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
Lexile

Yosemite National Park might not seem like an ideal winter destination. This might be particularly true if you're from a part of the country with plenty of road salt and wind chill.

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

Many of Yosemite Valley's shops and restaurants remain open. The Majestic Hotel is one of the country's most storied national park lodges. It has holiday decorations and a seven-course dinner with costumed performers called the Bracebridge Dinner. The  hotel is made of wood-and-stone. It was formerly known as the Ahwahnee. It was opened in 1927. It has hosted many famous guests. Those guests include Presidents John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. They also include 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. Here are some details.


The Scenery

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

When you drive in, thick forests of snow-dusted pine and fir trees block your view at first. You can’t see 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. It is more than twice the height of the Empire State Building. On the other side of the valley is Half Dome. It rises 4,700 feet off the valley floor.

It’s harder to see the landmarks in winter. The options for seeing them from anywhere other than the valley are limited. 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. They 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. He 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, so reserve ahead.


Getting There

Getting there can be a challenge. The roads may be snowy and icy. Car rental places may tell you that snow chains aren't necessary. That’s what they told me. 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. He is 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. They cost as little as $40, and can be purchased at any auto supply store nearby. Snow chain technology has improved dramatically. It is 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. It costs $30 or so.

Yosemite Valley is about 210 miles from San Francisco. But if the winter drive sounds scary, use the YARTS bus service. It runs year-round between Yosemite and Merced. That’s 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 (23)
  • joeyw-orv
    12/14/2017 - 11:52 a.m.

    this looks amazing. i would really want to go here. it looks nothing like outside my house.

  • kinniel-orv
    12/15/2017 - 02:33 p.m.

    Is this like a new building for Christmas?, or a touring place? Idc really care what it is actually, its really cool what these people made. It should just be a touring place though. The last question I have is, what's going to happen when winter is over.

  • 24mconstantino
    12/19/2017 - 09:50 a.m.

    its interesting because. it talked about how in Yosemite is magical in the winter it says that chains there cost in the winter 40$. The park rangers led a snow walk if you donate 3$
    the walk is free

  • sgrab-wim
    12/19/2017 - 12:56 p.m.

    I really think that this article was very informational. I honestly was very shocked that two presidents had already stayed their before and Walt Disney himself. it is very interesting and I like that it talks about how much the costs are for things which is very helpful and takes things of the list If I was to ever consider to go.

  • ionicaj-cel
    12/20/2017 - 12:28 p.m.

    This article was interesting to read. It makes me ready for Christmas. I would love to go on vacation here too ?

  • kylel-buh
    1/03/2018 - 10:25 a.m.

    Yosemite National Park might not seem like an ideal winter destination. This might be particularly true if you're from a part of the country with plenty of road salt and wind chill.


    MY OPINION IS: That this would be awesome for a winter trip.
    And from the picture, it looks amazing.

  • averycc
    1/03/2018 - 02:18 p.m.

    Yosemite is such a magical place in the winter. Lights make Yosemite so magical. If you go right after Christmas there will still be lights up. You can stay in and be cozy and warm.''Winter can also be a time to enjoy the park scenery without summers crowed.''It's a time for relaxing with your family and looking at all the lights and skiing.

  • SofiaM-
    1/03/2018 - 02:20 p.m.

    What makes Yosemite "magical" is how beautiful it is and when the snow is on the ground it is a winter wonderland. If you compare it to Disney World, it's just as magical especially when all the lights go up it shimmers and its magical, like how Yosemite Park is!

  • Maryr-bru1
    1/08/2018 - 09:35 a.m.

    The Yosemite is magical because in the winter time there are a lot of things you can do such as skiing ,building snowmen,hill walks and much more. In Yosemite the country is brightening everything up with Christmas cheer by doing outdoor activities such as snowball fights,sledding,hiking and much more. Yosemite does outdoor activities while we might be inside,even though we do some outdoor activities to in the cold weather if you are interested in any of these activities I would suggest going to Yosemite for your winter vacation.

  • jeremyj-orv
    1/09/2018 - 01:14 p.m.

    I would love to go to a magical winter destination like Yosemite, it looks like it would be fun to snowboard on judging by the photo...

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