View Full Version : Where/when to go in Yosemite in February?

9-Jan-2012, 12:18
I'm looking to head into Yosemite some weekend in February, which weekend would be best as far as snow, weather and possibly snowshowing? Also where are the best places to go for snow in the winter? I know there are the big obvious spots to stop off the road for Yosemite in general but where are some good spots when snow is on the ground, even if you have to hike 1+ miles?


John Kasaian
9-Jan-2012, 13:02
Unless something changes around here, maybe Colorado.

9-Jan-2012, 13:33
Hah, are you suggesting there is no snow in Yosemite?

Edit: Crap, http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/webcams/view-ahwahnee-meadow

9-Jan-2012, 14:04
Hah, are you suggesting there is no snow in Yosemite?

Edit: Crap, http://www.yosemiteconservancy.org/webcams/view-ahwahnee-meadow

Correct. No snow in Yosemite. The passes are still OPEN! No appreciable snow in the Eastern Sierra either (well, at least not around Sonora or Tioga pass).

Leszek Vogt
9-Jan-2012, 14:10
The best way (at least the way I'd do this) is to keep an eye on the weather and after a snow dump and a day or so when the roads are clear.....go in there as everything is covered and looks pristine. The whole valley could be spectacular.

One of the suggestions I can make is when you going around the loop (return side).....continue pass the El Capitan and there will be an opening on the left side. There should be bunch of boulders in the river and they should have fresh snow on them...at this time you'll wonder how do you spell magic :). I used 24mm (35mm equiv) and was able to include the entire El Capitan. It's 5X better when you have fog rolling through there and hopefully the sun is setting as the top of the El Capitan receives this reddish/orange light. Hmmm, maybe you can dial in, eh ? Yes, you'll need a wide angle of some sort to grab the entire scene.

The other place would be closer to the Curry Village....the river reflection of the Half Dome. You can do this from the bridge, but then again you can also go further way and include the bridge in the photo. Often the sun melts the snow....and you'll find
relatively large dips or potholes....and you can catch reflections of Half Dome, etc.

Overall, despite its popularity, the park is relatively empty when it snows or just after
so that's when I like to go. There should be plenty photo opportunities. Enjoy.


Drew Wiley
9-Jan-2012, 14:37
What is Winter ???

Robert Oliver
9-Jan-2012, 14:43
Maybe tioga road will still be open....

9-Jan-2012, 16:04
Ahem, the perennial question :( . The fifth week of February.

Badger Pass (GP Road) if it snows:



Anywhere inches from the road if it snows in the Valley:


9-Jan-2012, 16:41
Ah frick Rol you jerk, temping me with what I cannot have (this year)!

17-Jan-2012, 20:05
Why not try and catch the spectacular firefall around President's day? It's a difficult phenomenon to catch and photograph but it's unbelievably stunning.

Storms are finally headed our way so we may have snow in February after all.

Yosemite is gorgeous ANY time of year and February is still quite peaceful before the tourists converge. You can't go wrong!

Drew Wiley
17-Jan-2012, 20:17
First serious precipitation of the season is on its way this week. And it's a relatively
cold storm. Don't know how far south it will reach, but will probably affect quite a
bit of the Sierra.

17-Jan-2012, 20:37
About time! I was looking down at the South Fork Eel River the day before Xmas -- saw a bald eagle sitting on a limb and very nervous salmon swimming in a pool of low clear water below it! We are about to lose the year's run

John Kasaian
17-Jan-2012, 22:20
Theres supposed to be weather coming in Thursday night. Both Shaver and Bass Lakes are drained right now, We need snow pack or grocery prices will skyrocket and there will be a lot of people around here out of work & even more failing businesses. We need snow four ponys deep!

Keith S. Walklet
17-Jan-2012, 22:26
Well, NPS issued a release earlier today stating Tioga Road would close tonight (Tuesday) at 7 pm in advance of the system.

Glacier Point Road would remain open unless conditions deteriorate.

They also didn't rule out reopening the roads if the dry conditions resume.

Keep 'er fingers crossed.

18-Jan-2012, 10:13
Just to add to Keith's note

From the Union Democrat, Sonora, today...

All three major mountain passes in the Mother Lode will be closed by noon today as mountain drivers brace for the first snow storm of 2012.
Caltrans will close the Sonora Pass on Highway 108 in Tuolumne County and Ebbetts Pass on Highway 4 in Alpine County at noon today.
Tioga Pass, which runs through Yosemite National Park, closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday according to park officials.
Authorities chose to close the roads as a preemptive measure to protect drivers and road crews during snowy conditions. The storm is expected to roll over the foothills starting this afternoon and continue into Sunday night, and bring snow to higher elevations.

I hope it snows at least as much as John's 'four ponys deep'! Bring it on!


Drew Wiley
18-Jan-2012, 13:41
Someone sent me shots of Shaver drained. Bass Lake depends on being full for the
sake of water skiers and other tourists, but otherwise just runs one antique PG&E
turbine down the hill. More spooky was seeing some of the reserviors further south
dry in autumn after record snowfall and runoff. I figure it was a ploy to get everyone
their water allotment and shut them up politically; but they're sure going to pay hell
this coming year! Our urban water up here doesn't compete with agriculture, so the
reserviors were filled to the top last year, with the exception of one getting a seismic
makeover. Be interesting to see if we swing back into the ole wet season/dry season
mode for awhile, rather than the wacky stuff of the last few years. The main Spring
snow season is just beginning, but then again, it could largely fizzle. Sure makes it
hard to plan summer backpacks at this stage of the game. But I'm more optimistic about that than some of my friends who already paid for season ski tickets.

Keith S. Walklet
19-Jan-2012, 14:43
Sigh... Looking at the webcams today hasn't been uplifting...

We got hammered here in Boise between 8 and 11 in the morning with six inches of white stuff yesterday before it shifted to rain. Still raining today. I was hoping it would make it down that way. Would love to push the system south a bit.

I haven't seen this weather pattern since the mid 80s when Mono Winds were a common occurrence.

19-Jan-2012, 15:01
The rains are here in Humboldt County and we have two rivers getting to, or at flood stage (well, the Smith is in Del Norte County). The ground was very dry so it is not soaking up the water very fast. Looks like rain is due in Yosemite.

Drew Wiley
19-Jan-2012, 16:17
My gosh, Keith, the term Mono Wind sure does conjure up childhood memories. Sadly,
that's now the name of a casino started by a family friend and catering to tour buses
of old folks. I grew up with the Mono or Monache. An old cross country track pal of mine has started a little school in North Fork to keep the local dialect and traditions alive.

Keith S. Walklet
19-Jan-2012, 16:44
Looks like you're right Vaughn. Just checked the webcams again and the views from Sentinel and Turtleback look promising. The cloud layer is dropping, and that, at least usually means rain.

Drew-always enjoy the historical perspectives you present... I think the winds were the most unnerving of the natural forces I experienced in my years in the park. Except maybe the flood of 1997. I thrilled at being in a place where the natural forces were unchecked for the most part anyway, but when Ma Nature really decides to show off, it gets your attention.

John Kasaian
19-Jan-2012, 17:04
I put a tarp over the hay this morning. The cows were still standing, none of them were "down" but the hogs had bedded down in thier whatchamacallits.

John Kasaian
19-Jan-2012, 17:10
I just stepped outside. The wind is coming from the South and the clouds look ready to cry :D

19-Jan-2012, 19:44
This afternoon, right before the storm, would have been an ideal time to drive up, set-up your tent in Camp 4 (if you're camping) on dry ground and put the chains on. The valley is super photogenic immediately after a major storm blows through and you will be ready to take advantage of it. So if you can, try to time your visit in February correspondingly. There will be snow on the ground in Camp 4 by then but, hey, on one trip while digging down about a foot to clear the tent site I struck gold! Well, not really gold but a $20 bill a previous occupier dropped and the snow covered.

I love stormy weather, always have. With an impending hurricane approaching the City and its inhabitants took on a different “outlook” on life that was positively refreshing. The same thing happened in San Francisco during the Loma Prieta earthquake. Back home I would go out to Lake Pontchartrain to “watch” the storm roll in. It was safe on the lake front since a trash can lid or whatnot would have to be blown over open water from Slidell before it could strike you. Slidell is the nearest land and its 27 miles away! Just sitting there feeling the full force of the storm as it grew in intensity is an experience you'll never forget.


Drew Wiley
19-Jan-2012, 21:08
It's a bit questionable how much snow if any will reach the Valley floor during this
particular storm episode. But there's likely to be some up on the rim and a good
dusting on the Clark Range etc. I too love storms in the mtns; but it can be a bit
frustrating if one get constantly interrupted to dry photo gear off, or if it's just too
wet and windy to shoot at all. I deliberately spent a night in 100+mph winds atop the summit of an 11000 ft Sierra peak one Memorial Day storm, wedging myself
inside a big crack in a boulder and holding onto the walls of my tent all nite long.
The reward the next morning when it was calm at dawn was the sight of massive
8 ft long icicles running straight out horizontal from the cliff face. And yes, I did have a view camera along.

19-Jan-2012, 22:49
The 60+ MPH windstorms thru the redwoods are interesting, too. It was interesting to hear things falling from 200 to 300 feet above me. I had a view camera with me (just a day hike), but never got it out of its case!

My Sierra backcountry storms have just been limited to thunderstorms -- Dusy Basin was always dependable for some good ones.


John Kasaian
19-Jan-2012, 23:46
Its been sprinkling in Fresno for most of the evening. No heavy rains...yet.

Drew Wiley
20-Jan-2012, 09:14
Vaughn - I haven't been to Dusy for awhile. It's gotten a bit too popular. But the last
time I was there was in an Autumn storm. The sound of lightening richoceting off those
vertical walls of the Palisades is always memorable. Then it cleared and a nearby coyote pack had their chorus howling echo again and again off those walls. Their
version of yodeling. About two in the morning a couple of guys tripped over my tent lines. They were totally weirded out, having spent the nite tied to a tiny ledge up on
appropriately named Thunderbolt Peak. Cheap thrills, I guess.

20-Jan-2012, 09:58
The first Tuolumne Meadows Winter Report of the season is now posted:
and guess what? We have new winter rangers: Kathy and Jeff have been replaced by Laura and Rob! I enjoyed reading their posts for years and Jeff was a nice guy to meet. I can only hope that that the new are as good as the old.

Note this this is the latest closing of Tioga Road since records were kept in 1933 and the dryest winter on record so far.


20-Jan-2012, 11:13
Vaughn - I haven't been to Dusy for awhile. It's gotten a bit too popular...

My last time was about 1974 while on a trans-Sierra hike (Florence to South Lakes). The thunder rolled around the basin until in got inside one's head. My years as a wilderness ranger in the Yolla Bollys kept me out of the Sierras since then....that and the draw of our other local mountains (Trinities, Marbles, Russians, King Range, etc).

Drew Wiley
20-Jan-2012, 11:55
I grew up with the gal that runs the Florence ferry, store, and Muir Trail Ranch up the
river, and my brother grew up with her husband. She and her sister would spend
entire summers in the backcountry on horseback and live off fishing. Their winter
ranch was just over the hill from our place - a minor hike with a 2500 ft 6o-degree grade with a dead vertical 300 ft cliff at the top. I had a secret ledge. The summit
has some of the most incredible wildflower shows anywhere in March in the vernal
pools. I've hauled my 8x10 up there quite a few times. Good exercise. But I'd like to
visit those North Coast mtns sometime too.

John Kasaian
22-Jan-2012, 14:36
After a Mono wind hit the sierras I've seen mountainsides above Wishon Lake that looked like a giant hand came along and knocked over all the trees!
Thats sure not the place I'd want to be.

Drew Wiley
22-Jan-2012, 15:19
I absolutely loved the sound of those winds. Any problem trees or limbs near the
house were kept well trimmed back, but the pasture had periodic losses. But which
Wishon lake are you referring to, John? The one on the lower San Joaquin upriver
from Millerton, or the one in the high country on the North Fork of the Kings? Our
local jargon was a little different from the map perhaps.

23-Jan-2012, 16:57
If you are planning to access Yosemite Valley via Hwy 120-Big Oak Flat Road in the near term, be advised there was a rock fall that has closed the road indefinitely.

Here's a note from our Sonora news, dated today:

Yosemite, CA -- Big Oak Flat Road, a continuation of Highway 120, is closed because of a rockslide that occurred at 11:30 last night.

Yosemite National Park Spokesperson Scott Gediman says a boulder, "the size of a house," fell into the road and brought with it tree branches and several smaller rocks.

Gediman says the best case scenario is that the debris will be removed over the coming days and Big Oak Flat Road will reopen "within the next several days." He says the worst case scenario is that there is structural damage to the road and it will need extensive repairs. Gediman says this scenario could result in the road being closed for "several months."

At this point Yosemite is calling Big Oak Flat Road "closed indefinitely."

Once Highway 120 enters Yosemite National Park it becomes Big Oak Flat Road. ...Yosemite Valley is currently only accessible from Highway 140 and Highway 41.

Full story and a photo is here (http://www.mymotherlode.com/news/local/1510302/Yosemite-Valley-Entrance-Closed-Indefinitely.html).


John Kasaian
23-Jan-2012, 18:01
I absolutely loved the sound of those winds. Any problem trees or limbs near the
house were kept well trimmed back, but the pasture had periodic losses. But which
Wishon lake are you referring to, John? The one on the lower San Joaquin upriver
from Millerton, or the one in the high country on the North Fork of the Kings? Our
local jargon was a little different from the map perhaps.
Sorry Drew, my bad! I was thinking of something that happened at Mammoth Pools probably around 20 years ago. It looked like an entire forested mountainside decided to lay down and surrender to the wind.
I don't know why Wishon stuck in my brain:confused:

Drew Wiley
23-Jan-2012, 20:07
Thanks John. But you're taking me even deeper into nostalgia and getting me a bit
homesick. I made a custom each Spring to spend a night on the summit of Kaiser Pk
overlooking Mammoth Pool, Balloon Dome, and that whole incredible vista up there.
50/50 chance any year due to potentially wild weather, avalanches on my preferred
route etc. Now it's down to once a decade. Did it in my 50's view camera and all,
but still have to do it in my 60's. For those unfamilar with the area, this is the second deepest canyon in North America, right below this spot, about twice as deep
as the Grand Canyon, and only slightly less deep than the Middle Fork of the Kings
immediately to the South. From the summit Balloon Dome looks like a little wart in
the bottom of the canyon, yet it's bigger than Half Dome in Yosemite.

John Kasaian
23-Jan-2012, 21:54
It is a grand view! :D

Drew Wiley
24-Jan-2012, 15:11
Another walk analagous to Kaiser you might really enjoy John ... Go up past Beasore
Mdws to the big mdw just below Merced Peak. Nice campsite (unless mosquito season)
then short uphill hike to Jackass Lks (nice family campsite like Twin Lks below Kaiser).
You can stairstep the upper lakes onto the ridge to the summit of Madera. Even wider
view than Kaiser - clear into Nevada. About the same effort - 3500ft vertical, though
I can recommend a "fun route" too for ice axe enthusiasts. I've had a 4x5 up there,
but 8x10 would be a bit of workout, esp w/full backpacking gear. Or you can take
Norris Cr trailhead and just follow the leading edge the entire way, just back of the
main cliff - no climbing at all, just steady uphill with fabulous views all the way up -
Ritter Range directly across canyon, Lady Lks and Clark Range over the cliff, all the
way to Kaiser Ridge and Shuteye Ridge the other direction, then finally, clear across
the crest to the east. The higher lakes don't get much visitation.

John Kasaian
24-Jan-2012, 17:44
Just about every time I've been up to Jackass Lakes there have been skinny dippers, lol! I've done quite a few searches in that area with the Madera
Country SAR in the 80's. It is a great place which I really need to revisit this spring. There used to be some diggings down hill from Jackass Lakes with some nice broken rocks I've always thought would make a great fireplace, but since the Wilderness & the road closed, theres no way to get them out.
Now I'm getting nostalgic! I took my young bride up there on a pack trip and we met the "mule lady" I don't remember her name but she used to play on the Fresno Rockets ladies baseball league during the 1940s. She drove a school bus in the valley and spend every summer up there with her two mules and not a few times I'd be called out on a search only to find the mule lady coming back down the trail with some hiker, rock hound or fisherman on the back of her pack mule and she'd call out "Hey I found someone up here thats lost!" We shared our campfire with her and she shared the liter box wine she brought up in her saddlebags with us.
Good times!

Drew Wiley
24-Jan-2012, 18:32
Wonderful, John. Too bad my folks aren't alive. They probably knew her. My mom
would take me up to Granite Creek in the summers and I'd run wild. Someday we'll
have to do a 4WD rendezvous atop Shuteye Pk. I haven't been up there in a long time. It was my living room view for many years. There are some fantastic rock
formations up there very tempting to an 8x10. Tried driving my dad up there when he was 92, but the snow was just too deep, and after that he was just too bony to handle a true 4WD bumpy ride. We did make it around the Sierra Byway a number
of times however, plus all the more reasonable roads of the Kings and San Joaquin.
He too had a lot of geology background, so it was a lot of fun discovering this and
that. I sometimes wonder if I annoy my backpacking companions by giving a running
geology lecture along the trail, but most of them seem genuinely interested.

28-Jan-2012, 08:33
Just a follow-up to my note on the Big Oak Flat road closure...

The NPS has put in a temporary fix on the road. It will be open for traffic this morning (Saturday, 1/28).

The road will be temporarily closed for approximately three days next week in order to do some repaving. The days and times have not been decided.