To celebrate 130 years of Yosemite becoming a national park, we’ve listed some of the best ways to enjoy winter in Yosemite Mariposa County – the ‘mother of counties’ and home to the iconic Yosemite Valley.
In 1866, US President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant bill to protect Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley – marking the first time in its history the US government preserved a space for public use. Since then, it’s played host to countless visitors and is known as one of the must-visit places in the United States. If it’s on your travel radar for next year, read our suggestions of what to experience.
Yosemite’s top winter activities
The opportunity for some adventure doesn’t stop when the snow starts falling. Whether it’s carving up California’s oldest ski area, or ice skating in the shadow of Half Dome, discover some of the best winter activities, events and boltholes for the perfect Yosemite adventure.
Open since 1928 and dominated by views of Half Dome and valley walls, the rink at Curry Village is a truly unique place to skate. Surrounded by outdoor fire pits, this is the perfect spot for visitors to skate within sight of Yosemite’s most iconic granite cliffs. Prices from $11 for adults and $9.50 for children for up to two hours of rink use.
Just because it’s winter, it doesn’t mean visitors can’t explore Yosemite’s breathtaking backcountry, and most of the trails in Yosemite Valley are open year-round. Those after a short walk can visit, the Mirror Lake loop, which offers stunning and unique views of Half Dome directly below its impressive face. For a challenge, try the hike to Chilnualna Falls – a strenuous, long journey which follows a series of beautiful waterfalls.
Badger Pass – California’s oldest ski area – is Yosemite’s premier alpine destination. The ski area is made of up of blue and green runs and is known for its renowned ski school, and inexpensive lift passes – making it a great ski destination for the whole family to enjoy. Prices for all-day lift passes from $59 for adults and $33 for children.
Nothing screams winter more than a horse-drawn sleigh ride through a snowy forest. Tenaya Lodge, one of the county’s most luxurious hotels, runs 45-minute trips through a lush forest and includes breaks for hot cider and chocolate.
Vintners’ Holidays (various days in December)
Hosted for wine-lovers, by wine-lovers, Vintner’s Holidays showcases acclaimed wines and winemakers from around the state. Guests can mingle with esteemed winemakers at a ‘Meet the Vintners’ reception held at The Ahwahnee, the park’s only four-diamond hotel. Here, you can treat your palate during one of the four-wine-tasting sessions, engaging with the people from Vintners of various aspects of wine-making.
Packages for two start from $375 per night, including accommodation at The Ahwahnee or Yosemite Valley Lodge, and intimate Meet the Vintners reception with wine and hor’s d’ oeuvres, wine tasting seminar, a five-course dinner and free transport during the stay.
Bracebridge Dinner (held on various nights in December)
For almost 100-years, the Bracebridge Dinner has transformed The Ahwahnee Hotel’s Dining Room in December into a Renaissance-era hall filled with Yuletide festivities. Initially directed by, and starring, legendary photographer Ansel Adams, this annual event brings a 17th century English manor to Yosemite – where guests are invited to join a four-hour Yuletide celebration in a dazzling whirl of singing, acting and pageantry revolving around a 7-course feast. Prices for a Bracebridge Package for two, including lodging, from $570.
Chef’s Holidays (12-31 January 2020)
Get to know some of the biggest names in California’s culinary world at Chef’s Holidays, a culmination of cooking demonstrations, five-course dinners and receptions. Learn tips and tricks from the chefs during cooking demonstrations and top off the event with an exquisite five-course gala dinner prepared by one of the featured chefs. Hosted by The Ahwahnee, guests can enjoy complimentary wine pairings to highlight the flavour of each dish.
Choose your Winter Base Camp
Shining as Yosemite National Park’s distinctive AAA four-diamond hotel, The Ahwahnee boasts a striking granite façade, magnificent log-beamed ceilings, massive stone hearts and richly coloured Native American artwork. Located in the jaw-dropping Yosemite Valley, The Ahwahnee is a National Historic Landmark and one of the most distinctive resort hotels in North America. Standard room from $341 per night.
Adventure simplified, AutoCamp Yosemite opened earlier this year and combines the best of both luxury accommodation and authentic outdoor ruggedness. Nestled on 35-acres in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the hotel features a clubhouse, an outdoor swimming pool, 15 luxury tents and 80 deluxe Airstream trailers to choose from. Classic suites from $199 per night.
The Redwoods Rental Cabin
Enjoy the comforts of home and the majesty of Yosemite National Park at one of the Redwoods – over 130 holiday home rentals available year-round. Choose an intimate log cabin for a romantic getaway or bring the whole family to stay in one of these spacious homes. Guests can choose from the Bronze category (delightful and economic) to the Platinum Level (unique and luxurious). One-bedroom cabins from $718 per night.
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