Yosemite Valley Closing Amid Flood Risks—Here’s What Remains Open in Yosemite National Park
As California’s massive snowpack starts to melt, most of Yosemite Valley—the central hub of Yosemite National Park—will be closed starting April 28. Here’s what’s closed and what remains open in the park.
Starting Friday night, April 28, most of Yosemite Valley will close due to forecasted flooding as spring brings warmer temperatures that have begun to melt California’s historic snowpack. The current closure will be in place until Wednesday, May 3, “but could last longer,” according to an advisory on the Yosemite National Park website.
Authorities stated that all reservations for accommodations and campgrounds in eastern Yosemite Valley—including in Curry Village, Housekeeping Camp, Upper Pines, North Pines, Lower Pines, Camp 4, Yosemite Valley Lodge, and the Ahwahnee—will automatically be canceled and refunded during the flood-related closure. Wilderness permits can be rescheduled to alternate trailheads, space permitting.
The closure includes the El Capitan crossover east of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Village, Yosemite Falls, and some of the viewing areas for Half Dome, Vernal Falls, and Nevada Falls.
Yosemite Valley closes once the Merced River at Pohono Bridge (a nearly 100-year-old stone bridge located where El Portal Road divides into Southside Drive and Northside Drive—the two main thoroughfares in the valley) is expected to top 10 feet. The National Weather Service predicts that will happen at 10 p.m. on Friday, April 28. At that point, “critical infrastructure begin flooding, making it unsafe for visitors to be in Yosemite Valley,” authorities report.
What else is closed in Yosemite National Park?
This past winter and spring, Yosemite’s snowpack was more than 240 percent above average, with the deepest snow ever recorded above 8,000 feet in Yosemite.
The massive amount of snow will also result in three Yosemite roads opening later in the season than usual:
- Tioga Road, which snakes throughout the northern region of the park all the way to Tioga Pass (California’s highest vehicle crossing), will likely open in late June or early July.
- Glacier Point Road, which leads to the Glacier Point trailhead (among other trailheads), will not open until July (it is typically open to vehicles from sometime in May).
- Mariposa Grove Road, which leads to the famous Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, was damaged this past winter; it will open at the end of May at the earliest, “but it is very likely the road will open later than that,” according to authorities.
Another issue is that due to the melt: The Merced River’s water levels will likely remain high into mid-July, making the river potentially unsafe for swimming, rafting, or boating until then.
What’s open in Yosemite National Park right now?
For those who still plan to travel to Yosemite this weekend and next week, there are some areas that are open, but authorities advise that “while western Yosemite Valley will remain open, it could close if traffic congestion or parking issues become unmanageable.”
Park officials note that visitors should expect traffic congestion and delays, very limited parking, possible additional road closures or detours (based on water levels and traffic), and “very limited opportunities for hiking and other recreation.”
Here is what remains open in Yosemite National Park, as of April 28.
Western Yosemite Valley
The western area of Yosemite Valley remains open, including Tunnel View, a well-known viewing point of Yosemite Valley with Half Dome in the background), and El Capitan Meadow (where visitors can see El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks), and Valley View. Bridalveil Fall can be viewed from the road, but the trail to the waterfall is currently closed.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
The largest collection of sequoias in Yosemite, with more than 500 mature giant trees, Mariposa Grove is open and accessible via a hiking trail. So, while the road to the grove remains closed, those who want to hike to the Mariposa Grove can do so—it’s two miles each way with 500 feet of elevation gain, though the National Park Service reports that as of mid-April the grove was still “pretty snowy.”
Tuolumne and Merced Sequoia Groves
Lovers of giant sequoias can also head to the Crane Flat area of Yosemite National Park, an area of meadows and forests, to access the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias, which features about two dozen mature giant sequoias (reachable from a one-mile hike with 500 feet of elevation loss and a strenuous return trek). The Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias, which also houses about two dozen mature giant sequoias, requires an equally strenuous 1.5-mile hike each way with 500 feet of elevation loss then gain on the return.
One of the hidden gems of Yosemite National Park, Hetch Hetchy Valley remains open. Here, visitors can witness soaring granite cliffs, waterfalls, and a somewhat controversial reservoir with ample hiking. The current hours of access are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (from April 1 to April 30), and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from May 1 to Labor Day. Authorities advise that the Wapama Falls footbridge may occasionally be closed during the spring and summer season due to high waters.
Wawona, an area of Yosemite National Park that includes the Yosemite History Center and Wawona Hotel, remains open.
Abundant waterfalls and no reservations required
Despite all the infrastructure challenges the snow is causing this spring, there is a bit of good news.
For one, the waterfalls are abundant this year. A live-streaming webcam of the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls shows the waterfall’s top section, Upper Yosemite Fall, with peak flow from the snowmelt. Once access to the valley is restored, visitors are in for a visual feast this spring and summer.
Additionally, after three years of requiring reservations, this year Yosemite National Park is not requiring advance reservations to visit the park. The seven-day park entrance fee is $35 per vehicle. While reservations aren’t required for the park itself, they are currently required for all campgrounds within the park until October (with the exception of the Camp 4 campsite, which will switch to a reservation system on May 21).
With no reservation system in place and with a bit of a delay to the traditional start of the season due to flooding and snowpack this spring, the National Park Service expects that Yosemite National Park will be very busy at the height of the summer travel season.
For those planning on visiting Yosemite National Park this year, “Arrive by mid-morning to avoid traffic delays at entrances and other areas of the park,” park authorities advise.