Yosemite Travel Guide

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Best Things To Do in Yosemite

Yosemite is filled to the brim with natural wonders worth writing home about. Travel experts and visitors agree that your to-do list must include the following: Half DomeGlacier Point and Mariposa Grove. Hikers, follow the masses along the John Muir Trail and the Mist Trail, but also escape and make the trek to Tuolumne Meadows, an area which features a treasure trove of under-visited trails. After a long day of hiking, climbing or skiing, adventurers can put their feet up and grab a bite in Yosemite Valley, where you'll find the bulk of the park's amenities and accommodations. 

How we rank Things to Do

Updated March 27, 2018

  • #1
    Yosemite Valley
    View all Photos
    #1 in Yosemite
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Unless you are solely planning backcountry expeditions during your trip to Yosemite, chances are you'll end up in Yosemite Valley at one point or another. That's because Yosemite Valley features much of the park's top attractions, including Tunnel View Outlook and a handful of Yosemite's most famous waterfalls, including Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Falls, to name a few. One of the world's largest granite monoliths, El Capitan, is also located here. 

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  • #2
    Tunnel View Outlook
    View all Photos
    #2 in Yosemite
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Along with Glacier Point, Tunnel View is widely considered to be the most popular outlook in all of Yosemite. From its vantage point, travelers get an eyeful of the majestic Yosemite Valley, complete with views of famous park sites, such as Half Dome, El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall. What's more, the outlook is pretty easy to reach. You can find Tunnel View along Wawona Road, which serves as a gateway to Yosemite Valley's many attractions, accommodations and amenities. If you're staying in Yosemite Valley, chances are you will travel along or near Wawona Road.

    ...Read More »
  • #3
    Glacier Point
    View all Photos
    #3 in Yosemite
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Glacier Point is considered one of the best and most comprehensive lookouts in Yosemite. Visitors regularly describe Glacier Point's sweeping, panoramic vistas as "breathtaking," calling it a truly can't-miss spot in the park. From Glacier's vantage point, visitors are treated to panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, as well as landmarks like Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. Unlike many lookout points in Yosemite, Glacier Point is accessible via roadway, allowing drivers to forego a difficult climb. This is particularly fortunate if you're traveling with young children who would otherwise be unable to enjoy a scenic, high-altitude view of the Yosemite Valley.

    ...Read More »
  • #4
    Half Dome
    View all Photos
    #4 in Yosemite
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    More than Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Hiking Yosemite's Half Dome Cables Route has been described as unforgettable and even life-changing by travelers. But this expedition is not for the faint of heart. The trail is about 14 to 16 miles long and features elevation gains totaling 4,800 feet (for reference, the elevation gain on the Mist Trail is between 1,000 and 2,000 feet, depending on which waterfall you visit). On this hike, the challenge begins immediately with a steep ascent up the Mist Trail, which serves as a good litmus test to see if you're in adequate condition for the remaining journey. The hike then continues to the top of Nevada Fall, followed by a long, flat section through Yosemite Valley. When you finally reach the base of the dome, a steep rocky climb finally takes you to the Half Dome Cables, a vertical, exposed rock face scalable by two steel cables.

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  • #5
    Tuolumne Meadows
    View all Photos
    #5 in Yosemite
    Hiking, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    In the east section of the park you'll find Tuolumne Meadows, known for being one of the Sierra Nevada's largest high-elevation meadows at 8,600 feet. Here, you'll find plenty of scenery to write home about, including the peaceful grasslands, lush forests, windy, bubbling rivers and creeks and scenic mountainscapes. You can experience the scenery from the comfort of your own car, thanks to the vista points posted along Tioga Road (Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake), or take advantage of the many trails available within the vicinity. 

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  • #6
    Mist Trail
    View all Photos
    #6 in Yosemite
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Mist Trail is one of the park's most popular trails. What makes The Mist Trail so unique is not its sites Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall but how you get there. To get to the top of the falls, hikers must climb a 600-step granite staircase that snakes right up alongside the hundreds-foot-tall plunge, taking visitors close enough to where mist from the falls sprays out onto the trail. Hence the name, the Mist Trail. The falls reach their peak from late spring to early summer, so if you want the traditional Mist Trail experience, with a light, natural shower while hiking, come during that time. 

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  • #7
    Mariposa Grove
    View all Photos
    #7 in Yosemite
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Natural Wonders, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    "Giant" seems to be an understatement for this expansive grove of Sequoia trees in the southernmost section of Yosemite. Mariposa is one of three groves in the park where visitors can view sequoia trees. The distinction between Mariposa Grove and the others is that Mariposa is the largest, housing about 500 mature giant sequoia trees that are thousands of years old. Featured sights include the Fallen Monarch (a giant tree that fell hundreds of years ago) and the Grizzly Giant, which is estimated to be around 1,800 years old and is about 90 feet in circumference. There's also the fun California Tunnel Tree, which is the only sequoia in Yosemite that features a manmade tunnel carved out the middle of the trunk. Admire the towering trees on one of the area's many hiking trails. Trails range from easy to strenuous, with the Big Trees Loop Trail being the easiest. This 30- to 45-minute hike (which is paved) takes travelers past a variety of giant sequoias, including the Fallen Monarch, with interpretive panels explaining the life of sequoias stationed along the route.

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