Summer is peak season, drawing most of Yosemite’s four million annual visitors. Reservations at many of the campgrounds and hotels, particularly Yosemite Lodge and the Ahwahnee, should be made months in advance. The valley is only one part of Yosemite National Park, so escape summer crowds with day hikes in the breathtaking High Country at Tuolumne Meadows, about an hour’s drive from the valley floor. July is the peak of wildflower season.
Every season at Yosemite has something in its favor. In winter, there’s the quiet beauty of meadows and towering mountain peaks covered in snow. Spring (May and June) brings the roar of waterfalls at their fullest cascading over the valley rim and the dogwoods in bloom. Summer offers long, warm days for dips in the Merced River. In the fall, waterfalls may dwindle to only a trickle, but maples and oaks turn to red and gold.
Parts of the park, such as Tuolumne Meadows and the Glacier Point lookout area, are closed in winter because of heavy snowfall. Yosemite Valley and Wawona remain accessible year round, however, tire chains may be required, depending on weather conditions. In winter, the Badger Pass ski area is open for downhill skiing and cross-country skiing excursions.