Yosemite National Park Operating Hours & Seasons
Yosemite National Park is open all of the time, every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year . . . you get the picture? It ain’t always easy to get around the park in the winter months, the snow can cause real problems on the roads.
The Hetchy Hetchy Entrance Station is generally open during the daylight hours.
One thing that visitors do notice about Yosemite National Park is that they get a completely different experience depending on the time of year they take their trip. Here’s what to expect at Yosemite at the different times of the year;
Summer visits to Yosemite National Park – generally June through to September.
Hopefully you won’t have any trouble getting around the park during the summer time, all of the roads should be open, however the services along the Tioga Road may not open until quite late in June. The weather is usually nice and warm, sometimes very hot and there are lots of thunder storms in the afternoons, especially as you climb into the higher elevations. Some of the famous rivers and waterfalls of the park will be at their peak at the beginning of the summer but are reduced to a trickle or may run completely dry by the time August arrives. There should be a carpet of wildflowers during June with subalpine flowers arriving a little later – starting around the beginning of July.
Fall visits to Yosemite National Park – the months of October and November.
The park is usually accessible throughout October and into November depending on when the snow arrives – some roads may be closed short term. There are no Tioga Road services available after September and no overnight parking from the middle of October. The weather is very unpredictable at this time of year, sometimes it is hot, sometimes it is cold, sometimes it is somewhere in between, sometimes it is dry, sometimes it is covered in snow. Be prepared for everything! Rivers and waterfalls are not very energetic at this time of year with many (including Yosemite Falls) having no water at all. Some of the other waterfalls may have a bit of a trickle. Many of the trees in Yosemite National Park are evergreens so there isn’t much of a display of fall colors to admire although there is a little exuberance to be seen curtesy of the black oaks, big leaf maples and Pacific dogwoods in the middle of October.
Winter visits to Yosemite National Park – the months of December through to March
During the winter time Yosemite National Park is described as a place of “snow & solitude” which sums it up very nicely. Some areas of the park are accessible year round (Yosemite Valley and Wawona) but Tioga Road is closed throughout the winter months, sometimes from as early as November. Once this area is closed vehicles are not permitted anywhere between Tioga Pass and Crane Flat or Tuolumne Meadows. Other closed roads include the road leading to Glacier Point – sometimes this one is closed in November too, it is at the mercy of the snow.
Some of the roads are plowed between Mid-December and early April, namely the Glacier Point / Badger Pass Road so that skiers and other winter sport enthusiasts can access the popular Badger Pass Ski Area. The roads may be open but will probably only be passable by the use of tire chains – so don’t forget to bring ’em. You must have them and more importantly – you must know how to use them. You may have guessed that the winter weather in Yosemite National Park is cold and snowy so dress accordingly. The water levels in the rivers and waterfalls are pretty low until some rain starts falling when they may begin to flow once more. Some of the hiking trails may be accessible during the winter months.
That’s a lot of snow . . . it’s just like waking up in Narnia.
Spring visits to Yosemite National Park – the months of April and May.
If you’re heading to Yosemite National Park to stand in awe at the amazing waterfalls then you need to plan your trip for the springtime. Most of the park is accessible year round although some areas (Glacier Point and Tioga Roads) may not be accessible until late in May. Sometimes it is necessary to fit tire chains to your car in the spring. The weather at this time of year is predictably unpredictable ranging from warm, sunny days to winter storms so be prepared for everything. As the warm weather arrives and the snows begin to melt the rivers and waterfalls spring into action – even some of the smallest creeks have water tumbling through them. The peak time of year for the major waterfalls is generally towards the end of May and into June. There probably won’t be many of the wonderful wildflowers awake yet although there may be some to see in the lower elevations of Yosemite National Park.
Awesome – sounds like thunder . . .
Ooops, almost forgot, you don’t need to make any reservations to visit Yosemite National Park!