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Yosemite Valley in the winter?
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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Yosemite Valley in the winter? on 12/15/2012 15:59:37 MST Print View

Has anyone spent much time in Yosemite Valley in the winter?

It seems like a GOOD first attempt at winter backpacking because there is amazing scenery and I would have the whole park to (nearly) myself.

If there is an emergency then I always have Internet access.

- can you camp anywhere like you can in the backwoods?

- are there other people there?

- what are the roads like?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Yosemite Valley in the winter? on 12/15/2012 16:20:32 MST Print View

Your question is unclear as it seems like you are asking about Yosemite National Park, not Yosemite Valley. The valley is less than 10% of the park.

If you are asking about Yosemite Valley, no, there is no backcountry. If you are asking about Yosemite National Park backcountry, it gets more complicated.

"If there is an emergency then I always have Internet access." In general, no. There are a few spots near the main roads where there is cell service, but that is not backcountry. In the real backcountry, expect no service at all.

"Can you camp anywhere like you can in the backwoods?" Sort of, not exactly. You can camp in the snow in lots of areas. However, you still have to get a free wilderness permit from the rangers, and they can tell you where camping is prohibited.

"Are there other people there?" Yes, a few. As long as you are within five or six miles from a main road, you may see people or new tracks. Once you get beyond that, most of the tracks are from animals, not people.

"What are the roads like?" The Tioga Pass Road is generally closed and unplowed through winter (although it has been open unusually). That makes a good route for easy navigation for skis or snowshoes. The Glacier Point Road is generally closed and unplowed beyond Badger Pass Ski Area. That makes it a good jumping off point. Note that the road to get up to Badger Pass is often an R3 restriction for autos (chains required _even_ on a 4WD vehicle). The roads in Yosemite Valley are generally open and a bit slippery with snow.


David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
Re: Yosemite Valley in the winter? on 12/15/2012 17:08:13 MST Print View

In my mind the Valley could good basecamp for winter day-trips in Yosemite. I like the idea of setting up at Camp 4, enjoying a day of snowshoeing and then walking to the lodge to have a beer next to the fire at the end of the day.

Bob provided some good info on typical backcounty overnight trips in Yosemite. Here is a handout for the Crane Flat Ski area: Crane Flat . There is a equivalent brochure for the Glacier Pt. Road area and Mariposa Grove but I don't know where to find them online.

I think Crane Flat area and Glacier Pt Road are good beginner areas for snow camping in Yosemite because you can find locations to camp that are not more than a couple of hours from the car if you need to bail out and there are trail makers in the trees to help navigate. Glacier Pt Road is very popular but once you get a mile or two off the road (other than the Dewey Pt Trail) you are unlikely to see to many people.

With Verizon I have been able to check email and send texts camping a mile or so from the North rim.

Bring chains (and know how to use them) or 4wd.

This books has some good information on winter trails: Yosemite Snowshoe Trails

There is a proposed trip to Dewey Pt. in early January if you are interested in a group trip. It would be a good trip to do a shakedown of your winter setup.

Edited by Davidpcvsamoa on 12/15/2012 17:13:47 MST.

Marc Eldridge
(meld) - MLife

Locale: The here and now.
Re: Yosemite Valley in the winter? on 12/15/2012 17:28:56 MST Print View

Dave. When are you going to Dewey Point?

David W.
(Davidpcvsamoa) - MLife

Locale: East Bay, CA
Re: Re: Yosemite Valley in the winter? on 12/15/2012 18:06:35 MST Print View

January 11-13:

Katy Anderson
(KatyAnderson) - F
Yosemite Valley in the Winter on 12/15/2012 19:01:08 MST Print View

I'm going to take your question to be about Yosemite Valley as that what you asked.

Camping is only in the campgrounds just like in summer.
Camp 4 is a walk-in campground. Doesn't fill up in winter. $5 per person.
Upper Pines is a car campground. Doesn't fill up either. $20 for the spot I think.

Cell service is not great but OK for voice, terrible for data. You can pay for Wifi at Yosemite Lodge.

Yes, there are plenty of people around, but not nearly as many as in the summer.
A couple of campgrounds stay open year round, and so does the Ahwahnee hotel and Yosemite Lodge with restaurants, the visitors center is also open.

Highway 120, 140 and 41 into the park from the west are open year round. If it has snowed there will be chains required. You are always supposed to have chains in your trunk to enter the park in winter. 120 through the park, aka Tioga Road, closes for winter.

Speaking of snow, there is much less of it than you might imagen. In the valley the snow looks pretty right after a storm, but much of it melts down in a few days. Opportunities for good skiing or snowshoeing in Yosemite Valley itself are unusual.

There is an ice skating rink with view of Half Dome open December through February.

Badger Pass is the skiing area of Yosemite, it's a couple of thousand feet higher than the Valley so it has more snow. They have down hill, cross country, lessons, equipment rentals and so on. A free bus leaves from Yosemite Lodge in the morning and returns in the afternoon. Badger Pass is open late December through March depending on snow.

If there is not much snow you can hike instead. Yosemite Falls trail is south facing and often largely snow free for much of the winter. The classic Vernal and Nevada falls trail has a winter route that stays open. And all the flat trails around the Valley itself are nice as well.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Yosemite Transportation in Winter on 12/21/2012 07:04:12 MST Print View

During the first two weeks of February I am off and free to travel somewhere. I have been thinking that a spur of the moment trip to the valley just might be an option. I'd be coming in from the east coast and would much prefer to arrive by public transit of some sort. Can anyone provide some insight on what I am likely to be able to manage transportation wise from a major airport or Amtrak station?

My plan would be to get a site at Camp 4 and day hike and sight see with possible overnight hikes if the mood strikes me. I'd probably just bring my winter backpacking stuff and snowshoes.

I have only visited Yosemite once and that was on a bicycle tour, but I spent a week in the valley and surrounding area and was pretty impressed with it.

Katy Anderson
(KatyAnderson) - F
Amtrak on 12/21/2012 14:50:34 MST Print View

Officially Amtrak goes right into Yosemite Valley and pulls up in front of the Visitors Center. On the Amtrak website just pick the city you are departing from and choose Yosemite Lodge or Yosemite Visitor Center as your destination.
Of course its not actually a locomotive pulling into the valley floor, but a connecting YARTS bus from the Merced train station. Regardless it is pretty efficient, smooth and inexpensive way to get to Yosemite.
Total shuttle/train/bus travel time from downtown San Francisco is 6 1/2 hours. Flying in to Fresno or Sacramento are alternatives that may have even shorter travel times.

Edited to show that the bus from the Merced train station to Yosemite Valley is a YARTS bus.

Edited by KatyAnderson on 12/22/2012 12:35:23 MST.

Bruce Tolley

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Amtrak on 12/21/2012 18:17:39 MST Print View

Yes now that the Yosemite Area Regional Transit Service(YARTs) has moved to its winter schedule, Amtrak is probably the only and best option. Spring, Summer, Fall if you got your self to Sonora or Merced or Mammoth, you could get to Yosemite via Yarts.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
The YARTS web page on 12/22/2012 07:51:38 MST Print View

It looks to me as if YARTS does have service from Merced to the valley all winter. At least that is what I get from the following:

Am I reading something wrong?

Katy Anderson
(KatyAnderson) - F
YARTS winter schedule on 12/22/2012 12:41:46 MST Print View

Yes, YARTS runs between Yosemite Valley and Merced year round. Furthermore the YARTS schedule for one or two buses per day is timed to match the AMTRAK trains. Edited my post above to clarify.