The Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California USA
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The best time to visit Yosemite National Park is in the spring. It's a time when the flowers bloom, waterfalls are at their max, and it's not too crowded, especially during the week.

The peak season at Yosemite is summer. That's the only time of year you can climb Half Dome, hike to the High Sierra Camps, and see the view from Olmstead Point. Otherwise, you may have more fun in other seasons, outlined below.


Yosemite Valley weather is seldom unbearably warm or cold. Winter is snow season, especially in the high mountains, and it may rain in late fall or early spring. Summer is typically free from precipitation. To get an idea of the monthly average highs, lows, and rainfall, use our guide to Yosemite weather.


So many people try to go to Yosemite in the summer that it can feel less like a chance to enjoy the natural beauty and more like New Year's Eve in Times Square or rush hour on a Los Angeles freeway. If you want to visit the mountains and see the big trees in the summer, consider visiting Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon instead.


Spring is the best time of year to visit the park. The Yosemite waterfalls will be flowing at their highest levels of the year. Wildflowers and dogwood trees will be in bloom. The place will be less crowded if you avoid the busy spring break season. Get an overview of everything fun to do at Yosemite in spring.

You can go rafting in a year when there's enough melting snow to fill the Merced River. The river is smoother inside the valley, but you can also experience level two to four rapids along the Merced River.

If you want to drive into the high country or across the mountains, the only way to do this is by crossing Tioga Pass, which may open in early May but sometimes stays closed until late June.

Yosemite hosts a few special events in the spring. There's so much going on outside that they would be upstaged by Mother Nature anyway. If you are a runner, you can participate in the Yosemite Half Marathon in May.

A lake and trees in front of mountains in Yosemite
TripSavvy / Jess Macdonald


Summer is the most popular time of year in Yosemite National Park. Spring wildflowers fade, and the waterfalls start to dry up, but that doesn't keep vacationers from arriving by the thousands. If that's the only time you can visit, find out how to make the most of summer in Yosemite.

Tioga Pass is usually open by late June if you're headed to Tuolumne Meadows or into eastern California. Waterfalls fed by melting snow slowly trickle when summer begins and the rafting season ends.

If you want to climb Half Dome, the trail opens for the summer around the last weekend of May. Summer is the only time you can hike to the Yosemite High Sierra Camps. If you want to do that, start planning and get into their lottery in September.

Events to check out:

  • All Yosemite tours operate in summer, including the open-air tram and moonlight tours on full-moon nights.
  • Yosemite Theater offers live evening performances from mid-May through October, often featuring Lee Stetson's acclaimed portrayal of John Muir. 
  • Park rangers host lots of hikes, talks, and other activities in summer, which you can find on their calendar.


If you visit Yosemite in the fall, you can enjoy mild weather. Cooler temperatures make hiking and rock climbing more comfortable than in mid-summer. Bikers will not only find it cooler, but the roads are less busy, too. You can also take in some fall foliage but don't let Instagram or any other source of photos fool you into expecting a blaze of autumn leaves: with only a couple of exceptions, the trees in Yosemite Valley stay green all year.

The fall weather at Yosemite is usually mild, but early snowstorms can sneak up on you toward the end of the season. Tioga Pass closes when it gets blocked with snow, usually between mid-October and mid-November. If you want to climb Half Dome, do it before the second week in October when they usually close the trail.

As the busy tourist season winds down, there are a few big events going on, which gives you more time to be out and about instead. The Yosemite Theater continues to give live evening performances through October.


If you visit Yosemite in the winter, you can enjoy your experience with very few crowds. The wildlife comes out, and hotel rates go down. Frost coats the trees in the morning, and snowstorms can blanket the valley in white.

Yosemite's winter weather can be cold, especially at higher elevations. Still, the Yosemite Valley is at 4,000 feet elevation, and even if it snows, it usually melts within a day or two. In winter, you need to know the California regulations about snow chains, including some of which are in effect even when the roads are dry.

Tioga Pass and the road to Glacier Point are often closed all winter, except in rare years with very little snowfall. You also won't be able to visit Tuolumne Meadows or drive across the mountains to eastern California.

Events to check out:

  • Vintner's Holidays allow you to meet winemakers, attend wine tasting seminars, and consume a five-course gala dinner at the Ahwahnee Hotel.
  • Yosemite Chefs' Holidays are when food takes center stage. You can meet renowned chefs, go to cooking demonstrations and enjoy fabulously coursed dinners. 
  • Bracebridge Dinners give you a chance to time travel to merry old England. The evening's entertainment recreates Christmas Day, 1718, at Bracebridge Hall in Yorkshire, England.
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the best time to visit Yosemite?

    Yosemite is a destination for every season, depending on what you're looking for. Visit in spring for flowing waterfalls, summer for warm nights camping, fall for minimal crowds, and winter for a snowy getaway.

  • When is peak season in Yosemite?

    The busiest time in the park is summer, especially from mid-June to mid-September. The park often fills up and campgrounds are reserved out months in advance. To avoid the crowds, try visiting in the shoulder season of May or late September.

  • When are the waterfalls flowing in Yosemite?

    To see the waterfalls at their peak flow, you should visit the park between May and June. Depending on the year, they may continue on through July and August, but many usually dry up by September. However, some falls have water throughout the year.

Article Sources
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  1. NPS. "Tioga and Glacier Point Roads Plowing Update." Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.

  2. NPS. "Fall Color - Yosemite National Park." Retrieved Jan. 28, 2021.