Yosemite at night is an incredibly different experience than a daylight visit. When the sun sets, the park doesn’t roll up its meadows and trails–in fact, some aspects of the park come alive only at nightfall. Many of the animals that live in the park are crepuscular by nature—they’re most active in the twilight hours of dawn and dusk. Take a quiet stroll in the park early in the morning or just as darkness is falling and you’re likely to see more wildlife than you’ll run into during the day.

Take a quiet stroll in the park early in the morning or just as darkness is falling and you’re likely to see more wildlife than you’ll run into during the day.If you prefer a guided tour, join the Night Prowl (209/372-4386, 90 minutes, $7.50 pp, $30 per family). This guided tour takes you along easy trails near Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and explains the nightlife of the valley floor’s inhabitants. Night Prowl takes place once or twice a week, starting at various times and places, and is good for both children and adults. Purchase your tickets at any activity desk in Yosemite, or call 209/372-4386, and you’ll get all the information on where and when to meet. The Prowl is offered year-round but is a bit more comfortable during warmer months.

If astronomy is your interest, join experienced guides for the Starry Night Skies (209/372-4386, $7.50 pp, $30 per family) program. Equally well suited for beginners and more experienced stargazers, this 90-minute program takes you out to the meadows to look at the stars and the moon free of light pollution. You’ll learn about constellations, comets, and meteors and enjoy the myths and legends about the night sky. Starry Skies happens several times each week in Yosemite Valley and once a week in Wawona.

Glacier Point after sundown with stars in the sky.

Glacier Point at night. Photo © atmosphere1/123rf.

For families tired after a long day of running around the park, more sedentary evening programs are available. Fireside Storytelling (fall-spring, free) focuses on, well, telling stories around the big fire inside the Ahwahnee Great Lounge. Take refuge from the bugs and the cold and listen to great tales in a comfortable indoor environment during the off-season. Check the Yosemite Guide for more information about these and other programs.

The Yosemite Valley Auditorium and Yosemite Theater (Northside Dr.) share a building behind the visitors center in the heart of Yosemite Village. Check the copy of Yosemite Guide you received at the gate for a list of what shows are playing during your visit. The John Muir Performances (209/372-0731, 7pm Sun.-Thurs. May-Sept., adults $8, children $4), starring Yosemite’s resident actor Lee Stetson, have been running for roughly 30 years. Other programs in the theater and auditorium include presentations by Shelton Johnson (who appeared in the Ken Burns documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea) about the Buffalo Soldiers, films about climbing, and extreme filmmaking.

Maps - Northern California 7e - Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

Excerpted from the Seventh Edition of Moon Northern California.