April 10, 2019
Though spring is here, much of Yosemite is still in the grasps of winter. A prolonged series of winter storms have left Yosemite's snowpack at about 150% of average. The snowline is roughly at 5,500 ft but will vary due to location and aspect, with sunny south facing slopes having higher snowlines than north facing or shaded areas. The vast majority of wilderness camping areas are still snow covered.
Expect around 6 ft of snow at 7,000 ft and deeper snow as you move higher up the landscape. Winter travel techniques and skills are a must if you wish to backpack in Yosemite in the next few weeks or months, as all this snow will take a long time to melt.
Travel and navigation over snow will typically be the most challenging part of the hike. Snow cover completely obscures all traces of the trail so strong cross-country navigation skills are a must. Be aware of sections of ice or hard packed snow on the trail. Further, travel over snow is slower than hiking and can be very slippery at times. Snowshoes or skis should be used when planning on traveling over snow covered areas.
Spring weather conditions can vary wildly day to day and even from morning to night. Be prepared for cold or freezing temperatures at night and warm t-shirt weather during the day and everything in between. Except for the lowest elevations and exposed areas, plan to camp in the snow. Late season winter storms can come at any time with heavy snowfall, making travel and navigation very difficult. Always be sure to check a current weather forecast before you start your trip and be prepared for a multitude of conditions.
A summer hiking forecast is too early at this time, but it seems likely that snow will remain in the higher elevations later than is typical and well into late spring or even early summer. Tioga Road may open later than average and when open most routes will likely still have snow on them. High water from snowpack runoff is another concern. An area of particular concern is Wapama Falls along the trail to Rancheria Falls in the Hetch Hetchy area, which may close at high flows. Against your plans accordingly and practice wilderness safety basics.
Ski conditions are listed on the Tuolumne Meadows Ski Conditions page
Current trail closures are listed on the current conditions page.
Kerrick Meadow is closed each year to padstock grazing to reduce impacts to the federally-threatened Yosemite toad and endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. The area will temporarily reopen to grazing on August 6, 2018.
Trails in Yosemite may be closed when there are hidden hazards or are impassable due to rock fall, snow, ice, or fire. Open trails are not necessarily free of hazards. By entering the wilderness, you are assuming responsibility for your safety and must use good judgment.
Free wilderness permits are required for overnight stays in the Yosemite Wilderness. Permits can be obtained at the following locations.
Wilderness Permit Reservations
Open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. Reservations are available up to 24 (168 Days) weeks ahead of your entry date.
Yosemite Valley Wilderness Center
Closed, but wilderness permits, maps for sale, and bear canisters for rent are available at the Valley Visitor Center (open 9 am to 5 pm). Wilderness Center will reopen in May 3, 2019.
Tuolumne Meadows Wilderness Center
Closed for the season. Will reopen spring 2019. Wilderness permits for the Tuolumne Meadows area are available on the porch (self-registration). Be prepared with your own bear canister.
Big Oak Flat Information Station
Closed for the season. Will reopen spring 2019. Wilderness permits for the Tioga Road area are available on the porch (self-registration). Be prepared with your own bear canister.
Wawona Visitor Center at Hill's Studio
Closed for the season. Will reopen spring 2019. Wilderness permits for the Glacier Point Road and Wawona areas are available on the porch (self-registration). Be prepared with your own bear canister.
Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station
Open for permits and bear canisters from 8 am to 5 pm. Hetchy Road is open 8 am to 7 pm. There is no access to Hetch Hetchy beyond road open hours (overnight parking is permitted in the overnight parking lot near the backpackers' campground).
Bear resistant food canisters are required in the Yosemite Wilderness. Use a canister to store all food or scented items when left unattended. Remember that anything used in, on, or around the body is considered a food item. Whenever food or scented items are out, please keep them within arm's reach, even while day hiking.
If a bear approaches your camp, act immediately to scare it away. Maintain a safe distance while making as much noise as possible. Throw small stones or pines cones toward the bear, being careful not to strike the bear on the head. If the bear returns, repeat. Do not attempt to retrieve food or gear from a bear until it abandons the items.