Falling for Yosemite


By: Barbara Steinberg


For most of us, Labor Day signals the unofficial end of Summer.  Vacations are over.  Kids are back in school. The final firework display at the California State Fair has faded away.  It’s the last bona fide summer holiday weekend and, from this point forward it’s a slow, steady slide into the New Year.


The Fall Equinox occurs around September 23rd each year. The sun crosses the celestial equator, from north to south, heralding the end of Summer marking the official start of Fall. Professed or scientific – it’s Fall!  Days are getting shorter; shadows are longer; nights are cooler; and you can feel the change in the air.  It’s inspirational!  It’s also one of the best and most inspired times of year to visit Yosemite National Park!


When it comes to visiting Yosemite, fewer travelers visit in this “off-season.”  Annually, millions of people throng to see the splendor of the granite cliffs, cascading falls, giant sequoias, and the grandeur made famous by the likes of John Muir and Ansel Adams.  During late spring and throughout the summer months, Yosemite is teeming with guests from around the world.  There’s more traffic and making lodging reservations, especially within the park, can be a challenge.  Post-summer, the visitor-tide ebbs and the Park begins an unhurried progression into a seasonal hibernation.  Fewer cars on the roads in, out, and around the park, is definitely a big plus. The availability of lodging – at all levels – is much more attainable.  And rates start to fall, ever so slightly, usually towards the end of October. 


The Fall weather remains comfy with daytime temps warm enough for shorts and river sandals such as Teva and Keen; nights can be chilly but cozy – even more so as the Fall season evolves. Changes in temperatures and weather should be considered when packing.  Better to err on the conservative side – the layered approach is usually best – and remember that rain and early snow is always a possibility; come prepared.


California Fall Foliage


Yosemite Valley is famous for its colorful dogwoods – shades of pink and red; and California live oaks turn a golden amber color mid-October to November.  Throughout the season aspens adorn themselves with seasonal hues.  The onset of Fall colors can’t be timed.  Lengthening nights and colder temperatures signal the change. So in other words, later in the season is better but is no guarantee.  In the solitude and calm of the Fall season, you can be assured that Yosemite will not disappoint even the most ardent leaf peeper.  Look for the landmark blazing red sugar maple near Yosemite Chapel and colorful black oaks in Superintendent’s Meadow. Take Tioga Road along the Merced River for some of the best Fall foliage photo-ops.


Visitors should keep an eye out for mule deer and coyote, which are now seen frequently as they move from the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada down into Yosemite Valley.  Bears should always be a concern – though not as frequently sighted.  Do not leave any food or sunscreen, toothpaste, shampoo, lotion, gum, candy and any other items that have a scent in your car. If camping, be certain to take precautions and use food storage lockers.  More...>>


Resources & complete travel story includes:

Getting to Yosemite National Park

Hotels: Where to stay in Yosemite

Restaurants & Dining