The winter snow muffled even my loud 6-year old's voice (it's a MIRACLE!!) All I could hear was the crunch of the snow beneath my feet, as my footsteps were the first ones that tracked through the woods.
It was an absolutely gorgeous experience for all of us. The kids loved it too.
The beautiful falls,
amazing icicle treasures,
relaxation, (trekking through snow is hard work!),
and of course, SLEDDING!!
There were so many beautiful sights and sounds. The white snow glistened amongst the dark trees and atop the sheer cliffs. And when the sun came out and shone upon that snow, it sparkled like a thousand little diamonds were scattered throughout the valley.
And look at the snow on this tree!
The winter sky was stunning.
And speaking of the sky...just as we were leaving the falls, the sun began to set.
If you decide to go to Yosemite in the winter-time, here are a few tips:
1. Check the weather and plan your route accordingly. We took the Merced entrance to the park (traveling on 140) instead of the more normal route traveling on the 120. The Merced route has a lower altitude, and fewer twists and turns and is far less mountainous. It was a great option for these winter conditions. Some of the Yosemite roads will be closed in the winter, so make sure you check on them frequently.
2. Prepare for emergencies- pack snow chains for your tires, a first aid kit, and extra food, water and warm clothes in case there is an emergency. Check the weather reports before leaving for your trip. While most trips are simply fun-filled outings, better to be prepared in case something goes wrong. For food, I buy a few cans of soup with the pop off lids (Amy's Organic makes some great options) and refried beans (we get Pacific Organic ones-delish!) in an easy to open container. Always be sure to bring lots of water for each person. And always throw a few chocolate bars in too...essentials, you know! :) I also attach loud rescue whistles to each of us (three whistles signal for help) just in case.
3. Splurge on water-proof snow pants, boots, and gloves- ESPECIALLY for the kids. Yes, it's a bit more money up front, but dry, warm-ish kids are well worth the money. Check your local warehouse store, or in the off-season check sports stores for clearance sales, or even Wal-Mart. Many people even sell them on craigslist. I was shocked at the good deals I could find on these items. Or, you always can ask a friend to borrow some.
4. Hot Cocoa and Food- We always bring our own food. With all of the snow, and icy conditions, having our snacks and food handy are essential. For the cocoa, I just brought a huge thermos (I used an air-pump type which holds about 10 cups) filled with boiling water. I also then brought a package of pure chocolate cocoa, and our homemade marshmallows. Then, we simply put a little powder in each cup, and added hot water as needed. It worked perfectly! For food- simple is best. We usually bring supplies for wraps, or simple sandwiches. Coupled with chips, pretzels, fruits and trail-mix, you are all set for a day of fun. Remember to bring extra water. It will be cold, so you don't think about drinking extra water, but with all of the energy you'll be expending, plus the higher altitude, you will really need to drink lots of water to be hydrated enough.
5. Sledding- We bought the foam-type sleds which were nice and flat for easy packing in the car. They were also very fast and very sturdy. We've had a great time sledding with them on several snow trips. In Yosemite, our favorite place to sled was on a large hill just beyond Curry Village, near the North Pines/Upper Pines campgrounds. We parked in the large parking lot near Curry Village (there were plenty of spaces during the winter) and walked to the sledding hill. Follow the road towards the trailhead for the Vernal Falls hike. The road is closed to regular traffic, but there will be Park Buses and park staff cars on the road, so keep an eye out while sledding and walking.
6. Bring a few large trash-bags and extra dry clothes and socks for the kids. After sledding and trekking through the snow, the kids will be happy to change into some dry, warm clothes for the drive home. And you will be happy to pile all of their wet clothes and boots into bags (or large rubbermaid bins like we do) so your vehicle won't be soaked.