Yosemite National Park plans to “restore minimal public access” on Saturday, after being closed for nearly a month due to several severe winter storms that dumped record snow, caused several rockfalls and damaged many park facilities.
Yosemite Valley – one of the most popular and accessible parts of the world-famous park – will reopen to visitors during the day on Saturday, but park officials have warned that many roads in the park remain closed and trails are always snowy, according to a statement from park officials. The Hetch Hetchy Valley in the northwest part of the national park will also reopen from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., park officials said.
Visitors will be able to access Yosemite Valley only from the west via Highway 140 and El Portal Road, with a small detour to El Portal, according to the release. The valley will have limited services available.
Hetch Hetchy will also be accessible only from the west, via Highway 120 and Evergreen Road.
Park officials said all other roads and areas in the park, including Big Oak Flat and Wawona Roads, will remain closed, noting that in recent weeks the park has documented 22 landslides, numerous landslides, debris and other breaks in grade along park roads, although many have been mitigated.
The park closed Feb. 25 and has since broken at least two snow records, one for snow accumulation in Yosemite Valley, and another in the park’s high country, where Tuolumne Meadows broke a 1983 record. for the amount of snow on the ground, with 146 inches Wednesday, according to park officials.
Yosemite Valley has received more than 21 inches of rain and Tuolumne Meadows has received more than 15 feet of new snow since Feb. 21, when the storms began, park officials said.
Park officials hope Yosemite Valley will return to its typical 24-hour operation on Monday, including limited overnight accommodations but no camping as campgrounds remain buried in snow. This plan could be affected by wetter weather forecasts for early next week.
Monday through Wednesday, Yosemite Valley is expected to see at least an additional foot of snow, while higher elevations could see significantly more, according to the National Weather Service. The Tioga Pass area east of the park could receive up to 3 feet of snow.
Closer to the coast, some forecasters are predicting that California could see more storms brought on by another atmospheric river system, but it’s not yet known exactly how much of this particularly heavy rainfall will hit Yosemite – although heavy snowfall are expected.
While many paved footpaths in Yosemite Valley have been cleared of snow, all hiking trails are covered in snow, and authorities have warned visitors not to walk on these trails without proper equipment.
Park officials have recommended visitors come prepared with chains and call (209) 372-0200 to check road conditions.