Riverside Lodge Minutes from Yosemite National Park
Once it leaves Yosemite National Park, the Merced River picks up speed, developing frothy whitewater rapids by the time it barrels past Yosemite View Lodge. This secluded inn is tucked into the Sierra Nevada mountains along the park's western border. Guest-room balconies overlook vistas of untouched wilderness centered on the rushing river and towering pines lining it on both sides.
One of these private balconies or terraces is attached to each queen river-view room. After admiring the swift-moving waterway, step back inside to warm up by the fireplace or brew a pot of coffee in the kitchenette. Each guest room is also outfitted with a spa tub, where you can make use of the products included with the spa gift basket.
A slew of outdoor hot tubs burble on the river's edge, enabling splash wars with passing trout. To fuel up for outdoor adventures, the mountain-cabin-esque River Restaurant & Lounge serves upscale, traditional American breakfasts as well as dinner year-round. For lighter bites, the Yosemite View Convenience Store sells an array of groceries for lodgers looking to prepare their own meals and snacks.
El Portal, California: Gateway to Winter Adventure in Yosemite National Park
California State Route 140 follows the snaking Merced River 20 miles into Yosemite National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that welcomes millions of visitors every year. Thanks to low elevations, much of the Yosemite Valley, as well as the Wawona area farther south, remains accessible to drivers, hikers, and snowball poachers throughout the winter.
Crowds are much smaller in the cooler months than during the summer rush, allowing for leisurely exploration of the park as well as an introduction to its cold-weather phenomena. In autumn, the leaves of big-leaf maples, black oaks, and pacific dogwoods turn brilliant shades of yellow and orange, providing a sharp contrast with the park’s many evergreens. During a short span in late February, the Horsetail Fall cascade often glows orange at sunset, flowing down El Capitan like a plume of flaming lava.