The Best Time To Visit Yosemite National Park

The Best Time To Visit Yosemite National Park

Rachel  profile pictureRachel May 15, 2024

The Best Time To Visit Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited and most celebrated natural wonders in the world. It is a bounty of awe-inspiring landscapes, picturesque vistas, and iconic hiking trails, all nestled along a lush valley floor in California's northern Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The park is open year-round, but the best times to visit will depend on what you want from your trip. If you want to see blankets of flowers, waterfalls in peak flow, and smaller crowds, we recommend visiting in late spring or early fall. 

Or, if you want guaranteed good weather and don't mind popular areas being a little busier, the summer months (June through August) are your best bet.

Whenever you choose to visit, you're sure to have a wonderful time, but we created this guide to help make your Yosemite vacation planning easier.

Waterfall in full flow down a rock face in Yosemite National Park.

My Yosemite Highlights

  • Tunnel View - Perhaps the most popular viewpoint in the entire park, this spot provides iconic vistas of El Capitan, Half Dome and the valley floor.

  • El Capitan - This sheer rocky mountain face at the valley's western end became famous the world over after the 2018 movie Free Solo.

  • Yosemite Falls - These falls are probably the most well-known, being in full force in the springtime. Other notable waterfalls include Bridalveil Falls and Vernal Falls.

  • Glacier point - A lookout point sitting atop one of the highest ridges in the whole park. This is easily accessible by car and offers stunning views of the High Sierra.

  • Mariposa Grove - This is the largest sequoia grove in the national park and a must-visit if you want to see Giant Sequoia trees, including the famed Grizzly Giant (a tree, not a bear). Access this via the park's southern gate.

The trunk of a fallen Giant Sequoia tree in a forest at Yosemite National Park.

A Seasonal Guide to Yosemite National Park

One of the best things about Yosemite is that the entire park truly is a year-round destination for adventure seekers and nature lovers alike.

But, as the seasons change, so too do the park's attractions and experiences. So, with this in mind, it's important to do your research before you visit Yosemite to avoid disappointment. Here, we explore the National Park season by season to help you plan ahead.

Yosemite in Spring 

For most people, spring is the best time to visit Yosemite National Park.

During this season, the wildflowers across Yosemite Valley have just started to bloom, and the waterfalls are in full flow. Spring is a great season to visit because it allows you to avoid the summer crowds and experience some of the best sights within the valley.

A waterfall flowing over a rock face into the valley below on a sunny spring day.

The daytime temperatures during the spring tend to be warm and comfortable, making hiking and rock climbing comfortable, but they do drop significantly at night. Campers should be prepared for the cold night temperatures when visiting during the spring.

It is important to note that during early spring (March and April), both Glacier Point Road and Tioga Road are still closed for the winter, which may impact how accessible the park is to you. These roads tend to open up again in late spring, from May onward.

Yosemite in Summer

Summer is the most popular time of year for Yosemite National Park, which means it will be incredibly busy at peak times.

The famous scenery and amazing summer weather are a great attraction for vacationers as it is a great time to camp in the valley. However, this can make it crowded and difficult to experience the natural wonders for yourself.

If you do plan to visit Yosemite during the summer, we recommend that you avoid weekends, as this tends to be the busiest time for the valley. It can become too crowded during this time, making it difficult to partake in the activities you want.

The daytime temperatures in peak summer can be incredibly uncomfortable, reaching the high 90s, and by mid-summer, the waterfalls have run dry. 

This is why many people who visit Yosemite in the summer opt to access the famous hiking trails through Tuolumne Meadows, which is refreshing and peaceful compared to the center of the valley. These meadows provide easy access to the hiking trails in Yosemite’s High Sierra.

River flowing through rocks in a forest on a sunny day in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite in Fall

Fall is another great time to visit Yosemite National Park, not only for the amazing scenery as the colors change but also because the crowds have thinned out since the summer. 

As long as you book your trip after Labor Day, there will be drastically fewer crowds throughout the park in the fall than in the summer, making for a more pleasurable experience.

A valley floor with tall rocky mountains and fall foliage.

September is one of the best months for hiking and rock climbing in Yosemite Valley. The crisp autumn air and fall colors make for a beautiful experience, although it will be significantly colder as the evenings come in closer.

By mid-September, services on Tioga Road will have shut down in preparation for the winter.

Yosemite in Winter

Even though winter is the least popular season for Yosemite National Park, this time of year still offers a spectacular array of unforgettable experiences for those who don't mind a little cold weather (the average temperature can drop to between 26 and 48ºF in December).

The entire valley is transformed with a blanket of crisp, white snow, and the park's waterfalls become frozen in time as if they were plucked straight from a fairytale.

If ice skating and skiing are non-negotiables for your winter vacations, Yosemite has much to offer. The Badger Pass Ski Area is located right inside the valley and has cross-country skiing and snowboarding trails set against a backdrop of sensational vistas. Visitors can access the area via Glacier Point Road.

Mountains and a forest covered in snow.

At the end of the season, crowds may pick up again as many people want to witness a glimpse of the Fireball, which is one of the most amazing natural spectacles in Yosemite. This takes place at the end of the winter season, in February. 

The Best Times of the Year to Visit Yosemite National Park

Now that you know what to expect with each season, you may have a better idea of when you want to visit Yosemite National Park.

As we have mentioned, each season brings with it new weather, new sights, and new levels of crowding, which are all factors to consider. If you are going to Yosemite Valley for a specific experience, then we can recommend the best time for your visit based on what is happening in the area.

The Best Time to Visit Yosemite to See Wildflowers

Wildflowers can be spotted most of the year in Yosemite National Park due to the varying elevation of the valley, but this does not mean all seasons offer the same experience.

Spring is a great time to see the emerging colors of wildflowers throughout Yosemite National Park, particularly in the lower elevations. 

Hiking through Cook’s Meadow Loop in Yosemite Valley, Wawona Meadow Loop in Wawona, and Wapama Falls in Hetch Hetchy is your chance to see the first colorful signs of spring in the national park.

It may also be possible to see the first signs of life popping through the snow at higher elevations during this time, but the lower areas are best for these sights.

While spring brings the first signs of life, summer is rich in color. Hiking through Tuolumne Meadows during this season will bring you face to face with incredible colors and various wildflowers like pink shooting stars in the early months and columbine, firewood, and dog violets in late summer.

Yellow flowers in a valley with rocky mountains in the background.

The Best Time to Visit Yosemite for Good Weather

As Yosemite National Park is such a vast area, spanning nearly 1,200 miles with highs of nearly 13,000 feet and lows of 2,000 feet, the best weather will differ based on where you spend your time.

If you want to avoid the rain when visiting Yosemite National Park so you can hike and rock climb safely, then the best time to visit is between June and September. The park sees 95% of its annual rainfall between October and May, so expect to see wetter days if you visit during these months.

Spring may be your best option for warm and comfortable temperatures during the day. Mid-summer brings with it high and sometimes uncomfortable temperatures in the 90s at Yosemite, making hiking difficult, though sun-seekers are sure to see blue skies daily.

Nighttime temperatures will drop significantly in the spring and fall months, though, which is something to be aware of if you are camping or want to spend time outdoors in the evenings.

Sunset in the mountains with a river flowing in the foreground.

The Best Time to Visit Yosemite for Easy Access

Tioga Road is the only road that covers the entire park making it one of the most accessible ways into Yosemite. This road is ideal for travelers who want to see as much of Yosemite National Park as possible on their trip, and this can be done in a short amount of time.

To see all of Yosemite from this road, take the scenic route, which begins at Crane Flat, and follow the road until it ends at Tioga Pass. This is a 47-mile road that offers some incredible views and constant access to the park.

If this is how you want to see Yosemite National Park, then the best time to visit is between May and mid-October, when the road is open.

Typically, Tioga Road shuts for the winter in mid-October and November, depending on the winter conditions and will not open again until May. The opening of the road is sometimes delayed until June if there has been heavy snowfall during the winter.

The Best Time to Visit Yosemite if you Want to Avoid Crowds

You are inevitably going to have to share your time in Yosemite National Park with other hikers and campers, but the time of year you visit can impact how much sharing you have to do.

While the park is open all year round, the vast majority of visitors to Yosemite Valley come during the middle of the year. Between May and October, most visitors visit Yosemite, but the summer months in the middle of this period are the busiest.

The quietest time to visit Yosemite National Park is between November and April when you can witness the incredible winter sights and go for snow hikes through the higher elevations.

Luxury Vacation Rentals Near Yosemite National Park

Whatever time of the year you plan to visit Yosemite, having the perfect place to rest your head after a long day out exploring the trails and untouched wilderness is a must. 

Luxury vacation rental surrounded by trees, grass and mountains.

Find your happy place with Wander’s luxury vacation rentals in Yosemite, and look forward to a vacation you'll remember for a lifetime. Be sure to read our guide on the best restaurants near Yosemite National Park, too, if you want to experience the culinary delights the region has to offer.

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