Yosemite National Park is easily one of our favorite places to go. NPS is running a huge campaign next week to inspire people to #findyourpark, and Yosemite is our park. 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 even talked about making it our next home for the year after San Diego
There is so much to explore within Yosemite, that it’s sometimes hard to figure out where to start. If you’re planning a visit there, here’s a quick guide to get you started.
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Last Updated: Jun 24, 2019 // Originally Created: Oct 9, 2015
17 Things to Do in Yosemite National Park That Will Take Your Breath Away
1. Glacier Point
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.
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.
3. Yosemite Falls
Standing at 2,424 feet, this is the highest waterfall in North America and sixth largest in the world! The best time to view it is in late spring when the melting snow creates the strongest flow. You can even hike to different portions of the falls, including the top!
4. Tunnel View
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.
5. Bridalveil Fall
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 that inhaling the mist would improve your chances of getting married.
7. El Capitan
This is the ultimate climb for rock climbers around the world, stretching about 3,000 feet from bottom to top. The most popular route is The Nose. You can watch the climbers or do this bucket list worthy climb yourself. You’ll often see headlamps from climbers on El Cap at night.
10. Vernal and Nevada Falls
Take Mist Trail to gaze at this beautiful fall, but be sure you have hiking shoes on as the trail gets very slippery from all the mist. Just a bit further past Venal Fall is Nevada Fall. It is the closest waterfall to the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
11. Olmsted Point
Located about an hour from the valley floor, stop here to get a less common view of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. You can even see people climbing the cables of Half Dome.
12. Tenaya Lake
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.
13. Tuolumne Meadow
This beautiful meadow that runs along the Tuolumne River gives you great views of the Cathedral Range, Lembert Dome, and Mount Dana. Take a stroll or camp overnight.
16. Camp and Boulder at Camp 4
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 a lot tougher for us than we imagined. If you’re interested in trying it out, here are a few of our posts to help you get started.
- Rock Climbing Tips for Beginners
- 15 Clever Rock Climbing Hacks, Tips, Tricks, and Etiquette
- Best Exercises and Games to Improve Rock Climbing
Below is Midnight Lighting, the most famous bouldering problem in the world.
Yosemite is a winter wonderland. There are less people in the winter too. You can snowshoe, ski, or snowboard. You can see more of our snow day adventure here.
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
- 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 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)
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.
- The Valley gets extremely crowded especially in the summer. Expect to wait and hit some traffic driving around. If you only stay in the Valley you might get overwhelmed by the crowds, but Yosemite is a massive park and there are plenty of places to find solitude.
What to Pack for Yosemite
Best Places to Stay in Yosemite
- Yosemite Pines RV Resort – We stayed here in our airstream, but you can also stay in one of their airstreams, cabins, yurts, and more.
- The Ahwahnee (luxury) – if you can even get reservations. They book up a year in advance.
- Yosemite Large Loft Condos (mid-range) – We stayed here during our snowshoeing trip and loved its convenient location.
- Tenaya Lodge (mid-range)
- Curry Village (budget) – we stayed here when we hiked half dome since it was the most convenient area to stay.
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“Discovery consists not of seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes” – M. Proust