Yosemite National Park is a true American Icon! For generations, this magical place has inspired the likes of John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt to virtually every American and those abroad.
Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned veteran, this epic guide will help you plan everything you will need to know to plan a great Yosemite vacation including things to do, lodging, camping, travel tips, and more.
Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite National Park
- About Yosemite National Park
- History of Yosemite National Park
- Is Yosemite National Park worth visiting?
- Is Yosemite Open?
- Do you need reservations for Yosemite?
- Things to know before your visit to Yosemite National Park
- Details about National Park
- Where is Yosemite national park located on a map?
- Yosemite National Park Map
- Where is Yosemite National Park?
- Getting to Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite Valley Shuttle System
- Yosemite National Park Weather and Seasons
- What to do in Yosemite National Park
- Hiking at Yosemite National Park
- How to beat the crowds in Yosemite National Park
- Yosemite National Park Lodging
- Where to stay near Yosemite
- Yosemite National Park Camping
- Yosemite National Park Facts
- Travel Tips
- Readers Tips for Yosemite NP
- Parks near Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is a bucket list national park destination for millions of people! It's easy to see why as there is nothing quite like the first time you arrive in Yosemite and see the waterfalls and mountain tops rising up to greet you.
You will always remember the first time stopping at Tunnel View and seeing Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome. You will never forget driving up to and turning the corner and seeing the jaw-dropping view of Half Dome at Glacier Point view.
Yosemite has literally hundreds of things for visitors to do, many of them depending on the time of year you visit. This makes Yosemite so unique because you can visit the park numerous times and still have new adventures.
With that in mind, we want to make sure you have the best experience possible in the park. Yosemite is one of the most popular national parks in the United States and especially in California. We have visited Yosemite multiple times a year for the past few years trying to get the most up to date information, photos, and experiences to share with you.
While working on this project, we have completely fallen in love with Yosemite and the surrounding communities! The locals we have met also make this place so special as their passion for this area shines. I feel like Bass Lake and Oakhurst, California has become a second home with its ease to the park from the Fresno Airport and abundance of places to stay and eat.
About Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a place of endless beauty and inspiration. It has numerous attractions within one park from the immense Sequoia Trees to the giant amphitheater of high cliffs surrounding Yosemite Valley to the high plateau of Tuolumne Meadows.
Some of America's visionaries have dedicated their lives to protecting the pristine beauty of Yosemite like explorer John Muir, President Theodore Roosevelt, and photographer Ansel Adams.
Thanks to these visionaries, today we have a park that has endless opportunities for hiking and exploring. Just be mindful of the fact that this is still a wild and rugged wilderness.
History of Yosemite National Park
Native Americans have inhabited Yosemite for thousands of years.
In January 1848, gold was discovered on the American River in Northern California. James W. Marshall was overseeing a sawmill construction when he found gold nuggets. His boss, James Sutter, and Marshall wanted to keep this a secret.
Eventually, the word got out, and in 1849 thousands of prospectors rushed to California to find their fortune. These people were known as the 49ers.
Needless to say that soon afterward there was conflict over the land and its resources.
The first group of non-native people to arrive in Yosemite was the Mariposa Battalion, a California State militia formed to defeat the Ahwahnechee and Chowchillas in the Mariposa War and place them onto reservations.
This would mean that Yosemite would be open to settlement.
The beauty of this area turned some people into tourist operators and hotels were built.
In 1864, the federal government even recognized the value of Yosemite and President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant which placed Yosemite under the protection of the State of California.
In 1889, Muir who had become famous for his writings managed to get the editor of Century Magazine to meet him and took him to a place special to Muir.
Tuolumne Meadows was where Muir had his first job in the west and fell in love with the place. Muir had noticed the damage being caused by the sheep to this fragile environment.
He emphasized the importance of protecting this area and that the only way of doing this was to make it a National Park. The magazine ran Muir's article which sparked a bill in the U.S. Congress.
This bill proposed creating a new park that took the original Yosemite Land Grant and added another large portion of the surrounding area including Muir's Tuolumne Meadow.
On October 1, 1890, Yosemite became the third National Park in the U.S.
In 1918, Yosemite's Clare Marie Hodges became the first female park ranger in the National Park Service.
Yosemite National Park is steward to more than 60 properties on the National Register of Historic Places.
Before it became a national park, Yosemite had already been under government protection since 1864, as signed by President Lincoln. This was the first time land became secured by the government due to its natural beauty, to be preserved for people to enjoy.
The most famous hotel in Yosemite, the Ahwahnee Hotel, was used as a naval hospital during World War II.
The Yosemite Valley has been inhabited for almost 3,000 years.
In 1984, Yosemite was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Is Yosemite National Park worth visiting?
Yosemite is absolutely worth visiting!
A better question would be when is the best time of year for me to visit Yosemite. This really depends upon your personal likes and interests.
For example, if you love waterfalls then I would suggest coming in the spring when spring runoff is at its peak and you will see the waterfalls in all their glory as opposed to the fall when the spring melt has left the valley leaving perhaps a trickle over some of the falls.
If you love Christmas, I would definitely suggest Yosemite with decorations at Curry Village, the Ahwahnee Hotel, and the Wawona and the Bracebridge Dinner!
Is Yosemite Open?
The park is open 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
Portions of the park are closed due to snow and inclement weather throughout the year.
Do you need reservations for Yosemite?
Yes, From May 20 to September 30, 2022 anyone driving into the park between 6 am and 4 pm will need a reservation.
on March 23, 2022 Yosemite is opening up 70% of reservations for all dates from May 20 through September 30, 2022, will be available on Recreation.gov.
Thirty percent of reservations will be available seven days before the arrival date (e.g., make a reservation for an arrival date of September 30 on September 23).
Reservations are available each day at 8 am Pacific time.
Reservations are taken almost immediately. Be sure to have an account and be logged in and ready to get a reservation promptly at 8 am Pacific daylight time.
The non-refundable reservation fee is $2 (this does not include the $35-per-car park entrance fee).
Each user can make one reservation for each three-day period.
If you don't have computer access, you can call 877/444-6777 to make a reservation.
If you have a reservation for a Yosemite Lodge or Campground, or a wilderness or half-dome permit you do not need a reservation.
If you enter the park on a YARTS bus you do not need a permit.
Things to know before your visit to Yosemite National Park
Private Vehicle: $35. Valid for 7 days
Motorcycle: $30. Valid for 7 days.
Per Person: $20. Valid for 7 days.
Learn more about National Park Passes for parks that have an entrance fee.
Free Entrance Days -Find the five free entrance days the National Park Service offers annually.
PST - Pacific Standard Time
Are Dogs allowed in Yosemite?
Pets Are Allowed
- In developed areas
- On fully paved roads, sidewalks, and bicycle paths (except when signed as not allowing pets)
- In all campgrounds except walk-in campgrounds (e.g., Camp 4) and in group campsites
Pets must be restrained on a leash not more than six feet long or otherwise physically restrained.
Pets Are Not Allowed
- On trails, including the trail to Vernal Fall (however, pets are allowed on the Wawona Meadow Loop)
- On unplowed roads covered in snow
- In undeveloped and wilderness areas
- In public buildings
- On shuttle buses
- In lodging areas
- In all walk-in and group campgrounds/campsites, including Camp 4
- In any other areas, as signed.
The National Park Service reports the following cell service.
We have T-Mobile and find that we have service in specific parts of the park but not in others. Our best service is normally near Yosemite Falls.
Yosemite Valley: Voice and 3G (4G HSPA+) data and voice, primarily in eastern Yosemite Valley
Tuolumne Meadows: EDGE data and voice during summer, however this service is not reliable and may not be functioning, especially during early and late summer. If cell service is not available, it's likely traditional telephone service is also not available. The nearest cell and traditional phone service is in Lee Vining, outside the park.
Yosemite Valley: 4G LTE and voice, primarily in eastern Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley: 4G LTE and voice, primarily in eastern Yosemite Valley
Foresta: 4G LTE and voice
Crane Flat: 3G and voice
El Portal, Wawona: 4G LTE data service and voice
Tuolumne Meadows: 1x data service and voice during summer, however this service is not reliable and may not be functioning, especially during early and late summer. If cell service is not available, it's likely traditional telephone service is also not available. The nearest cell and traditional phone service is in Lee Vining, outside the park.
We use permethrin spray on our clothes before we visit parks
Yosemite National Park is open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
Free Wi-Fi is available at Degnan's Kitchen.
Internet access is available to register overnight guests at The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Valley Lodge, Curry Village, and Wawona Hotel.
Make sure to bring your own water bottle and plenty of water with you. Plastic water bottles are not sold in the park.
Parking can be an issue in the park, especially during the summer.
Parking lots fill quickly and you may end up searching for a while to find a parking space. Our best advice is to arrive early and plan time for parking issues.
When Parking lots fill up, you will find it much easier to park once and utilize the shuttle bus.
The use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) is prohibited within park boundaries.
Visitors traveling to the park should be aware that the use of drones is prohibited while visiting the park and should not be utilized at any time.
The Village Store in Yosemite Village is a great place to pick up picnic supplies or camping supplies. They have a wide range of products including wine, beer, and spirits.
Restaurants in Yosemite Valley
The Ahwahnee Dining Room
Open - Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Dinner is dressy! Advanced reservations are needed for dinner.
Breakfast, brunch, and lunch is casual dress.
The Ahwahnee Bar
Open - 2 pm to pm
The Ahwahnee Bar offers light dining options
Base Camp Eatery
Open - Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
Base Camp Eatery has a Starbucks coffee bar, and different counter you can order from.
There is an international counter, grill, and pizza counter.
Mountain Room Lounge
Open - 5 pm to 9 pm daily
The Mountain Room Lounge offers appetizers, salads, sandwiches, wings, pizza, and desserts.
Open - 7 am to 11 am and 11:30 am to 6 pm
Degnan's Bakery offers deli sandwiches, pizza, salads, espresso drinks, and a wide selection of beverages.
The Loft at Degnan's
Open - Fridays & Saturdays during Spring and Summer
The Loft at Degnan's offers BBQ including wings, ribs, briskets, along with wines and beer on top.
Open - Spring and Summer
The Village Grill Deck offers grilled sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and veggie options with a great outdoor seating area.
Open - Spring and Summer
Curry Village has a Pizza restaurant, coffee corner, Bar 1899, and the Seven Tents Pavilion.
Restaurants outside of Yosemite Valley
Wawona Hotel Dining Room
Open - Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
The Wawona Hotel Dining Room offers a great meal in an authentic Victorian-era ambiance.
White Wolf Lodge Dining Room
Open - Summers
The White Wolf Lodge dining room offers buffet-style breakfasts and family-style dinners.
High Sierra Camps
Open - Seasonally
High Sierra Camps offers reservation required breakfast and dinners. They also offer packed lunches for your hiking trip.
Tuolumne Meadows Lodge
Open - Seasonally
The Tuolumne Meadows Lodge offers family-style breakfast and dinner. Dinner reservations are required.
Tuolumne Meadows Grill
Open - Seasonally
Tuolumne Meadows Grill offers hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, fries, and sides.
Gas is available at Wawona, Crane Flat, and El Portal 24 hours per day with a credit card.
Gas is no longer available in Tuolumne Meadows.
Gas is not available in Yosemite Valley.
National Park Passport Stamps
National Park Passport stamps can be found in the visitor center.
Yosemite is part of the 1986 Passport Stamp Set.
Electric Vehicle Charging
EV charging is available in Yosemite National Park at no cost, courtesy of Yosemite Hospitality.
The Ahwahnee (one Tesla and one level 1)
You do not need to be a guest at the hotel to charge your vehicle, however, you must move your vehicle from the space once it is finished charging
Village Store (Yosemite Village) (one level 2)
Yosemite Valley Lodge (eight level 2)
Located by the Alder building and between Juniper and Laurel buildings.
Tuolumne Meadows -Starting in 2023 West of the Tuolumne Meadows Store (site of the former gas station) (two-level 2)
El Portal - Market and Gas Station (two-level 2)
Details about National Park
How big is Yosemite NP?
Yosemite covers 761,747 acres and is currently ranked at 16 out of 63 National Parks by Size
Yosemite National Park was designated by an Act of Congress on October 1, 1890, making it the third national park in the United States, after Yellowstone (1872) and Sequoia (1890).
In 2020, Yosemite National Park NP had 2,268,313 park visitors.
In 2019, Yosemite National Park NP had 4,422,861 park visitors
What State is Yosemite in?
Yosemite National Park Address
9035 Village Drive
Yosemite Valley, CA 95389
Where is Yosemite national park located on a map?
Yosemite National Park Map
For a more detailed map, we use the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps of Yosemite.
There are a couple of options that work great.
The Yosemite National Park Map Pack on Amazon
- Map 306:: Yosemite SW: Yosemite Valley and Wawona
- Map 307:: Yosemite NW: Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
- Map 308:: Yosemite NE: Tuolumne Meadows and Hoover Wilderness
- Map 309:: Yosemite SE: Ansel Adams Wilderness
You can also buy a single Yosemite NP Map on Amazon
Where is Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite National Park is located in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. The park has five entrances.
The closest major city airport to Yosemite National Park are Fresno and Sacramento.
Yosemite is one of the best West Coast National Parks you can visit.
Estimated distance from major cities nearby
Bass Lake, California - 16 miles, 30 minutes
Oakhurst, California - 16 miles, 27 minutes
Visalia, California - 104 miles, 1 hour 25 minutes
Los Angeles to Yosemite - 313 miles, 6.25 hours
Fresno to Yosemite - 94 miles, 2.5 hours
San Francisco to Yosemite - 219 miles, 4.5 hours
Sacramento to Yosemite - 199 miles, 4 hours
Stockton to Yosemite - 140 miles, 3.5 hours
Las Vegas to Yosemite - 460 miles, 8 hours
Reno to Yosemite - 218 miles, 5 hours
Estimated Distance from nearby Yosemite National Park
Sequoia National Park - 175 miles, 4 hours
Kings Canyon National Park - 150 miles, 3 hour 30 minutes to the Grant Grove
Death Valley National Park - June through October when the Tioga Road is open 270 miles/5 hours. The rest of the year when the Tioga Road is closed 450 miles/9 hours.
Grand Canyon National Park - North Entrance 636 miles, 12 hours 15 minutes, South Entrance 705 miles, 11 hours 30 minutes
Where is the Yosemite National Park Visitor Center?
The Yosemite Valley Visitor Center is on Northside Drive in Yosemite Village.
Getting to Yosemite National Park
Yosemite NP is located in central California.
The exact center of California is located south of the park near North Fork, California
Fresno International Airport (FAT)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
San Jose International Airport (SJC)
Reno Tahoe International Airport (RNO)
Mariposa - Yosemite Airport (RMY)
Visalia Municipal Airport (VIS)
Amtrak Train Service
Amtrak provides a combination of train and bus service to Yosemite Valley. Amtrak also provides limited service to White Wolf and Tuolumne Meadows daily during July and August (weekends only during June and September).
Amtrak service beyond Merced (including Yosemite) is provided by YARTS.
YARTS - Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System
Greyhound Bus Service
Greyhound provides bus service to Merced, where you can transfer to YARTS to continue to Yosemite Valley.
YARTS also provides limited service to Crane Flat, White Wolf, and Tuolumne Meadows daily during July and August (weekends only during June and September).
There is no luggage storage available within the park.
San Francisco/Bay area - Distance: 195 mi, Time:4-5 hours
Take I-580 east to I-205 east to Highway 120 east (Manteca) or Highway 140 east (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.
Sacramento - Distance: 176 mi, Time: 4 hours
Take Highway 99 south to Highway 120 east (Manteca) or Highway 140 east (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.
Reno & Lake Tahoe
Approximately June through October, conditions permitting - Distance: 218 mi, Time: 5 hours
Take US 395 south to Lee Vining; take Highway 120 west into Yosemite National Park (open late May/June through October, depending on conditions).
All year - Distance: 315 mi, Time: 5.5 hours
Take I-80 or I-50 west to Sacramento; take Highway 99 south to Highway 120 east (Manteca) or Highway 140 east (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.
Take I-5 north (or I-405 north to I-5) to Highway 99 north to Highway 41 north (Fresno) into Yosemite National Park.
San Diego area - Distance: 441 mi, Time: 8 hours
Take I-5 north to Highway 99 to Highway 41 north (Fresno) into Yosemite National Park.
June through October, conditions permitting - Distance: 400 mi, Time: 8 hours
Take US-95 North to Tonopah, then US-95/US-6 west to Highway 120. Go west on Highway 120 into Yosemite National Park (open late May/early June through October, depending on conditions).
November through May -Distance: 495 mi, Time: 8-10 hours
Take I-15 south to Barstow; Highway 58 west to Bakersfield; take Highway 99 north to Fresno. In Fresno, take Highway 41 north into Yosemite National Park.
Death Valley National Park
June through October - Distance: 270 mi, Time: 5 hours
Take Highway 190 west to US 395. Take US 395 north to Lee Vining; take Highway 120 east into Yosemite National Park (open late May/early June through October, depending on conditions).
November through May - Distance: 450 mi, Time: 9 hours
Take Highway 190 west to US 395; take US 395 south to its junction with Highway 14. Take Highway 14 south to Mojave. In Mojave, take Highway 58 to Bakersfield. From Bakersfield, head north on Highway 99 to Fresno. In Fresno, take Highway 41 north into Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite Valley Shuttle System
The Yosemite Valley Shuttle system is free and available to anyone within the park.
There are two shuttle lines - Yosemite Valley Shuttle and El Capitan Shuttle.
Yosemite Valley Shuttle
The Yosemite Valley Shuttle provides service around the eastern portion of Yosemite Valley. Stops are spread throughout the valley including all lodges, stores, and major attractions.
El Capitan Shuttle
The El Capitan Shuttle stops at El Capitan, Four Mile trailhead, and the Yosemite Valley visitor center. This shuttle runs from mid-June to early October, 9 am to 5 pm.
Yosemite National Park Weather and Seasons
Does it Snow in Yosemite?
Yes! The amount of snow varies by the year but there is definitely snow in Yosemite.
Spring is one of our favorite times to visit Yosemite. The waterfalls are roaring, the park isn't as crowded as during the summer, and the snow is melting.
Yosemite and Wawona are open during the spring but you will not be able to explore Tioga Road or Glacier Point Road due to snow.
Snow chains may be required even in the spring. The weather ranges from 39 degrees to 69 degrees in Yosemite Valley.
During the summer most areas of the park should be open and accessible. Tioga Road is normally open by late June.
Summer is the busiest time in the park! We suggest arriving EARLY! Really EARLY! So you can find a parking space and use the park shuttles to get around the park.
Waterfalls are still flowing with peak runoff occurring in May into June. By August many waterfalls are down to a trickle including Yosemite Falls.
Wildflowers can be seen in June in Yosemite Valley and a little later in the summer in the higher elevations.
By August into September, there is the chance that Yosemite Valley and other areas of the park will be smoky and hazy.
Fall is absolutely gorgeous in Yosemite!
The majority of the park is still open and accessible in the fall with a lot fewer people in the park.
The weather ranges from cold to hot depending on the day. You will want to dress in layers and be prepared for the weather to change quickly.
Smoke and haze can linger into fall depending on how the fire season went. Make sure to check air quality and smoke info before heading into the park.
Waterfalls are normally down to a trickle if not pretty dry during the Fall.
Fall Leaves area EPIC in Yosemite. The park does not get talked about for having epic fall foliage and it should.
Driving through Yosemite Valley when the big leaf maples, black oaks, and pacific dogwoods are turning is breathtaking.
Visiting Yosemite in the winter is an opportunity to see the park in a whole new way.
While a portion of the park is closed due to snow you can normally still access Yosemite Valley and the Wawona district.
Did you know there is a ski hill in Yosemite? During the winter you can go skiing at Badger Pass Ski Area. This area is great for downhill or cross country skiing.
Tire chains are often required during the winter so you will want to make sure the vehicle you are driving is equipped with chains and you know how to put them on.
One of the best parts of visiting Yosemite in the Winter is the opportunity to attend the Bracebridge Dinner.
If you only have one day in the park make sure to check out our Yosemite 1 Day itinerary for suggestions on how to make the most of your time in the park.
Visit the Visitor Center
The visitor center is a great place to start your visit to Yosemite. They have a ton of information, and rangers available to answer questions.
Next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center is the Yosemite Museum. The museum contains Indian Cultural Exhibits and an outdoor village that represents the native Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 to the present day.
Yosemite Valley is truly the heart of Yosemite National Park in California. The majority of the parks most popular attractions lie within the seven mile stretch of the Yosemite Valley.
Falling 2,425 feet Yosemite Falls is considered to be the tallest waterfall in North America located in Yosemite National Park.
Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park is one of the most popular things to do in the park.
You can expect to see spectacular views of Yosemite Valley including El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall.
Wildlife watching and Bird Watching
Are there bears in Yosemite?
Yes! If you are wondering if there are there black bears or grizzly bears in Yosemite you will be happy to know there are American black bears.
While black bears do not have the reputation that Grizzly Bears do it is worth noting that the average adult male black bear is about 250 pounds and average adult female is about 150 pounds.
There are approximately 300 to 500 black bears in Yosemite. Attacks are rare, and no one has been killed or seriously injured by a black bear in Yosemite.
The last known grizzly bear was shot outside the Yosemite region in the early 1920s; the species no longer exists in California despite its presence on the California state flag.
You will see red bear signs in Yosemite reminding you to slow down. These are placed in areas where a bear has been hit by a car!
Please do your part and slow down while driving in the park, look for wildlife as you are driving, and be prepared to stop quickly.
Please also make sure that you are not leaving food out in the open in your car. Bears will happily go searching for the food and your car will pay the price.
Are there Wolves in Yosemite?
There are no wolves commonly found in Yosemite. You may see coyotes hunting in Yosemite Valley especially during the winter when they are easy to see walking through the snow.
Is there Elk in Yosemite?
There are no known elk species found in Yosemite currently.
If you have dreamed of seeing big trees you are going to love the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park.
The tallest Sequoia tree in the Mariposa Grove is about 290 feet (88 meters). They are not the tallest trees this is awarded to the coastal redwoods.
Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park offers epic views over Yosemite Valley. The road to Glacier Point is only open during the summer months into fall.
This is one of the most iconic views in the National Park Service.
Glacier Point Road will be closed to all traffic in 2022 to rehabilitate and improve the road. The only access to Glacier Point will be via the Four Mile, Panorama, and Pohono Trails, all of which are strenuous hikes.
Bridalveil Fall is one of the most popular sites within the park. This 620 feet (189 meters) waterfall can be seen from Tunnel View and has a great walking trail to the base of it.
This tour is only offered during the summer around the full moon each month. The tour is two hours and we honestly loved it!
The Junior Ranger Program can be picked up at the visitor center. This is a great way for visitors of all ages to learn more about the park.
Can you drive through a Tree in Yosemite National Park?
Unfortunately, there is no longer a tree that can be driven through in Yosemite National Park.
Can you fish in Yosemite?
Yes, Make sure to check the current park fishing regulations before visiting the park.
Visitors to Yosemite 16 or older must have a valid California fishing license. Fishing licenses are available online.
Hiking at Yosemite National Park
Yosemite has over 60 trails and over 750 miles for you to explore! These trails range from easy to advanced so always make sure to always carry the Ten Essentials with you.
Half Dome Trail
Trail Length: 14.2 miles via Mist Trail
Starting Point: Most people begin the hike from Happy Isles Shuttle Stop 16, which is approximately a half-mile from the trailhead parking lot.
Note: A permit is required to hike Half Dome when the cables are up.
This is perhaps one of the most iconic hikes in the National Park System! It is an epic adventure and a bucket list item for many National Park enthusiasts. Having said that, this requires you to be in excellent shape as it climbs 4,800 feet, requires no fear of heights, uses a cable ladder, walks over wet rocks and stairs, and will take a full day to complete!
Yosemite Falls (Lower and Upper Falls) Trail
Trail Length: Lower is a 1-mile loop, 7.2-mile roundtrip
Difficulty: Lower is easy, upper is strenuous
Starting Point: Lower Yosemite Fall Trailhead, shuttle Bus stop #6
At 2, 425 feet tall, Yosemite Fall is the tallest waterfall in the U.S. and the fifth tallest on our planet! The best part is that you can hike right to the base of this waterfall on the Lower loop trail! The mist is incredible during spring runoff so make sure to bring a cover for your camera. Don't worry, you will be very pleasantly surprised with your photos, it's easy to get rainbows from all the mist. The upper Falls hike will give you incredible views of the falls and of Yosemite Valley all while giving you an amazing workout!
Trail Length: 7 miles roundtrip to Nevada Falls
Starting Point: Park in the Yosemite Valley and take the shuttle bus to the trailhead near Happy Isles.
This is Yosemite's signature, not to be missed hike. This trail packs a punch as most trails lead to one destination, not the Mist Trail where you have incredible views throughout. You pass by two incredible waterfalls and have a view of Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap, and the back of Half Dome from the Muir Trail as you are heading back!
Sentinel Dome Trail
Trail Length: 2.2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Starting Point: Drive to Glacier Point Road. Drive 13.6 miles on Glacier Point Road to the trailhead. There's a small parking lot and outhouse on the left.
One of the reasons to hike this trail is to see the fallen Jeffrey Pine, it once was one of the most famous trees in the world. Sentinel Dome is known for the Jeffrey Pine that grew from its peak. It was photographed as early as 1867 and is the subject of a well-known photograph from the famous photographer, Ansel Adams. The tree died in the drought of 1976 but remained standing until 2003. Of course, hiking to Sentinel Dome will also give you epic views in any direction!
Taft Point Trail
Trail Length: 2.2 miles roundtrip
Starting Point: Drive to Glacier Point Road. Drive 13.6 miles on Glacier Point Road to the trailhead. There's a small parking lot and outhouse on the left. Same trailhead as Sentinel Dome Trail.
The hike to Taft Point is just another hike. Taft Point, on the other hand, is something you will never forget! You can go as far as the edge of Taft Point and stare down the sheer cliff with nothing between you and the ground below. Thought you were not afraid of heights? well, this will quickly put that to the test!
Four Mile Trail
Trail Length: 4.7 miles one way, 9.4 miles roundtrip
Starting Point: Four Mile Trailhead along Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley
This hike offers you epic views of most of the landmarks in Yosemite Valley, especially Yosemite Falls.
Mirror Lake Trail
Trail Length: 2 miles out and back to the lake, 5 miles if you hike around the lake
Difficulty: easy to moderate
Starting Point: Mirror Lake Trailhead, Shuttle Bus stop #17
Mirror Lake has little water for most of the year. The best time is spring to early summer. If you catch it with calm winds you will get a reflection of the surrounding cliffs, thus the name.
Cathedral Lakes Trail
Trail Length: 7 miles roundtrip
Starting Point: Begin at Cathedral Lakes Trailhead, 0.5 miles west of the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center
Cathedral Lakes is one of Yosemite's most beautiful placedHigh Sierra Lakes amongst epic 10,000-foot peaks in the background.
Bridalveil Falls Trail
Trail Length: 0.5 miles roundtrip out and back
Starting Point: Bridalveil Fall Parking Area
This short hike leads to a platform right under the 620' Bridalveil Falls! This is a very refreshing and wet stop in the spring when the waterfalls are flowing well.
Glacier Point Trail
Trail Length: 1-mile roundtrip
Starting Point: Glacier Point
This is my happy place when I go to Yosemite! This view is one of the best in the entire National Park System and will be something you will always remember!
Mariposa Grove Trail
Trail Length: Several trails but recommend at least the 2.0-mile round trip Grizzly Giant loop trail
Starting Point: Mariposa Grove Arrival Area
There is something special about walking amongst the giant Sequoia Trees! The sheer size of these trees makes my imagination run wild and feel like a kid again. Make sure to take the time to enjoy this moment and you can even see the California Tunnel Tree.
Tenaya Lake Trail
Trail Length: 2.5 miles roundtrip
Starting Point: Small lots on either end of the lake. There are also wide road shoulders to park along.
The east end of the lake offers a small beach but the real magic is hiking to the west end of the lake. Here you will witness the lake surrounded by massive granite domes. Don't forget your camera!
A wilderness permit is required year-round for backpacking, overnight climbing, or any other overnight stays in the Yosemite Wilderness.
A wilderness permit is NOT required for day hikes unless hiking Half Dome.
Wilderness permit reservations become available by lottery 24 weeks in advance.
Any remaining reservations become available on a first-come, first-served basis after the lottery process is complete for that week's reservations up until seven days in advance.
How to beat the crowds in Yosemite National Park
The best way to beat the crowds in Yosemite is to visit during the off-season.
That being said Yosemite is crazy popular and you are not going to have the park to yourself but you also won't have to wait for an hour to find a parking spot most likely.
One of our favorite times to visit the park is late winter/early spring. Right when the snow is pretty well melted and the waterfalls are roaring.
The weather is cooler but the park is absolutely gorgeous.
If you are wondering where to stay in Yosemite National Park there are multiple options available ranging from tent cabins to national park lodges.
Just as an FYI a few of the lodges changed names over the past few years.
Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is now Yosemite Valley Lodge
The Ahwahnee changed to The Majestic Yosemite Hotel and is now back to the Ahwahnee.
Curry Village changed to Half Dome Village and is now back to being Curry Village
Wawona Hotel changed to Big Trees Lodge but is now back to being the Wawona Hotel.
Badger Pass Ski Area to become: Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area
The Ahwahnee Hotel is located in Yosemite Valley and is known throughout the world as one of the most luxurious National Park Lodges.
Built in 1856 the Wawona Hotel formerly Big Trees Lodge is on the National Historic Landmark located near the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and the Pioneer History Center in Yosemite National Park.
If you are looking to stay in the heart of Yosemite National Park than you will love Yosemite Valley Lodge.
The lodge is located close to Yosemite Falls which makes it a great base for a Yosemite vacation.
Part of the Curry Village complex that was previously known as Half Dome Village.
The Curry Village Tent Cabins are a great option for staying in Yosemite Valley.
If you are looking to stay in the heart of Yosemite Valley and not bring your own tent you will love Housekeeping Camp.
Located off the Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge includes 69 canvas-tent cabins without electricity.
Where to stay near Yosemite
There are great options for lodging near Yosemite National Park. We are huge fans of staying in Oakhurst, California and entering the park from the southern entrance.
A few of our favorite places to stay in Oakhurst include:
For additional lodging options click on the map below for current rates and availability for lodging and vacation rentals near Yosemite NP.
Yosemite National Park has multiple campground available within Yosemite Valley and outside of the valley near Wawona, Tuolumne Meadows, and Crane Flat.
The most important thing to know when planning a camping trip to Yosemite is reservations are vital and they go fast!
Make sure you know the exact day you need to be online to book a camping trip!
Upper Pines Campground is located in the heart of Yosemite Valley. Open year round this campground is close to hiking trails, half dome village, and the Merced River.
North Pines Campground is one of the popular campgrounds in Yosemite Valley. Located in the heart of Yosemite Valley you have access to Mirror Lake, Tenaya Creek, and Yosemite Bus Stops.
Lower Pines Campground is located in Yosemite Valley close to a shuttle bus stop and all of the main attractions of Yosemite National Park.
Located next to the Merced River you can spend time relaxing listening to the river.
The Wawona Campground is located near the Big Trees Lodge in the southern portion of Yosemite NP.
Tuolumne Meadows Campground in Yosemite National Park, California may be one of the most beautiful campgrounds we have spent time in.
Located off of Tioga Road the Tuolumne Meadows Campground offers direct access to the Tuolumne Meadows area right across the street.
Camp 4 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its nationally significant role in the development of rock climbing as a sport.
Tamarack Flat Campground is located off Tioga Road and offers 52 first come first serve tent camping.
Crane Flat Campground is on Big Oak Flat Road in Yosemite.
Bridalveil Creek Campground is located on the road to Glacier Point
Located off of the Tioga Road the Porcupine Flat Campground is a first come first serve campground only open for a few months out of the year.
Hodgdon Meadow Campground is located really close to the Big Oak Flat Entrance of Yosemite National Park. This campground is about 45 minutes northwest of Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite Creek Campground is a smaller campground off of Tioga Road.
You will need to drive down a narrow windy road to reach the campground.
If you are planning to explore the area surrounding Yosemite make sure to check out the Bass Lake Camping options.
There is an amazing campground right next to the lake with gorgeous views.
Yosemite National Park Facts
Half Dome is a 4,737-foot sheer granite face that is one of the most famous sites for the park.
The first tourists arrived in Yosemite in 1855
John Muir visited Yosemite in 1868
Yosemite Falls at over 2,400 feet is the highest free-falling waterfall in the United States.
The highest peak in Yosemite is Mt. Lyell at 13,114 feet.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act in 1864, eight years before Yellowstone became the first national park. Many people credit Yosemite as the birthplace of the National Park idea.
If you are visiting Yosemite National Park in the summer be prepared for crowds! The early bird gets the worm or the parking spot in this case. Getting to the park early is a great way to see some of the sites in the park without having to fight over parking spots or getting elbowed trying to get the perfect shot.
The roads into the park are windy! If you suffer from car sickness be prepared!
Trust your GPS when it says it can take 2+ hours to get into the park. Roads are windy and you don't want to speed through them.
Be prepared for road construction and delays.
When you see a bathroom use the bathroom! It may be a while before you see the next bathroom and you don't want to get stuck in construction or delays.
Readers Tips for Yosemite NP
Don’t just go to the valley. Visit Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, go up to Glacier Point, and by all means get out of the vehicle and go on a hike or two. We like to take the 5-10 mile hikes as they tend to be a lot less busy with tourists. Many of the best sights are off the beaten path. ~ Robin
Hetch Hetchy was a great place to see a bear. It was later in the afternoon but we saw 5 and stopped and took pictures. ~ John
Went early to mid-October and much of the Park was already closed off due to snowmaking roads impassable. ~ Terry
We visited last June. We stayed at the KOA about half an hour west of the park and arrived in the Valley by 8:30 am to get a parking spot for the visitor center and shuttle service. It's REALLY crowded. The drive up to Glacier Point is a bit challenging in places (I wouldn't attempt in an RV), but the views are really spectacular. We also greatly enjoyed driving the Tioga Road. Fabulous views and rock formations along the way, and several nice pull-outs. ~ Dana
The week before Memorial Day was a great time to visit....waterfalls flowing strong, roads open, the valley was not too crowded yet. Even if you are just a day visitor, make a reservation for lunch at the lodge dining room. Take a picnic to Glacier Point for sunset. ~ Angie
Take Yarts to get around the park and definitely get up early and get a jump on your day before the crowds do. ~ Edward
Hike to the top of Sentinel Dome. It’s an easy hike and the views are amazing. ~Jennifer
When flying from Fresno heading north make sure and try to sit on the right side of the plane, seats D, E, F on most planes. You may be able to see Yosemite including Half Dome and El Capitan during your flight.
Parks near Yosemite National Park
Sequoia National Park
Kings Canyon National Park
National Park Service Website