waterfalls in Yosemite

The best time to see the waterfalls in Yosemite is the spring, particularly during May.

In Yosemite, the rivers and streams are almost exclusively fed by snowmelt, which is at its peak during the spring months. During the month of May, nearly all of the park’s major waterfalls are flowing at their highest capacity, including Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, and Nevada Falls.

By the end of July and into August, even the largest falls in the park slow to a trickle. Although they tend to pick up again after the first snowfall, there’s no beating May for waterfall chasing in Yosemite National Park.

Best time for biking

Biking in Yosemite

The best time for biking in Yosemite is during the fall, particularly during September and early October.

Since mountain biking is not allowed in the park, all biking in Yosemite is road cycling. The park maintains 12 miles of paved bike paths within Yosemite Valley, which are best enjoyed during the fall when temperatures are more comfortable.

Additionally, the fall is a much more enjoyable time for road cycling in Yosemite because the roads tend to be snow free and the park generally sees fewer visitors during this time. That means fewer cars on the road and a more enjoyable ride through the park.

Best time for bird watching

Bird Watching in Yosemite

The best time for bird watching in Yosemite is late May to early June when there are fewer crowds, yet plenty of migratory birds.

In general, the best bird watching in the park happens in the early mornings in the park’s less developed regions. Since snow tends to linger outside of the Valley at higher elevations throughout May, early June backpacking trips are a good option for snow-free bird watching.

For the best conditions, try to head out before 9am, or even earlier in crowded locales, for added peace and quiet.

Best time for skiing

Skiing in Yosemite

The best time for skiing in Yosemite is during the winter months, though January and February usually bring the best conditions.

Badger Pass is the park’s downhill ski resort and it is usually open from mid-December to March. For backcountry skiing, you’ll want to head into some of the higher elevation areas in Crane Flats or near Badger Pass between January and February.

Best time for stargazing

The best time for stargazing in Yosemite is either during the summer months (June, July, and August) or during the winter.

During the summer months, the Yosemite Park Rangers offer guided astronomy walks and talks in Tuolumne Meadows, Wawona, and Yosemite Valley. On Saturdays in the summer, some local amateur astronomers often set up their telescopes at Glacier Point for some stargazing.

However, if you’re willing to brave the chilly conditions, clear, cold winter nights in Yosemite often offer the best views of the stars. Since haze from wildfires tends to dissipate by the winter, the sky is generally clearer during this time.

Best time for water activities

Water Activities in Yosemite

The best time for water activities in Yosemite is during May and early June.

Like the rest of the High Sierra, Yosemite’s rivers and streams are mostly seasonal. They are fed almost exclusively by snowmelt as the region receives relatively little rain, even in the spring and fall.

By mid July, many of the park’s rivers have slowed substantially and by August, even the mighty Yosemite Falls is reduced to a trickle. If you want to go for a swim in Mirror Lake near Lower Pines Campground, or any of the park’s other swimming holes, the late spring and early summer months are your best bet.

Yosemite National Park Seasons

Yosemite National Park is open all year long, but each season has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Here’s what you need to know.

Summer

Yosemite National Park - Summer

Summer is by far the most popular time of year to visit Yosemite, mostly because it coincides with school vacations in the United States. During the summer months (June to early September), most trails and roads are open so the majority of the park is accessible to visitors.

It is usually warm or hot, with occasional thunderstorms in the afternoon. However, summer is the traditional start of wildfire season in the Sierra Nevada, so smoke, fires, and evacuations are all possible.

Read More : What Should I Pack for Summer Camping?

Fall

Yosemite National Park - Fall

Although summer is the best if you want a good mix of waterfalls, wildflowers, and accessibility, fall (late September to November) is the best if you want to see the majority of the park, but substantially fewer people.

Unless there’s an excessively large snowstorm, the majority of the park remains open through October, however, there are no services along Tioga Road after September. In the fall, waterfall levels can be quite low, but the fall colors of the region’s deciduous trees are stunning.

Winter

Yosemite National Park - Winter

For ample solitude in Yosemite, winter (December to March) is the best season. That being said, Tioga Pass and Glacier Point are inaccessible by car during the winter and tire chains are often required to get to Yosemite Valley and Wawona.

While the weather might be cold and snowy, the crowds are few and far between, making for excellent skiing and snowshoeing conditions. The winter months are truly a magical time to visit Yosemite if you come prepared with the proper clothing, like heated gloves, winter boots, and winter sleeping bags.

Read More : What Should I Pack for Winter Camping?

Spring

Yosemite National Park - Spring

Spring (April to May) is one of the best times of year to visit Yosemite if waterfalls and wildflowers are on your list of must-see attractions. In general, crowds during the spring are much more manageable, especially when compared to the summer.

However, the weather is very variable and winter storms are not out of the ordinary. Additionally, Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road can remain closed until June due to the snow, which limits the places you can visit during the spring. Anyone heading into Yosemite at this time should have tire chains and should know how to use them.

Gaby Pilson

Gaby is a professional mountain guide with a master’s degree in outdoor education. She works primarily in the polar regions as an expedition guide, though she can be found hiking, climbing, skiing, sailing, or paddling in some of the world’s most amazing places when not at work.