Yosemite: A magical winter destination This undated image provided by the National Park Service shows Yosemite Falls in Yosemite National Park in California in winter. (NPS Photo via AP/Kristal Leonard/Yosemite Hospitality via AP)
Yosemite: A magical winter destination
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Yosemite National Park might not seem like an ideal winter destination, particularly if you're from a part of the country with plenty of road salt and wind chill.

But Yosemite in winter is magical, as I discovered last year on a trip there with my family just after Christmas. There's snowboarding and skiing, both downhill and cross-country, as well as sledding (pick up a plastic saucer at a sporting goods store on the way). You can also ice skate at a rink in the shadow of the famed granite formation known as Half Dome. Park rangers also lead snowshoe walks (free with $3 suggested donation).

Many of Yosemite Valley's shops and restaurants remain open. And at the Majestic Hotel, one of the country's most storied national park lodges, there are holiday decorations and a seven-course dinner with costumed performers called the Bracebridge Dinner. The wood-and-stone hotel, formerly known as the Ahwahnee, opened in 1927 and has hosted everyone from Presidents John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama to Queen Elizabeth and Walt Disney.

Winter can also be a time to enjoy the park's scenery without summer's crowds. But the weather can pose challenges as well. Here are some details.


The Scenery

Naturalist John Muir once wrote that Yosemite was "full of God's thoughts."

Driving in, thick forests of snow-dusted pine and fir trees block your view at first of the park's famous granite monoliths towering over Yosemite Valley. But there's nothing like that first glimpse. El Capitan rises 3,600 feet from the valley floor, more than twice the height of the Empire State Building. On the other side of the valley is Half Dome, rising 4,700 feet off the valley floor.

In winter, the options for seeing these landmarks from anywhere other than the valley are limited, as some roads in the park are closed until the snow thaws. The cables that climbers use to ascend Half Dome are also removed for the season.

But there are walking tours led by National Park Service rangers that explain how these huge chunks of granite came to be. They're not just the result of erosion, but were also formed by melting glaciers and forces under the ground that over the millions of years pushed them higher and higher. It's a way to understand the massive forces that formed the earth itself.

Visitors can also follow the footsteps of famed photographer Ansel Adams, who made his home here for a quarter century. You can even snap your own pictures from where Adams stood when he took some of his most iconic photographs. Classes cost about $100 but the Ansel Adams Gallery also offers free camera walks on certain days (tours fill up; reserve ahead).


Getting There

Getting there can be a challenge on roads that are potentially snowy and icy. Car rental places may tell you - as they told me - that snow chains aren't necessary. They are, to be blunt, lying.

"California law says if you are entering a chain control area, you have to carry chains," said Scott Gediman, a park ranger and a public affairs officer in Yosemite. "Everybody needs to have chains, even if you have four-wheel drive."

Rangers don't enjoy checking car trunks for chains and cables but they do it and they will send you out of the park if you don't have them.

The good news is that chains are not that expensive, costing as little as about $40, and can be purchased at any auto supply store nearby. Snow chain technology has improved dramatically, making it far easier to put the chains on than it used to be. But if you still feel like you can't do it, there are services along the road that will put the chains on for you for $30 or so.

Yosemite Valley is about 210 miles from San Francisco. But if the winter drive sounds intimidating, use the YARTS bus service which runs year-round between Yosemite and Merced, a city located about 130 miles from San Francisco.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes winter in Yosemite "magical"?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (50)
  • GemmaV-del
    12/14/2017 - 03:50 p.m.

    "But Yosemite in winter is magical, as I discovered last year on a trip there with my family just after Christmas. There's snowboarding and skiing, both downhill and cross-country, as well as sledding (pick up a plastic saucer at a sporting goods store on the way). You can also ice skate at a rink in the shadow of the famed granite formation known as Half Dome. Park rangers also lead snowshoe walks (free with $3 suggested donation)." this is what the author said

  • AngelinaB-del
    12/14/2017 - 04:11 p.m.

    This article is about Yosemite, a magical winter destination. Yosemite offers so many winter activities to do such as sled, ski, and even ice skate. Many of Yosemite's shops and restaurants remain open throughout the holidays. Winter time in Yosemite can also be a time to enjoy the park's scenery. Even though Yosemite is beautiful during winter, the weather can propose some hardships. Such as getting there. The roads can be snowy and icy. Cars can slip and lose control. Yosemite Valley is about 210 miles from San Francisco.

  • GregoryM-del
    12/14/2017 - 04:14 p.m.

    Yosemite is a nice winter destination. It might not seem like an ideal winter destination. However it is full of wonderful winter activities.

  • JadeR-del
    12/14/2017 - 04:19 p.m.

    A summary of the article is that Yosemite looks amazing and magical in the winter. This article gives you an idea of what its like to get there and about Yosemite Valley and the shops. Yosemite in the winter is a truly magical place and this article seems pretty convincing.

  • PoojaT-del
    12/14/2017 - 04:29 p.m.

    This article is about Yosemite National Park might not seem like an ideal winter destination, particularly if you're from a part of the country with plenty of road salt and wind chill. Winter in Yosemite is " magical ". This was a very interesting article to read.

  • HannahR -del
    12/14/2017 - 04:43 p.m.

    What makes winter in Yosemite "magical" is that there is snowboarding and skiing, both downhill and cross-country, as well as sledding (pick up a plastic saucer at a sporting goods store on the way). You can also ice skate at a rink in the shadow of the famed granite formation known as Half Dome.

  • JohnB-del1
    12/14/2017 - 05:14 p.m.

    There's snowboarding and skiing, both downhill and cross-country, as well as sledding. You can also ice skate at a rink in the shadow of the famed granite formation known as Half Dome. you can also go have a four course meal and have a magical time in Yosemite National Park.

  • ReesePratt-del
    12/14/2017 - 05:46 p.m.

    It is so cool it is "magical". I would love to go to Yosemite this time but I love being home for Christmas.

  • JasminderK-del
    12/14/2017 - 05:58 p.m.

    This article talks about Yosemite, a place in California that is known for being a popular place in the winter, it has had many famous guests such as Walt Disney, Barack Obama, and JFK. you can ski ,sled, or ice skate and go visit their shops and restaurants.

  • NatalieH-del
    12/14/2017 - 06:09 p.m.

    Winter in Yosemite is truly a magical time of year. There are several fun activities to do, such as snowboarding, skiing, sledding, iceskating, and snowshoe walks. The scenery is beautiful and breathtaking; you feel intimidated, yet amazed at the sight of the tall pines towering over you. There are also tours and landmarks that you can check out.

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