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Why Go to Yosemite

One of California's most formidable natural landscapes, Yosemite National Park features nearly 1,200 square miles of sheer awe: towering waterfalls, millennia-old Sequoia trees, daunting cliff faces and some of the most unique rock formations in the United States. But despite its enormous size, most of the tourist activity takes place within a 7-square-mile area of Yosemite Valley. Here you'll find the park's most famous landmarks – Half Dome and El Capitan – as well as excellent hiking trails through the natural monuments. Even inexperienced hikers can enjoy Yosemite: Guided tours and climbing lessons are available from local adventure outfitters. Just don't expect to experience it by yourself. Like so many other American tourist destinations, crowds are the biggest obstacles to an enjoyable Yosemite vacation – at least 4 million people visit each year. But if you go at the right time (and start your day a little earlier than usual), Mother Nature's wonders will reveal themselves to you in a miraculous and serene way.

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Yosemite Travel Tips

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U.S. News editors analyzed weather and price trends to recommend the top times to visit.

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What You Need to Know

  • It's huge Although most visitors will spend their time in the popular 7 square miles of Yosemite Valley, there are an additional 1,193 square miles of beautiful terrain. Visit the valley, but camp far away from the traffic to immerse yourself in the great outdoors.
  • It gets crowded You can reserve lodging in the park 366 days in advance. The earlier you book, the better.
  • Seriously, it's huge Yosemite's more than 750 miles of trails will take you years to cover, so ask a park ranger which he or she would recommend at the time of your visit.

How to Save Money in Yosemite

  • Rough it Camping in the park (which includes bringing your own tent, food and supplies) is the cheapest way to experience Yosemite.
  • Stay further away If camping isn't your thing, there are reasonably priced accommodations outside the park.
  • Take advantage of public transit Yosemite's bus service is extensive and free.

What to Eat

Yosemite's food choices are mostly practical: Outside and within park ground you'll find a series of small general stores that supply picnic and camping supplies, and a few lodges and snack bars that offer fairly standard fare like burgers, hot dogs and pre-packaged sandwiches. Those who relish fine dining in the heart of the American wilderness will find high-quality American fare at the Ahwahnee Dining Room, the Mountain Room Restaurant and the Wawona Dining Room, which are all located within the park and come highly recommended by travelers.

Getting Around Yosemite

The best way to get around Yosemite is by shuttle, which is free and extremely reliable. Parking is scarce and (during the summer) highly competitive, so you should probably avoid bringing a car inside the park. You will need a vehicle, however, to get to the park in the first place. That said, Yosemite is one of the most accessible and convenient national parks in the country. Most people fly into the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), which is about 165 miles west. Other nearby airports include Sacramento International Airport (SMF), about 150 miles northwest of the park, and Mineta San José International Airport (SJC), around 160 miles southwest.

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