10 Ways to Have Winter Fun Near Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a natural wonderland that captivates visitors all year round. Most people choose to visit this amazing place in summer, but there’s something truly magical about experiencing its beauty during the winter season. During this time, things are still, quiet, and empty, and it is possible to really connect with the beauty that is all around you. 

Yes, Yosemite’s iconic waterfalls may be frozen and some areas inaccessible during the cold season, but the park offers a totally different and unique set of opportunities for winter enthusiasts. These experiences are just as fun as the activities people enjoy in Yosemite during the summer, and some might find them even more exciting!

From snowshoeing through pristine landscapes to cozying up by a warm fire, here are ten ways to have winter fun near Yosemite National Park.

Related: Ultimate Travel Guide: Yosemite National Park

snow shoeing

Snowshoeing Adventures

It’s no secret that Yosemite National Park has some of the best hiking trails in the country. This doesn’t change just because the cold season rolls around. Winter is the perfect time to explore Yosemite’s trails on snowshoes, and one could easily hike the same trails they have seen dozens of times in summer and not recognize them at all. 

Don’t have snowshoes of your own? You can buy a pair before you head out, or rental options are available at the nearby Badger Pass Nordic Center. If you’ve never been snowshoeing before, you might opt for a guided tour. These are offered for free by the park’s rangers or for a fee by Yosemite Mountaineering School, and they give visitors an opportunity to discover the park’s serene beauty with a knowledgeable expert. 

To find snowshoeing trails on your own, head to the Badger Pass Ski Area. There you will find a large network of marked winter routes that are typically snow-covered from mid-December to mid-March. 

Cross-Country Skiing

Another fantastic option that takes full advantage of the park’s plentiful snowfall? Cross-country skiing. Yosemite’s groomed, snow-covered trails provide an excellent opportunity for skiers of all levels and are some of the most beautiful cross-country ski trails in the world. 

Cross-country skiing is a unique way to experience the park, as it allows you to glide through the forested landscapes, taking in the quiet, snow-covered scenery. If you’ve never tried this winter sport, you can take lessons from Yosemite’s Cross-Country Ski School in the park. 

There is also rental equipment available on a first-come, first-served basis in the Badger Pass Ski Area, where the best trails in the area are located. That said, bringing your own equipment is also perfectly acceptable (and sometimes a better idea on very busy days). 

Ice Skating

If you want to experience a different method of gliding through a winter wonderland, lace up your ice skates and head to the Curry Village Ice Rink. This rink is located within the park and has been providing visitors with chilly fun since 1928. Surrounded by towering cliffs and breathtaking views, this beautiful place offers a unique skating experience.

The skating rink is open daily during the winter months. There are a few 2.5-hour sessions each day, so you can pick and choose which time you prefer to arrive. That said, space is limited. While you can buy tickets in person, we recommend doing so online, so be sure to do that as soon as possible in order to ensure you get a spot. This is especially important on weekends and holidays and during winter break.

Forest photographing

Yosemite Valley Photography and Winter Wildlife Viewing

Winter brings a distinct charm to Yosemite Valley, with crisp air and the possibility of a dusting of snow. This makes for the ideal backdrop for photographers of all skill levels. Grab your camera and capture the park’s iconic landmarks with a different perspective as the snow blankets the terrain.

Head to iconic landmarks such as Half Dome to photograph them in a whole new light, and keep your eyes peeled for hunting coyotes early in the morning. You might also catch a glimpse of some deer on those early mornings, and animals such as eagles, owls, stellar jays, and woodpeckers are also viewable in the valley during the winter. 

Snowboarding and Downhill Skiing

While Yosemite itself does not have downhill skiing facilities, the aforementioned Badger Pass Ski Area is just a short drive away. This is the perfect place to take in the beautiful views the area has to offer while enjoying an exciting ride. Enjoy the thrill of downhill skiing or snowboarding in the beautiful surroundings of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The Badger Pass Ski Area is typically open from December 15th through April 12th. Lifts are available, as are season passes for those who plan to visit often. If you’ll be in Yosemite Valley, you can take advantage of the free shuttle service to and from the ski area, and those who have never skied before can take lessons with the Badger Pass Ski Area School. 

Snow Tubing

Not sure you can handle downhill skiing or snowboarding but want to get your thrills anyway? You can also try snow tubing!

For this family-friendly activity, head to the nearby town of Fish Camp and hop in a tube at Tenaya Lodge’s Snowplay. Alternatively, snow tubing sessions are available at Badger Pass Ski Area. Whichever spot you choose, tubes will be provided and you’re sure to have the time of your life as you slip and slide down the powdery white hills. 


Because of its remote location, Yosemite is an excellent place to go stargazing. Winter nights in Yosemite are particularly ideal for stargazing due to lower humidity and clearer skies, giving you yet another reason to plan a cold-weather visit.

Whether you choose to lay your own blanket out and enjoy the starry skies on your own or join a park ranger-led astronomy program to learn about the stars, planets, and constellations that adorn the night sky, you’re sure to have an amazing time!

Winter Events at Ahwahnee Hotel

Of course, we have to mention the various winter festivals and events held in Yosemite at the Ahwahnee Hotel. These include the annual Bracebridge Dinner as well as Yosemite Chefs’ Holidays. These events combine great food, entertainment, and winter festivities.

The Bracebridge Dinner takes place during the holiday season and features a spectacular four-hour Christmas pageant along with an elegant, seven-course dinner. Meanwhile, Yosemite Chefs’ Holidays events offer wine tastings and special food pairings. 

Cozy Winter Retreats

The Yosemite area offers various lodging options, including cozy cabins and RV camping. After a day of outdoor adventures, there’s nothing quite like warming up with a hot cocoa in an adorable cabin or comfy RV.

Some of the best lodging options in the area are found at Outdoorsy Yosemite. This awesome park offers both spacious full-hookup RV campsites and lovely little rental cabins, and the amenities found in the park are top-notch. The best thing about this park? The staff are warm and welcoming no matter what the weather happens to be like. 

Don’t have an RV of your own to park in a campsite at Outdoorsy Yosemite? You can always pick out a Yosemite rental RV. There are tons of awesome options, including some rentals that are available for cold-weather camping. 

As you can see, Yosemite National Park’s winter wonderland offers a unique and serene experience for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Whether you prefer active adventures like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing or more leisurely activities like cabin retreats and stargazing, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during the winter months near Yosemite. 

Ready to experience all of this for yourself? Book your cabin or campsite today so you can embrace the magic of the snowy season and create unforgettable memories amidst this breathtaking natural paradise!