63° F

We’re well into spring, and signs of the season are popping, budding, blooming and flowing all over Yosemite. Here are a few of the hallmarks we’ve noticed — what seasonal shifts have caught your attention?

A family ski outing at Crane Flat. Photo: Cassie May.

Sign 1: Outside time. Conservancy colleagues, program participants and park fans have been embracing extra daylight hours and warmer weather to soak up all that Yosemite has to offer this time of year.

Early in the season, a Conservancy team member shared a snapshot from a quiet, snowy ski jaunt at Crane Flat; a few weeks ago, blue skies welcomed a group of visitors to the Valley for our intro birding weekend with naturalist guide Andrea Canapary. Our Outdoor Adventure programs are in full swing — check out our adventure calendar to see what’s coming up this summer and fall! (Good news: Your program registration counts as a park entry reservation.)


A group of people wearing face masks on a boardwalk in Yosemite Valley. A waterfall (Upper Yosemite Fall) flows in the background.

Birding in Yosemite Valley in April 2021. Photo: Rachel Hartsough.

A redbud in bloom by the Merced River. The hill in the background is covered in golden yellow flowers.

Redbud along the Merced River in April 2021. Photo: Carolyn Botell.

Sign 2: Floral decor. Poppies and redbud launched the season with a dazzling display, painting the Merced River Canyon in orange and purple.

Take a peek at Yosemite National Park’s wildflower tips for detailed guidance on where and when to see other spring and summer blooms, such as azalea, larkspur, shooting stars and lupines.

When you’re admiring wildflowers in Yosemite (and elsewhere), remember to stay on designated trails to avoid squashing plants, and be sure to brush off your shoes and clothes before and after your wander to remove any invasive seeds that may have hitched a ride.


A grassy slope above the Merced River covered in orange poppies.

Poppies burst open on the slops above the Merced River. Photo: Kristin Anderson (April 2021).

In our first outdoor art class of the 2021 season, participants sketched and painted with instructor Sean Edgerton. Photo: Sean Edgerton.


Sign 3: Art. Yosemite abounds in artistic inspiration in every season, of course, but we’re especially excited about it this spring, because our art classes are back after a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic! While Happy Isles Art and Nature Center remains closed, we’re hosting outdoor, safely socially-distanced art classes in the central part of Yosemite Valley.

We’re grateful to our volunteer art instructors for bringing their time and expertise to this program, and to everyone who has signed up to take a class this year! Browse our art class offerings for the rest of the season (which runs through October), and please be sure to register online in advance.


The Conservancy’s Art and Nature Center Program Manager, Kristin Anderson, welcomes art class participants at a meeting spot near the Valley Visitor Center. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy.


A participant in an April watercolor class works on a painting of Half Dome and Royal Arches. Photo: Yosemite Conservancy/Lora Spielman.


Sign 4: Dogwoods. Nothing says spring in the Sierra Nevada quite like dogwood trees in bloom. As longtime Yosemite Conservancy naturalist Pete Devine recently observed, this spring’s dogwoods call to mind soft light bulbs brightening shady paths and shores. The white bracts, which look like petals, help attract pollinators to the cluster of tiny greenish yellow flowers clustered at their center.

A classic Yosemite spring scene: El Capitan and dogwood. Photo: Carolyn Botell (May 2021).


Dogwood in bloom in Yosemite Valley, April 2021. Photo: Rachel Hartsough.


Other signs of the shifting seasons to keep an eye out for: The Conservancy’s naturalist walks (one- to two-hour programs, offered Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays), the Yosemite Bike Share, volunteers (back in action this season!), and research and restoration projects — you might spy peregrine surveyor using a telescope to zoom in on falcon nests, a crew repairing trails in the Valley, or scientists studying giant sequoias in Merced Grove.

When we asked colleagues about signs of spring they’d been noticing around the park, one person sent a photo of a newt squished on the pavement. We’re not going to post that particular image, but it’s a good reminder of the many creatures, from big (bears) to small (amphibians), that may be moving around and crossing park roads this time of year. Watch your step and your wheels!

One final sign of spring in Yosemite: snow plants! With their bright red hue, these chlorophyll-free, parasitic plants are hard to miss on the forest floor. Watch our lead naturalist’s quick intro to snow plants to learn more. Photo: Carolyn Botell (April 2021).