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Yosemite National Park is one of the most stunning places in the United States. Towering trees, massive monoliths, and a fascinating history make this park a very special place.
This is a large National Park, so it’s important to know your priorities before you begin. These are our favorite things to do in Yosemite National Park. If you want to find more information about what to do in Yosemite and where to stay, check out ExploreBetter.com for expert information.
Drive up to Glacier Point for a Closeup of Half Dome
Glacier Point is one of the most stunning views of Half Dome you’ll see, and probably the closest you can get to this monolith without actually climbing it, which requires some planning, permits, time, and a lot of endurance and strength. Getting to Glacier Point from the valley takes about 45 minutes, but it’s a beautiful drive through the woods with spectacular views along the way. There is ample parking at Glacier Point, restrooms, and a gift shop. It does get crowded with everyone seeking pictures with this amazing view, so getting there earlier in the morning is a good idea.
Take the trail to Yosemite Lower Falls
Yosemite Falls is an easy, flat 1-mile walk from the visitor parking in the valley. Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall when visiting Yosemite National Park. It is 2,425 feet from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall. However, when you walk to Yosemite Falls, you’ll really only be able to enjoy the Lower Falls. Keep in mind that this waterfall dries up in the dead of summer. It can kind of be a disappointing sight if you don’t know this. But you can also swim and play in the water at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls in the summer. If you happen to go in the early Spring, that’s when the falls are at their best and they’re an awesome sight!
Take in the Stunning Beauty of Tunnel View
Did you know that this is estimated to be the most photographed view in all the world? This view has been captured by visitors since 1933 and was made famous by Ansel Adams, whose photographs you can view in the gallery in Yosemite Valley. This stunning view is perfect any time of day, but my favorite time to see it is during sunrise when you can witness the rays casting over the valley and take in the grandeur of El Capitan to your left, Half Dome in the back, and Bridalveil Falls on the right. It’s truly breathtaking. If you’re into night photography, this is also a great spot to test your skills and capture the stars. Make sure to find a good time to go here when you visit Yosemite National Park.
Hike to Sentinel Dome
This is an easy to moderate out and back 2.2-mile hike to Sentinel Dome, a big dome rock that you can climb up for incredible views of both Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Valley below. What I love about this hike is that it really gives you a 360-degree view of the entire Yosemite National Park! It’s not a tough train, but there are a lot of rocks and you’ll need to hike up the dome, so I recommend having shoes with a decent grip on the bottom.
Be Inspired by El Capitan
Looming over Yosemite Valley’s west end, “El Cap” is famous among mountain climbers. Standing at a massive 3,000 feet above the valley, this imposing rock formation cannot be missed!
If you’re up for a challenge you can take the El Capitan Trail for more experienced hikers. It’s tough, but well worth the 8-10 hour climb for the incredible views at the end.
If you’re not up for a hike of that magnitude, don’t worry, you can catch a view of this monolith from nearly anywhere in the valley and also from Tunnel View.
Seeing Bridalveil Fall up close is definitely one of the best things to do in Yosemite. You can take an easy hike along the paved trail leading to the valley floor, where you will be misted by the impressive falls!
Mariposa Grove is one of the most special places in the park and one of the best things to see in Yosemite.
With over 500 massive giant sequoia trees, it’s truly an impressive sight to behold and is sure to make you feel small. Be sure to see the Grizzly Giant, which is one of the largest trees in the grove, estimated to be more than 2,700 years old!
You can find Mariposa Grove off Highway 41, at the end of Mariposa Grove Road. Park in the parking lot and take the shuttle up. Sometimes the shuttles aren’t running, and if that’s the case you’ll have to hike in about 2 miles along the Washburn Trail.
Visit the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center
This is a great place to start your Yosemite National Park visit, especially with kids. Purchase your Junior Ranger Books and any gear you might want.
Visit the Yosemite Museum
The Indian Cultural Exhibit and The Indian Village teaches the cultural history of Yosemite’s native Miwok and Paiute people. You can watch demonstrations of traditional skills and view the gallery which displays rotating exhibits throughout the year.
Visit the Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center
Yosemite’s first public visitor center, operated by the Sierra Club, offers a children’s corner, library, and a variety of environmental education and evening programs. This is a great place to start your visit to Yosemite National Park and learn all you can about this amazing land.
Ride Bikes in Yosemite Valley
The bad news about Yosemite Valley is that it can be tricky to drive and park in some places. The good news is that the valley is nice and flat, making it really easy to ride bikes. There are several places to rent bikes, including bikes for kids.
The Merced River is one of the most popular spots in Yosemite National Park. It’s a great place to cool off on hot summer days and provides some amazing views along the way. You can also get out and explore the area by taking a hike or horseback ride.
Remember to check out ExploreBetter.com for more helpful Yosemite tips!
Where to Stay in Yosemite
A family-friendly hotel that’s awesome for exploring the park. What’s great about the Yosemite View Lodge has 3 outdoor pool and 2 in-house restaurants. Plus, its partial view of Yosemite is too amazing to pass up!
It’s nearby Yosemite National Park, Stanislaus National Forest, and Yosemite Valley. They have area shuttle and child-friendly amenities.
Along Yosemite Valley, the Yosemite Valley lodge is a 3-star hotel offering comfortable rooms, onsite dining options, and a bar/lounge. Plus, it’s close to some of the park’s most popular attractions, like Nature Center at Happy Isles and Yosemite Museum. You can even rent a bicycle and explore the area on two wheels.
A 3.5-star cabins that comes with balconies and fireplaces, a cozy spot for outdoor activities like fishing, hiking, or biking. It’s located inside Yosemite National Park, so it’s one of the best options if you’re coming from the national parks. You can also visit some of the local landmarks in the area such Pioneer Yosemite History Center and Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad.
I suggest you take the opportunity to discover the outdoor recreational options available in the area, such as biking and hiking trails.
A rustic-style luxury hotel located in Yosemite Valley, just a few steps away from the majestic Half Dome. They offer exclusive activities to make your stay enjoyable such as their mountain ski retreat with dining and an outdoor pool.
If you’re looking for a luxurious stay, then The Ahwahnee is the perfect choice. You can enjoy the area’s slopes with cross-country skiing and downhill skiing. Plus, you have a fantastic view of Yosemite Valley and the iconic Ahwahnee Meadow.
If you really want to experience the true outdoors, I suggest you stay at this charming cabin in the woods. Also located in Yosemite National Park, it comes with a kitchen and each cabin has a master bedroom with a comfy king-size bed and down comforter. It’s a perfect place for hiking and running trails with wildflowers, waterfalls, and wildlife can be accessed right from the cabins.
Best Tours in Yosemite
If you want to have a full outdoors experience, this tour from San Francisco is the perfect choice. You will visit Yosemite National Park a and get an up-close view of the Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and the giant sequoia trees. If you didn’t know, there’s a Sequoia National Park connected to Yosemite National Park, so you can get the best of both worlds.
Here are the highlights of the tour:
- mite National Park’s stunning scenery
- Enjoy a 1-hour Sequoia Walk to marvel at the world’s tallest trees
- View the majestic Bridalveil and Yosemite Falls
- See Inspiration Point, and the amazing El Capitan and Half Dome cliffs
- Learn about the park from a fully guided audio commentary
If you really want to experience the most of Yosemite National Park, then this Yosemite Lodge 2-Day National Park Tour is the best option.You will be staying overnight in the park, so you get to enjoy all the outdoor activities like hiking, cycling and more.
Here are what you should look forward to the tour:
- Explore Yosemite National Park for 2 days with a driver/guide
- Photograph Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Inspiration Point
- Hike among the Giant Sequoias in the summertime
- Stay overnight in the park at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls
- Travel comfortably and responsibly in a petroleum-free biodiesel mini-coach
Now, if you’re coming from San Jose, then this tour is the perfect option for you. You will get to explore the park and experience activities such as hiking, biking, picnicking, and exploring the breathtaking monuments and waterfalls.
Other highlights of the tour includes:
- Visit Giant Sequoias (trail conditions permitting)
- View the Half-Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and more
- Receive a maximum amount of time in the park
- Enjoy free WiFi in the vehicle
- Listen to complimentary foreign language audios
For those who are looking for a more independent tour option, this app-based audio guided driving route tour is the perfect choice. It provides an audio tour of the park, with stories of the parks history and natural wonders.
- Drive and hike through one of America’s most iconic national parks
- Experience the majesty of the 2,400-foot tall Yosemite Falls
- Visit scenic vistas overlooking nature at its most beautiful
- Get to know the park’s rich wildlife
- Learn about the struggle to protect this incredible landscape
Things to do in Yosemite National Park FAQ
You can go on tours, do outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and camping. You can also explore the park’s natural wonders by driving or walking along its scenic trails, and admire the views of El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Tolumne Meadows and more.
Yosemite National Park is known for its breathtaking wilderness and natural beauty. It’s home to towering waterfalls, granite cliffs, miles of trails, and a variety of wildlife. It is also home to some of the world’s oldest and largest Sequoia trees, with some of them estimated to be over 2,000 years old.
If you really want to enjoy your time in Yosemite, it’s best to stay at least two days. That way you can get a full experience of the park, explore multiple trails, and admire the views of its natural wonders.
Even if you’re planning on visiting Yosemite for a day, it’s still a great experience. You can still explore the park’s main attractions such as Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls. One tip is to go on a guided tour so you don’t miss out on any of the park’s hidden gems.