Yosemite in winter

With skiing, hiking, fireside retreats ― and no crowds ― Yosemite glows when it snows

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Top it all off

If you just can't tear yourself away, consider staying for dinner in the Ahwahnee Dining Room (jackets required). Entrées like prime rib and lamb average about $25. Don't have reservations? There's a good chance you'll be able to snag a table: After all, this is winter, Yosemite's best-kept secret.

Snow chains are sometimes required on the highways leading into the park; for 24-hour weather and road conditions, call (209) 372-0200. The least snowy access road is State 140, the "all-weather highway," which enters the park near the town of El Portal.

For lodging reservations and information ― including details on the Yosemite Winter Passport program as well as the chefs' and wine series ― call (559) 252-4848 or visit www.yosemitepark.com. Except for the Ahwahnee Dining Room, none of the restaurants inside the park accept reservations. Current programs (which change weekly) are listed in the free "Yosemite Guide," given to you when you enter the park. For information on Yosemite Association Field Seminars, call (209) 379-2321 or visit www.yosemitepark.com.

Though lodging reservations are much easier to procure in winter, weekends can still be difficult. Try to book your stay midweek (Sun through Thu). Other strategies for securing a room: Go for a heated tent at Curry Village or a room at the Wawona ― both are in greater supply than other park lodgings. If you can't get the lodging of your choice, book whatever you can, and try to change later--it's easier once you're in the system. If you're still stuck, call seven days before your visit (when deposits are required) to inquire about cancellations. If all else fails, consider staying in a gateway town (El Portal or Mariposa) and taking the new shuttle bus (YARTS) into the valley for a mere $7. You'll get the added advantage of saving the $20 per vehicle park entrance fee.

• AHWAHNEE. By far the most luxurious ― and priciest ― lodging in the park, smack-dab in the middle of the valley. Dinner reservations suggested. From $280. (209) 372-1489.

• CURRY VILLAGE. Now that some of the canvas tents have propane heaters, this centrally located lodging complex, with its views of Glacier Point and Half Dome, can be a comfortable place to stay even in February. All tents have shared baths; cabins come with or without private baths. Tents from $40, cabins with shared baths from $44.50, cabins with baths from $68.75.

• WAWONA HOTEL. The only accommodation on the south side of the park is now open on weekends throughout winter (last winter was the first). The landmark hotel's rooms and nearby cottages retain their old-fashioned character, complete with steam heat (be prepared for clanking in the night). Some share baths, and none have phones or TVs. From $84 with shared bath, from $115 with baths.

• YOSEMITE LODGE. A modern lodging at the base of Yosemite Falls. Ask about the Go For the Snow package, which offers $20 savings on rooms midweek. From $84.25.

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