Big Winter in Yosemite

Black Oak, Snow, Cooks Meadow, Yosemite Valley

If you ever want to experience Yosemite in snow, this is a good year to do it. Yosemite is having a “big winter”, and is currently pushing towards 150% of normal snow fall thanks to frequent, and heavy storms. In a normal year, snowfall starts to decline in March, but this weather pattern often keeps snowing into April, and later. I lived in Yosemite Valley during a similar pattern during the winter of 97-98 and it was so cold we had to burn wood, our only source of heat, from October through May. 

The key to photographing Yosemite in snow is to get in the valley BEFORE the storm hits. That’s because there is a peak moment as the storm is clearing, usually the morning after a storm, where the snow is heavy on the trees and beautiful. But as soon as the sun comes out, the snow starts to melt and get ugly. I’ve been told that Ansel Adams wouldn’t even stop for coffee on such mornings, and would be out the door as quick as he could. 

If snow is not your thing, that heavy snowpack is going to lead to some incredible flow in the waterfalls.  With this size snow pack, peak will probably be in May, and warm temperatures may even lead to some flooding, turning the meadows into giant reflecting pools. All spring, the valley will rumble with the thunder of Yosemite Falls. 

April will have good waterfall activity too, with the added bonus of the dogwood bloom.

Dogwood near Happy Isles, Yosemite Valley

Expect a later opening to the Tioga Pass road…it all depends on how aggressive the current superintendent is about plowing and how long it keeps snowing (avalanche conditions.) 

If you ever needed an excuse to visit Yosemite, this year’s snowfall and waterfalls should be it!


Yosemite Webcams
Sierra Snow Pack
Call 209-372-0200 for current road conditions in Yosemite