Yosemite National Park is a four-seasons outdoor destination. You can come to watch waterfalls in spring, go hiking in the Sierra Nevada high country in summer, roast marshmallows over your campfire in fall, and go skiing and snowshoeing in winter. Timing your visit to coincide with one of the region’s many festivals will only enhance your Yosemite vacation.
There’s almost always something special going on in the park, with free ranger-guided walks and talks given year-round. Many of the park’s special events and educational programs are designed for entire families to enjoy, so bring your kids and the grandparents, too – everybody is welcome!
Every year on April 22, Earth Day is great time to visit Yosemite National Park, especially if waterfalls are just starting to hit their peak. You can volunteer to help with some easy environmental clean-up, then enjoy a free ranger-guided hike or eco-educational activity.
Summer officially kicks off on Memorial Day weekend in late May and ends with Labor Day weekend in early September. Both of these holiday weekends are time for the Strawberry Music Festivals, held at Camp Mather, just outside the Hetch Hetchy area of the park. Families gather for camp-outs, musical concerts, swimming, storytelling, and arts-and-crafts workshops. For more information and to buy tickets in advance, visit www.strawberrymusic.com or call (209) 984-8630.
In the park’s Sierra Nevada high country, Tuolumne Meadows blooms with wildflowers in summer. Then in mid-August, the Parsons Memorial Lodge hosts the park’s Tuolumne Meadows Poetry Festival, featuring author readings, workshops for writers and poets, and musical jams. All events are open to the public and free.
Winter is the most festive time in the Yosemite Valley. Although many park visitors don’t consider a park visit after the first snows fall, it’s a memorable season for a Yosemite vacation. Most wintertime activities revolve around the historic Ahwahnee hotel, which hosts the Vintners’ Holidays in November and early December, the Bracebridge Dinners in mid-December, the Chefs’ Holidays in January and February, and the Heritage Holidays in early March. All are celebrations of food and wine. The renowned Bracebridge Dinners include live entertainment in a dining hall styled to resemble a Renaissance-era English lord’s manor. The Heritage Holidays are a kicky homage to the Roaring Twenties in song, dance, and costumed revelry. Advance reservations are required for all, although some events are free to the public.
Other winter celebrations take place at the park’s Badger Pass ski area, including Nordic Holiday Races in early February and family-friendly Springfest, usually in late March.
No matter when you visit Yosemite National Park, you’ll discover an abundance of ranger-guided talks, walks and other free, family-friendly activities going on. Nothing else will top off your Yosemite vacation like gathering around a campfire to listen to a ranger talk about wild black bears, or joining a ranger-guided wildflower or snowshoe walk. After-dark stargazing and nature film showings, arts-and-crafts workshops and storytime hours for kids, and junior ranger programs are just a sampling of what the park freely offers to enrich your Yosemite experience.