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Yosemite in December

Canberra, Australia
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323 posts
50 reviews
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Yosemite in December

Hi Aussie visitors are driving up the coast on the second week of December to SF. What is Yosemite like (usually) at that time of year. Is it worth driving out to see or is it all closed off with snow.

What would people suggest.???

Night at Monterey and a whale cruise then out to Yosemite for the night then back to SF?????

Is it worth doing at this time. and can you drive there in a small car in winter?

Thanks Raina

Mariposa, California
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for Yosemite National Park
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39 reviews
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1. Re: Yosemite in December

If you do the visit, yosemite valley is the section of the park you will focus your visit on, in all likelihood. Given the amount of time you'll have, as well as the time of year, the Valley is your best bet. There probably won't be snow, and if there is it will be a light layer. If a storm rolls in (completely unpredictable this time of year) keep in mind that the cliffs can be clouded over. Half Dome could do a disappearing act. On the other hand, it can be quite mild in the Valley in December. It just depends on the weather patterns.

You can see the Valley in 2-3 hours if you HAVE to. It is not ideal, and you'll find there's probably a lot more that you want to see that you can't because of time. But you could take your time driving into the Valley, taking advantage of pullouts on the road to snap photos. Go to the Visitor Center, watch the 20 minute overview movie. Walk 10 minutes from there to the Lower Yosemite Fall bus stop and either do that walk (30-45 minutes roundtrip), or the Cooks Meadow walk (30-45 minutes) right across the street from that bus stop (straight shot view of Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Yosemite Falls). Then take your time driving out to again, take photos.

Keep in mind that from Monterey you're look at a 4.5 to 5 hourish drive in all likelihood. And then something similar (maybe a little shorter) to get back to San Francisco.

If you decide you want to take on that amount of driving, next thing is to get your lodgings set. Right now my guess is it's tough to get anything in the park...anything that's hard sided at least (as opposed to a tent cabin). If you want to give it a try, look at www.yosemitepark.com and focus on Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Curry Village, and if budget is not an issue, the Ahwahnee Hotel. Any of these places will put you right in the middle of the Valley. Since you have such a short turnaround time for your visit, I think staying closer to the Valley is important for you. Another option is the Yosemite View Lodge or Cedar Lodge in El Portal which would put you 30 minute drive outside of the Valley. The other advantage of staying in the Valley or El Portal, is that if a storm comes through, you are less likely (though it's still possible) to require chains on your car.

You can drive the roads in Yosemite with a regular car (I drive a little honda civic). But keep in mind that if a storm comes through, you may be required to install chains/cables. You can rent and/or buy these outside the park in some of the gateway communities (coming from Monterey, Oakhurst is the last town where you'd be able to purchase chains). Take a read over this:


Finally, the park newspaper might give you an idea of what you can see in a short amount of time. It will also prepare you for your visit so you can reach the valley and just get going. It can be very confusing.


Have a great time in California whatever you do.

Saint Germain...
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2. Re: Yosemite in December

Yosemite is rich in beauty in the winter. Absolutely my favorite time of year. If it has recently snowed, the fresh white against the gray of the granite walls is like new flocking on the christmas trees, brightening every thing up. Very Stunning.

You might consider a flexible schedule. If the weather has been fair without snow and mild day temperatures, as is usually the case, then a Yosemite visit will be marvelous. If it is currently or recently stormy, for a single day in-out excursion then you might extend your monterey part of the trip one more night instead.

Have a great trip, where ever the road takes you!

Oakland, California
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for Yosemite National Park
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3. Re: Yosemite in December

I would agree that it is worth the visit, but to plan with a weather contigency in mind. If you find yourself in the midst of a rainstorm that is bringing snow to the Sierras on the day you plan to leave, then you should probably cancel. You wouldn't be able to see much anyway!

But I think the likelihood of that is small, so see what you can get in terms of reservations at the places that marmot mentioned. Trying to stay midweek is your best bet.

4. Re: Yosemite in December

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