Yosemite: A magical winter destination
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. 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.

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/yosemite-magical-winter-destination/

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What makes winter in Yosemite "magical"?
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COMMENTS (23)
  • jackiek-orv
    1/09/2018 - 02:43 p.m.

    it sounds like a beautiful place to be.

  • holdenj-orv
    1/10/2018 - 10:53 a.m.

    I didn't know Queen Elizabeth went there. It's cool because she is the Queen of England.

  • Dylang-bru2
    1/17/2018 - 07:23 p.m.

    Winter in Yosemite is magical.Learning how the granite formed there and being able to be somewhere that some presidents have stood makes Yosemite magical.

  • MaleighR-dec
    1/18/2018 - 11:04 a.m.

    I think winter in the Yosemite is cool,they have fun things to do. They have skiing,sledding,ice skating,snow boarding.It seems like a fun place.

  • Trenna-E2
    1/18/2018 - 02:09 p.m.

    this story is about 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. 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.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. I would like to say it

  • Yajairir-eic
    1/19/2018 - 01:37 p.m.

    this sounds litt i wish i could go there.

  • peytonm-lew
    1/23/2018 - 01:05 p.m.

    This place would be absolutely beautiful to spend a vacation at. the scenery described with the snow covered pine trees sounds top of the line. I know I would bring my mom, dad and all my family there to spend a nice vacation.

  • calliy-orv
    1/24/2018 - 10:39 p.m.

    i love winter all of the wight shininess all over the place i just feel like jumping into i like its a pillow on the bed just sitting there waiting for a pillow fight or to be jumped on.

  • ALEXISD-vms
    1/25/2018 - 09:31 p.m.

    I would like to visit Yosemite one day.

  • JasaO-dec
    1/31/2018 - 08:19 a.m.

    I'd really love to go visit this place during the winter. I bet it'd look beautiful to see the all winter scenery like the snow covered pines trees. Also, staying the the hotel sounds really nice, maybe just exploring it seems cool. And I'd take my camera with me because I love taking pictures of places I go and this would be perfect!

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