2017-02-16 / Columns

Rain yields big result at Yosemite

Thor Challgren


MELTING SNOW—Waterfalls in Yosemite National Park are expected to be spectacular this spring after a wet winter. 
DAVID McMARTIN/Acorn Newspapers MELTING SNOW—Waterfalls in Yosemite National Park are expected to be spectacular this spring after a wet winter. DAVID McMARTIN/Acorn Newspapers You may have noticed we’ve had some different weather this winter. Instead of sunshine and 70 degrees, we’ve actually had rain. Lots and lots of rain.

The state has not yet lifted the drought regulations which have been in effect the last several years, though it seems a good bet that in May, when they tally the results of the winter barrage of storms, the drought may officially be over.

As of Feb. 1, the Department of Water Resources reports the snow depth and water content statewide are at 117 percent of the average level expected by April 1 and 186 percent of the Feb. 1 figure.

There’s so much snow in the Sierra Nevada that Mammoth Mountain just announced they’ll stay open through July 4.

So we’ve definitely gotten a lot of snow this winter. And as it gets warmer, winter snow does one thing. It melts. And this year, there will be a lot of it to melt.

This presents the California traveler with an opportunity we haven’t had for several years.

If you’ve been to Yosemite Valley in the spring, you have probably witnessed the spectacular effect of melting snow: It fuels the National Park’s collection of majestic waterfalls.

Whether it’s Yosemite Falls, one of North America’s tallest waterfalls at 2,425 feet, Sentinel Falls (about 2,000 feet), Ribbon Fall (1,612 feet) or Bridalveil Fall (620 feet), Yosemite’s waterfalls are at their peak in the month of May.

In an average year, the falls may start to wane by the end of June, but with this year’s substantial snowpack, the waterfall season could extend into July. Your best chance to see the waterfalls in full effect would be to visit in May or by mid-June.

No matter when you go during the spring, prepare for the unexpected, weatherwise.

My wife and I were married in Yosemite Valley on March 28. We had every kind of weather imaginable. Rain in the morning, sunshine and wind midday, brisk temps in the afternoon, then a blizzard by 5 p.m. Talk about the four seasons!

If you visit Yosemite in May or June, my first recommendation would be to stay in valley lodgings such as Yosemite Valley Lodge, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Big Trees Lodge and Half Dome Village.

These valley properties offer instant access to tours, hiking and sightseeing throughout Yosemite, but this year they could be difficult to book in late spring.

A quick search of availability in May showed only tent camping accommodations at Half Dome Village. I was told there is a waitlist for the more traditional accommodations, so it may still be possible to secure lodging if you’re flexible.

You can also stay outside the park, with hotels available on Highway 41 in Oakhurst and Fish Camp, or on Highway 140 in Midpines and Mariposa. Both are about an hour’s drive from the floor of Yosemite Valley.

Oakhurst/Fish Camp, just under five hours from mid-Ventura County, might be a good place to stay if you plan to drive up on a Friday afternoon then venture into the park on Saturday and Sunday.

Mariposa/Midpines is about the same driving distance, just under five hours, but you’ll stay on Highway 99 longer, veering east near Merced.

Accommodations in the Fish Camp area can be found at small lodges, B&Bs and even larger spa-like hotels such as the Tenaya Lodge (tenayalodge.com), which has rates starting at $339 a night in May and $379 a night in June.

For a stay in Mariposa or Midpines, there are over a dozen hotels and inns available. I’ve previously written about the Yosemite Bug resort (yosemitebug.com), an upscale hostel which has family rooms starting at $175 a night in May.

If you’ve not been to Yosemite before or it’s been awhile, this year’s rain and snowfall will certainly have a dramatic effect on the spring waterfall season.

Don’t wait too long to make your plans. With demand high for accommodations, you don’t want to be left out in the cold.

Thor Challgren is a travel consultant who lives in T.O. For info and resources on this story, visit www.loveyourvacation.com/acorn. Email thor@theacorn.com.

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