The majority of the park is over 5500 feet in elevation and is generally covered in snow from about December until early April. Most winter users enjoy the marked snow trails around Badger Pass (elevation 7200'). Crane Flat (6200'), or in the Mariposa Grove (5600'). Roads are maintained in these areas, although chains are often required and must be carried in your vehicle at all times. Each area has beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails which range in length from 1/2 to 16 miles. These trails are marked with orange triangular or rectangular signs in trees. Most summer trails cannot be seen in winter. Ski maps may be obtained at visitor centers, ranger stations, or through the Yosemite Association Bookstore .
In general, winter wilderness users may camp one mile away from any road and out of sight of any trail, water source, or summer use area. Those leaving from Yosemite Valley must reach the valley rim before camping. (Note: Check for winter trail closures at visitor centers) Camping is not allowed in the Tuolumne Grove or in the lower section of the Mariposa Grove.
Many good overnight or multi-day trips originate in the Badger Pass area. Overnight backcountry users will need to register and pick up their free wilderness permit at the Ranger A-frame at the ski area and leave their vehicles in the parking lot designated for overnight parking. Reservations for the Ostrander Ski Hut are handled by the Yosemite Association and those users will need to go to the A-frame as well.
Another popular trip for more advance skiers and snowshoers leaves from Yosemite Valley and heads towards Tuolumne Meadows via the Snow Creek Trail. There is a potential avalanche hazard along this route and users should be competent in winter backcountry travel, route finding, and winter camping. This trip requires intermediate ski skills and winter survival competency at a minimum. Register and obtain more information at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.
Wilderness Permits , which are required for all overnight backcountry trips in Yosemite, may be obtained at the Big Oak Flat Information Center, the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, Badger Pass Ranger A-Frame, or Wawona Ranger Station. Please register at the station closest to your starting point. Reservations are not needed for winter trailheads, but are required for the Ostrander Ski Hut. These reservations can be made through the Yosemite Association at (209) 372-0740.
Rental skis, snowshoes, and Nordic lessons are available through the Yosemite Nordic Ski School located at Badger Pass, (209) 372-8444. Rentals and equipment sales are also available during peak periods in Yosemite Valley at Curry Village.
In order to maintain the pristine quality of Yosemite's wilderness, please follow these guidelines when camping:
Camp out of sight of all trails, any water source or summer use area, and one mile from any road.
Use a portable stove for any cooking. Open fires should be used for emergencies only.
Pack out all trash.
Pets and oversnow vehicles are not permitted.
Do not cut tree limbs or boughs.
Dispose of human waste properly. Use the well or indentation around a tree trunk and dig down into the soil if possible to bury human waste. Be sure you are not in or near an area used in summer or near any sort of water source or drainage. Pack out or carefully burn all toilet paper.
Protect water quality by disposing of waste water in the same manner as above. All drinking water taken from open sources should be purified by boiling for at least five minutes, or by chemical treatment with an iodine based purifier (let purify for 1 hour in icy water) or a Giardia -rated filter.
Dangers do exist in Yosemite's wilderness and even small problems can become deadly if winter users are not prepared. Use common sense and caution when planning a trip, keeping the weakest member of your group in mind. Remember that the winter never gets tired, but you do! Altitude and cold weather sap more energy - choose a reasonable goal, eat and drink more during the day, and take extra clothing to stay warm and dry. Stay oriented to where you are and how to get back, and make sure someone knows where you are going and when you are due to return. Don't go out alone unless you are very experienced. Be familiar with your gear and carry minimal repair materials.
Winter in Yosemite is typically a mixture of beautiful sunny, and cold snowy days. Conditions can change from one to the other in a matter of hours, so wilderness users should be prepared for both each time they go out. Carry both sunglasses and sunscreen as well as warm clothing and storm gear. Winter months are generally November through early April, although early and late storms may occur at any time. Temperatures at 4000 feet in Yosemite Valley are usually in the 40s to 60s during the day and 20s at night, with temperatures in the high country from 10 to 25 degrees cooler. Storms vary in length but can last for days and can be followed by another. Up to 15 inches of snow may fall in a short time. The high country normally averages three to ten feet of snow on the ground through the winter.
Road and Weather Information (updated daily): (209)372-0200