Family Winter Get-Aways

Things to Do, Travel Tips — By petedevine on December 14, 2011 at 4:30 am

Whether you’re skiers or not, you owe your family a visit to Yosemite in the winter.  The park is uncrowded and it’s beautiful – it’s as if there’s a second entire Yosemite in the snowy, quiet time of year.  It’s true that many people are headed to ski (or learn to ski) or snowshoe at Badger Pass, but there’s a lot more to Yosemite, even in the off-season. 

Cross-country skiers in Yosemite

 If you want to stay in Yosemite Valley you’ve got options at the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village and two campgrounds right through the winter.  You’ll virtually never have trouble getting a campsite in the winter; quite a contrast to the summertime situation.  Most hiking trails are still open and worth exploring for an experience completely different from the summer activity.  You may or may not find snow on Valley trails; bring good boots and you should be fine; it’s quite rare to need snowshoes in Yosemite Valley.

You can stroll to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, or up to Mirror Lake – or if you’ve got older, hardy kids – take on a bigger challenge in your day with a longer haul up to the top of Yosemite Falls or the top of Nevada Fall.  Those trails will be snowy but people do these hikes every week of the off-season.  Even going part-way is worthwhile.
You’ve got good family dining options at both the Lodge and the Ahwahnee.  Degnan’s Deli in Yosemite Village is the place to stop in for hot soup at lunchtime or hot cocoa at the end of a day sauntering in a winter wonderland. 
The free shuttle buses run all winter in the east Valley; they’re a great way for families to get from one part of the Valley to another.  One shuttle stop is right in front of the Curry Village Ice Rink.  Rent skates or bring your own and enjoy the view of Half Dome or Glacier Point while gliding around the rink.  A big firepit rewarms you when you need a break from fun on the ice. 
If there isn’t snow on the floor of Yosemite Valley, you can find it higher up on Hwy. 41 or Hwy. 120, both of which go over 6000′ in elevation.  Sledding is not allowed at Badger Pass, but it is elsewhere.  Having a snowball fight, making a snow angel, and building a snowman are rituals of winter play that every kid should try. 
If you stay outside the park, Mariposa and El Portal on Hwy. 140 generally offer the least snowy roads for accessing the Valley.  There’s a daily shuttle to Badger Pass from Oakhurst on Hwy. 41.  Along Hwy. 120 you have great snowshoe options (or hiking if the snow is old and compacted) into either the Merced Grove or Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias.