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View of Yosemite Creek, just before plunging down into the upper Yosemite Fall
Photograph: Shutterstock Yosemite Creek

The best time to visit Yosemite

This huge national park has a distinct four seasons. Learn what might be the best time to visit Yosemite for your unique trip.

Erika Mailman
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Erika Mailman
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Yosemite’s a year-round destination in the Sierra Nevada mountain range that offers something different every time you visit. Located in usually-sunny California, this national park has a snow season that closes down some roads and makes parts of the park inaccessible except by ski or snowshoe, yet that also opens it up in new ways for winter sports.

The park covers 1,200 square miles with elevations that range from 2,000 to 13,000 feet, which dramatically affects the weather you’ll encounter. In addition, weather varies quite a bit depending on where you are in the park. In Yosemite Valley, where most visitors spend their time, you can expect a dry and warm summer, chilly autumns and springs with some precipitation and cold winters with lots of snow.

If you’re someone who prefers cooler weather, choose the Tuolumne Meadows areas (when Tioga Road is open) over Yosemite Valley. Temperatures here are significantly cooler, often by 18-20 degrees! For instance, in July and August when Yosemite Valley can hit an average of 89 degrees, Tuolumne Meadows is hanging out at a high of 72 and 70, respectively.

So when is the best time to visit Yosemite? We're partial to May, but really anytime is a good time to visit this stunning national park. 

What is the best month to visit Yosemite?

May. Once the snow has melted, the waterfalls Yosemite is known for are gushing, roaring, spectacular falls. Additionally, wildflowers are in full force from a lush rush of moisture. Although flowers start blooming in March in the Merced River Canyon, it’s not until mid-May that a profuse variety begin displaying. Average temperatures range from a brisk 45 degrees to a comfortable 71. Perhaps best of all, some schools aren’t yet out for the summer, so you’ll have more of the park to yourself before the summer hordes arrive.

What is the hottest month?

According to data gathered 1991-2020, July and August are the hottest months, with an average high temperature of 89 degrees. September’s next at 83 degrees, then June at 81. 

What months does Yosemite have snow?

Expect a thick snow covering for most of the park from November through May.

What’s the coldest month?

Using that same data, January is the coldest with an average low temperature of 29 degrees, following on its heels by December at 28 degrees.

How can I check Yosemite’s weather right now?

The National Park Service has an online forecast map with clickable locations to learn the latest National Weather Service forecast for each area. You can also see a general forecast for the entire park.

What other months are great to visit Yosemite?

Each month offers something great, but here’s a callout to a standouts in each of the four seasons.

February: by late March, Badger Pass Ski Area typically closes, so get your visit in now while the snowpack is still heavy.

June: In late June, check out the pink meadows of the wildflowers called shooting stars in Tuolumne Meadows.

August: By late August, enjoy blue gentians and alpine goldenrod as well as many other wildflowers in Tuolumne Meadows

December: The holidays are well observed at Yosemite. The seven-course Bracebridge Dinner ‘set’ in 18th century England is a great Ahwahnee Hotel tradition throughout the month.

Last thoughts: Check online before departing for any alerts that will affect your visit. The alerts appear at the top of any National Park Service webpage for the park. For instance, right now you must have a reservation to enter Yosemite during peak hours (6 am to 4 pm) and Glacier Point Pass is closed throughout 2022.

Thinking about camping? We've got everything you need to know here, including the best campgrounds in Yosemite

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