Winter in Yosemite Activities

Explore Yosemite in a new way during the winter with Yosemite National Park’s winter activities like skiing and snowshoeing, or visit top attractions like the ’Fire Fall.’

If you have been to Yosemite National Park in the summer, you will find a winter visit a new experience.

There are several things to do in Yosemite in the winter: December, January, February and March.

Options range from skiing/snowboarding, snowshoeing, horseback riding, hiking, and ice skating to sightseeing and some unique events. 

Hiking one of Yosemite’s many routes this time of year is a unique and magnificent experience, but remember to prepare in advance and pack the proper gear.

Among the many reasons to visit Yosemite in winter are the fantastic photography opportunities due to the fewer people on the trails.

Cross-country Skiing

The most popular of the Yosemite winter activities is cross-country skiing.

You will find some of the most exciting cross-country skiing tracks with breathtaking views of the neighboring mountains and well-known Yosemite National Park sites.

These include 25 miles of groomed track and 90 miles of defined trails from the Badger Pass Ski Area and access to the Mariposa Grove Road for those on foot or cross-country skis.  

The popular Badger Pass Ski Area offers downhill and cross-country skiing to Glacier Point (a 21-mile round trip). 

At Badger Pass, rental skis, snowshoes, and cross-country ski lessons are also available.

You can use a Badger Pass Ski Area map to find the facilities and activities you enjoy.

Yosemite offers miles of quiet and beauty in winter, whether you’re just a beginner or an experienced hiker.

Marked winter routes often have enough snow from mid-to-late December to mid-March, though conditions can change from year to year.

You can find beginner, intermediate and advanced trails ranging from less than one mile to more than 20 miles round-trip in length. 

Winter trails on Glacier Point Road include the following

  • Bridalveil Creek Campground—Old Glacier Point Road (3.3 miles, 5.3 km, one


  • Dewey Point via Meadows (3.5 miles, 5.6 km, one way from Badger)
  • Dewey Point via Ridge (4 miles, 6.4 km, one way from Badger)
  • Ostrander Lake (9-10.3 miles, 14.5-16.6 km, one way)
  • Ghost Forest Loop (11.5 miles, 18.5 km, round trip from Badger)
  • Glacier Point Road (10.5 miles, 16.9 km, one way)

You will require a free wilderness permit from the Badger Pass Ranger Station to stay on overnight winter trails. 

Some winter trail options in Crane Flat (6,200 feet) are:

  • Crane Flat Lookout Trail– Difficult (1.5 miles, 2.4 km, one way)
  • Tuolumne Grove Trail– Difficult (1 mile, 1.6 km, one way) 
  • Gin Flat Loop Trail– Difficult (6.25 miles, 10.1 km, roundtrip) 
  • Merced Grove Trail– Difficult (1.5 miles, 2.4 km, one way) 
  • Crane Flat Campground Trail– Easy (1.75 miles, 2.8 km, roundtrip)
  • Clark Range View Trail– Easy (2 miles, 3.2 km, one way) 
  • South Landing Road Trail– Easy (2.25 miles, 3.6 km, one way) 
  • Rockefeller Grove Trail– Easy (2.25 miles, 3.6 km, one way)


Yosemite National Park winter trails and breathtaking scenery make it a great place to spend your pastime.  

Plan a visit if you’ve never strapped on snowshoes and stomped through icy terrain! 

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are the most popular on Crane Flat and Badger Pass. 

Snowshoers enjoy Crane Flat’s 2-mile Clark Range View Trail, while the icy Glacier Point Road gives picturesque vistas up close to Badger Pass.

A moderate degree of fitness and a little bit of patience are all you need to start snowshoeing.

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area provides snowshoe rentals at the Badger Pass Nordic Center on a first-come, first-served basis.

Moderate to strenuous guided snowshoe hikes are also available.

Buy a snowshoeing from Badger Pass to Dewey Point ticket for this winter adventure.

Ice Skating

Other Yosemite winter activities, like ice skating, are enjoyable for people of all ages and skill levels.

Glide over the ice with your family and friends at any of the two ice skating rings in Yosemite—Curry Village and Tenaya Lodge. 

The Curry Village Ice Rink, close to the Huff Housing area, offers outdoor ice skating ring views of Half Dome.

The ring hosts three weekly sessions—12 pm, 3.30 pm and 7 pm—for $16 each.

There are four sessions on weekdays, one extra at 8.30 pm.

Tickets for ice skating are available online or at the Curry Village Tour & Activity Desk.

Each ticket is valid for two hours of skating and skate rentals cost an extra fee.

Depending on the weather, the Curry Village Ice Rink is open from mid-November until mid-March.

The Tenaya Lodge Ice Skating Rink at Yosemite’s south entrance is the best option if you prefer a sheltered place.

Tenaya’s large 80-foot by 40-foot ice rink is open for daytime and evening skating sessions.

Sledding and Snow Tubing


Yosemite’s Badger Pass Ski, Tube and Snowboard Area offers smooth, kid-friendly slopes for snow tubing.

A two-hour session in the morning at 11 am and afternoon at 2 pm costs $30 per person. 

Kids must be at least 42 inches tall to snow tube.

Alternatively, if you have snow sleds and inner tubes, you can snow tube or sled for free at the Fish Camp snow area.

A free snow play area is on the Big Oak Flat Road, west of Yosemite Valley, on Highway 120. 

You can also explore any safe, clear hill in the park to sled or tube down.

Tenaya at Yosemite National Park near Fish Camp offers sledding and tubing down the sled run just two miles south of the park at a height of 5,000 feet. 

Visitors can rent snowshoes and sledding discs at the lodge and you can purchase sledding discs in the gift shop. 

In addition, Crane Flat has a snow-play area that, when the weather permits, is available in the winter for sledding and other enjoyable activities near the cross-country ski paths.

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Downhill skiing and snowboarding are some of the easier Yosemite winter activities.

At elevation levels of 7,200 feet to 8,000 feet, the Badger Pass Ski Area offers downhill skiing and snowboarding.

Along with rental gear, you can find a cafeteria, lounge, sundeck, ski shop, lockers and top-notch instructors.  

Lift hours are from 9 am to 4 pm, from the middle of December until the beginning of March.

You can purchase the tickets directly at Badger Pass Ski Area Day Lodge.

Winter Sightseeing

Yosemite is a winter wonderland. You get to see some breathtaking views in Yosemite, which is magical.

Frazil Ice and Snow Cone Formation

It resembles a big slush machine. 

Standing on the Yosemite Creek bridge beneath Yosemite Falls in March and April. 

If the conditions are ideal, you might witness something streaming down the creek that is neither ice nor snow but something in between. 

Frazil ice, tiny frozen mist crystals that develop on the falls and flow down the stream to create a slurry, is what it is.

Every winter, a mountain of snow and ice hundreds of feet tall develops at the base of upper Yosemite Falls. 

It looks like a snow cone turned on its side.

Horsetail Fall light up at sunset

One of the most unique Yosemite winter activities is the breathtaking sight of the natural Firefall.

When backlit by the sun, the Horsetail Fall dazzles with its orange glow.

Only on bright evenings in mid-to-late February does the sun hit the fall at the proper angle, and for about 10 minutes, the water over the eastern edge of El Capitan appears to be on fire.

New Firefall rules have been established due to the event’s high visitor volume, constrained parking options, and negative effects on the environment and cultural resources.

For the days listed below, you will need to make reservations in advance to witness this unique event in Yosemite:

  • February 10–12, 2023
  • February 17–19, 2023
  • February 24–26, 2023

See this exceptional phenomenon for yourself.

Night sky- stars

Don’t forget to take some time to stargaze and observe the Milky Way far off the city lights when visiting Yosemite National Park.

Bass Lake and Sentinel Dome are popular locations for nighttime viewing.

Starry Night Skies over Yosemite is a breathtaking walking trip the Park Service offers. 

Note: This Yosemite activity is currently paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic; we recommend you verify the availability of Yosemite programs while you are there.

Winter hiking

Yosemite National Park experiences significant snowfall during winter storms.

If you want snow camping and travel by skis or snowshoes, Yosemite is just the right place in the winter. 

There are various winter trails in the Yosemite Valley area, including Yosemite Falls (1.2 miles), Vernal Falls (5.5 miles), Mirror Lake (2 miles) and Yosemite Valley Loop Trail (11 miles).

If you hike up the falls around March and April, you may find a snow cone at the upper Yosemite Falls and something called frazil ice in the creek.

If the conditions are ideal, you might witness something moving down the creek that is neither ice nor snow but something in between. 

Frazil ice is tiny frozen mist crystals that develop on the falls and flow down the stream to create a slurry. 

A heap of snow and ice that is hundreds of feet tall builds up at the base of upper Yosemite Falls. It looks like a snow cone turned on its side.

Winter Wilderness Camping

Camping is another popular Yosemite winter activity. 

If you are interested and experienced enough, you can wear your skis or snowshoes and hike a seven-mile (11 km) one-way trip to the Snow Creek Cabin. 

However, the way to the cabin is unmarked and demands skiing skills, expert navigational skills and a permit. 

You must visit the Valley Visitor Center between 9 am to 5 pm to obtain the permit, along with the most recent combination for the lock on the cabin, one day before the trip.

No reservations are available; only six people can visit the cabin per night.

The cabin and the winter trails are open when there is enough snow for skiing, normally from mid-December through March.

Register at the station closest to your starting point and get wilderness permits for all overnight wilderness trips in Yosemite.

The permits are available at the Big Oak Flat Information Station, Badger Pass Ranger Station, Wawona Visitor Center, Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, and Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station.

Reservations for wilderness permits are not accepted from November through April. 

Trailhead quotas remain in place all year, and quotas for winter trailheads along Glacier Point Road can frequently fill up.

One cannot camp at the following points/areas:

  • One and a half miles of the Badger Pass Ski Area boundary
  • Summit Meadow
  • Dewey Point
  • Glacier Point 

Tips For Visiting Yosemite in Winter

Winter in Yosemite National Park usually starts in November and lasts through April, combining sunny and cold snowy days. 

You should always be prepared when you go outside because conditions can quickly change in a matter of hours. 

Wear suitable layers, carry a portable stove, food and emergency equipment and let someone know where and when you are going. 

Carrying and drinking enough water in the dry air outside is important. 

Considering your physical health and prior winter travel experience, select a route you are qualified and competent to follow.

Featured Image: Rove.me

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