How to Spend Christmas in Yosemite Valley

This year I wanted to actually have a white Christmas and that wasn’t bound to happen in my Northern California town. It hasn’t snowed here in over ten years and when it did it was a slight sprinkle more than a flurry. The answer? Road trip. Christmas in Yosemite Valley would surely bring me the adventurous snowy holiday I was seeking while still keeping me warm in a lodge whilst drinking Hot Toddys.

Yosemite Valley is the centerpiece of Yosemite National Park in Northern California with grand waterfalls, flowing creeks, picturesque hiking and monumental granite cliffs.

Yosemite Valley at Christmas

Yosemite Valley Will Surely Bring You a Very White Christmas

Though Yosemite Valley is only a four hour drive from my home in Petaluma, we drove for 3 1/2 hours without even a hint of snow. Not even one flake. And I wondered if my new snow boots would be worthless. Which was upsetting because they were cute. But, in the last half hour, as we gained elevation, there was the slightest evidence of a white Christmas in Yosemite, a snowy patch on the ground. And ten minutes later, we were turning on the 4wd while windshield wiping away ginormous snowflakes. Ah. Success.

How to Spend Christmas in Yosemite Valley

The first stop was the Evergreen Lodge which would be our temporary holiday home, just on the outskirts of Yosemite Valley. Hidden away from the crowds.

Christmas at Evergreen Lodge in Yosemite

Peter and I rented a small, cozy cabin with no wifi, cellular bars or television. Quality Christmas time together without everyday distractions. Would we survive? 

As soon as we dropped our luggage off in our quaint cabin we drove a few miles to the Yosemite National Park gates, grateful to have 4WD or else we would have been forking over $75 for chains. Once through the gates it was about 16 miles to Yosemite Valley. Our targeted destination.

Yosemite Valley has a 14 mile loop and is where most of the action happens. Amongst numerous impressive attractions, the area boasts the 617 foot Bridalveil Fall, a perfect view of Half Dome and the famous Ahwahnee Hotel.

First stop was an easy, but icy, hike to Bridalveil Fall.

After ogling the fall for a significant amount of time, we stopped at the Swinging Bridge. It wasn’t really swinging. But, it was covered in snow and gorgeous.

In the warmer months this spot is a popular swimming hole. You’d have to triple dare me (and throw in a couple hundred bucks) to jump in there now.

Though the snow and fog kept us from the clearest view of Half Dome, a granite dome over 4737 feet in Yosemite Valley, we still got an acceptable glimpse. Sarcasm. It was stunning.

The entire fourteen mile Yosemite Valley loop was filled with incredible scenery. Every tenth of a mile I would be screaming to Peter, “stop the car. stop. stop! stop.” or simply just saying “wow”. That pretty much explains why Christmas in Yosemite Valley should be on your bucket list.

Have you ever been to Northern California’s Yosemite Valley? Where in the World would you like to spend Christmas?

You Might Also Enjoy

US National Parks Bucket List: 61 Beauties to Visit in America
Winter Bucket List: 55 Fun Activities & Things to Do
Christmas Bucket List: 45 Fun Holiday Activities & Spirited Things to Do
A Guide to the Fort Bragg Glass Beach in Northern California
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Vineyards of Northern California
San Francisco Bucket List: 24 Things To Do
California Dreaming: 9 Incredible Winter Stops in the Yosemite Valley
California: 25 Photos to Inspire Your Point Reyes Bucket List
Go Wild Mushroom Hunting in California’s Napa Valley
Spend An Afternoon at Hog Island Oyster Farm in Tomales Bay
Drive the 72 Miles Around Lake Tahoe
Find Peace at the Petrified Forest in Calistoga

16 thoughts on “How to Spend Christmas in Yosemite Valley”

  1. There is something so magical about a white Christmas!  Love the photos – gorgeous!  Looks like you guys have the perfect place right on your doorstep!!  Love the snowman on the bridge.  Happy Holidays!  

  2. First of all it looks stunning!!! I might just have to add it to my bucket list! Also your camera takes great photos- I'm saving up for a nice camera and trying to get some ideas- what do you use? 
    Since our trip to d.c. Last year to spend christmas day at the tomb of the unknown soldier, I think I'm going to do a little trip every year around Christmas, you can get some really beautiful pics and do new things.
    But the big one will be taking our daughter to Finland in about 2 years to Santas village!

    • Finland at Christmas sounds amazing!! I might have to add that one to my bucket list. My camera is a Canon Rebel t2i and I love it. It has all the bells and whistles, though I don’t know how to use them all…yet. It has been such a pleasure to travel and know you will get some wonderful photos without too much effort ;)

  3. I'm jealous! I would have loved to spend this Christmas at Yosemite, but Scott hates the snow since he grew up with it! I couldn't even get him to drive through it on our way home from my parents house. 

  4. GORGEOUS photos Annette!  I've always wanted to visit Yosemite and these pictures do nothing but increase that desire.  The third photo looks like something out of a travel brochure – stunning!

    • Thank you! It was extremely hard to take a bad photo when you are spending Christmas in Yosemite! I do hope your travels take you there in the future :)

  5. Wow….and I thought Yosemite couldn't get any prettier!! Were the falls frozen over?  Just goes to show we have a little of everything in California.  Mountains, beaches and even snow!

    • The falls weren’t frozen over, but I bet that would have been amazing to see. California is such an incredible place to live!

  6. Beautiful, what a great time to visit Yosemite without the crowds! The idea of a nice getaway without the distractions of modern life sounds wonderful, how smart of you to arrange a holiday like that for yourselves, and at Christmas, even, which can be so frenetic. 

  7. I have wanted to visit NYC At Christmas, but now I will be putting Yosemite Valley at the holidays on my list too. Sounds peaceful. I like to be with family at Christmas, but travel at Christmas, so many places around the world, that sounds amazing. Growing up in Canada I have had white Christmas almost every year, but it never gets old. Christmas and snow just go together. I love the snow. It is so silent and smells so fresh and crisp. There is no other silence like a snowy night silence. As the song goes. :-)


Leave a Comment

Hey Bucket Listers!
I'm Annette.

I’m a goal obsessed mid-lifer, traveler, experience collector, fear crusher, digital marketer and author with big bucket list dreams. Let's Connect!

GET MY 2,000 free bucket list ideas

Jump right in and you will get your printable ideas by email: