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Fall Camping in Yosemite National Park

A Thanksgiving you won’t Forget

Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, reflection
Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge

Ever wonder what Yosemite Valley would look like without all the tourists? You might want to try visiting the park in the late fall and winter. November is one of the least visited months and the park is at its most beautiful. During this time, Yosemite National Park is in a state of flux. One day a warm breeze blows through the bright reds and oranges of the tree’s foliage, and the next day those same leaves are blanketed in snow. We know because over Thanksgiving week we experienced this magical change to the park. Upon our arrival at Yosemite Valley, there were no signs of snow just gorgeous fall colors on the trees surrounded by the massive granite walls of the valley.

Sign at the Entrance to Yosemite

Halfway through the day, tiny snowflakes drifted to the ground. At the same time, the park rangers evacuated our campground. They were worried about the forecasted high winds and snow from the impending storm. We hurriedly packed all our stuff, throwing it willy nilly in the back of the car, and drove through the storm on the 120. On the side of the road, we found Yosemite Pines RV Resort which has a small campground with some availability. The campground is at a lower elevation than the valley so instead of snow, we were getting hit by sleet as we set up our tent. Nevertheless, the tent stood and we hurried inside to get warm.

Girl and dog in the snow, Australian Shepherd

When we woke, our tent was surrounded by mud and snow and boy did our Aussie love it. He started running and playing in the snow quickly wearing out the boots we got for his paws. He didn’t seem to mind the snow on his paws, just the snow that balled up on his butt. After walking and playing a bit, we packed up our tent and went to El Portal to stay at the Yosemite View Lodge, about 10 minutes away from Yosemite Valley. There we enjoyed the huge bathtub and fireplace which kept us warm as it snowed outside. We were also able to visit Yosemite Valley every day.

Overnight, Yosemite transformed into a winter wonderland. A fresh blanket of snow lay over the valley floor, trees bent under the weight of the snow carried in their branches, and couples walked with hot chocolate in their mitten-covered hands. Snow congregated at the bottom of waterfalls and lay atop the famous Half Dome. But the bears were still out foraging and one followed us along Lower Yosemite Falls trail until we ran into the bear naturalist, who scared him off. There were also several deers wandering the valley, keeping other tourists off the roads.

Black Bear in Yosemite Valley
Majestic Black Bear Following Our Trail!

With all of this snow, staying warm took some layering and planning. Our first night we were wet and stressed, but our hand warmers and new LL Bean Backcountry 3 tent kept us warm through the night. During the day we layered up with baselayers, fleece, the Cotopaxi Parque rain shell, and Arc’teryx Gamma AR pants. This setup kept us warm enough to frolic through the snow-covered fields alongside our pooch and to stay still for long periods of time for photography. Even though there was snow on the ground, the wind wasn’t too strong or cold. We felt comfortable and were able to enjoy our time in the valley.

Most of our time in the park consisted of taking pictures and frolicking through the snow with our jumping Australian Shepherd. We also visited the Ansel Adams Gallery several times to look at his gorgeous photography. We have been to Yosemite several times, but this was a truly memorable experience and all because of the ever-changing seasons.


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