Best Times to Visit Yosemite
The best times to visit Yosemite are May and September, when the park is accessible but not too crowded. It's important to know that many roads and trails in Yosemite are closed for the majority of the year due to snow. Snow can come as early as October and arrives in full force in November, typically remaining until March. But just because the snowstorms stop in March doesn't necessarily mean closed parts of the park suddenly swing their doors open. Depending on conditions, all seasonally closed roads and trails don't open till May or June.
Seasonal park closures are precisely why so many travelers visit during the summer months, making it the park's busiest time of year (think packed trails, road traffic, sky-high hotel rates and more). To avoid this, the best time to visit is before or after the summer crowds come, which is typically late May and September. Late May and early June is the best time to view waterfalls, roaring from freshly melted snow, and September offers cooler temperatures ideal for hiking (summer temps can reach the 80s). If the only time you can visit is during the summer, be sure to book several months in advance. Campsites are known to reach capacity the moment they become available for booking. If you're looking for a bargain on accommodations, winter is the best time to visit Yosemite.
Weather in Yosemite
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
|May and September||
With the thunder of the waterfalls in the background to drown out the few voices around you, May will allow you to have some time to appreciate the wilderness in a brisk, but bearable climate – average highs range in the mid-60s. Lows, however, stay in the mid-30s, so be sure to bring a coat with you. Aside from fewer crowds and comfortable-ish temperatures, May is the best time to visit the park for waterfalls (thanks to the melted snow). Some roads and trails may still be closed, so it's a wise idea to visit toward the end of the month.
Come September, highs hang in the mid-70s while lows are in the mid-40s. This temperature range allows for a more comfortable hiking experience. Not only will there be fewer people on the trails but the sun won't be as intense as it is during the summer months. Waterfalls, however, won't be as free-flowing.
The magic of Yosemite can easily be disrupted by summer crowds. Because of seasonal road and trail closures that can last until May and June, Yosemite sees most of its visitors during the summer. During this time, you can expect crowded trails and campsites as well as road traffic and expensive hotel rates. You need to book at least six months in advance to secure accommodations during this time; campsites have been known to reach capacity just days after they become available for the season.
The upside to visiting during the summer, however, is that the entire park is open. Daytime temps reach the low 80s, but depending on where you are in Yosemite, such as uncovered valleys, it can feel a lot hotter. Nighttime temps dip to the low 40s throughout summer, so make sure to bring a coat. To avoid severe crowding, visit in early June when the park's waterfalls are robust thanks to the melted snow. If you time your visit later in the summer, you'll come across blooming wildflowers.
After September, Yosemite is practically crowdless, but for good reason. Temperatures drop drastically from highs in the mid-70s in September to the mid-60s in October and low 50s in November. Nighttime temps plummet too, with averages hanging in the 30-degree range in October and November. What's more, trail and road closures typically start in October or November due to snow. If you do visit in October, be aware that you won't see a whole lot of fall colors; the majority of trees in Yosemite are evergreens.
Winter sports enthusiasts will love the snow-blanketed park, especially Yosemite's Ski & Snowboard Area, where visitors can partake in downhill and cross-country skiing. Daytime temperatures from December to March hang in the mid-40s and nighttime temps linger in the low 20s. April sees a slight increase, with lows in the mid-30s and highs in the mid-50s. Regardless, aside from the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, the majority of the park is closed to cars with the exception of the Yosemite Valley and Wawona areas. Tire chains may be needed to access park roads during this time. If you're willing to endure the conditions, you will get the best deal on accommodations during this time. Room rates will be at their lowest and there will be no crowds.
Popular Times to Visit Yosemite
Tourism volume is estimated based on in-market destination search query interest from Google and on travel.usnews.com in 2015-2016. Hotel prices are sourced from a sample of U.S. News Best Hotels rates through 2015-2016.
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