Top 6 Insider’s Tips for a Cheap Yosemite Vacation This Winter

Winter is a peaceful and mesmerizing time to explore Yosemite. It’s hard to beat freshly fallen snow and sweeping granite cliffs for a quiet walk around the valley. A visit to Yosemite doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, visiting in winter will bring you some of the best deals of the year.

Winter in Yosemite

Winter in Yosemite | View from Valley View

  1. Stay two nights and get FREE lift tickets*. When you make a reservation for two consecutive nights midweek, you’ll get two free lift tickets to use during your stay. Even at regular rates, Badger Pass is an affordable family vacation, but the Stay 2 Ski FREE program makes it even more of a steal.

    Riding the Eagle Chair at Badger Pass

    Riding the Eagle Chair at Badger Pass

  2. Free shuttle bus service to Badger Pass. Save gas, let someone else deal with snowy road conditions, and gain some flexibility for your family by taking advantage of the free Badger Pass Ski Area shuttle bus. Buses depart Yosemite Valley early morning and mid-morning for Badger Pass, and then return early afternoon and late afternoon.

    Skiing at Badger Pass

    Skiing at Badger Pass

  3. Every kid in a park. In honor of the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park program, current 4th graders can get a free Badger Pass lift ticket when they complete the NPS program, plus 25% off lessons and rentals. The whole immediate family is also included with 25% discounts on lift tickets, rentals and lessons.

    Skiing with the family at Badger Pass

    Skiing with the family at Badger Pass

  4. Military Discounts. Active military personnel and veterans ski free at Badger Pass. During non-peak season dates, they also receive free equipment rentals and group lessons. Plus, they are eligible for great discounts to pass along to immediate family members.

    Ice Skating at Curry Village

    Ice Skating at Curry Village

  5. Ice Skating Rink. Gliding across the ice rink below Half Dome is a traditional Yosemite winter activity that can’t be missed, and it doesn’t cost much. Skate rentals are available, and remember to bring a few marshmallows to roast over the fire pit for the ultimate winter experience.

    Ranger-led snowshoe walk

    Explore with a ranger on a snowshoe walk

  6. Ranger-led walks and snowshoe hikes. Ranger-led walks provide a great way to connect and understand parks any time of year. In the winter, NPS rangers also lead daily snowshoe walks from the A-frame at Badger Pass to help people discover the amazing world of winter. Snowshoes are provided for the walk, and if that taste only whets your appetite for more snowshoe exploration, snowshoe rentals are available around the corner at the Nordic Shop. No experience is necessary. Donation requested.

*Limitations apply. Please visit the website for more details.


Explore Yosemite in Winter by Cross Country Ski

Theresa Ho, Online Marketing Manager for Delaware North at Yosemite, has been living and exploring in Yosemite for 12 years. In the winter, she loves cross country skiing in the park. Read on to find out more about her skiing experiences and suggestions.

I don’t have the right words to describe the feeling of gliding over the ground on cross country skis. In my mind it’s the sound of skis on snow and my breath in the silence. The air is sharp and clear, and even the squirrels and birds are muted by the blanket of snow. If anything, the cliffs and waterfalls seem even bigger and more majestic. Exploring in winter is everything you could want from exploring – quiet, world-class scenery, and in some ways it’s more free than the summer months.

XC skiing at Sentinel Dome

Looking across at Upper Yosemite Fall on a XC ski tour. Photo: Theresa Ho

Badger Pass Ski Area is my default base of winter exploration. The base lodge provides a relaxed place to begin the day. The deck is a popular place to just lounge and soak up the sunshine if that’s what you are in the mood for. Lines are basically non-existent outside of the holiday periods. The slopes provide a perfect place for some easy turns and family fun. Snowshoe and XC ski rentals are available at the Nordic Center, and NPS rangers lead a daily snowshoe walk close to the ski area. But my favorite activity by far is cross country (XC) skiing.

The cross country skiing in Yosemite is epic.

In the winter, the Glacier Point Road past Badger Pass closes to cars. Instead groomers lay cross country and skate skiing tracks all the way to Glacier Point, making this a great corridor to get into the outdoors quickly and easily.

XC Skiing in Yosemite

XC Skiing in Yosemite

If you stay on the road, you can explore Summit Meadow after a mile of skiing, at the top of the first hill. Beyond that, the road gets quieter and heads downhill with cool views of Merced Peak framed by the trees (just remember that you’ll have to ski back up). If you have more energy, Clark Range View is 5.7 miles one way. This sunny slope overlooks the Clark Range and is a great spot to relax and soak in the scenery. I usually carry a small backpack with extra layers, snacks, and water, and sit on that for a quick break. Others will carry a small pad to keep them off the snow. After that, you can head back or continue to Glacier Point.

Glacier Point Ski Hut at night

Spending the night Glacier Point Ski Hut. Photo: Steve Bumgardner

In the winter, the store transforms into the spacious Glacier Point Ski Hut. The t-shirts and souvenirs are replaced by bunk beds and a dining area. If you have reservations (available through the Nordic Center – call 209-372-8444), the hut keeper will greet you and have a fire going in the wood stove. If that sounds nice, think about some of the other benefits of spending the night at Glacier Point.

I have great memories of being perfectly alone with my friends at Glacier Point looking across at a Half Dome covered with snow going orange and pink in the light of the setting sun. Once, I managed to snag a bunk next to the window and woke to a beautiful sunrise over Half Dome from my sleeping bag. Plus, if you have the energy, side trips to Sentinel Dome or other nearby places provide great skiing against a backdrop of iconic Yosemite scenery.

Dewey Point

At the end of the world at Dewey Point in the Winter. Photo: Chris Falkenstein

Even if you don’t make it all the way to Glacier Point, a network of ungroomed trails branch off from the main Glacier Point Road artery. Some of the most popular are the trails that take you to Dewey Point and incredible views overlooking the valley. Most people take the better part of a day to ski (or snowshoe) the 7-8 miles to Dewey Point and back. But I know of at least one Badger Pass employee who would dash out and back during his lunch break. It’s hard to tire of scenery like that.

Another thing I love about exploring the park in the winter is that the snow protects fragile plants and ecosystems. Unlike the summer months when leaving the trail can mean trampling plants and creating erosion or soil compaction issues, on-snow exploration leaves little lasting impact. One of the Leave No Trace principles, “Camp and travel on durable surfaces,” actually extends to snow travel. In a good snow year, many of the bushes that can make off-travel difficult are also covered in snow, making this the perfect season to find out what was around that corner that you were always curious about.

If you’re looking for a fun way to get out and enjoy the winter months or explore the park, check out the cross country skiing in Yosemite and let me know what you think.

By _simplytheresa_ Posted in Misc.

Yosemite Cemetery Halloween Tour

Park visitors won’t find tricks, treats, or haunted houses in Yosemite, but in October they will find a Halloween activity suitable for visitors of all ages. Relive Yosemite’s past on a fall evening by lantern light and visit the grave sites of Native Americans and early settlers buried in the historic Yosemite Cemetery. This little-known spot in Yosemite Village is an oasis of quiet on a busy summer day and a place of reflection in the calm of autumn. Delaware North at Yosemite interpretive guides lead a tour of the historic cemetery in Yosemite Valley each year on Halloween evening, with additional tours offered earlier during the week of the holiday.

The Yosemite Cemetery Tour is offered free of charge to all park visitors. Meet the tour guide in front of the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, and then follow along to an evening campfire for introductions. Touring the timeline of the cemetery, guides will share history and stories at several different grave sites ranging from simple headstones to more elaborate resting places. Historic figures include native Miwok families, Yosemite’s first guardian, Yosemite’s first trail builder and the first person to climb Half Dome. From 1870 to 1956, local residents were buried in this area that had previously served as a Miwok burial ground for several centuries. Look for the tallest grave marker in the cemetery and find the final resting place of James Lamon, the first Euro-American to permanently settle in Yosemite Valley – which included spending his first winter here alone!

Though you may feel moved by the spirit of Yosemite, there are no frightening elements to this tour. Yosemite history is presented in a fun and informative way along the pathways of the cemetery. For the tour, the cemetery grounds are lighted by lantern and candle, but feel free to bring a flashlight – fall evenings are very dark in Yosemite! Tour dates for 2015 include Thursday 10/29, Friday 10/30 and Saturday 10/31 at 7:30 pm, with an additional family focused tour at 5:30 pm on Saturday 10/31.

For more tour details, visit

Want to learn more about the Yosemite Cemetery? The Guide to the Yosemite Cemetery can be purchased at visitor center bookstores in Yosemite.

Favorite Spots: Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

As part of an ongoing series, we feature the favorite places of Yosemite community members and park visitors. Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, a deep canyon in the northern section of Yosemite National Park, is a favorite spot of Jeanne Haegele, who lives in Yosemite and works in the marketing department.

Jeanne and Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

The first thing you notice when you visit Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, is how similar it is to Yosemite Valley—except that you have it all to yourself. It’s almost eerie. At some points, it’s more than 4,000 feet from the valley floor to the rim of the canyon, and there you are at the bottom. Alone in the vastness.

Water and Cliffs

Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne

You have this amazing canyon pretty much to yourself because it’s hard to get to. The only way there is by backpacking, and it’s a challenging trip. Around 28 miles in total with lots and lots of uphill.

I visited Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne late last summer on a four-day backpacking trip with my boyfriend. We started from White Wolf and descended down some 3,700 feet into the canyon, where we met up with the Tuolumne River, our companion for the rest of the hike. We camped that first night in Pate Valley and the next morning, we started our uphill journey along the river, which would end about 23 miles later at Tioga Road, via Glen Aulin.


Going up all that way up was challenging, but it was also spectacular. Around every turn, we discovered a new, sparkling-clear swimming hole or a massive and mysterious rock formation. A favorite was Muir Gorge, where Cathedral Creek, Register Creek, and another small stream join with Tuolumne River in a maze of cliffs. Like so many places in this canyon, it felt like a sacred spot.

There were also numerous waterfalls. Next to the trail, Waterwheel Falls and Conte Falls spilled down the rock—sometimes gently and sometimes furiously—in cascades that seemed endless. Since we were following them steeply uphill on a hot afternoon, they felt even more unending. But they were beautiful every step of the way.

Photo by Navin Rajagopalan

Once at Glen Aulin, we were met by another huge waterfall. It was a wonderful sight and reminded us that we were close to the end of the journey. Well, sort of close. We still had 5 miles to go, but after we climbed out of Glen Aulin it was mostly flat until we emerged at Tioga Road.

And then we really were done—and feeling good about completing a hike full of so much beauty.

Boots near Glen Aulin Falls

Farewell to Yosemite Stables Crews

YVStablesGroup-1356The summer of 2015 was the last time to take a commercial trail ride in the Tuolumne Meadows area of Yosemite National Park. Come fall, the Yosemite Valley Stable will also close for the two hour and half-day trail rides offered to park visitors since the 1920s. Both changes in stable operations are brought about by the implementation of the Tuolumne River Plan and the Merced River Plan authored by the National Park Service. The plans were conceived to reduce the impact of development in the flood plains of Yosemite’s rivers. Both stables will remain operational for supplying Yosemite’s High Sierra Camps and providing backcountry saddle trips for park visitors. By the summer of 2016, only the Wawona Stable will continue to offer two hour trail rides to park visitors.

For many stables employees, returning every summer to pack and guide equated to many consecutive years of service in Yosemite National Park. Employees often lived in tent cabins near the stable, where maintaining the stable operation gets a very early start each morning. Though the season for trail rides isn’t long in Yosemite – summer months in Tuolumne Meadows and Wawona, spring to fall in Yosemite Valley – the crews spend a lot of time living and working together providing this historically popular activity for visitors from around the world. Delaware North at Yosemite commends the Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley stables staff (including mules and horses!) for their skill and dedication in serving park visitors for over twenty years. Happy Trails!

Paradox Sports in Yosemite: Inspiring a New Generation of Veteran Growth

If you hear shouts of joy from the tops of Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Royal Arches on September 11th this year, it’s probably a group of veterans. Paradox Sports is bringing twelve veterans to Yosemite National Park to commemorate a difficult day in U.S. history by celebrating veteran community. The group, including ten volunteers and guides, will climb and hike in some of Yosemite’s most famous areas, reaching their respective summits on 9/11.

Paradox Sports, a non-profit started by Timmy O’Neill and DJ Skelton to build communities around adaptive sports, has been leading trips in Yosemite for three years. The organization was founded to create opportunities for people with all kinds of physical disabilities to explore the outdoors. Paradox’s veterans program holds five events each year, including trips to Grand Teton National Park and Mount Rainier National Park.

The Yosemite event is focused on veterans dealing with disabilities caused by their time in the military. Disabilities that, for many, have been holding them back from living the full lives they want to live after returning from service. Paradox Sports finds ways for everyone to climb – regardless of disability – including amputees, veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and blinded veterans. Last year, a veteran named Cody Elliot attended the Yosemite event for the first time. At 25 years old, Cody has seen more than most people his age. He lost some of his best friends in combat and almost lost his own life to an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan. But he survived, minus a leg and a finger, and now he feels he must live for those he lost. “I’m trying to live the lives they would have, “ Elliott says. And he’s doing them proud. Last year, he climbed the Royal Arches route to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 – one of four areas the veterans climbed in throughout the week. The trip with Paradox Sports inspired him to continue to pursue more opportunities to climb and he has started to compete in paraclimbing competitions this past year.

Why climbing? Why not take the veterans skiing or skydiving? Just like in the military, climbing forces the vets to rely on each other and look to others when facing fear or insecurity. In wartime, veterans build a brotherhood to lean on, but that brotherhood often disperses to different areas of the country upon returning. They are left alone to deal with the effects of their experiences or even traumatic brain injuries. Paradox Sports works to build that family back up. The openness of the climbing community, combined with the challenge of climbing, provides a perfect place to find a new brotherhood and a new mission. “Facing the unknown on the rocks of Yosemite brings real risks and perceived risks that results in some really profound learning and an important sense of purpose, “ says Doug Sandok, Executive Director of Paradox Sports. “Our participants bring that newfound strength into their everyday lives and it becomes a resource for moving past their perceived disabilities every single day.”

It is no coincidence that the event takes place in Yosemite, of all climbing destinations to choose. Yosemite National Park has been a climbing Mecca since the 1960s. That legacy was brought into focus this year in particular when the entire nation followed the attempt of Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell to complete one of the hardest free-climbing routes in the world on El Capitan. The park represents some of the most important values of our nation; hard work, freedom, and protection of our precious resources. Paradox Sports has partnered with Yosemite National Park and Delaware North at Yosemite to host their event in this outstanding and powerful venue. This event is provided to qualifying veterans at no cost. Delaware North at Yosemite provides guiding & mule packing services, along with a welcome dinner in Yosemite Valley.

To find out more about Paradox Sports, follow us on Facebook or check our website for programs and donation opportunities.

Written by Madeline Pickering

Pairing Food with Wine: The Art of Creating the Vintners’ Holidays Menu in Yosemite

Each fall, wine enthusiasts gather in Yosemite for Vintners’ Holidays at The Ahwahnee and enjoy educational wine tasting seminars and a chance to meet some of California’s most esteemed vintners. Part of the event includes a five-course gala dinner that highlights the wines of the featured vintners. Since the wines are the star, The Ahwahnee’s executive chef, Percy Whatley, crafts the menu around the wines being poured — not the other way around. Read on to learn more about Percy and how he goes about developing the delicious Vintners’ Holidays menu.


Q: How long have you been creating the menu for the Vintner’s Holidays Gala Dinner?
A: Since I was given the opportunity to lead the kitchen in 2005.

Q: For the Vintners’ Holidays Gala Dinner, you are creating the menu based on the wines that will be served. How does this work?
A: With Vintner’s Holidays, the winemakers give us information about the wine that they plan to pour for the gala meal and we solicit any feedback that they may have regarding what types of food and flavors pair well with the wines. I take that information and create the particular dish for that wine with their expert feedback. Usually the information is specific with regard to a particular ingredient, such as Lobster with a Sauvignon Blanc. This gives me the ability to put some of my personal finesse into the garnishes and other flavor profiles to enhance the wine and food experience. It really is a lot of fun.

Q: What are you looking for when pairing food and wine?
A: There are subtleties in wines that need to be found and engaged with when writing the menus for these dinners. Many of these subtleties are typical of the various wines being poured. Some may be a little more acidic than typical, or tannic, or more “oaky,” or more malo-lactic (buttery). Some wines are blended and are not typical at all. But overall, I am looking for the right degree of lightness or richness to a dish compared to the wine being poured. The garnishes in the dish should complement the center of the plate as well, which in turn will complement the wine and the layers of flavors within the wine’s body.

Q: What are a few of your favorite wine and food pairings?
A: Lamb with Zinfandel, scallops with Pinot Gris, pork belly with Pinot Noir, light buttery pasta dish with Chardonnay. There are a number of other international wines that I like a lot, Albariño, Barolo, Lambrusco, Valpolicella, Vinho Verde, and Malbec to name a few.

Q: Do you think wine is better served with food? Why?
A: Red wines definitely need food, otherwise your palate is tired after one glass. White wines aren’t as tannic and can be enjoyed without food, but food helps your palate process the sensory overload that happens when you drink wine. Whether it is a canapé of pate with your glass of Merlot, or a caviar blini with your sparkling brut, those little bites of food create an entirely different experience on your palate vs. just drinking the wine.

Q: Can you share a few tips on pairing wine?
A: Keep your food simply prepared without overcomplicating the preparation of it. If it is a steak, then simple salt and pepper seasoning, seared or grilled to your desired temperature, and rested well. Enjoy it with wine that is the right temperature, not too cold, not too warm. Let the wine sit in your mouth for a few seconds before swallowing it so you can really get the subtle flavors of the wine. Do this before your first bite of food, then take a bite and repeat.  How was that second sip of wine?
What is most important is to drink wine that you like because if you like it, it is a good wine. Then have food that you like with it. Generally this is what makes a good pairing, especially if you enjoy it with family and friends — that is the true joy of good wine and food!


To taste Percy’s wine and food pairing yourself, join us for Vintners’ Holidays in Yosemite in November or December.

10 Amazing Views in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is justifiably famous for amazing views. From Glacier Point to Olmsted Point to Tunnel View, Yosemite provides visitors with stunning, jaw-dropping scenery on a grand scale. Though these landscapes are shared again and again, they always captivate the viewer – there is never a “meh” moment with the most famous views in Yosemite. But what about the not-so-famous views? Or perhaps you have wished you could have the view all to yourself? In the list below, you’ll find the famous, the lesser-known and even some private views of the sights of Yosemite.

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1.Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
2. North Dome from Housekeeping Camp
3. Half Dome from Glacier Point (How to Visit in Winter)
4. Glacier Point from Curry Village
5. Half Dome from the Curry Village Ice Rink
6. Tenaya Lake from Tioga Road
7. Half Dome from The Ahwahnee hotel room
8. Yosemite Falls from The Mountain Room restaurant at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls
9. Half Dome from Olmsted Point
10.Yosemite Falls from rafting the Merced River

Elizabeth Falkner Brings the Heat to Yosemite’s Chefs’ Holidays

Elizabeth Falkner has been a longtime participant in Chefs’ Holidays and graces the cover of this year’s brochure. We caught up with her this summer to talk about Chefs’ Holidays, her culinary career, and her love for the park.

Before Falkner became a world-famous chef, she was living in San Francisco with a degree in fine art film. But she was always drawn to food and cooking, especially as California was going through what she called a “food revolution.”

“I loved to cook but I didn’t go to culinary school, I just wanted to work in a restaurant,” she said. “It’s so different from film making, which is quite a long process. People were doing really cool things with food. It was a whole scene. It was like an art movement. I couldn’t not get involved with it.”

Falkner worked in a handful of restaurants before opening her own San Francisco pastry shop and restaurant, Citizen Cake. For years she has been an innovative player in fine dining and culinary events across the country. Falkner said she loves culinary travel through food and meeting and working with new chefs.

“I love that environment of cooking with other people to see how they put it together for a really cohesive menu.”

She now lives and works in New York, and after opening nine restaurants in San Francisco and New York City, she’s not attached to a restaurant at the moment. She said she enjoys the freedom this gives her to cook at food and wine events while working on a memoir and other projects.

Over the years that she’s been featured in Chefs’ Holidays, Falkner said she has enjoyed meeting fans, friends and family of the other chefs, and repeat attendees to Chefs’ Holidays. But she said it’s especially fun seeing people experience Yosemite and Chefs’ Holidays for the first time.

“There’s the bonus of being in this beautiful place and getting to have some fun food and chat with chefs. [Chefs’ Holidays] is more intimate than some other cooking events. It’s much more like a getaway or a holiday. It’s a special environment. We all wake up and look outside and go ‘oh my god, I can’t wait to go out there.’ Everyone has conversations about going out later or what they’ve already done. It’s not 24 hours of food and wine.”

Having visited the park as a child and as an adult, Falkner is no stranger to Yosemite, but the park still carries a sense of awe for her when she visits for Chefs’ Holidays.

“It’s just always been really magical and such a beautiful, amazing part of the planet and an amazing part of California. It’s amazing how many Californians haven’t been here. It’s so, so grand and spiritual in the deepest sense. It’s not like anything else.”

Chefs’ Holidays sessions run between January 10 and February 4, 2016. Elizabeth Falkner is the headliner chef for Session 4 on January 20 and 21. Visit our website to learn more or book a package.

Renovated Cottages at The Ahwahnee in Yosemite

Delaware North at Yosemite recently completed a $650,000 refurbishment to 24 cottage rooms at The Ahwahnee hotel in Yosemite Valley. Funded and managed by Delaware North in collaboration with the National Park Service, the renovation enhanced guest room functionality while at the same time, restored historic integrity.

Richard Kollath and Edward McCann of Kollath-McCann Creative Services, designers for The Ahwahnee since 1998, referenced archival images and other historic documents to guide their selection of textiles, colors and accessory items to update the historic cottages. The cottages were built in 1928, one year after the hotel’s grand opening. The furnishings and materials selected reflect those used in the hotel between 1925 and 1942, which was established by National Park Service historians as the hotel’s “period of historic significance.” The designers’ research steered them toward simple wooden furniture and hand-crafted textiles that echo a western Arts & Crafts style. Highlights of the cottage guest rooms include custom-made Mission Style credenzas and night stands with integrated power outlets and USB ports. The bold, cheerful pattern of the drapery fabric reflects a 1930s design aesthetic, and the texture of the striped broadloom carpet evokes the original hooked rugs that once covered the floors. Linoleum prints of pine cones from local artist Kim Young Min feature exquisite details of indigenous flora found in Yosemite while watercolors of early artist-in-residence Gunnar Widforss capture the incredible grandeur and majesty of Yosemite waterfalls.

“We are proud to unveil the refurbished cottages to our guests,” said General Manager Brett Archer. “The essence of these cottages has been restored and the modern upgrades enhances the guest experience while allowing visitors to appreciate the landscape of Yosemite.