Yosemite in January: Best Activities for a Winter Visit
Winter season in Yosemite is comprised of the months December through March. During these five months, Yosemite is snowy, quiet, and still. With peak tourist season falling in the summer and fall months, January is the ultimate time to visit Yosemite for a quiet and cozy getaway.
Is Yosemite Open in January?
Yes; Yosemite National Park is open in January. The first week of January is one of the busiest weeks in Yosemite, as many families and groups plan holiday getaways to lodges in the park. The remainder of the month is relatively quiet and a wonderful time to visit without experiencing large crowds.
Yosemite Valley and Wawona are accessible by personal vehicle year-round. It is key to note that Tioga Road is seasonally closed mid-November until the spring. This closure includes access to the Tuolumne Meadows area. Additionally, the road to Glacier Point is closed from November until spring, with the exception of the snowplowed path to the Badger Pass Ski Area. Tire chains are often required on park roads during winter months. Regardless of vehicle type or size, visitors must both carry tire chains and know how to use them. Mariposa Grove Road is also seasonally closed and traditionally reopens for travel by April. If Mariposa Grove Road is closed, travelers can access the Mariposa Grove by foot via the two-mile Washburn Trail. This trail is icy and snowy during winter months. Travelers are advised to bring proper attire and shoes.
If driving to Yosemite in January, it is recommended that visitors take Highway 140 (All Weather Road). The is the safest route into the park during the winter, but still may require visitors to put on tire chains to travel in.
What is the Weather Like During January in Yosemite National Park?
During January, the weather in Yosemite is snowy and cold. Visitors will experience sunny afternoons in addition to brisk, chilly mornings. Evening temperatures can dip into the 20’s or below. Sunny afternoon highs are typically in the 50’s. Hazy or smoky conditions may occur throughout January, as the National Park Service prescribes routine fires to mimic natural fires for forest health. For updated air quality conditions and haze information, visitors should visit nps.gov.
Can I Hike in Yosemite in January?
Yes; you can hike in Yosemite in January.
Some of the park’s major trails are covered in snow, but are still accessible. Backpacking options in the winter are limited, and trail markers may be covered by snowfall. Trickier trails are only recommended for seasoned winter hikers. The following hiking trails are typically open during the winter months: Bridalveil Fall, Mirror Lake, Lower Yosemite Falls, and the Vernal Falls footbridge on Mist Trail
Winter Activities in Yosemite?
Unlike skiing and snowboarding, snowshoeing requires less dedicated balancing, but still offers great exercise! Snowshoeing is essentially winter hiking. It’s a highly social activity, shoe rentals are generally inexpensive, and it only requires a few basic techniques that your rental facility will teach you. Beginners classes and guided snowshoeing tours are offered within Yosemite National Park.
Go Ice Skating
Winter visitors adore ice skating at the Curry Village ice rink! This rink is undoubtedly one of the most scenic ice-skating opportunities in the United States, offering jaw-dropping views of Half Dome while gliding along. Tickets are available 15 minutes prior to each skate time, and are available on a first-come, first serve basis. Additionally, the rink can be rented out to private parties.
Enjoy Hot Chocolate by the Fire
There is nothing like sipping on a cup of hot chocolate, relaxing by the bonfire, and enjoying the incredible views of Yosemite National Park in the winter! Many rental cabins, lodges, and homes feature outdoor fire pits perfect for gathering around the fire with friends or family.
Go Skiing, Snowboarding, or Snow Tubing Badger Pass
Badger Pass Ski Area offers winter sport activities for visitors of all experience levels. For younger children or those uninterested in skiing, snow tubing is a wonderful option. Similar to sledding, tubers can slide down the mountain on a large inflatable tube. Badger Pass also offers downhill and cross-country skiing for beginner and intermediate skiers. It is widely regarded as a family-friendly area to learn how to ski.
Badger Pass Ski Area is located off Glacier Point Road, only a short 15-minute drive from the Yosemite West area! To view rental properties available in Yosemite West, click here.
Visit Rush Creek Lodge
Beat the chill and visit the Rush Creek Lodge to enjoy board games by the fire, a seasonal cocktail at the bar, or a wintery peppermint massage.
The Rush Creek Lodge is one of Yosemite’s newest hotels, and is located Northeast of Yosemite Valley. It’s the perfect place to relax after a hike around the falls.
Warm Up in the Jacuzzi
After a day exploring the park or hitting the slopes, relax in a soothing jacuzzi hot tub and watch the snow fall. Many rental cabins, homes, and lodges in Yosemite National Park offer outdoor decks with private hot tubs. To view private rental homes, cabins, and lodges in Yosemite, click here.
Stargaze into the Winter Sky
Bass Lake is widely considered one of the best stargazing spots in Yosemite National Park during the winter months. Bring warm winter attire, hot chocolate, snacks, something to sit on, and set up a spot along the shoreline of Bass Lake. Visitors will surely enjoy the natural light show across the night sky! Temperatures can drop in the twenties or below, so be sure to arrive with appropriate gear to avoid frostbite. The stars in this area are truly magnificent!
Visit Historic Museums & Visitor Centers
There are a few wonderful museums and visitor centers within the bounds of Yosemite National Park, perfect for a trip on a particularly chilly day.
The Yosemite Valley Visitor Center is open year-round and is considered the home for all things Yosemite. The Visitor Center offers a wealth of free resources for travelers looking to learn more about the national park. Visitors are encouraged to stop in the center to chat with a park ranger and learn about all that Yosemite has to offer. Additionally, the Visitor Center features a bookstore that sells maps, guidebooks, souvenirs, and more.
The Yosemite Museum has been welcoming visitors since 1925. It is open year-round and is located next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center. The museum features displays that share the cultural history of Yosemite’s native peoples, as well as an impressive art gallery.
The Ansel Adams Gallery is open year-round, with the exception of Christmas Day. The gallery features the work of contemporary photographers, in addition to offering photography classes and workshops. In-gallery tours are also available year-round. The Ansel Adams Gallery is located in Yosemite Valley, between the visitor center and the Post Office. It offers breathtaking views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Glacier Point.
Winter Sightseeing in Yosemite
Yosemite National Park does offer sightseeing experiences that are unique to the winter months. If visiting in January, visitors are encouraged to explore Yosemite Creek to see the Frazil Ice. Frazil Ice is a phenomenon that occurs when the streamflow of Yosemite Valley is high, but temperatures are sub-freezing. As a result, creeks appear slushy instead of frozen over or full of flowing water. This is most commonly seen at just below Lower Yosemite Fall, at Yosemite Creek.
During January, Yosemite’s visitors are encouraged to catch a sunrise or sunset at Tunnel View, just outside the valley. The low light but brilliant colors make for awe-inspiring photographs.
Take a Guided Bus Tour
Guided Bus Tours are offered in Yosemite National Park year-round. During the winter months, the Valley Floor Tour may be the only tour available. This tour is two-hours long, and takes place in a heated motor coach with panoramic windows. The tour is led by Park Rangers that expertly highlight the natural wonders and history of Yosemite National Park.
Top Yosemite Lodging for the January Month
Renting a private cabin, condo, or home in Yosemite National Park during the winter season is the best way to guarantee respite from chilly winter conditions. Many rental cabins offer gorgeous stone fireplaces, outdoor fire pits, and central heating during the winter months.
If you’re looking for Yosemite National Park lodging, call Yosemite’s Scenic Wonders at 1-888-YOSEMITE (1-888-967-3648) to begin planning your memorable vacation. Scenic Wonders offers quality home, condo, and cabin rentals inside of Yosemite National Park at reasonable prices!