There are many interesting things to do in Yosemite ranging from climbing to hiking, biking to trekking, visiting museums to Sequoia trees, and many more. Yosemite national park is an iconic place in Northern California with breathtakingly beautiful natural views filled with natural historical values too. This beautiful place in the Sierra Nevada mountains has been an inspiration for climbers, nature lovers, artists, and adventurous people. This place has been lurking around them for years.
1. Points to Consider While Visiting Yosemite
- Yosemite is located in the Sierra Nevada region, almost 3 hours east of San Francisco or 4.5 hours north of Los Angeles by road. The valley has 4 major entrances. Use a Big oak flat entrance if coming from San Francisco. Use the Southern entrance if coming from Los Angeles and Southern California. Enter through Tioga pass if coming from Lake Tahoe or Reno.
- You can visit Yosemite throughout the year. Summer is a more common and crowded season but during fall and winter, it is quieter and less crowded. Check out the best time to visit Yosemite and plan your trip according to that to enjoy it fully.
- Stay at the campgrounds or Curry village. Try to book your accommodation in advance to avoid any problems. Try to arrange an Annual park pass.
- Valley has a good shuttle service. You can roam around the valley in shuttles or in your car.
- You can enjoy pizza at Half dome village or grilled cheeseburgers and other items at the village grill in Yosemite village.
2. Things to do in Yosemite
Yosemite is filled with wonderful vistas, and amazing places to explore and refresh your soul. Here are some of the top things to do in Yosemite.
2.1. Indulge Yourself in the Breathtaking Views of Yosemite Falls.
Visiting Yosemite falls is the most striking and one of the must things to do in Yosemite valley. As you drive through the valley, this beautiful fall is visible and looks different from every angle. You can’t ignore the magnificent views and beauty of the place.
The beautiful Yosemite falls consists of three waterfalls together, that is upper Yosemite falls, middle falls and lower Yosemite falls. The three combine to form one of the tallest waterfalls.
Hiking to the middle cascades and lower Yosemite falls is easy in comparison to hiking to the crest of the upper Yosemite which is quite challenging. It is a 7.6-mile round trip with 3,000 feet above and takes almost 6-10 hours. For hiking enthusiasts and an epic experience of Yosemite falls, walk a one-mile trail at the base of the valley floor and do the all-day hike to the crest of upper Yosemite enjoying breathtaking views of the surroundings.
Lower Yosemite falls is more crowded but worth visiting place. The area has picturesque meadows for a perfect picnic. A swinging bridge has a perfect picnic site with mesmerizing views. You can admire the best beautiful views of the fall from the starting point of the Yosemite falls hike, you have to walk to the base of the falls and enjoy the mists refreshing you.
2.2. Enjoy Climbing the Half-Dome
Half dome is the most popular and most challenging climbing site in Yosemite. It is quite famous as one of the ‘big climbs’ in the world. This enormous sheer rock attracts climbers towards itself and is among the most challenging things to do in Yosemite.
This epic granite icon looks quite different from different angles. There are many vantage points to get a good view of the Half dome. You can get the whole view of Half dome at a distance from Tunnel view and Glacier point. From there the clear dome shape is evident and you can appreciate this towering grandeur over other mountains. Mirror lake hike is one of the good options for a close-up view.
Professional and adventurous hikers can go hiking to the upper and back sides of this formation. This hike is risky, so one should be well-equipped and should have all the knowledge and information before attempting it. Permits are required for hiking to some parts.
2.3. Appreciate the Classic Tunnel View of Yosemite Valley
From Tunnel view, you will get the most classic, vast, and beautiful views of Yosemite valley. The view covers Bridalveil falls on the right side, El Capitan on the left side, and Half dome in the distant view including the lush valley on the floor of the big granite walls.
The best time to admire this picturesque view is in the afternoon when the walls of the rocks are bathing and gleaming in the sunlight. However, you can enjoy this incredible sight throughout the daytime, the walls are in shadow but beautiful in the morning. If you enter from Wawona road, you will get to the parking area just after the tunnel. You will pass the Tunnel view as you enter the tunnel while heading to Glacier Point from the valley. You can also visit the nearby Artist point trail and Dewey point.
2.4. Incredible Views at the Vantage Glacier Point
Sightseeing at Glacier point is one of the most mesmerizing things to do in Yosemite. Glacier Point is an elevated vantage point at more than 7,200 feet providing mesmerizing grand views over the entire Yosemite valley and many other sites beyond like half dome, Yosemite falls, and Nevada falls.
You can drive to Glacier point from Yosemite village and reach there in an hour. Enjoy the hikes and beautiful sites throughout your way. During early spring or fall, the weather is pleasant and the valley is full of colors, it is the best time to visit here. You can also visit during winter if the route is open.
There are lots of things to do in Yosemite at Glacier point like sightseeing, stargazing, birdwatching, and hiking is the most popular. Four-mile trail hike is an approximate 5-mile steep trail running down 3,200 feet from Glacier Point to Yosemite valley, near the Sentinel dome. This hike is a little bit risky as the trail is not in good condition. Don’t forget to visit nearby Washburn point with capturing scenes and views over Vernal falls. In winter, visit the Badger pass ski area to enjoy the ski slopes.
2.5. Refresh Yourself at the Bridalveil Fall
Bridalveil fall is a classic site in Yosemite national park located on the south side of Yosemite valley. You can reach this beautiful waterfall by walking on the short trail leading to the base of the fall.
You can just hear the sound of pounding water crashing on the boulders, and feel the cool must drenching you and refreshing your soul. You can get the whole view of the Bridalveil fall from a high vantage point at Tunnel view.
2.6. Climb the Legendary El Capitan
El Capitan is a huge dramatic 3,000 feet sheer rock standing proudly facing the north side of Yosemite valley. This massive rock is 1,000 feet higher than the face of the Half dome.
Climbing the El Capitan is among the legendary things to do in Yosemite. This climb is quite challenging and risky, requires proper knowledge and experience, and almost 8-10 hours to complete the climb while enjoying the views.
This El Capitan become popular in June 2017, after two incidents. First Alex Honnold attempted a free solo climb on this. Secondly a documentary movie “Free Solo” was filmed on it and won the Academy Award in the documentary. Alex becomes the first person to climb El Capitan without any aides or ropes, completing the climb in 3 hours and 56 minutes.
El Capitan looks like the massive cliff on the left side of the valley, standing higher than everything in the view from the Tunnel view vantage point. The wall of the El Capitan is visible as you drive through the valley, you can stop at El Capitan meadow off the North and drive through Yosemite valley and have a close view and photographs of the huge cliff wall.
Sometimes rangers are available in the meadow to help you out. This is a one-way road so it’s good to view the point on your way out of the valley. You can stop at the right of the same road beyond the El Capitan picnic area and walk on the short trail up to the wall of the cliff and touch it. Some rudimentary trails covered with trees and boulders, also lead to the base of the wall. Climbers are commonly set up here.
2.7. Admire the Natural Sculpted Beauty of Sequoia Trees at Mariposa Grove
Mariposa grove is stated as the heart of Yosemite national park as the foundation of the park was rooted there. According to a 1980s Legislature, Yosemite valley and Mariposa grove were selected to preserve the sequoia trees for the public. You can visit here from the south entrance of Yosemite national park.
Mariposa grove is home to around 500 mature giant Sequoia trees. These tall Sequoia trees are living specimens of naturally sculpted beauty and art. Wandering on the trails around the grove you will get to see some naturally crafted trees with names like the Fallen Monarch, the Clothespin tree, and the Faithful couple. Among these, the most famous is the ‘Grizzly giant’ which is 2,700 years old and is one of the largest trees in the grove with rings in it.
2.8. Learn the History at Yosemite Museum and Indian Village
Along with the natural beauty, Yosemite and its surrounding area in the Sierra Nevada region have been inhabited for more than 3,000 years. Visit Yosemite Village and the Indian museum to learn about the early inhabitants of the valley. Here different artworks and artifacts are displayed, and live demonstrations and guides are also available to help you out. The entry is free of cost.
Behind the museum building, some traditional-style bark-covered dwellings and some Euro-American-style buildings are there which were earlier used by the Miwok people of that area.
2.9. Experience Tranquility at Tuolumne Meadows
Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite national park is the best spot for a dreamy, magical, fresh retreat with tranquility. Tuolumne meadows dwell between elevated granite peaks and the Tuolumne river and offer many worth-seeing spots around the meadows. It is one of the refreshing things to do in Yosemite.
You will get to see blooming fields, Cathedral peak, Lembart Dome, and Pothole dome. Visit during the spring to get the best experience since the grasses are lush and flowers are going to bloom.
2.10. Drive Through Tioga Road
A drive through Tioga road, Highway 120 at Yosemite is a joyful ride and is among the must things to do in Yosemite. You will get to see the marvelous alpine scenery along the road with wildflowers blooming in the open meadows and clear, pristine lakes reflecting the mountain peaks. This place is also good for summer hiking and camping.
This road is open during summer. Tioga pass is at the park’s east entrance, at an elevation of 9,945 feet. Other sites to see here are Olmsted point, Tenaya lake, and nearby hiking trails.
2.11. Relax at Hetch Hetchy
Hetch Hetchy is a less crowded but beautiful area of the park, ideal for relaxing. This place is built around the reservoir which was developed to supply drinking water to San Francisco. There is an almost flat 5-mile hike leading to the dam through the mountain just near the waterfall. This is a fun, joyful hike.
2.12. Capture the Panoramic Views at Taft Point
Taft Point is located west of Glacier point and is accessible by a hike on Pohono trailhead, just off the road. From Taft point you will get to see beautiful, captivating views of El Capitan and down into the valley. This place is a little risky, so be careful near the rock edges and the fissures between the rocks.
2.13. Enjoy Vernal Falls
Vernal fall is a beautiful fall at a height of 317 feet. You can reach here hiking through John Muir trail or mist trail enjoying the mist spraying you, get an incredible sight of Vernal fall from the footbridge.
Although the Vernal fall is awesome throughout the year, spring and early summer are the best time to visit here. This hike is exhausting so take proper food items and water to hydrate and energize yourself. Be cautious of the slippery trails due to water spray-off.
2.14. Climb at the Cathedral Peak
Cathedral peak is a well-known climbing spot and one of the must things to do in Yosemite national park. Cathedral peak is a huge granite rock, formed by glaciers a thousand years earlier. This place is wonderful and worth visiting, get its best view from Tuolumne meadows.
John Muir was the first person to climb Cathedral peak in 1869. This climb to the summit is easy. Instead of climbing, you can go down the trail to lower Cathedral lake for more mesmerizing views.
2.15. Hike to Sentinel Dome
The Sentinel dome hike starts from the same trailhead as Taft point but is to the right side. This hike is relatively easy than the Taft point hike and is without fissures, offering different views too.
2.16. Learn at Ansel Adam Gallery
Ansel Adams gallery is a small yet interesting place in Yosemite village. Named after Ansel Adams, a famous photographer whose name and work are associated with this park. His most popular work includes black-and-white images of Half done, Jeffery pine, and Yosemite valley. You can buy Ansel Adams’s original photos, reproduction of original photos, posters, and books from here. Or just get inspired by the displayed artworks.
3. Activities to do in Yosemite
Visiting Yosemite is incomplete without hiking, hence hiking is one of the must things to do in Yosemite. Yosemite national park has a variety of hikes, ranging from quick and easy to risky and challenging hikes, to one-day or multi-day hikes. Some hiking trails have wheelchair-accessible paths too. Guides are also available, you can choose if you want.
Hiking trails leading to waterfalls or peaks are the most famous ones, but hiking trails to alpine, lake, and meadows are beautiful too.
Short, easy trails are busier than longer trails with elevation gain. Hike to the Half dome is the most popular among hikers. This is a difficult, day-long hike with elevation gain and an open section with cables. Family-friendly, easy hikes are the Mirror lake hike, the hike to Vernal fall footbridge, and the Mist trail. Tioga road hike is a seasonal one that opens in summer, here you can hike through alpine scenery. Sentinel dome and Taft point hike are popular sunset trails.
Rock climbing is the most popular sports things to do in Yosemite. This place is considered the pinnacle of the carrier for climbers. Half dome and El Capitan have been the center attraction for climbers for decades. Many climbing legends and sports leaders like Warren Harding, Jim Bridwell, Royal Robbins, and Alex Honnold had come to Yosemite for climbing.
Camp 4 campground is registered on the list of National Register of Historic places, because of its importance in the climbing sport. Since the 1950s, the climbers have been pitching their tents here at this place, so this place is considered closely associated with the sport of climbing.
Rock climbing had always been popular in Yosemite, but become more so after the release of Free solo (the documentary film) showing Alex Honnold’s free solo climb of El Capitan in June 2017.
Yosemite has been a popular place for camping for families, climbers, and tourists for years. This Yosemite national park offers several campgrounds including famous campgrounds like upper pines, Lower pines, and North pines campground among tourists. Climbers mostly choose camp 4 campgrounds.
Camping is an awesome way to admire nature closely and experience the park. It is one of the must things to do in Yosemite. If you are interested in hiking or exploration of the site, camping will let you woke up on the location and start your adventure trip early. Sometimes during the season, campsites in the park are full, you can stay at the campgrounds or RV parks located outside the gates.
Bike riding or biking is one of the interesting things to do in Yosemite for families and tourists. You can enjoy easy bike riding in a fun way. Yosemite national park offers 12 miles paced paths for biking along with normal roads.
The most common area for biking is the paved service road on the north of the river, leading to Mirror lake. You can ride the bike for the long initial part of the lake way and then walk in through the last upper part of the way to the lake.
The other loop suitable for biking is the pathway east of Curry Village, which surrounds the Upper pines campground, and moves through the trailhead for Vernal and Nevada fall, and then also through the John Muir trail. Rental bicycles are available at curry village (earlier known as Half dome village).
Merced river runs through Yosemite valley. Rafting is also one of the fun things to do in Yosemite. You can stop at random beach spots to play in the water or you can rent a raft or kayak to enjoy rafting. Beware of the current in the water.
3.6. Guided tours
Yosemite national park offers various guided tours ranging from a day round trip to a 2-3 day tour. You can check the available tours and the details at the visitor center of the park.
The Valley Orientation tour is a one-day tour exploring Yosemite under an expert guide. Giant Sequoia trees tour offers a gorgeous scenery tour with an audio guide for the day. Yosemite national park tour offers round-trip transportation and provides an all-day adventure covering places like El Capitan and Bridalveil fall, stopping at some famous eateries to kill your hunger.
You can also opt for a 2-day Yosemite park tour which includes an overnight stay at cedar lodge or the campgrounds. Jeep tours are also available to explore remote areas of the Sierra region.
Visit Yosemite national park on your vacation with family, friends, or alone and explore the beautiful region. You will always cherish the moments of your Yosemite vacation.
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