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#88253 - 01/27/08 06:33 PM Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Thinking of Yosemite this winter?

I have been asked about Yosemite in winter a few times, so I have put together some tips and links for those thinking about going there.

Where to stay-
There is everything from the five star Ahwahnee Hotel to tent campgrounds like Camp 4. Not all the campgrounds are open in winter. I have stayed in the tent cabins at Curry Village, snow camped near Badger Pass and stayed at the cabins at the Redwoods near the Wawona (South) gate (good if you have a group, otherwise a bit pricey).

Here are some useful sites-
http://www.nps.gov/yose
the official park site
http://www.yosemitepark.com/default.aspx
the concessionaire's site-reservations, rentals, etc.
http://www.tinyurl.com/38gjuo
forecast for the valley floor
http://tinyurl.com/yvg4xv
forecast for higher elevations-Badger Pass area

I would get a guidebook and study it before going-I have the Rough Guide to Yosemite-small and very useful. It has small maps. You also get a map when you enter the park.

The valley floor will be crowded on weekends, so don't expect anything less. Reservations may be required if car camping. Don't let the circus atmosphere in the valley floor put you off. There is a free shuttle bus that goes to Badger Pass where you can rent snowshoes and cross-country skis or there is a small downhill ski hill with lifts Ėitís not Squaw so donít expect to be impressed. Nobody really goes to Yosemite just for alpine skiing unless they are locals.

In a good year, the valley floor will be covered with snow-it was in 2006, but not in 2007 at the same time (mid Feb.). If it is-it is beautiful and not that cold.

Driving-
Bring chains-required to get in the park-buy them locally-not on the road. Chains can't be rented as far as I know, but I could be wrong. Figure out how to put them on before you come up-do it at home in dry weather. Mine are cable chains-easier and lighter to put on. If you have a front wheel drive car, make sure you put them on the front-sounds logical, but some people don't get it.

I recommend the free shuttle bus from the valley to Badger unless you have some winter driving experience. It is a long drive and very twisty. Seeing tire tracks head over the edge while riding on the bus convinced me of that, (Found out later, no serious injuries.)

Brunch at the Ahwahnee is overpriced, but the room is impressive; the Mountain Room at the Lodge is a better value for dinner-not particularly cheap, but a nice treat. There are a couple of fast food places and a small supermarket in the village.

There are easy hikes, waterfalls, spectacular views-all the things Yosemite is famous for in summer are there in winter. You just have to dress warmer and be prepared for bad weather. You can take little kids-friends of mine brought their small son (3-4) the past two years. They werenít camping though.

I have some pics scattered around here and Jim Shaw posted a couple from our trip two years ago.

I am willing to entertain other questions, but read my old trip reports before doing so; I would prefer not to say the same thing over and over.


Edited by TomD (02/02/08 07:00 PM)

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#88254 - 01/31/08 09:08 PM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: TomD]
Earthling Offline
member

Registered: 02/22/03
Posts: 3228
Loc: USA
Nice thorough post Tom, Great idea, Thanks <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
PEPPER SPRAY AIN'T BRAINS IN A CAN!

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#88255 - 01/31/08 10:23 PM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: TomD]
Trailrunner Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 1835
Loc: Los Angeles
Thanks for the links Tom.

I'm heading up to the valley a week from tomorrow. Can't wait!!!! It will be car camping with friends. My plans are to hike up to Little Yosemite Valley (never done that in the winter) and maybe Half Dome if conditions permit. And we'll spend a day skiing the Glacier Point road. I've always wanted to see Hetch Hetchy in the winter but we probably won't have time.

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#88256 - 01/31/08 10:36 PM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: Trailrunner]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Very cool-give us a trip report when you get back. I'm going up the week after that. Plenty of snow, from the weather reports, but nothing beats first hand reconnaisance.
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#88257 - 02/01/08 12:04 PM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: TomD]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
Thanks Tom,

I'm still on for the Feb. 13th trip. Wife very unhappy about all my ski trips this winter. Told her she needs to learn how to ski or be a ski widow. It's that simple.

Getting all my stuff ready for a nice trip. I've got cable chains for my RAV4. (Had to have them to be sure I could get through I-70 in the Colorado Rockies this Christmas.) It's a front wheel drive vehicle but has 4WD when I so desire below 25 mph. In 4WD I'll have the chains on the rear tires as recommended by Toyota. I'm assuming we don't have to chain up in the park unless conditions call for it.

The pulk is almost finished. Deciding on what I want to bake for desserts.

Eric
_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#88258 - 02/01/08 12:37 PM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: TomD]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
TomD

I might add that skiing the Valley floor is really cool <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />- El Capitan meadows is nice. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />You can go up towards Mirror Lake along the Royal Arches side and end up below the face of halfdome in a pretty quiet area. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />If its really nasty weather, spend the entire day riding the shuttle bus around and around the Valley. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />

There are very limited schedules on the busses to Badger pass. Be sure to check on times.

The mountain broiler room has great food, <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />but its way expensive. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" />The cafeteria isn't bad if you're not already nauseaous. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> Maybe the best realisticly priced food is what you bring and cook yourself.

Might also add - as Tom says - tire chains. You aren't getting into the park if its deep snow without em. And as far as chains - go - I live in Oregon - good tires beat chains anyday, but if you do get chains, and you're NOT familiar with them, be sure to buy Les Shwab "quick link" chains so you can actually get them on your vehicle. Some chains take a lift and a pro to install.

I would advise anyone thinking of going to little yosemite valley in winter should have crampons, ice axe, pro and a friend to hold their rope. You could end up on 45 degree ice above a very vertical drop. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#88259 - 02/01/08 01:06 PM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: Jimshaw]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
IIRC, the bus goes up pretty early and makes a loop around the Valley before heading up the hill. The last trip down is around 4 p.m., so don't miss it, otherwise you have to hitch back.

There's another place to eat with a buffet that isn't bad, but I can't remember the name of it-I think it's over by the ice rink near Camp Curry. It was about $15 for dinner, which isn't bad.

As far as chains go, like Jim said, get something easy to put on. We used chains on the road to the south gate two years ago because of icy conditions. We put them on by Badger Pass and took them off at Wawona.

Glacier Point Road is usually R-2 (chains required unless you have 4WD and snow tires). I have both, but the road is a bit slippery, so slow and easy is recommended. I have felt slight skids a few times on the shaded corners, which are many.

If you need to put on chains, the turnoff there has a big area for that and there will be a sign and maybe rangers on duty to make sure you chain up before heading up the road. I have seen people without them in small cars-not a good idea.


Edited by TomD (02/01/08 01:12 PM)
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#88260 - 02/02/08 12:01 AM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: TomD]
300winmag Offline
member

Registered: 02/28/06
Posts: 1342
Loc: Nevada, USA
Tom,

My 2007 RAV4 has only "all season" tires but with 4WD I can navigate fairly hairy stuff in them. Howsomever I'll chain up if it looks to be icy or deep.

God bless traction control, 4WD, and Stability Control, not to mention ABS and automatic brake proportioning valves, all of which the RAV4 has - oh yes, and downhill speed control and ABS Brake Assist. The car is smarter than I am. (No comments, please)

Eric


Edited by 300winmag (02/02/08 12:01 AM)
_________________________
"There are no comfortable backpacks. Some are just less uncomfortable than others."

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#88261 - 02/02/08 12:23 AM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: 300winmag]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I've got 4WD and snow/mud tires and ABS. I had no idea but cable chains for ABS are different than non-ABS. Found that out when I bought mine-something about the grip on them. Normal chains fool the ABS system into thinking the car is doing something else than what is actually happening.

I haven't even used mine yet. Maybe this time though if the weather stays like it has been the past few weeks.
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#88262 - 02/02/08 09:06 AM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: 300winmag]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
RE ABS
ABS brakes can kill you on ice. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> [ Oh and cruise control can kill you on mountain roads. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />] Abs is nice on wet pavement, but there it stops. You need to control the brakes on ice, not the machine. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />

I was trying to buy 4 wheel chains for my wifes 4runner. The guys at Les Shwab told me they wouldn't get 3 miles on pavement that wasn't covered with deep snow or ice. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif" alt="" />

Quote from Les Shwab
"CHAINS ARE A POOR SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER WINTER TIRES." <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> Up here in Central oregon that means use a tire that no one who drives freeways would ever use. I mean All Terrain Radials are summer tires where I live. Mountain Cat, mud terrain, extreme offroad tires actually grip on these road conditions (without chains) and work well in the summer too, just don't drive to Californi in em - gas mileage goes to pot.
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#88263 - 02/02/08 10:48 AM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: Jimshaw]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I can understand why they would say that-they're in the tire business. I think what they mean is for everyday use in mixed weather-rain, sleet, etc. you want a deep treaded snow tire, which makes sense.

The buses that run in Yosemite have chains on them and they are running on pavement a lot of the time. I don't see the difference, and they weigh a heck of a lot more than a car. The bus chains are huge-the links are about the size of a carabiner.
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#88264 - 02/02/08 12:57 PM Re: Yosemite in Winter - By Popular Demand [Re: TomD]
bmisf Offline
member

Registered: 09/15/03
Posts: 629
Also, you're required by law to carry chains in your car in the mountains in CA, even if you have a 4WD with snow tires.

(The reality is that they seem to always close the roads rather than set conditions to the highest level, where the only vehicles allowed are 4WD with chains; I've never once had to use my chains here - 4WD with A/S tires has always been enough.)

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