Far and away, the best time to visit Yosemite National Park is in the Fall.  It is a diverse landscape of carved granite and an area that inspires awe and wonder to this day.  Since most areas of the park remain open through October… and sometimes November, there is no reason to miss out on this spectacular park. Here are 5 reason why Fall in Yosemite is the best time to to get a truly holistic sense of this dramatic valley.

Fall in Yosemite
Still some water left in one of the most amazing falls in the park

1. Crowds are gone… kind of

Fall is the best time to get a truly holistic sense of this diverse ecosystem and avoid the crowds. During the summer months, you can expect large crowds when visiting Yosemite – over half 1.6 million people visit the valley from June-August.  But come fall, the tour groups almost vanish from the park and the trails grow tranquil, – with only 13% of the total visitor population coming here in Oct/Nov, Yosemite is ready for your adventure. If you’re wanting a short hike or an easy exploration, here are some excellent day trips I’d recommend when meandering through the Yosemite Valley.

– Mirror Lake Loop (Easy/Moderate, 5 miles, 200 ft. elevation gain)

– Valley Loop Trail (Moderate, 1.6 miles, flat)

Hetch Hetchy – Go north and visit Yosemite’s other valley (below)

Fall in Yosemite
San Francisco’s Drinking Water and Yosemite Valley’s Neighbor

2. Less people = more backpacking

If you’re looking to walk a bit further in the footsteps of John Muir then don’t worry.  Because the crowds are gone, the abundant trails are bit less wandered and back country permits become easier to find.  With a landscape that that ranges from 3,000 to 13,000 feet, you will have no problem determining your level of adventure! Here are the two hikes I plan to do this November and click this link to plan your wilderness adventure.

3. Trees are changing colors

It won’t be long until winter visits the the trees know it.  And though Yosemite Valley is not known for a specular display of color during the fall, most of the trees here are evergreen, there is still a beautiful display visible from some of the parks high vistas.  Walking the valley, you can see the ground filled with crunchy leaves and the colorful trees busy providing the local squirrels with their winter survival grub. I can’t argue with that, I love nuts in my winter trail mix too.

Yosemite leaves in fall - Fall in Yosemite
Leaves are falling all around, It’s time I was on my way.

4. Animals are abundant

Just walking down a trail during the fall in Yosemite valley (especially near the visitor centers) you will see squirrels rounding up their winter harvest, deer relaxing in the areas golden meadows and hear the air filled with birds chirping about. Fall in Yosemite is a spectacular time to be a nature lover.

5. Temperatures are comfy

If you’re like me, you like to sleep and hike in cool weather.  The crisp air makes you feel awake, the rustling leaves beneath your feet remind you of the changing season and for some reason your body feels lighter and your step quicker.  Make sure to be prepared for colder weather and even some rain, but with average high temperatures in the fall not reaching 75F/22C… you don’t need to worry about the heat.

Entrance into Yosemite - Fall in Yosemite
Is there a more spectacular view in the world? Maybe… but this might be it.

It’s Yosemite, what isn’t there to do?

You may not be able to hike Half Dome if you visit too late in the fall season. But it doesn’t mean there is not an abundance of things to do to keep you busy.  From camping in one of the valleys 13 official campgrounds, hiking the seemingly endless trails, to taking a guided tour (low on the adventure level but still cool)… there is more to do and see in Yosemite than you can imagine.

Adventure Hydrology
Adventurer, Scientist, Explorer - Chris Wolff is the Worlds first Adventure Hydrologist

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