“It is better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” Do you feel the same way? I have heard a lot about Yosemite National park from my friends who already been there. All those talks made me anxious to visit Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was on my California bucket list, but things were not working out to plan the trip. Yosemite has the most fascinating landscape, eye-catching views and I believe its highest visited national park of California. I have visited Yosemite during my San Fransisco trip and it has much more to offer than what I thought. Here I have compiled my ultimate guide to Yosemite National Park California.
Tips to explore Yosemite National Park
- Use restrooms whenever available.
- On Weekends and Holidays, the park is crowded hence spare the time with consideration of congestion.
- Yosemite park provides shuttle service if you would like to park the car and use this service to omit the hassle of finding parking at every spot.
- Except for the village, there are no food and water facilities in the park
- Getting Lodging and camping spot is quite difficult, so book in advance especially in the summertime.
Things to do in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park offers a variety of adventures and stunning nature which attracts around 4 million tourists every year. Yosemite National park has some amazing trails for hike lovers and the view will blow your mind. This is the list of popular hiking trails.
Besides hiking, camping is very popular among tourists and locals. I know a few locals who buy an annual pass and go camping a couple of times during the year. Yosemite has more than 20 campgrounds which include meadows and flat campgrounds as well. Some of the campgrounds allow RVs as well. Pick your campground and reserve your spot in advance.
Some of the other adventures are bird watching, Fishing, Rock Climbing, Horseback riding, and stargazing. My trip was just for one day so I didn’t get a chance to enjoy all the adventures except a few short and easy hikes.
We draw from South Bay small town, a suburb of Los Angeles. The distance from my home to Yosemite National Park is a little less than 300 miles, but travel time depends on traffic. To avoid peak hours of traffic we left around 5.30 am in the morning. We made two stops for gas and coffee on our way to Yosemite. As we didn’t face a major traffic jam, We made it their little after 10:30 am. From Highway 41 we entered to Yosemite National park from South Entrance. I have already marked all the spots which I wanted to visit.
Places to visit in Yosemite National Park
If you want to explore each and every place in Yosemite National Park then, you need at least one week to cover major attractions. For Half Dome hiking you need to arrange the permit in advance. I had visited for just one day, hence went to a majority of lookout and viewpoints. I did two small hikes bridal falls and Mariposa Grove.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
From South Entrance Mariposa Grove was the very first point which you should not miss. The moment I got off from the shuttle bus I found myself surrounded by giant Sequoia trees. These trees also are known as redwoods because of the color. I was feeling so tiny against these trees and while walking on the trail it feels like ants are crawling beside the elephants. You won’t find these trees easily, hence don’t miss to view them while you are in the park. The Mariposa Grove has four different trails, but I took the easy one of 0.3 miles due to time constrain. Total time including back and forth with shuttle and small hike at Mariposa Grove it took 1hr 30 mins approx. For the hikers, I will definitely recommend allocating half day if you are planning to do whole Mariposa Grove Trail.
Shuttle service for Mariposa Grove
A free shuttle service has been provided from Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza. The parking area is huge, but I have heard it gets full by afternoon in peak season. As we were reached by late morning we got the parking. We parked our car and got in line for the shuttle. Though the queue seems long, shuttles run every 10 minutes hence wait time is not too long. Pets are not allowed on a shuttle or Mariposa Grove trails, hence you might want to arrange something for your furry friends.
Glacier Point is the most popular place to visit in Yosemite National Park, you must be thinking why? From Glacier Point, you can enjoy the view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country. I was really disappointed when I came to know the road is closed to Glacier point. Hence we ended up skipping it, but I will come back to Glacier Point view and Half dome hike in the near future.
Yosemite Tunnel View
We followed the Wawona road and head to Tunnel View for the second-best view of the Yosemite National Park. There is a parking lot on both the side and generally people stop, taking the pictures and leave hence be patient to find parking. From here you can see El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, and Yosemite Valley. I don’t have enough words to describe the view because I feel words won’t do justice.
After our quick stop to Tunnel view, we stop by at one more pullover point and then the next stop was Bridalveil Falls. This trail is just 0.5 miles long and fairly easy. The trail starts from the Bridalveil Fall parking area, but finding parking is a little difficult during busy days. If you get too close to the falls, then you can get wet. Hence carry a poncho or extra T-shirt would be a wise idea. The hiking to Bridalveil Fall can take as little as 20 minutes or you can hang around the creek and spend an hour the choice is yours. I have taken pictures of the fall from different angles, but a Most amazing view of a fall is from the parking lot itself.
El Capitan Drive
El Capitan is one of the amazing rock formations in the park and while you drive through the Southside drive you can see this rock formation right from your car. You can also get the view of El Capitan from El Capitan meadow. There are few pullover spots where you can park the car and capture the view of El Capitan.
Let me admit something which made me feel embarrassed during my trip. From the name swinging bridge, I thought it would be really a swinging one. You know the bridge which can swing right? When we reached there I figured out it was just a name. The bridge is made up of solid wood and sturdy. Though it was a misunderstanding, I didn’t regret stopping by the bridge. The bridge gives a nice view and a little beach area in the Merced River. The Swinging Bridge is a perfect area for a picnic and water play for kids. You can get a great view of Yosemite Falls from this bridge and the reflection of rock formation in the river is simply amazing.
Sentinel Bridge is hardly a mile from the swinging bridge. This bridge is accessible by car and parking is on the other side of the bridge. We struggle for parking and have to drive back and forth, but the view of Half Dome was simply stunning. Personally, I think this is the closest view of Half Dome without hiking. There is no restroom facility.
Curry Village is also known as a Half Dome Village. This village has a camping and dining facility with a convenience store where you will get basic groceries, souvenirs, and ice cream to cool off from the heat. We made the stop at curry village to get some food and had some ice cream. It was almost 3 pm by the time we reached the village. We walked around and had our late lunch.
There are two campgrounds and a campground reservation office. Many trails have an access point from here like Vernal Falls, Mirror Lake, Yosemite Valley, Clark Point and a cloud’s rest. Half Dome hike also starts from the Mist Trail, but I have to get the permit in advance which is given by the lottery system.
Yosemite village is more developed than the curry village. If you have any questions or concerns about the park, then go to the visitor center and ask a ranger about it. The village has a small store for basic necessities, eatery options, and a library as well. It totally depends on you if you want to stop by both the villages or just one. We got everything from curry village, hence we decided to skip the Yosemite Village.
Valley View Yosemite
Though it is known as Valley View Yosemite, I would love to call it Wallpaper spot. You must be thinking why? From this spot, you get a stunning view of El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, and a Merced River. Tunnel View and Valley view are most popular among photographers.
This was our last stop in Yosemite National Park. I know there are still numerous places left to explore. Next time I have to get my Half Dome hike permit and camping reservation in advance. Even the bird watching and wildflowers in Yosemite Valley during spring are worth visiting for.