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17 Breathtaking Things to Do in Yosemite National Park

Looking for the best things to do in Yosemite National Park? Don’t miss these places if it’s your first time.

Yosemite is easily one of our favorite places in the United States. It was the first national park I visited as an adult, and as most firsts go, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

We’ve visited six times so far in the summer, fall, and winter. Yosemite is a massive park with so much to explore that it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. If you’re visiting Yosemite National Park, here’s a to help you get started.

What to See in Yosemite National Park - Yosemite Must-See One Day + Yosemite Map // localadventurer.comPin

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Last Updated: April 17, 2024

17 Things to Do in Yosemite National Park that will Take Your Breath Away

1. Glacier Point

37.7284714,-119.5731828, map

This is one of Yosemite’s best viewpoints that you can drive up to with easy access. Located on the south wall of Yosemite Valley, you get a spectacular view of the valley and Half Dome. If you can make it, sunrise and sunset are the best times to go.

Four Mile Trail + Are you going to be in Yosemite National Park? Save this pin and click to see details on the 11 best hikes in Yosemite National Park you shouldn’t miss. These Yosemite hiking trails are also some of the best hikes in California and the US that you’ll want to add to your hiking bucket lists. They take you to the most beautiful places, waterfalls, and views in Yosemite. // Local Adventurer #localadventurer #yosemite #california #nationalpark #visitcalifornia #visitcaPin

2. Taft Point & Sentinel Dome

Trailhead Coordinates: 37.712620, -119.586448, map

Taft Point and Sentinel Dome are right next to each other. Taft Point is easy to get to and a great spot to conquer your fear of heights. Edge up to the cliff and stare straight down into the valley to appreciate its grandeur. Sentinel Dome is an easy 1-mile walk from the parking lot and gives you a 360-degree view of Yosemite.

See More: 11 Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Taft Point and Sentinel Dome + 15 Best Things to Do in Yosemite National Park that Will Take Your Breath Away - What to See in Yosemite in One Day and the Yosemite AreaPin

3. Yosemite Falls

37.7565999,-119.5990961, map

Standing at 2,424 feet, this is the highest waterfall in North America and the sixth largest in the world! The best time to view it is in late spring, when the melting snow creates the most substantial flow. You can even day hike to different portions of the falls, including the top.

Local Tip: For an extra special experience, go during the moonbow.

See More: 7 Magical Moonbow Dates and Locations You Need to Know

4. Tunnel View

37.7158029,-119.6796714, map

This spot can get crowded with tour buses and cars, but still makes the list of top places to see. From here, you get a view of Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, and El Capitan.

Local Tip: Hiking the Artist Point Trail gives you a slightly higher vantage point of the same view without the crowds.

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, California + Your Ultimate USA Bucket List // Local Adventurer #usa #yosemitePin

5. Bridalveil Fall

37.7166784,-119.6485457, map

This waterfall is one of the most iconic waterfalls in the park and is just a short hike away (0.5 miles). It has quite the spray in the spring. The Ahwahneechee Native American tribe believed inhaling the mist would improve your chances of getting married.

They recently finished a new trail for Bridalweil Falls, which allows visitors to see the falls closer.

bridalveil fall yosemitePin

6. Half Dome →

36.0306029,-113.8290033, map

This is Yosemite’s most popular rock formation. You can even hike to the top. Check out our guide on hiking this 15-mile trail here. I still can’t believe I climbed those cables with my fear of heights! It was one of the scariest hikes I’ve done.

Local Tip: Remember that you need a permit to do this hike. Click below for details.

See More: How to Get Half Dome Permits

7. El Capitan

Coordinates: 37.730755, -119.636021, map

This is the ultimate climb, stretching about 3,000 feet from bottom to top, and rock climbers worldwide make the trek here. The most popular route is The Nose. You can watch other climbers or try this bucket list-worthy climb yourself. You’ll often see headlamps from climbers on El Cap at night. We mainly boulder, and while we’ve dabbled in sport and trad, we have trouble imagining 31 pitches of climbing.

Pro Tip: Watch Free Solo to get a better look at the scale of El Cap.

el capitan yosemite national parkPin

8. Lembert Dome

Coordinates: 37.880482, -119.348960, map

A 2.8-mile roundtrip hike takes you to the top of this granite rock, giving you a great view of Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows. This is the view from the summit.

Lembert Dome Hike + Yosemite Falls + 15 Best Things to Do in Yosemite National Park That Will Take Your Breath Away.Pin

9. Cathedral Peak

Coordinates: 37.847908, -119.405866, map

Cathedral Peak was first scaled by John Muir in 1869 and is still as spectacular today.

yosemite cathedral lake hikePin

10. Vernal and Nevada Falls

37.727429,-119.5458875, map

Take the Mist Trail to see this beautiful fall, but be sure you have hiking shoes since the trail gets very slippery from the mist. Just a bit further past Venal Fall is Nevada Fall, the closest waterfall to the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

11. Olmsted Point

Coordinates: 37.810733, -119.485184, map

Located about an hour from the valley floor, stop here for a less common view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. You can even see people climbing the cables of Half Dome. Here’s a photo from our friend, Josh, from California Through My Lens.

Olmsted Point + 15 Breathtaking Things to Do in Yosemite National Park.Pin

12. Tenaya Lake

37.8310653,-119.4684337, map

Some say that this is the most beautiful lake in Yosemite. Nestled in between granite peaks and domes, you can kayak, swim, or even ice skate (on very rare occasions in the winter) at this high country lake.

tenaya lake ice skatingPin
Photo: Jeff Pang

13. Tuolumne Meadows

7943 Willow St, Wawona, 95389, map

This beautiful meadow runs along the Tuolumne River and offers great views of the Cathedral Range, Lembert Dome, and Mount Dana. Take a stroll or camp overnight.

Local Tip: The road to Tuolumne Meadows is closed in the winter.

yosemite meadow tuolumnePin

14. Mariposa Grove

Coordinates: 37.504613, -119.600608, map

Stand face to face with giant Sequoias. They even have a tree that you can drive through.

mariposa grove yosemitePin

15. COoks Meadow

Coordinates: 37.745392, -119.593712, map

This is where Ansel Adams took some of his most famous photos. You get a great view of the Cathedral Rocks, Three Brothers, and Half Dome.

cooks meadow yosemitePin
Photo: Juan Charvet

16. Camp and Boulder at Camp 4

37.7414843,-119.6037445, map

Yosemite is a mecca for rock climbing. Camp 4 is an iconic and historic spot for the growth of rock climbing in the 20th century. The rock is really slick and polished, so it was much tougher than we imagined. If you’re interested in rock climbing, here are a few of our posts to help you get started.

Below is Midnight Lighting, the most famous bouldering problem in the world.

midnight lightning yosemite camp 4Pin

17. Badger Pass (Winter)

7082 Glacier Point Rd, 95389, map

Yosemite is a winter wonderland. There are fewer people in the winter too. You can snowshoe, ski, or snowboard. You can see more of our snow day adventures here.

See More: Snowshoeing Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park Map / Yosemite Attractions Map

More Things to DO in Yosemite National Park

If you’ve already blown through all the above, here are some more ideas for your next visit!

  • Horsetail Falls during the Firefall
  • Photograph Valley View
  • Inspiration Point (2.3 mi out and back, 1043 ft gain, moderate)
  • Washburn Point
  • Merced Grove – densest sequoia grove in the park
  • Raft or Kayak down the Merced River
  • Chilnualna Falls Hike (7.9 mi out and back, 2188 ft gain, difficult)
  • Ansel Adams Gallery
  • Mirror Lake
  • Yosemite Museum
  • Pioneer Yosemite History Museum
  • Soda Springs
  • Happy Isles Bridge
  • See Frazil Ice (spring only)
  • Wawona Swinging Bridge Swimming Hole (summer only)
  • Pothole Dome Hike
  • Camp in Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) – We did this before our Half Dome Hike.
  • Photograph Sentinel Bridge
  • Hetch Hetchy and Wapama Falls
  • Drive Tioga Pass Road / Tioga Road to get to quieter areas of the park (check road conditions on whether it is open)
  • Astronomy Walks and Talks
  • Dine at Majestic Yosemite Hotel
  • Ribbon Falls Hike – unmaintained trail
  • Lyell Canyon Hike
  • Dewey Point Lookout
  • Yosemite Valley Chapel / Community Church (especially beautiful in winter)

See More: How to See Firefall Yosemite National Park

valley view yosemite national parkPin

Essential Tips for Visiting Yosemite

  • Best Time to Visit: If you want the least crowds consider visiting in the fall or winter. If you want to see the gushing waterfalls, visit in May or June.
  • Special Events: The Moonbow happens on select dates and times between April through June. The Firefall happens late February.
  • Download Alltrails+ so that you have trail maps even when you don’t have service.
  • The Valley gets extremely crowded, especially in the summer. Expect to wait and hit traffic driving around. If you only stay in the Valley, you might get overwhelmed by the crowds, but Yosemite is a massive park with plenty of places to find solitude.
  • It’s always best to stop by the Visitor Center to get the most up-to-date info.

What to Pack for Yosemite

Best Places to Stay in Yosemite

We’ve stayed at a few different places in Yosemite National Park. Most recently, we stayed at the Yosemite Valley Lodge (pictured below) which was the perfect home base for Firefall. We also stayed in Curry Village when we hiked Half Dome and Jacob stayed at the Wawona Hotel. We can’t wait to visit again and stay at The Ahwahnee. The property is stunning and we love how grand the dining hall is.

If you book a stay in the valley, it also helps you bypass the reservation system (when reservations are required to enter the park).

where to stay in yosemite in winter - yosemite valley lodge reviewPin

If accommodations are full, check the map below for other options.

Planning Checklist

Have you been to Yosemite National Park? Any other spots we need to add to the list?

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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