. A Yosemite photo journey for the soul: Yosemite Falls and Half Dome : Budget Travel Adventures

Winter Yosemite photo journey for the soul: Yosemite Falls and Half Dome

Yosemite photos Half Dome Mirror Lake winter snow

The perfect Yosemite photo – sunny skies, green trees, and breath taking views of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls at Tunnel View.  Millions of people come to Yosemite National Park every year to capture scenes like this.

In the most popular national park in the US, people from all over the world visit this central California paradise to gaze upon her beauty made famous by John Muir and Ansel Adams.  When it comes to hiking in California, there may not be better trails or views anywhere.

Numerous Yosemite photo opportunities at El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake, Cathedral Spires, meadows, lakes, are some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see.  For many people, their Yosemite summer vacation may be a dream come true.

However, what if I told you winter in Yosemite is better than a summer vacation in Yosemite?

That’s what happens when the views look a little different and Yosemite speaks to your soul.

Winter in Yosemite

When I arrived in Yosemite on a cold Saturday morning, I knew this day was special.  I was getting to see a side of this beautiful park many people don’t experience.

For me, this snow covered Saturday morning was special. I was spending my birthday in Yosemite.  Wrapped in layers of shirts, socks, gloves, and thermals, the crisp cool air burned my lungs yet made me feel alive.

This was the Yosemite photo opportunity of a lifetime – fresh fallen snow, some early morning blue skies, and the peaceful, quiet sounds of nothing but the Yosemite landscape.

While there were a number of people in the park that day, I spent time alone with Yosemite.  We made our acquaintances as she shared a side of herself many people don’t get to see.

Beneath the snow covered peaks of Half Dome, she whispered to me as her majestic peak played host to an audience of one.  As I stood there, I mumbled words of awe and admiration.  Time stood still.

For a few moments, everything was quiet.  Dressed in a blanket of white, fresh powder adorned her elegant cracks and crevices all the way to her top.  Her trees were bare but she wore a canvas of blue for a crown as the sun was shining all around her.

Mount Watkins and Half Dome joined me on the shores of Mirror Lake this winter afternoon.  Yosemite knew she looked beautiful on this day for her image cast a perfect reflection in the lake.

On this special day, she created a Yosemite photo of herself to enjoy – the photographer and subject.  She shared that moment with just me – a birthday gift.

While many people see Yosemite with their eyes, I experienced Yosemite with my soul.

This is Yosemite in winter.

A Yosemite photo journey for the soul – Yosemite Falls and Half Dome

During the summer, thousands of people crowd around her and enjoy her splendor snapping one Yosemite photo after another for the scrapbook.  With the blues and greens of summer adorning Yosemite’s granite, you can enjoy a summer Yosemite photo essay or Yosemite pictures in Spring.

But these photos aren’t for me.  Not today.

A Yosemite winter is as much about the soul and the experience as it the views and beauty.  I wasn’t there snapping photos of Yosemite as she was on parade for the masses.

I spent a couple of hours alone staring at her and listening with my soul.  You see, Yosemite isn’t just on display for summer crowds.

You can get to know a different side of Yosemite in winter, spring, and Fall.  Like a fashion show, she changes her dress and her colors.  She shares a different side of her personality as the seasons change.

I spent my morning and early afternoon at Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and Mirror Lake.

As you walk with me through this winter Yosemite photo experience, enjoy these photos as I did – looking with your soul as well as your eyes.

Which of these Yosemite photos is your favorite?  What unique travel experiences have spoken to you?

If you enjoyed this Winter Yosemite photo journey look at Yosemite Falls and Half Dome, check out my Yosemite Zipline adventure and Part II Yosemite winter photos of El Capitan, a Yosemite sunset, Cathedral spires, and more.

Yosemite photos Upper Yosemite Falls winter snow

Snow surrounds and catches the cascading water of Yosemite Falls

Yosemite photos mountain snow Yosemite Falls

Snow blankets the mountains surrounding Yosemite Falls

Yosemite photos Yosemite Falls snow winter

A winter walk to Yosemite Falls covered in snow

Yosemite photos Lower Yosemite Falls winter

Lower Yosemite Falls up close in the winter

Yosemite photos Half Dome Mirror Lake winter snow

Half Dome on the way to Mirror Lake

Yosemite photos Mount Watkins Mirror Lake trail winter snow

Mount Watkins on the way to Mirror Lake

Yosemite photos Half Dome winter snow

Half Dome up close dressed for winter

Yosemite photos Mirror Lake reflection winter snow Mount Watkins

Yosemite enjoys her reflection of Mount Watkins in Mirror Lake

Yosemite photos Half Dome black and white winter snow B&W

Half Dome up close – a winter black and white portrait

 Enjoy more Yosemite photos or purchase one of these in my Yosemite winter gallery.

Special thanks to Yosemite and Mariposa Tourism for inviting me to spend my birthday in Yosemite.  If you enjoyed this Yosemite photo journey, plan your own Yosemite experience.

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Filed Under: CaliforniaDestinationsFeaturedHiking


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  1. Andrew says:

    Neat. Not sure what kind of season I associate with Yosemite, but good to see that winter isn’t a bad time to go. That black and white style picture of half dome is great. My mom had an Ansel Adams shot similar to that on the wall when I was a kid. Brings up some good memories.

    • Summer is definitely the season most people go to see Yosemite. It’s the big summer vacation spot with the family. People go in the Spring and Fall as well for the spring flowers and colors of Autumn. However, winter isn’t as popular. It’s definitely the slow season. A lot of that has to do with the weather. However, Yosemite always looks different no matter what time of year you go. After living here for nearly 12 years, this was my first visit. I’ll definitely go back.

      Have you been to Yosemite yet? For you, I would recommend going in the offseason as well. Too many tourists are overwhelming :)

      • Andrew says:

        Nope. My parents have been, but I haven’t.
        Offseason sounds good for lack of tourists, though winter being cold couldn’t be so good for us.

        • It was cold when I went. I just wore a lot of layers. Very comfortable. Offseason is perfect for me since I am not a big fan of tourists either. You can always go in Spring or Fall and not just winter though. However, you live in Germany so you shouldn’t be bothered by the cold too much :)

  2. Winter is definitely a more peaceful time no matter where you go. Amazing photos. You are a modern day Ansel Adams.

    • After this experience, I definitely have more interest in the outdoors in winter. I never considered it in the past because I don’t ski or snowboard or know how to drive in snow. However, all bundled up and hiking with this scenery was amazing.

      Thanks for the Ansel Adams compliment. However, I think the photos coming up in Part II are better than these. Have you ever been to Yosemite? With all the camping, hiking, and outdoor activities, you could spend a lot of time here.

  3. Cassie says:

    Great photos, Jeremy! I love the ice surrounding the waterfall

    • Thanks Cassie. I learned this week that the snow at the bottom of the Upper Yosemite Falls is called an ice cone. It melts by early April in most years. However, some waterfalls can also freeze. I think waterfalls look even prettier in the snow.

      Since you live so close, have you visited Yosemite?

      • Cassie says:

        A few times, but certainly not enough. The last time we did drive through the park was New Years Day 2012 coming back from Mono Lake, but there was no snow in the Valley at all. The Tioga Pass did have some snow (but the roads were clear), Tenaya Lake was frozen solid so we were even able to walk on it! That was great, but I’d love to see the frozen waterfalls.

        • This was actually my first visit. It had just snowed the night before so it was perfect timing. I definitely want to go back now. I never saw any of the places you mentioned so the whole area is new to me. After seeing in Yosemite, I am not sure I want to go in summer. Winter, Fall, and Spring – yes but not summer. However, I do love the hiking so summer would be the best time for that.

          Would have loved to seen some photos of you walking on the frozen lake! That would have been an awesome picture.

  4. Christy says:

    These photos are gorgeous, Jeremy! I would love to visit Yosemite in the winter. We ALMOST made it this year. I still have never been!

    • Thanks Christy. I appreciate the feedback. That means a lot coming from someone who is a photographer :)

      Yosemite is beautiful. This was my first visit as well. However, I will definitely be back. However, I think I try and visit during other times of the year besides summer. I loved that there weren’t a lot of people there.

  5. Larissa says:

    What’s funny, or more like embarassing, is that I’ve lived in California almost 25 years and have never been to Yosemite. I don’t feel that bad because I know it is human nature for people to take their own backyards for granted, it’s just a shame that mine happens to be one of the world’s most visited and or desired destinations. Need to change that, especially since I just found out that 26 out of the 59 national parks in the U.S. are here. TWENTY SIX!

    • I’ve lived here 12 years and this was my first visit to Yosemite. In my post about my dream birthday trip, I confessed this and like you, was a bit embarrassed about it. However, I actually love hiking and make it a part of my travels and writing. So it’s even worse to say that I hadn’t been there. Now I need to go back. Yosemite in winter was beautiful but after my experience, I am not sure if I really want to go in summer. I like it in the offseason.

      I had no idea we had that many national parks in California. I will have to check out the list. There are obviously quite a few I haven’t done!

    • Ah, I think you were saying 26 national parks here on the west coast. There are only 9 national parks here in California.

      • Larissa says:

        Oops, yes! West coast is what I meant. I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, renting an RV for a summer and seeing all of them would be on it.

        • I know what you mean. Only thing is that summers would be really crowded. Late summer or spring may be the ideal time to set out on an adventure like that (at least it would be for me since I don’t want to be overwhelmed by the crowds at a national park).

  6. Leigh says:

    I’ve been thinking about Yosemite lately – a park I’d really like to visit but not so much with the masses. It looks beautiful in winter. Is there much in the way of snowshoeing or cross country skiing?
    Love your Half Dome shots.

    • I am with you Leigh. Like I’ve been telling others, I hate the crowds and the tourists. It’s not my thing. I haven’t traveled for a summer trip or vacation in years. So I loved seeing Yosemite in winter.

      As for skiing, there is a ski resort nearby. Badger Pass may be the closest one nearby. I can’t say much about this area for skiing but I know it is something you could easily do as an easy day trip from Yosemite.

      Honestly, if you loved these photos please check out Part II which I just posted. Those are so much better than these and are some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken.

  7. Barbara says:

    I really enjoyed your beautiful photos of Yosemite in the winter and reading your post. My number one travel tip: try to visit popular areas in the off season and what better time to visit such a beautiful and popular destination than when it’s covered in snow? I have been to Yosemite in the winter and I agree, it speaks to your soul. I loved all the photos, especially the one with the walkers on their way to view Yosemite Falls, very nice.

    • Absolutely!! I agree with you Barbara. I am not a big fan of tourists or crowds when I travel. Whenever I go somewhere popular, I find somewhere to escape. In the case of Yosemite, I loved seeing it in winter. It wasn’t crowded although there were people there. It really is beautiful with all the snow and clouds.

      Glad you enjoyed the photos. I enjoyed the scenery later in the day better even with the clouds. The sunshine and blue skies made for some great photos at Yosemite and Half Dome.

  8. Jeremy, great post. Yosemite is so very spiritual, and yet it’s sometimes hard to connect with that energy with so many people crawling through the Valley. It gets better the further off you can get.

    We were in Yosemite once in winter, and it was wonderful. We stayed at the Wawona. I will always regret not x-c skiing there with my dad at Badger Pass; we had planned to but then got scared driving on the icy roads. We should’ve gone for the gusto!

    Thanks again for a neat post. Happy Birthday!

    • Thanks Erika. I loved Yosemite in winter. I don’t typically liked the snow or cold. Yosemite is beautiful of course. I was initially disappointed that I didn’t get the “perfect” photo with blue skies and clear views. However, these may have been better. I had so much time alone at Mirror Lake and Sentinel Meadow I couldn’t imagine being there with all those people. I typically like to hike and travel without the crowds so I really enjoyed this.

      When I was there, a lot of people were staying at the lodges and going skiing. That isn’t my thing but the weather was perfect for it. It had just snowed the night before but the roads weren’t too bad. Sorry you didn’t get a chance to go when you had the chance.

      Next month, I will have a photography book with new and improved photos of Yosemite in winter as well as some photos people haven’t seen. So stay tuned for that! :)

  9. Michael says:

    I visited Yosemite last fall and hiked Half Dome. It was so great. The park is so beautiful and you did an amazing job with the pictures.

    • Thanks Michael. Yosemite is a beautiful place so it was easy to take photos when the scenery looked like this. Unfortunately, no Half Dome in all that snow as it is closed until May. I hope to go back in the Spring or Fall and see Yosemite dressed in some different colors :)

  10. Great photos Jeremy! We went to Yosemite many years ago in summer. After after this post I would love to go in the winter! It looks so beautiful. America has so many awesome national parks – You guys are lucky to have so many right in your backyard :)

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