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Visiting Yosemite National Park in winter means picturesque snow-topped peaks, glistening frozen lakes and plenty of activities to enjoy before heading inside to relax by a roaring fire (not to mention cheaper rates and fewer crowds). Keeping in mind that winter weather can restrict access to some parts of the park and snow chains for your car may be required, it’s truly still a magical time of year to explore the 1,200 acres of wilderness that Yosemite has to offer. Here are a few of our favorite winter activities (weather permitting) that prove winter is the most magical time to visit Yosemite.

RELATED: Roadtripping California’s HWY 395

Image courtesy Yosemite.com

Hike to a spectacular waterfall
Take a hike on a snow-covered path to see one of the many beautiful waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. Although they won’t be flowing as much in winter, it’s still worth the trek. The trail to popular Yosemite Falls is a steep two miles round trip and offers sweeping views of Yosemite Valley and of the top of the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls. An easier option is the half-mile round paved trip trail to Bridalveil Falls.

Image courtesy National Parks Service

Snap pics of iconic Half Dome
For photography enthusiasts, Yosemite in winter makes for incredibly artistic shots. Capture the snow flurries blowing through the trees, the icicles hanging from rooftops, the blankets of snow covering the landscape and wildlife searching for nourishment—the white winter wonderland allows shutterbugs endless opportunities. For inspiration, stop by the Ansel Adams Gallery, located in the park.

Photo by Chris Falkenstein courtesy of Yosemite/Mariposa County

Slide down a mountain
The Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area offers snow tubing for seventeen dollars for a two-hour session (snow tubes provided). Zip down the gentle slopes for hours of fun, but be ready for all those walks back up to the top of the hill. Sign up for the full moon guided snowshoe walk to see the moon glistening on the frozen snow.

Image courtesy TravelYosemite.com

Snowshoe through a meadow
Snowshoeing is a spectacular way to enjoy Yosemite’s winter scenery. Snowshoes are available for rent, are light and fit over most boots. Moderate fitness level is suggested. Dress warm and don’t forget your camera. A headlamp or flashlight is also handy.

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Image courtesy TravelYosemite.com

Ice skate under Half Dome
Even if you’re a novice, ice skating at the outdoor Half Dome Village Ice Skating Rink is one of the most stunning places in the US to take to the ice since it offers spectacular views of Half Dome. Although it’s colder at night, it is even more magical with Half Dome lit up by bright lights, stars twinkling and the moon shining on the ice. There is a fire pit to warm up after taking some laps around the rink, or bring marshmallows for roasting. Skate rentals are available.

Image courtesy TravelYosemite.com

Ski and snowboard at Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area

This small ski and snowboard resort (formerly Badgers Pass) has only 10 runs, mostly intermediate, a snowboard terrain park and five chairlifts. It is very affordable. Adult lift passes are $55 and kids six and under ski for free. The best value is for families with small kids who tire easily because you can purchase “One-Ride” tickets for five dollars on the lower lifts that allows kids to only pay for each run they do.

Image courtesy TravelYosemite.com

Cross-country ski to Glacier Point
For those looking to work up a sweat while taking in the sights and sounds of winter, cross-country skiing is a perfect sport. There is a 21-mile round trip groomed track loop from Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Park to scenic Glacier Point. Upon arriving at Glacier Point, stop at the Ski Hut for a hot cup of cocoa, a restroom and wood stove to warm up before heading back. Equipment rentals are available at Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area.

Where to stay

Accommodation options in Yosemite Valley include cabins, motels, and a five-star hotel. If you do decide to stay in a cabin in Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village), be sure to lock up your food in the bear boxes to avoid any unwanted intruders. The canvas cabins are warm with heaters and down blankets, but be aware that they don’t have bathrooms, so it will be a cold walk to the communal bathroom in the middle of the night. If roughing it just isn’t your thing, the Yosemite Valley Lodge is a comfortable and affordable option. Check into the five-star Majestic Yosemite (formerly the Ahwahnee) for the royal treatment. No matter where you stay, be sure to include dining at the Majestic Yosemite’s Dining Room with 34-foot high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and views of the surrounding forest. Sunday brunch is hard to beat. Whatever your level of comfort, there is something for everyone. Be sure to make reservations months in advance; accommodations fill up quickly.

Tagged: California

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Sharael Kolberg | FamilyTravelChannel.com
​Sharael, founder of Family Travel Channel (familytravelchannel.com), has been writing about travel since 1995. Her work has appeared in Sunset magazine, Outside magazine, ForbesTravelGuide.com, MSN.com, and many others. Follow her on Twitter @FamTravChannel, FB and Instagram @FamilyTravelChannel. See more of her work at Sharael.com.
Sharael Kolberg | FamilyTravelChannel.com

@famtravchannel

Where to stay, where to eat, and what to do once you arrive. Follow me on Instagram @familytravelchannel. #familytravel #travelblogger #influencer
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