HALF MOON BAY, Calif., January 16, 2012—Yosemite National Park in central California is stunningly beautiful any season of the year, which is why the outdoor wonderland lures travelers from around the world. But if you want to avoid the summertime crowds, consider visiting the park in winter.
Even when there’s very little snow on the ground, the park feels like you have it all to yourself during the colder months. It’s possible to hike along a trail seeing only a handful of people all day, and the traffic in Yosemite Valley is minimal. This way, it’s easy to get around and see some of the most beautiful vistas on earth.
An added benefit to a winter stay in Yosemite is that in-park lodging is discounted, costing less than peak rates, and getting a room is much easier. You weren’t thinking about snow camping, were you?
Options for getting outside abound in winter. The Curry Village outdoor ice skating rink allows guests to skate under the shadow of two of Yosemite’s most dramatic sites: Half Dome and Glacier Point. Rental skates and helmets are available. If you’d rather watch the skaters and the sites, hang out at the nearby fire pit and sip hot chocolate while you wait.
Interpretive programs include kids’ activities, wildlife and ecology-based programs, Historic Ahwahnee tours, and full moon snowshoe walks. Guided sightseeing tours, as well as photography walks, are also available.
At Yosemite’s Badger Pass Ski Area, there are plenty of snow activities, including: downhill skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Badger Pass is accessible by a free shuttle bus from all Yosemite Valley hotels.
While horseback riding at Yosemite’s stables is not a normal wintertime activity, it is currently available, due to a lack of snow this season. Once enough snow comes, however, the horses will take a break until spring.
Off-season is also the perfect time to treat yourself to a stay at The Ahwahnee and experience one of the signature events at Yosemite. The annual Vintners’ Holidays and Chefs’ Holidays focus on amazing food and wine seminars and tastings, and end with a five-course candlelit gala dinner. The Bracebridge Dinner is a three-hour Christmas pageant with a seven-course dinner and 17th-century musical theater experience.
Why not plan the perfect winter vacation in Yosemite and mix the two options with a culinary experience at The Ahwahnee and some outdoor activities? Just make sure to pack your warm clothes.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill and her husband are avid kayakers and own Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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