Newbies Visit Yosemite in November
September 27, 2021 11:37 AM   Subscribe

We’re driving a 2WD Honda Element and a 20-lb dog. We're new to winter car travel in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada. We’re planning day visits and hikes only, no camping in the park, November 8-12, 2021. The Park Service website has lots of information. So much. I’m continuing to research and attempt to filter it down to fit our plans and aspirations, but it’s time to ask the Wise Ones.

We're meeting two others on Monday Nov 8 in Oakhurst, ~14 mi south of the park's south entrance on Highway 41. We've booked an Airbnb there. We leave Nov 12.

We know we'll need:
A park pass for each vehicle
Layers for potential serious cold and snow
Snow chains
Downloaded and paper maps for navigation

  • Are there better lodging choices? This place has a spa nearby, and ms. matter deserves something like that.
  • What do you wish you’d known before your first Yosemite trip, or your first winter trip in the Sierra Nevadas?
  • How important are reservations just for day visits?
  • How crowded is it likely to be?
  • Phone service apparently is quite dodgy. If we split up to do different activities in the park, are walkie-talkies worth the investment to stay connected?
  • Booties for the dog? (She's not a wanderer; a good sport who stays close when not on leash, will definitely keep her on leash.)
  • What is not-to-be-missed and usually open in November?
  • What’s a choice experience that’s not necessarily in the guidebooks and blogs?
  • What risks to prepare for? E.g., are the bears mostly in hibernation by then? Wolves? Badgers?
  • Other cautions to consider?
  • Other gadgets/tools/gear that will add to the experience, but not weigh anyone down?
Fill me in, friends. Thanks.
posted by conscious matter to Travel & Transportation around California (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Dogs aren't allowed on trails in Yosemite, period, leashed or not, except for Wawona Meadow, nor on unplowed roads. They're only allowed on paved roads, campsites, and developed areas so you should plan on leaving her at your AirBnB most of the time.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 12:11 PM on September 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Some more information - bears will have found dens and may or may not be hibernating by early November, so you may run into some, but the most likely case is that you won't. Lots of people, me included, have many many many many trail miles and few or no bear sightings or encounters. In a week in Kings Canyon and Sequoia, we saw exactly 1, probably 100 yards away. Your personal safety comfort level may vary, but I don't carry bear spray in black bear country (and bear bells are worthless). In fact, at Kings Canyon they don't allow bear spray at all, not sure if Yosemite is the same.

You won't see any cougars (they avoid us) or wolves in Yosemite (there was just a news report about one wolf sighting this year for the first time in decades), but if you do, consider it a gift.

Places to see, I'd recommend going up Tioga Road (IF it's still open when you're there) and exploring Tuolumne Meadows, which is a very different landscape than the valley, wayyyyyy fewer people, and gorgeous in its own right. Alpine and subalpine meadows are precious landscapes - see 'em now while you can.

For outdoor communication, walkie talkies generally work only in limited circumstances. I've used them on alpine climbs but only over relatively short distances where everyone's in the same basin or mountain face. Outdoor Gear Lab found most top out around 3 miles in a straight line, but less in varied terrain.

If you need longer (infinite) range, the right solution is probably a couple of satellite communicators, like Garmin inReach devices, that can message between each other, but that may be a more expensive solution and involved solution than you really want or need.

Since you self-identify as newbies, I'd strongly recommend reviewing and packing the Ten Essentials. A summer day hike where someone twists an ankle and needs Search and Rescue for extraction may turn out fine. What about in the winter? What if you have to overnight? What if ground SAR can't get to you and the weather is preventing a helicopter from picking you up? Make sure you have the right equipment not just for a nice day out but if something goes horribly awry, because help could be not minutes but hours or days away. I'm not trying to be a buzzkill - just the opposite. Good preparation means you can fully enjoy your time in the wilderness and know that whatever happens you'll be able to take care of yourself.

Buy or rent some trekking poles with removable snow baskets. They're invaluable all the time but especially on slippery (wet, snowy, muddy) trails, give your quads/hammies/knees a major break, and are useful for all sorts of things (making yourself look big to cougars, splints, makeshift shelter poles, etc).

Finally, my #1 winter outdoors tip is take thermoses and fill them with coffee/tea/hot drink of choice before you set out. There's nothing like hot beverages on a cold winter hiking break. Or, even better (and see above re: 10 essentials), carry a small backpacking stove and make fresh hot food and drink at your breaks.

Have an awesome trip!
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 3:29 PM on September 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: November is a month filled with closures at Yosemite:
See the historical list

Bring clothes nice enough for the dress code at the Ahwanee Hotel, for dinner.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:50 PM on September 29, 2021

Response by poster: Thank you!
posted by conscious matter at 9:22 AM on September 30, 2021

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