Winter Diamonds

Yosemite National Park, California
  |  Gorp.com
map of U.S. showing our winter, snow national park picks: Crater Lake, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Acadia and Denali

Activities: Cross country skiing, hiking, downhill skiing, camping.Only in Winter Vision: An ice cone develops at the base of Yosemite Falls that can grow up to 300 feet high and cover four acres.Each winter, millions of Californians head for higher ground, and I don't mean New Age gurus. The state's Sierra and Casade mountain ranges become winter playgrounds. And no area personifies the romance of the High Sierra—at any time of year—more than Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite's three main areas for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are Badger Pass, Crane Flat, and the Mariposa Grove. Badger Pass is by far the star of the show: the vistas at the end of the 10.5-mile trail to Glacier Point are unsurpassed. Rare for a national park, Badger Pass even has a downhill ski area, which is a wonderful family ski spot. Go for gentle runs and great scenery, not for the downhill challenge of your life.

If you want to break your own ground, head up the Tioga Pass Road from Crane Flat or into the giant Sequoias of the Mariposa Grove. The serious wilderness skier can head for Tuolumne Meadows. An alternative to the crowds at any time of year, come winter Tuolumne Meadows really becomes a hermit's dream when the road from town closes.

Depending on your perspective, you'll be disappointed or relieved to learn that Yosemite's famous—or notorious—bears are hibernating. But there's always more to Yosemite wildlife than slumbering ursas. In winter, the Sierra hare acquires a winter coat that you're quite likely to get a chance to admire. And you can also reasonably anticipate seeing coyotes, Clark's nutcrackers, and chickarees.

More on Yosemite Winter Sports
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Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 7 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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