Yosemite: When is the best time to visit?

Bridal Veil Falls in February

When is the best time to visit
Yosemite - especially its waterfalls?

Given the fact that the park sits in the steep and rugged Central Sierra mountain range, there tends to be very changeable weather. But even given such variability, there are clear favorable seasons for waterfalling. And in our experiences, we've found that the optimal times to see waterfalls pumping is from mid to late April through late May. This is by no means a definite time frame as some years can have less precipitation than others. In fact, if there has been a dry year, the best time could move up to March/April while if there has been a wet year, the best time could move well into June/July.

Since Yosemite collects the majority of its waterfall-feeding moisture from winter snows, you'll want to time your visit to the spring thaw (which is consistent with the specific time frames I've given above).

Tueeulala and Wapama Falls raging in late Spring flood
As the summer progresses, snows become rarer and there may be a few odd mountain thunderstorms briefly reviving some of the falls. But generally during the warm months, the waterfalls diminish until many of them go dry (Yosemite Falls is a great example). In autumn, most of the falls have been dried up and only the major river ones continue to flow. In winter, it depends on how cold and snow you're getting. Many of the smaller falls actually freeze over during this time. Major ones may still be flowing, but they'll be surrounded by ice. This wouldn't be the best time for waterfalling, but you will see the park in a whole new light and it's also quiet enough to hear your own echo (imagine that!).

I usually check the weather before I show up to Yosemite. Its National Park website has excellent links and info on the up-to-date condition of the park as well as a link to the National Weather Service.

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