By Micaela Myers | March 09, 2012 3:00 AM
When most people think of visiting Yosemite National Park and the Sierra National Forest, they think of green grass and sunshine, with summertime the height of tourist season. However, winter brings its own set of majesty, with snowcapped mountains, white-capped trees and waterfalls appearing out of the morning clouds, not to mention a host of wintertime activities. Another major bonus of visiting the park in winter: no crowds.
Outside the Park
Those visiting Yosemite in winter can choose from a variety of accommodations in or around the official national park boundary. Nestled in the Sierra National Forest, the 48-acre, 294-room four-diamond Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite (pictured above, tenayalodge.com) is located just a five-hour drive from Orange County and is only two miles from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park. As a bonus, it’s pet friendly, meaning Fido can come with the family for a ski-week vacation or weekend getaway. It also recently received its LEED certification. The lodge is designed with families in mind and includes a large indoor pool, sleigh rides, an ice skating rink, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, a full-service spa for the parents and more.
Inside the Park
For skiers, Yosemite National Park is home to Badger Pass, California’s original ski park opened in 1935.
At 7,200 feet, Badger Pass features 10 runs for skiers and snowboarders, with elevations reaching 8,000 feet at the summit of the downhill ski lifts (yosemitepark.com/badgerpass.aspx). Open mid-December through mid-March, Badger Pass offers skiing and snowboarding for a variety of levels, cross-country skiing and tubing, plus ski and snowboard instruction, rental equipment, a ski shop, childcare and a cafeteria and one of the best sundecks in the Sierra.
Those wishing to stay in the park can’t go wrong spending a night at the historic AAA Four-Diamond Ahwahnee Hotel (yosemitepark.com/ahwahnee.aspx).
Built in the 1920s and designed to highlight its natural surroundings, The Ahwahnee is in the heart of the valley with breathtaking views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point. The hotel underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2011, preserving the stunning architecture, design and décor of this cherished landmark. Whether relaxing in the Great Lounge, which is 77 feet long, 51 feet wide and 24 feet high and flanked by grand fireplaces and 10 floor-to-ceiling windows, or relaxing in your room and enjoying the singular views, The Ahwahnee is the perfect way to experience the park in winter. The area also offers a variety of outdoor activities, including ice skating. Don’t miss dinner in the main dining room, with its stunning 34-foot-high ceiling with large sugar pine trestles. There you can enjoy locally sourced cuisine and regional wines. Top off your visit with breakfast in bed via room service—one of the tastiest breakfasts anywhere.
While visiting Yosemite in the warmer months is certainly a must at some point in your life, a winter stay offers a beauty and peaceful majesty that’s unparalleled. Enjoying the park without the crowds is a magical experience well worth the drive.