With almost 4 million people a year visiting Yosemite, and many of those crammed into June, July, and August, the park gets CROWDED. Yosemite Valley is only 7 miles long, with one main road looping around. Even though rangers will stop letting cars in once the Valley is full, you can still sit in traffic for hours to get anywhere, not to mention doing battle to find a parking spot, or elbowing people out of your way to get iconic photos at the most popular sights.
If you intend to hike out on a trail in Yosemite and sleep somewhere in the woods, you must have a Wilderness Permit. I didn’t go into the backcountry this trip, but I’ve had to deal with the Yosemite permit system twice before: in 2015, I organized a backpacking trip for a group of 8, and this past year, I had the pleasure of navigating the JMT permit system. Both times it felt like I was trying to learn a foreign language while also relying on the luck of the draw.
Backcountry permits are given out by trailhead, with quotas for each one, to limit overuse on the most popular trails. Anything leaving out of the Valley, Glacier Point, or Tuolumne Meadows is probably booked months in advance. Half Dome permits are like gold. And if you’re trying to start the John Muir Trail from Happy Isles, good luck – your odds of winning a permit in the lottery are rumored to be as low as 2-4%. When I organized the trip in 2015, I dramatically underestimated demand, and had to completely change our plan when the permits we wanted weren’t available. This trip was in early September, when I didn’t expect there would be much demand, but I learned my lesson.
Foliage timing will vary year to year with weather, rainfall, and sunlight, but YNP’s website says peak color is usually late October and may linger through December. Although Yosemite contains mostly evergreen trees and isn’t known for “spectacular” fall color, I still found it breathtakingly beautiful. There were tons of yellows and some oranges, and the contrast of the yellow aspens with the white granite and the blue sky was mesmerizing. I’ll just leave these here…
Again, every year will vary, but generally you can expect warm days and cool to cold nights in October. I had pretty much perfect weather for my visit: warm to hot during the day, when I was comfortable in shorts and a long-sleeve shirt. I even got a little color on my face. In the evenings and the mornings it was perfectly fall-crisp – leggings and a fleece kept me cozy. At night I was happy to have my big down quilt, and I could see my breath before bed and when I woke up before sunrise.
Seasonal and snow closures.
So what do you think, did I miss any pros or cons?
Have I convinced you to get to Yosemite in the fall?
Let me know in the comments!