When you go to Yosemite National Park in the fall, you're likely to have mild weather, making autumn one of the nicest times to visit. Cooler temperatures make hiking and rock-climbing more comfortable than in mid-summer and bikers will not only find it cooler, but there's less competition for the roads.
In the fall, because the Yosemite Valley is less crowded, hotel rates start to drop at some properties, usually at the end of October, yet this is one of the best times to visit Yosemite.
Yosemite Weather in Fall
Yosemite weather can be variable any time of year, and although fall is usually mild, there is a chance that early snowstorms can sneak up on you. Checking the annual Yosemite weather averages will give you a good picture of what the weather is like month by month.
- September: 84 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Celsius) / 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius)
- October: 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) / 41 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius)
- November: 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) / 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius)
Tioga Pass and other higher areas can get closed by snow beginning in mid-October. Otherwise, fall is quite dry—there's typically very little precipitation before November. Because of this variability, it is important to be aware of road closures, snow reports, and river water levels via alerts put out by the National Park Service.
What to Pack
Pack layers and be prepared for many different types of weather. In early fall, daytime temperatures can still be quite warm—like summer—but by November, you'll need sweaters and a waterproof winter coat, especially at night or at the higher elevations.
Pack for your activities. Bring gear and specialty clothing for hiking, climbing, and fishing. If you are into light activity and sightseeing, a medium-weight jacket over layers will suffice. Just in case, bring a hat and gloves to ward off the night chill.
Day hikers or treaded walking shoes are necessary whether you are walking a valley trail on a ranger-led hike or heading up steeper trails. If you are doing any technical hiking, higher boots with deeper tread are recommended. Day packs are ideal for packing the "10-essentials" plus having a place for water and more layers of clothing.
If you plan to have dinner in the Ahwahnee dining room in any season, pack clothing that meets their dress code. For men, that's long pants and a buttoned, collared shirt. Women are asked to wear a dress or a nice blouse with a skirt or pants.
Fall Events in Yosemite
Fall is a great time for outdoor adventures, sightseeing, and even attending the annual Grand Grape wine celebration.
- Fall Fishing: September through December is peak season for trout fishing, especially for brown trout that thrive in the lower Merced River. After the crowds leave, the fish become less wary and easier to catch. Easy places for beginning fishermen include the Hetch-Hetchy Reservoir or Tenaya Lake, accessible from Tioga Road (CA Highway 120). If water levels permit, stream fishermen can also try the Merced headwaters near the Arch Rock entrance on CA Highway 140.
- Waterfall Watching: For those looking for waterfall scenery, note that Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil waterfalls run all year, but they usually slow to a trickle by the end of summer. Yosemite Falls may still be flowing if it's a wet year, but other waterfalls are likely to be dry.
- Fall Foliage: You may find that colorful fall foliage is limited to certain areas in Yosemite. That's because most of the trees are evergreen. In October, the color-turning deciduous trees in Yosemite Valley are photo-worthy, especially the dogwood trees and the maple tree near the chapel. Look for a Ranger-led camera walk. Ranger and nature programs are an ideal way to find subjects for your photos and learn about Yosemite along the way. Some of the best spots to photograph the fall foliage in Yosemite include Tioga Road, along the Merced River and Fern Spring. In Superintendent's Meadow, you can frame a yellow-leafed Black Oak with Half Dome in the background. If you are intent on finding more massive amounts of colorful fall foliage, head east from Yosemite to the forests around June Lake which can be done as a day trip from Yosemite.
- Programs and Tours: Many tours continue into fall, including the open-air tram tours and moonlight tours on full-moon nights. The park-run Yosemite Theater offers live evening performances and ranger-talks mid-May through October.
- Vintners' Holidays: This celebration of wine takes place at the Ahwahnee Hotel in late fall. This popular program features prominent wineries and industry experts in two and three-day sessions of seminars, panel discussions and wine tasting moderated by wine authorities. A five-course, Gala Vintners' Dinner concludes each session. Reservations are a must.
- Leonid Meteor Showers: Start watching for meteor showers in mid-November, but you can find out exactly when they'll happen this year at StarDate. During the shower, 10 to 20 meteors fall per hour. The Leonids are at their best when the moon is dark—Yosemite's clear skies will enhance the show even more.
Fall Travel Tips
- Yosemite weather can be variable any time of year, and although fall is usually mild, there is a chance that early snowstorms can sneak up on you.
- Watch for pass closures. Tioga Pass closes when it gets blocked with snow, usually beginning between mid-October and mid-November. To get an idea of the annual variation, you can check previous opening and closure dates. Glacier Point also closes when the first snow falls. It is important to be aware of road closures, snow reports, and river water levels via alerts put out by the National Park Service.
- Wildfires may occur spring through fall. Yosemite air quality may be hazy due to fires elsewhere in California, so keeping abreast of the latest fire news is important.