Have Yosemite National Park to Yourself in the Winter

Yosemite National Park is a year round destination, but fewer people in the winter means you can experience the park in a whole new way.

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Snow covered Half Dome with Merced River frozen over in foreground - Pat Althizer

I was at the swinging bridge photographing the snow on the granite cliffs and the Merced River. I turned and was shooting a backlit ice filled tree in the middle of the river and all of a sudden the snow kind of broke off and hit the tree, and it was like magic, creating this angelic look. Yosemite in the winter for me with the glistening light through the ice and snow is like magic.

Oakhurst, CA. (Vocus) December 20, 2009

Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular destinations in the United States, attracting millions from around the country and beyond. Most of these visitors come during the summer months, however. According to tourism officials, winter is an amazing time in the park.

“Winter in Yosemite is truly something special,” said Dan Cunning, CEO of the Yosemite Sierra Visitors Bureau, located near the southern entrance to the park, one of the busiest gateways. “The park is always beautiful, perfect for an amazing vacation experience. The scenes during the winter months, however, are something out of a painting,” he said.

The weather in the park draws a lot of photographers to try to capture the spectacular scenery during winter months. Local photographer Pat Althizer, who offers photo safaris in the park, took some images after a recent snowfall that took advantage of the unique lighting that occurs in the park. “I was at the swinging bridge photographing the snow on the granite cliffs and the Merced River. I turned and was shooting a backlit ice filled tree in the middle of the river and all of a sudden the snow kind of broke off and hit the tree, and it was like magic, creating this angelic look. Yosemite in the winter for me with the glistening light through the ice and snow is like magic.”

Guests also enjoy lighter crowds during the winter months, which Yosemite officials say makes for a more personal experience. “Winter in Yosemite is completely different than summer. It’s like a completely different park,” said Kari Cobb, spokesperson for the park.

“The crowding that you experience in the summer is nonexistent in the winter, and more often than not, you will have the ski slopes or cross country trail to yourself. Not being distracted by all the people around allows you to enjoy the park more intimately. You hear things you wouldn’t hear before you see things you wouldn’t see before, and you experience the park uninterrupted,” she said.

Madera County, California’s Gateway to Yosemite, offers additional attractions to explore. “Many people come through the county on their way to the park, and end up spending more time here than they expected with all there is to see and do,” said Cunning.

One of the most popular Madera County attractions is Bass Lake. Named by Sunset Magazine as one of the west’s best, Bass Lake has a wealth of outdoor activities. Boating, fishing, hiking and just about any other outdoor activity can be found here.

The Madera Wine Trail is another must see in the region. The trail is comprised of ten wineries with public tasting rooms. Long known as a source for popular desert wines, over the years the vintners throughout Madera County have combined the region’s ideal climates for various grapes with years of wine making tradition.

In addition to numerous activities, lodging rates are at their most affordable this time of year. “You can find some great deals this time of year,” said Cunning. “Hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts and even vacation rentals can be had at very enticing rates,” he said.

For more information, visit http://www.YosemiteThisYear.com, or http://www.facebook.com/yosemitesierra.

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