Towering granite rock walls, switch backing trails beneath the spray of a waterfall, an overnight in a backcountry walled tent, a week of camping with the family, a stroll beneath ancient sequoia trees ... there are many ways to define a Yosemite experience. This national park offers something for everyone. Take it easy by staying in Yosemite Valley and meandering along mellow trails with great views of Yosemite Falls and El Capitan. Get into the backcountry with a hike to Vernal Falls or up the backside of Half Dome. Or let the guides do the work on a horseback ride or whitewater rafting adventure. You can escape the crowds by spending some time in Tuolumne Meadows or along Tioga Pass. Or explore nearby attractions just outside the park's entrances, like Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Mono Lake, Mammoth Lakes, or Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks.
While remote, Yosemite is one of the more accessible parks for visitors. If you have your own wheels, there are four main entrances. Keep in mind that the park is not accessible from the east during the winter months when Tioga Pass is closed. Nearby airports include Fresco, Sacramento, and Modesto, but major airports like Oakland and San Francisco are not that much further. There is also a small regional airport in Merced (MCE), serviced by Great Lakes Airlines. An alternative to flying and driving is taking the train. Amtrak connects San Francisco and Sacramento to Merced. Once you are inside the park, take advantage of the free park shuttle to get around. Summer is no doubt the busiest time of year to visit Yosemite, but winter offers a unique and mystical opportunity for exploring portions of the park. Park lodges, cabins, and campgrounds tend to book up early so make reservations with plenty of time to spare. Surrounding towns, like El Portal, Mariposa Grove, Bass Lake, and Lee Vining are your best bet for accommodations outside of the park.
Things to Do
Mariposa Grove: This sequoia grove is located in the southernmost part of the park and is the largest grove of Giant Sequoias within the park. A few loop trails let you meander through the trees at your leisure.
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel: If you are lucky enough to spend a night in this luxurious lodge, you won't be disappointed. But the hotel is worth a visit even if you aren't a guest. Find a chair in the vast great room and take in the architecture and bustling tourists or grab a bite to eat in the dining hall.
Half Dome: Towering 5,000 feet over Yosemite Valley, Half Dome is the iconic peak of the park. Many hikers challenge themselves with an exposed hike up cables and wooden planks along the backside of the dome.
Yosemite Valley: As the centerpiece of the park, Yosemite Valley features lodges, restaurants, shops, campgrounds, and a handful of valley trails and walkways.
High Sierra Camps: Nestled in Yosemite's backcountry, there are 5 camps with canvas wall tents spaced 6-10 miles apart offering a unique opportunity for backpackers.
Merced River: Take a day to go whitewater rafting on the Merced River, which churns and rolls just outside of Yosemite Valley.
Sentinel Beach: This sandy beach along the Merced River is ideal for swimming and picnics.
Tioga Pass: Joining Yosemite National Park's western and eastern sides, Tioga Pass is a scenic drive to the eastern Sierras and features many viewpoints and trailheads.
Vernal Falls: Admire the 317 foot waterfall from the valley floor or take the 2.4 mile hike up the Mist Trail to see it up close.