The calendar may say that its winter in the U.S., but you wouldn’t know it based on the weather. Large portions of the country have experienced warmer than normal temperatures, and snowfall across the western states has been practically non-existent in many areas. This hasn’t been especially good news to areas that depend on skiers to help bolster their local economy, but it has presented some rare opportunities to visit certain destinations that would normally be sealed off to travelers this time of year.
A perfect example of this is in Yosemite National Park in California, which is well known for receiving large amounts of snow each year. In fact, certain sections of the park, especially at higher altitude, are often inaccessible starting in November and lasting well into April and beyond. That hasn’t been the case this winter however, and as a result, the park remains open, offering unprecedented winter access to some of the its more remote regions.
Take for example the Tioga Pass Road, which is considered one of the most scenic drives in all of the National Parks. The narrow, twisty highway winds its way past Tenaya Lake and Tuolumne Meadows, home to dozens of Giant Sequoias, while the Sierra Nevada Mountains tower over head. It is a breathtaking and beautiful ride any time of the year, but by mid-January, the road has usually been closed for the winter. It is not uncommon to have ten or more feet of snow blocking the route and preventing passage, but not so this year, as the road is currently wide open for travelers.
Better yet, the lack of snow has meant that most of Yosemite’s 800-miles of trail remain open, which has given hikers an extremely rare opportunity to see some of the park’s famous waterfalls and lakes in a frozen state. Much like the Tioga Pass Road, many of these attractions are often buried under snow by this time of year, but for now at least, visitors can take a day hike and see Yosemite as it is rarely seen – frozen over. For a shorter hike, I’d recommend the Gaylor Lakes trail, which is just 3 miles in length but can offer plenty of exploration into the surrounding area. Those with a bit more time on their hands may want to take in the Cathedral Lakes or Glen Aulin Trails, which wanders past several mountain lakes and waterfalls. As usual on any winter hike be, sure to dress appropriately and bring a few emergency supplies, just in case.
This weekend is the perfect time to visit Yosemite and take in these rare sights for yourself. Not only is the entry fee waved for today and tomorrow, but you also know it is only a matter of time before winter does arrive and spoils the fun. The snow will come eventually, and when it does, it’ll probably be heavy enough to close off access until spring. Take advantage of this rare opportunity and experience Yosemite as you’ve never seen it before.