Yosemite 2023: What to Expect

Updated July 4, 2023

Predicting the future is always hard. This year that is more true than usual given that we had quite a winter in 2023. Huge amounts of precipitation continuing until rather late in the year have left a lot in question.

Below are some general thoughts on park operations and such. We also have a comprehensive article on Yosemite Hiking in Spring 2023, including a basic overview, gear recommendations, and a trail-by-trail rundown.

Roads and Parking

  • No park-entry reservation system. No reservation is required to enter the park this year. This is a good news/bad news thing. The good news is that no reservation is required. The bad news is that we are likely to see a return to difficult parking and mid-day traffic jams.
    • How Early to Start? The strategies that applied before 2020 apply now: start early. Simple as that. This year, we are seeing more traffic than ever, as people realize how early they need to get going. So far we haven’t had any issues with traffic or parking at 7 am. By 8:00 am parking lots are starting to fill. Once the parking in Yosemite Valley fills, rangers will begin turning people around at the West end of Yosemite Valley (the El Cap crossover). Note that the peak traffic is 9 or 10 am until about 3 pm. After that, things start opening up again in Yosemite Valley, so if you miss the morning window, try waiting until late afternoon/evening instead.
    • Traffic Text Alerts: Text YNPTraffic to 333111 to get text messages with Yosemite traffic updates. We are finding it helpful. On the really crowded days, like during the July 4 holiday weekend, NPS was sending updates throughout the day as parking lots filled and as the closed and reopened parts of the park. For future visitors, it’s really helpful to sign up a few days before you trip to get a sense of how busy things are currently.
  • Road openings: As is the case every year, there is no projected opening date and there will not be any projected opening date until plow crews have punched through and maintenance crews have had a chance to assess infrastructure. A lot has to happen to get the high roads open.
    • Plowing crews managed to punch one lane on Tioga Road by June 30. We expect a few more weeks for them to be able to finish plowing the road and get some services set up. Rumors are that there were a LOT of buildings damaged by the snow this winter, so it may take longer than usual. You can see the latest plowing updates from NPS here.
    • The National Park Service has announced that the Glacier Point Road will open on weekends only on July 1 and seven days per week on July 15.
      • July 1 at 6 am to July 4 at 10
      • July 8 at 6 am to July 9 at 10pm
      • 7-days/week starting July 15
  • The Mariposa Grove Shuttle opened on June 9.
  • Big Oak Flat Road was closed for storm damage between the Big Oak Flat (north) entrance and Crane Flat but reopened on June 9.
  • Road construction. Crews made excellent progress on Tioga Road last year, completing all pavement and just having curbs and bus stops and things like that to complete. The same is true on Glacier Point Road — it looks great but as of July 4, there are still some pullouts to pave, striping and so forth. Following the damaging storms many roads in Yosemite have single-lane sections. Watch for stop signs/lights and practice patience.

Trails and Hiking

  • Most trails below 8000 feet are now snow-free aside from occasional patches.
  • Above 8,500 feet, there are a lot of open areas where it’s sunny and south facing and a lot of snow where it’s shady, such as in the woods or on northerly aspects. There are also a lot of high-risk stream crossings on trails with unbridged crossings. This does not affect the vast majority of our guests, but would affect backcountry travelers getting beyond the common dayhiking areas.
  • The Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls, the Four Mile Trail, the Panorama Trail, Chilnualna Falls Trail, the Sentinel Dome Trail and the Ostrander Lake Trail are all snow free and we have hiked or run them in the past couple of weeks. We have been told that the Four Mile Trail and the Panorama Trail are also snow-free. The Pohono Trail had minor patches of snow getting to Stanford Point. Though we have not been, we would expect some wet areas between Stanford and Crocker Points.
  • The Mist Trail is closed Monday through Thursday, 7am to 4pm, from the junction with the lower John Muir Trail to the top of Vernal Fall. If you start up the trail by 7am, you are generally allowed to hike all the way up unless you are very slow. To come down you can come down the Mist Trail as far as the junction with the “winter route” that connects the Mist Trail just above Vernal Fall with the John Muir Trail at Clark Point. This adds about a half mile of uphill to the overall route. If the closure is in place, you can also always hike to the top of Vernal Fall and then up the rest of the Mist Trail via the winter route. The NPS warns that if crews are unable to get everything put away and safe, that section of trail may close overnight, but in practice we have not seen this yet.
  • The Mist Trail has lots of mist this year. Plan to get very wet. This is still true as of July 4 and is likely to remain true through the month of July. It’s like May flows in July.
  • The John Muir Trail is closed between Clark Point and the junction with the Panorama Trail. This is due to water still undercutting a rock ledge that the trail crosses and fear that this ledge could collapse in the area of the Ice Cut. As with the Mist Trail (see above), the solution is to take the winter route to the junction with the Mist Trail and from there get to the top of Nevada Fall or Half Dome or Cloud’s Rest or Canada if you’re really ambitious.

Other Services and Miscellaneous Concerns

  • Rafting, Stables, High Camps. Rafting will certainly open late and run late. NPS has a formula based on river height, air temperature and water temperature that determines when rafting opens. The stables may open late too as it will take time for trails to dry out. The last couple times we had very big winters like this, the Sierra High Camps did not open. By the time the camps melt out and damage was repaired, there were only a few weeks left in the season which is not enough to get staffed up for.
  • Fire danger. It would be nice if all this moisture meant no fire risk, but only time will tell. Fire is always a possibility in the Sierra as summer wears on. This year, that danger will come later though, because the soil will have a lot of moisture for thirsty trees well into summer.
  • Flooding. The fourth horseman of the Yosemite Apocalypse (after snow, fire and plague)? Thanks to a cool June, we mostly avoided the floods we feared and now it seems very unlikely that we will see flood closures according to the NOAA long-range flood forecast.

There are probably many things we’ve left out. As we get questions and things progress, we’ll update this page from time to time.