Yosemite National Park is one of the most incredible parks to visit in the winter months, full of natural wonders, snow-capped granite peaks, and frozen waterfalls. If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite in the off-season you may be wondering what to bring along. To help out, I’ve created this handy Yosemite winter packing list so you’ll be fully prepared to have a safe and enjoyable trip!
As a California local, I’ve been to Yosemite in winter several times (including an overnight camping trip). I love to visit this National Park in the off-season when the trails are empty and it’s much easier to book accommodations that are often sold out during the summer months.
Here are my recommendations for what to bring to Yosemite for a comfortable winter adventure!
Plan an unforgettable trip by booking this Yosemite Highlights Small Group Tour. This tour includes transportation and a guide who will take you to all the most iconic viewpoints within the park!
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Yosemite National Park Winter Packing List
Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains, so be ready for very cold conditions. In Yosemite Valley, winter temperatures typically range from 40-50°F during the day and drop below freezing at night.
It often snows in the mountains so lots of warm clothing and cable tire chains are a must!
What To Wear In Yosemite In Winter
The first time I visited Yosemite in winter, the biggest mistake I made was not packing enough warm winter clothing. I was very cold and uncomfortable which made me want to rush back to the hotel instead of exploring the park.
Now that I’ve spent a lot more time on snow adventures, I pack these clothing items to have a comfortable and enjoyable experience in the mountains:
Waterproof hiking boots. In cold conditions, I recommend wearing insulated hiking boots like these Oboz ones. Waterproof boots will keep your feet dry while trekking in mud and the ankle height will prevent snow from getting inside the boots. I don’t recommend wearing tennis shoes or sneakers because your feet will start feeling cold quickly which can lead to frostbite.
Merino Wool Socks. Merino wool socks will keep your feet warm even if the socks do get wet. Bring an extra pair that you can change into after the hike.
Gaiters. Gaiters are great for keeping mud and snow out of the space between your pants and boots. These come especially handy for low-ankle shoes and hiking boots.
Waterproof hiking pants. Waterproof hiking pants offer the perfect protection against winter cold. They can keep your legs dry in snowy conditions and act as a reliable barrier against rain, sleet, and wind.
Winter Tights. You can wear winter tights underneath hiking pants or on their own. I love these extra warm The North Face Winter Pro Tights that are great for winter hikes.
Merino Wool Tops. In the winter, it’s important to wear lots of layers. Wool is the best material to wear in cold and wet conditions. Even if you sweat a lot or get soaked, you’ll still stay warm.
Winter Coat. For extra cold winter days, I like to pack my insulated Columbia mountain jacket. With a thermal-reflective lining, this jacket will keep you nice and toasty even in the coldest of conditions.
Alpine Hoody. Depending on what adventures I have planned, I like to bring along a second lighter jacket. If I’m heading on a snowshoeing or hiking adventure during the day I like to wear my Mountain Hardwear Alpine Hoody that’s lighter and easier to move around in. A down jacket is also very packable and can easily scrunch down to fit into a backpack.
Beanie. A winter beanie will keep you warm and they look great in photos! I love to bring a cute beanie that adds a bit of style to my winter outfits.
Gloves. These Smartwool Liner Gloves will add a crucial layer of defense against the biting cold. They also have touchscreen compatibility so you won’t need to take them off when taking photos or using your phone.
Hiking Gear To Pack For Yosemite In Winter
Along with clothing, it’s essential to pack the right gear to make the most of your experience.
Here’s a list of winter hiking gear I recommend bringing to Yosemite:
Microspikes. I always bring a pair of microspikes on winter trips because they make hiking so much easier! Microspikes wrap around your hiking boots to add traction so you don’t slip on icy trails. When everyone else around you starts struggling and falling, you’ll be so glad to have a pair on you!
Snowshoes. If you plan to do longer day hikes, I recommend bringing a pair of snowshoes that can help you trek across deep, fluffy snow. These came in very handy when we hiked at Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias after a fresh snowfall.
Trekking poles. Trekking poles can help you snowshoe across deep snow, similar to cross-country skiing.
Refillable water bottles. In the winter months, you can still get dehydrated. Make sure you bring plenty of water on your day adventures as they can take much longer in snowy conditions than expected. I always pack my reusable REI Co-op Nalgene water bottle that holds 32 oz of water and is so easy to clean.
Small daypack. For storing all of your hiking essentials, I recommend bringing a small daypack. I have the REI 22 Co-Op Flash Pack that is ultralight yet roomy enough to fit everything I need, including my camera gear.
Headlamp. Headlamp is a must-have adventure item, no matter the season. The days are much shorter in the winter months so you’ll want to bring a headlamp in case you get caught on a trail past sunset.
First Aid Kit. Similar to a headlamp, a first aid kit is another essential item for any outdoor adventure. In winter there are fewer people on the trails so you’ll need to be more self-reliant if something does go wrong. This Medical Kit comes stocked with all the basic first aid needs for an adventure in the mountains.
Read Next: 20 Best Winter Hikes In California
General Travel Essentials
Here are a few general travel items that I recommend bringing to Yosemite in the winter:
Sunscreen. In the winter months, it’s very easy to get sunburned as the sun reflects off the white snow, especially in high altitudes. Be sure to reapply sunscreen on your face multiple times throughout the day.
Polarized sunglasses. Similarly to sunscreen, you’ll want to bring a pair of polarized sunglasses to reduce glare reflected in the snow to see more clearly.
Lip Balm. Cold weather can be harsh on your lips. I love the Burt’s Bees Lip Balm that keeps my lips moisturized and so soft!
Hand warmers. On extra chilly days, gloves alone might not be enough. Pack a few hand warmers that you can stuff into your gloves when going on adventures in the mountains.
Camera. I use the Sony cameras for my travel photos. Currently, my favorite is the Sony a7c camera. This is the smallest and lightest full-frame camera available – ideal for traveling, hiking, and outdoor trips.
Polarizing filter. For winter photography, I like to use a polarizing filter to remove glare from the snow and enhance the colors of the photo.
Other Must-Haves For a Winter Trip To Yosemite
In the winter months, many of Yosemite’s amenities close for the season. Before heading into the park you’ll want to make sure that your car has a full tank of fuel, and get plenty of water and food for the trip.
Here are a few other must-haves for visiting Yosemite in winter:
Tire chains. For driving to Yosemite in the snowy seasons, you will likely need cable tire chains for your car. Tire chains are crucial for improving traction in winter conditions and are often required by the law. Read more about Yosemite’s tire chain requirements here.
Snow brush for car window. A snow brush allows you to quickly remove snow from the windows, ensuring clear visibility and safer driving conditions.
Offline Map. Before heading out on any day hikes, I like to download offline trail maps from the AllTrails Hiking App. It’s much easier to get lost in the winter months, even on short day hikes as tracks are harder to see. By having an offline map you will always be able to find your way back!
Phone battery. I don’t go on any outdoor trips without a fully charged phone battery. Phones tend to drain their power much faster in cold, high-altitude conditions. Bring a phone battery as a backup option in case your phone dies out on a hike.
America The Beautiful Pass. An entrance fee to visit Yosemite National Park costs $35 per car. As a better option, I recommend getting the America The Beautiful Pass which costs $80 but allows unlimited access to more than 2000 recreation sites within the United States – quite the deal! I always get this pass every year and it pays itself off within a couple of trips.
I hope this winter packing list for Yosemite has helped you prepare for a wonderful trip to the mountains!
Wondering what Yosemite winter activities to do on your trip? Be sure to check out this guide next that covers 20 Best Things To Do In Yosemite In Winter.
Looking for more California travel inspiration? Here are a few other popular posts you may like:
- 12 Best Hotels Where To Stay In Yosemite In Winter
- Guide To Visiting Yosemite National Park In Fall
- 20 Best Places Where To See Fall Colors In Yosemite
- California Winter Packing List (By a Local)
- 15 Fun Things To Do In Mammoth Lakes In Winter
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