Finding serenity at Yosemite |

Finding serenity at Yosemite

Elaine Goodman

Trees are reflected in Tenaya Lake in Yosemite's high country.

Winter weather is getting a late start in the Sierra this year, but that’s no reason to pout. Instead of sitting home waiting for snow, why not slip in a late fall road trip to a destination such as Yosemite National Park and enjoy the still-spectacular scenery without the crowds?

Imagine pulling up in Yosemite Village – and finding a parking space without circling around. Or taking photos of the park’s major landmarks without contending with a sea of tourists’ heads.

That was the situation during a trip to the park last weekend, where mild temperatures and lingering fall colors made for a memorable and relaxing experience. Hiking trails were dry and a carpet of oak leaves provided a pleasant crunch underfoot.

An outdoor ice skating rink had just opened at Curry Village, where sessions are held in the daytime and evening. Skate rentals are available.

Of course there are trade-offs for visiting in the off-season. Many eateries and shops closed at 5 p.m.

The park’s famed waterfalls were still visible but had slowed to a relative trickle. Families clambered over dry rocks at the base of Yosemite Falls, where rapids typically roar in the spring.

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Many of the park’s accommodations remain open year-round. Some, such as Yosemite Lodge, may need to be booked in advance. But the historic Wawona Hotel, which is about a 40-minute drive south of the Valley, had vacancies throughout the weekend. The hotel plans to close following the Thanksgiving weekend and reopen Dec. 16 through Jan. 2.

For information on accommodations, see

As of last week, the eastern entrance to the park -Tioga Pass on Highway 120 – remained open.

For California road information, see or call (800) 427-7623.