WINTER WONDERS: The coldest months of the year can be a bit challenging for the nature lover, but also the most rewarding. The challenging part is obvious: The landscape is rife of snow and ice, so getting to your favorite wild spots requires gumption, effort, and, quite often, chains, skis, or all of the above. But the rewarding part is easy. All of that snow and ice changes views and vistas dramatically. It might be hard to tell spring from summer in some places, but snow automatically reveals the time of year. And one quintessential California view that should be seen at least once during wintertime? That iconic hunk of granite plunk at the end of Yosemite Valley. Yep, Half Dome.
HALF DOME HIGH: Getting a great view of Half Dome isn't hard -- there are full chapters of books devoted to the topic -- but the one from Glacier Point is, literally, above the rest. You're seeing the monolithic hunk straight on, or just about, rather than admiring it from below. And in the winter, when Half Dome is streaked with snow? Yep, we're going to pull out the travel-brochure-iest of all words here: It's breathtaking.
SEE IT BY SKIS: The Glacier Point Ski Hut is the wintertime destination for many a Half Dome enthusiast and outdoorsy maven. You ski -- cross-country, of course -- about 10.5 miles to reach the hut, where views of the dome await. The course is described as "road grade." There's "some uphill involved," says the site, but if you're a dedicated cross-country skier, and a Yosemite lover, you might give it a whirl. Or a cold-breathed huff. Just think of that view that awaits you at the end of the trail.