Lonesome Valley

Yosemite National Park, California

Ostrander Ski Hut, Yosemite     Photo: Jeffrey Rueppel

There are two seasons in Yosemite. One is people season—82 percent of the park's 3.7 million visitors arrive between April and October, bearing maps and cameras. In November, that changes. Roads through the high country close. Waterfalls slow to a trickle. Low clouds shroud the walls of El Capitan and Half Dome. Traffic is slim on the groomed nordic and snowshoe trails through the famous Mariposa Grove and on the marked ski-touring routes fingering off the 10.5-mile groomed road to Glacier Point (snowshoe, nordic, and telemark rentals available at Badger Pass Ski Area; from $23; yosemitepark.com). Reserving one of the 25 beds in the two-story, stone-and-timber Ostrander Ski Hut, set at the foot of a glacial cirque ten cross-country miles from the Badger Pass Ski Area, is never an issue on weekdays (from $32; yosemiteconservancy.org). If you're going on a Friday, when Ostrander fills up, book at the Victorian-style Wawona Hotel, a short drive from the prime Glacier Point Road trailheads (doubles, $218; yosemitepark.com), or at the simple Yosemite Lodge at the Falls (doubles from $179; yosemitepark.com). From there it's a 3.5-mile hike (bring good boots or snowshoes) to the top of spectacular Upper Yosemite Falls, where you probably won't see any people, or a five-minute drive to the classic Ahwahnee Hotel, where the bartender makes a mean "Firefall"—hot chocolate crème with chile powder and tequila.

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