WINTER IN YOSEMITE
Updated March 16, 2006
There have been several very large snowstorms covering the Sierras during the month of March. This has greatly increased the snow pack and it looks like the summer of 2006 will be a wonderful time to come to Yosemite and go hiking and camping. Based on our current conditions it appears that the wildflowers in Tuolomne Meadows will not reach their peak until early or mid-July. If you are planning a trip this summer the best time to go will probably be after the Fourth of July weekend see you can avoid the crowds and still see the absolute most beautiful scenery that the park has to offer in the summertime. I do not recommend planning a trip for late June since Tioga Road might still be closed as it was in 2005 due to the deep snow pack.
In early March there were significant amounts of snow in Yosemite Valley. Since more storms are anticipated during the third week of March please be careful when you are driving in the park. The sun is still at a very low angle and this leaves many icy spots in shady areas on the roads.
We are experiencing mid-winter conditions in the park and both Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road are closed until late Spring of 2006. Enjoy the mix of ice, snow and rock during the coming months, while the foliage lays dormant. Although weather conditions can vary greatly from day to day, the information below provides a general guide to winter weather in the lower elevations of the park. Above 4000 feet the conditions become harsher as you ascend, and one should be prepared for changeable weather.
Daytime temps have reached the 40s and 50s, but once the sun goes down the air chills quickly. Dress in layers and be prepared for sudden temperature changes. Even though the weather has been gorgeous recently, winter can still return at anytime between now and June. There is not a lot of sun reaching the valley floor this time of year. It's recommended that you dress in layers and have a hat and gloves handy at all times. Keep the foul weather gear handy and be careful hiking on slippery paths and trails. Daytime heating will provide you with varying degrees of waterfalls on a daily basis. Make sure you carry chains and keep a shovel in your car, along with blankets, extra food and water. The roads can become treacherous very quickly during an intense winter storm.
There is a lot of snow all over the park, and especially above 7000 feet where winter has effectively locked in the back country areas of the park. With the current snowpack it is unlikely that either Tioga Road or Glacier Point Road will open before late May. Enjoy the waterfalls in the valley and enjoy the lack of crowds this time of year.
An excellent day hike in winter, weather and trail conditions permitting, is the steep 1 mile journey up to Columbia Rock. Wait until late morning or early afternoon, bring a jacket, hat and gloves along with a liter of water and follow the trail from behind Camp 4 (across the street from Yosemite Lodge) toward Upper Yosemite Falls. Pace yourself on the switchbacks and stop along the way for ever improving views.
Depending on your pace it will take from 25 to 60 minutes to rise approximately 900 feet and gain an impressive view of the valley floor and the snow capped mountains to the east and south. Take lots of film and a flashlight if you wish to capture the sunset colors as they glow on Half Dome in the fading light.
Please be patient as we are slowly building this section.