Hi all! Heading to a conference in California next month and I want to take a day to explore Yosemite. I understand that it's a big park & it takes more than a day, but I'd love to get a hike or two in while I'm there. I love hiking & I'm from Michigan, so they're tame hikes. Outside of Michigan terrain, I've only ever experience a small mountain hike in AZ and NV.
So I'd appreciate any tips on what to bring and where to go. I'll be going solo, since none of my fellow conference-goers are interested--another thing to consider. I understand that I'll have to be more aware of my abilities. Tried to figure out if there was a group hike from the website, but I'm not finding any.
Thank you so much!
There will be snow in February so you will be pretty much limited to exploring the valley on a short visit. There is a small alpine ski area and cross country skiing on the Glacier Point road. Some of the trails out of the valley may be open to hiking some of the way up but may be closed due to snow and ice. The rest of Yosemite including hwy 120 is winter backcountry and only visitable to the well equipped winter backpacker. While you can do a drive through and see a few things Yosemite is a bit of a drive from most places that hold conferences and it's better if you can stay in the valley. While Yosemite is an amazing place in winter it's a bit of an effort for a short visit. California has a lot to offer so for a short visit there maybe something closer to your conference. You don't say where your conference is or how long you have so it's hard to recommend anything.
Hi there, thank you for the response. So is trying to visit a lost cause then? There isn't even one hike I can get in? I noticed on the NPS website that certain roads are closed, but that's about it.
My conference is in San Francisco. I'm probably not going to be out that way again in quite a while. 😕
You can almost certainly hike some around the valley which is worthwhile since it is an amazing place but to go very far you may need snow shoes or cross country skis. I doubt you can go far up the trails. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/winter.htm
Plus if you plan on driving you should know that for any trip to the Sierras you need to carry chains and are expected to know how to use them. Mostly you can get away with AWD but you are still supposed to carry chains in case of severe storms. I don't know how that would work with a rental. https://www.tripsavvy.com/snow-chains-in-california-1479683
The bottom line is that the Sierras are full of snow in the winter so the "hiking" available is snow shoeing or cross country skiing.
If you really want Mountains then Tahoe is a bit more user friendly but the chain thing is still an issue getting there by car. Hiking is probably out but you can take the Gondola up to 9000 ft and snow shoe around https://tahoesouth.com/thing-to-do/tours/heavenly-gondola/ To avoid the chain issue you can fly to Reno and take a bus to South Lake but that may not be worth the effort for a day or so.
You will need winter clothing suitable for snow for Yosemite or Tahoe.
Since you are in SF and hiking is your thing I think a trip to Mount Tamalpias in Marin County would be nice. There are numerous trails with views of the ocean that are sublime unless the fog is high or the clouds are low. You can drive nearly to the summit and there is a short hike to the top for 360 degree views of the bay area on a clear day. Muir Woods National Monument is worth a visit but you need to book parking unless you hike in from outside the park.
If you have more time you might consider a drive down Hwy 1 staying at Santa Cruz or maybe Felton returning by Hwy 9. There are interesting hiking opportunities along the Coast and in Big Basin State Park.
Unless you like wet feet you will want waterproof hiking boots and rain gear and all the usual. The trails will be muddy in places and it could rain in February.
If that's just not what you are looking for, there are lots of nice hikes in SF. Just Google "Hikes in San Francisco". "Sand Ladder at Baker Beach" is pretty iconic.
Thank you SO much! This definitely helps a lot. After the conference, I do plan on driving down to the LA/San Diego area, so I'm definitely going to see what additional exploring I can do.
Hey Silvia! As a fellow Michigander (now turned NorCal transplant), I can totally understand your initial apprehension at hiking in the Sierras - but trust me there are plenty of hikes around here tamer than the Porky's! First and most importantly, I will reiterate @OldGuyot's concerns about February weather. My parents were in town from the mitten last February and we had a few nights booked in the Valley, but only ended up staying one because we were snowed out the rest of it. It is unpredictable and when it is bad, it is worse than the lake effect. That said, if the weather cooperates, the Yosemite Valley may have no snow, with beautiful snow-covered peaks surrounding you.
If you only have a day, spend the whole time in the Valley. As you drive in to the Valley, once you are on the loop, take the first right up to Tunnel View and stop there for an iconic view. Then continue on toward the end of the valley, soaking in the views and stopping at any pull-outs you feel inspired by and can find a spot. Once you are in, there is plenty to explore! I am a fan of the Mirror Lake loop trail for cool views of Half Dome (portions might be flooded that time of year, making it less of a loop). You can stop for lunch at the Ahwahnee or just to warm up (often in the winter they have free hot cocoa on the second floor lounge by the women's bathroom). If you are feeling more adventurous and want some elevation, check out Vernal Falls, but this is easily one you can save for your next trip (best done in spring in my opinion). Plus, you have to do Lower Yosemite Falls, which is an easy stop on your way out. It's a lot in one day when you factor in the drive, but totally doable as long as you stay focused on the valley. Pro-tip from my days of living in the bay, if you can drive out of the bay the night before (leave after 7p to avoid the traffic and stay in Livermore or further) then you skip the morning rush hour and can make it to the park for an early start on your day of hiking! You get a full day in before watching the sunset in the park and driving back.
You can always plan a trip to Yosemite and do it if Mother Natch cooperates! And if not, stick to the coast 😎
Hope this helps! Happy Trails!
Thank you so much, Rachel! That also helps a lot! 🙂
@OldGuyot @REI-RachelL Thank you so much again for your insight! I've been meaning to post this sooner, but better late than never. The day trip to Yosemite was lovely! 🙂 No snow, but was definitely more strenuous than expected. I thought I could get a few hikes in (hahaha, silly me!). I did get there later than I wanted to, but then made my way on the Yosemite Falls trail. Didn't make it all the way up because I ran out of daylight, but it was wonderful! The one thing that slowed me down, honestly was my skill. I just wasn't used to the terrain, so I was a slow-poke because I wanted to make sure I didn't trip to my doom, haha.
It was an amazing start to my trip though & gave me a new perspective on hiking. 🙂 I will definitely be out that way again during my lifetime.
You mentioned you would bee down in SoCal later in your trip. Let mesuggest a day trip to Channel islands National Park, especially Sant Cruz island, if that can mesh with your plans. Definitely not Yosemite, but interesting in its own way.
I worked there for fifteenyears.