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Things to do in Yosemite National Park

54 contributors

The top 21 attractions in Yosemite National Park

Nature Reserves in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park
(34)
Yosemite is one of the most famous U.S. national parks, so make sure to reserve your spot early! The ideal time to go is in spring or early summer when the falls are at their peak. It's a spectacular show of water, sound, and the sheer force of nature. There's also free bus service to take you to the different points of interest in the park. We spent three full days hiking and there were lots of different routes to choose from ranging from simple strolls to challenging trekking and even rock climbing. It's all very well put together and visitor-friendly, but there is still plenty of spaces where you can be alone and enjoy the silence and tranquility of nature. Don't miss the view from Glacier Point! It's incredible!
Viewpoints in Yosemite National Park
Glacier Point
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The Colossus of Yosemite, the highest point at the top of this amazing granite rock, with a view of the Merced River valley is breathtaking. From 2,200 meters you can see the horizon from east to west. The whole Californian Sierra Nevada for your eyes and the impenetrable forest of Yosemite is at your feet. From the valley you look at Glacier Point and say 'it is not so high'. However, when you look out the natural balcony prodigy large rock that you will feel terribly small. Wander around the area, there are many places from where you can immortalise a landscape like few others. If you arrive late, snack, relax, and wait till you see the sunset perhaps, Mother Nature will gift you what many have billed as the best sunset of the entire planet. Glacier Point, like many places in altitude Yosemite National Park, is closed in winter due to the access difficulties.
Nature Reserves in Yosemite National Park
Half Dome
(3)
Beside the Captain is where you'll find the Half Dome, which is another much higher ridge (2695 meters). You can climb to the top by following a long path to get the best views of the park. From there you can also visit the two most famous waterfalls in the park, the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. Be careful in this area on ​​the circular path of the 140 with sheriff's cars and their radars. The speed limit is very slow here. You have a wonderful view of this wall and falls from Glacier Point.
Forests in Yosemite National Park
Mariposa Grove
(11)
This is an impressive giant redwood forest inside Yosemite National Park. It's 59 kilometres south of the middle of the park, and very close to the southern entrance on the way to Fresno. Giant redwoods can reach up to 100 meters high, 8 meters in diameter, and can live more than 3,000 years. You feel terribly small strolling among them, their pine cones can be bigger than your head. It's as if you moved to another planet. There's a kilometre long marked path to the world's largest redwoods and park's most famous trees, like "Bachelor and tree Graces, California Tunnel Tree or Giant Grizzly". It's a simple and memorable path through a different and special landscape. It's important to emphasize that because of the height of the forest and its harsh weather conditions, this corner of the park is usually closed to the public from April to November.
Nature Reserves in Yosemite National Park
El Capitan
(5)
On the way to Yosemite Valley can see immediately the Captain, a huge granite wall that reaches 900m high, is the biggest piece the world. Soon you reach an area and where you get into a kind of one-way circular route that took you to a view of the Great Captain. This is the most famous point in Yosemite. Obviously it is a landmark among climbers worldwide.
Waterfalls in Yosemite National Park
Upper Falls in Yosemite
(2)
Yosemite Falls is a series of three waterfalls in Yosemite National Park in California, nestled in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada. From the highest to the lowest, they are Upper Falls, Middle Falls and Lower Falls. With a height of 740m, it is the sixth highest waterfall in North America and the 20th highest in the world. The best time to go is late spring or early summer, when the melting snow means that the water is even faster and even more amazing. And you simply must stay at the hotel at the foot of the falls and wake up to the spectacular view.
Nature Reserves in Yosemite National Park
Tuolumne Grove
(3)
To walk and admire the Giant Sequoias of Yosemite is something that you simply must do if you visit the West Coast of the United States. There are extraordinary landscapes, pleasant walks and stunning waterfalls. The majesty of the giant Sequoias is amazing, can not believe that they can get to be that size.
Lakes in Yosemite National Park
Tenaya Lake
(3)
Tenaya Lake can be found in Yosemite National Park in California, USA. It lies on the road known as Tioga Pass Road, a Mono Lake to Yosemite. If you go into the National Park on this road it's the first really awesome landscape you can enjoy in Yosemite.
Valleys in Yosemite National Park
Tunnel View
(5)
If you go to Yosemite National Park from the South Access on State Route 41, you will enter the Wawona Tunnel. When you approach the tunnel exit, reduce your speed, open your eyes and get ready to be thrilled by one of the world's most wonderful sights. The colossal dimensions of the valley framed by giant granite rocks, revealing the infinite background of sky. After leaving the tunnel, leave your vehicle parked in the lot on the left, sit on the veranda, take a deep breath, enjoy the scenery and prepare your camera to capture the moment. Captain is on your left, the largest granite rock in the world, Bridalveil waterfall on your right, hovering above it the Cathedral Rocks....all this under the impenetrable forest of Yosemite Valley.
Waterfalls in Yosemite National Park
Lower Yosemite Falls
(3)
This is actually close to the Upper Falls, but its difficult to see them together. There is easy access to the base of the falls, less than 10 minutes from the town, that makes them the most visited, although I prefer the cascade.
Viewpoints in Yosemite National Park
Olmsted Point
(2)
This lookout is one of the best in Yosemite National Park, though it's really nothing more than a blip on the map. You can enjoy solitude and incredible views. It's on Highway 120, on the way out of the park by the Tioga Pass, which is more than 3,000 meters in altitude, so it's closed in winter because of snow and the bitter cold. The Tioga Pass offers a great shortcut if you're going to Las Vegas across Death Valley. Before arriving at Tenaya Lake, on your right, you'll find this little gazebo, that offers a breathtaking view of Lake Tenaya, the Cathedral and Clouds Rest (where with good binoculars you can see dozens of climbers hung its walls). It's an extremely lonely place with only the wind, river or the Tenaya campground at Sunrise Lakes. A general tip for the entire park, but especially in these lonesome points, don't leave food in your vehicle if you don't want to meet a bear when you return.
Lakes in Yosemite National Park
Ellery Lake
(1)
Immediately outside Tioga in Yosemite, in the Sierra Nevada, you start a descent woards Lee Vining, but you can still take a stop to visit the small lake that ice always remains in. A charming spot perpetual snows, it lies at over 3000 meters altitude. The sunsets on the lake are breathtaking: the sun gilds the granite of the surrounding summits, especially Lee Vining Peak, and seems to turn it gold. There is a camping area nearby where you can spend the night, so you will need warm clothes, as the night temperatures get very cold in the high mountains even in summer. This is a glorious end to your visit in Yosemite National Park.
Waterfalls in Yosemite National Park
Bridal Veil Falls
(1)
At almost 200 meters, this is one of the most stunning waterfalls of Yosemite Valley. This is also and one of the first encountered by tourists (its even visible from the viewpoint of the tunnel, the best vantage point). Its easy to reach, and in a few minutes you will reach your base from the parking lot, just have to be careful not to get wet. Legend has it that visitors should not stare at the waterfall when you leave the valley or be cursed by the spirits.
Nature Reserves in Yosemite National Park
Tuolumne Meadows
About seven miles west of the Tioga Pass entrance (east entrance of the park, coming in from Mammoth Lakes), you'll find a gorgeous meadow, which is very flowery in spring. It crosses the Tuolumme River and is surrounded by peaks taller than 4,000 meters. Considering its climate and altitude (2580m), forests are scarce, leading to high mountain vegetation. You'll be circulating on the road itself (called 120 or Tioga Road). Then, you'll see Tuolumne Meadows and nearby there is a campsite, a visitor center and some shops and restaurants. This meadow is accessed in winter for cross-country skiers. Its an easy hike of 11 km round trip takes you to the Elizabeth Lake. Just about 300m down the road, we had a beautiful encounter with deer in the river.
Waterfalls in Yosemite National Park
Vernal Falls
(1)
One of the most spectacular walks that you can take in Yosemite Park is through the Mist Trail leading to Vernal Falls. Starting from the Visitor Center, you drive through the entire Yosemite Valley, along the clear Merced River, up to the parking lot in Curry Village. Here you can take the free shuttle bus to the trailhead in the park. You'll start climbing immediately along the 1300m of path until you arrive at the foot of Vernal Falls, one of the few waterfalls in the park that are never dry, even in late summer. After a long, hot hike, it's refreshing to enjoy the spray from the sparkling waterfall. The Mist Trail continues for a mile to the upper base of the falls, with more beautiful views, and hiking experts can continue the full 3.5km (measured from the starting point) to Nevada Falls.
Waterfalls in Yosemite National Park
Bridalveil Falls
(2)
This is the first waterfall that we saw after arriving at the site of Yosemite National Park. This waterfall is really easy to access, with plenty of parking and a clearly-defined path. At the bottom of the waterfall is a small stream, where you can stop for a picnic (we did!). It was a lovely experience.
Roads in Yosemite National Park
Tioga Road
(2)
The Tioga Road is one of the highest roads in America, as well as being among the most scenic in California. It connects the Yosemite Valley with the east entrance of the park, and passes the 3000m Tioga Pass, through breathtaking landscapes of pristine forests and imposing granite peaks, green pastures and emerald lakes. It is buried under meters of snow in winter, and is only open for a few months a year, from mid-May/late-June to mid-autumn. Check online for the real-time status of the road. The first part goes through Tuolumne Grove, a group of giant sequoias. It continues with a stop at the beautiful Tenaya Lake, and then with a sudden change of landscape it enters the Tuolumne Meadows, where you'll find a visitors center. Then it climbs to the Tioga Pass before dropping again to Tioga Lake.
Nature Reserves in Yosemite National Park
Cathedral Lake
Yosemite National Park, the first National Park to be declared by the federal government, is located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, covering an area of 3000 square kilometers in the state of California. Due to its large size, it has a huge diversity of flora and fauna, with plant species like redwood, oak and pine, and numerous waterfalls, cliffs, rivers and valleys. The Tioga Road, Highway 120, runs through the park from east to west. To get there from Mammoth Lakes, take the US395 north, and then the right turn to Mono Lake. Once across the entrance (where you have to pay for your vehicle, unless you have an annual pass), you can choose any of the numerous hiking paths. Our route was to the Cathedral Lake, from the road where the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center stands. In total, about 7 miles (round trip) that rises continuously up a trail of sand and earth, with logs and collapsed trees along the way. It took us approximately 4 hours. The return is downhill, so be careful not to slip on the stones or earth. You'll see squirrels everywhere. The two lakes are located within 1 mile of Cathedral Peak, and about 2 miles from Tenaya Lake. The difference between the two lakes is about 100 meters.
Activities in Yosemite National Park
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