11 Exciting Things To Do in Yosemite National Park

“No temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite.”  - John Muir 

Yosemite is the first natural wonder ever protected by law when in 1864 President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation that designated the 7-mile-long Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias a public trust of the state of California

Yosemite Valley is located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. In 1889, John Muir discovered that the meadows surrounding Yosemite Valley were not protected and lobbied for protection. Congress set aside over 1,500 miles of land for protection in what would become Yosemite National Park, America’s third national park

Today, visitors from around the world flock to this slice of paradise in California to get their outdoorsy juices flowing. Here are 11 of the best things to do and see in Yosemite National Park.

Hiking

There 282 great hiking, biking, and running trails in and around Yosemite National Park. 

  • Half Dome: Half Dome is one of the most famous Yosemite attractions in the climbing world for being one of the first big climbs. Half Dome is a granite dome formation with a sheer face that looks like it’s been cut in half. 

Located at the eastern end of the Yosemite Valley, Half Dome rises 4,737 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley at an elevation of 8,844 feet above sea level.  For the best places to view Half Dome, go to Tunnel View and Glacier Point

  • Yosemite Falls: You cannot miss one of the most remarkable things to do in Yosemite. At 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls on the planet. Hike the 7.2 miles round-trip to the top of Yosemite Falls or there is a two-mile round-trip hike to Columbia Rock.

  • Mirror Lake: Surrounded by granite walls that are quintessential Yosemite is the Mirror Hike which is four miles around the lake. 

Sightseeing

  • El Capitan: One of the best things to see in Yosemite is this majestic mountain. Coming in 1,000 feet higher than the face of Half Dome is El Capitan, legendary among climbers for its 3,000-foot sheer rock face on the north side of Yosemite Valley. 

  • Bridalveil Fall: On the south side of Yosemite Valley is yet another spectacular waterfall that is easy to reach on foot. Take a short trail that leads right to the base of the falls where you will feel the spray misting your face and hear the waterfall as it falls on the boulders below. 

  • Tunnel View: The most iconic view of Yosemite Valley is from Tunnel View. Tunnel View offers a beautiful view of Yosemite that stretches out to El Capitan on the left, Bridalveil Fall on the right, Half Dome in the distance, and the valley at the base of the huge granite walls. The parking area is just beyond the tunnel as you enter Yosemite Valley from Wawona Road.

  • Glacier Point: Many visitors to Yosemite find themselves cranking their necks upwards to get a look at the majestic mountains. For a different perspective of Yosemite National Park, drive to Glacier Point. At an elevation of more than 7,200 feet, Glacier Point is a great Yosemite activity that gives you a grand view over the entire valley. Where To Stay in Yosemite National Park

Museums

  • Yosemite Museum: One of the first museums to ever be built in a national park, Yosemite Museum was open for business in 1925. In the museum you will find traditional headdresses that date back hundreds of years, basket-weaving demonstrations, and landscape paintings and photographs. Free of charge. 
  • The Happy Isles Art & Nature Center: Art and nature collide at this nature center where visitors can take art classes in watercolor, mosaic creation, charcoal drawing and more. Families enjoy strolling the surrounding nature trails.
  • Yosemite Climbing Association Gallery and Museum: This museum just opened up and explores climbing gear from the first ascents of El Capitan and pays tribute to climbers who have paved the way to the top of Yosemite’s biggest mountains.

Golfing

  • Yosemite's Wawona Golf Course: This golf course was the first regulation course in the Sierra Nevada when it opened in 1918. Enjoy the nine-hole, par-35 national park golf course which measures 3,050 yards and includes two par-five holes and three par-three holes. This course is only open in late spring until early fall.

Where To Stay

There are a number of luxurious places to stay in Yosemite National Park, as well as more inexpensive camping options. For campgrounds, the most popular spots are North Pines, Upper Pines, Lower Pines, White Wolf Lodge, Curry Village and Housekeeping Camp. Climbers head to the infamous Camp 4 where they have been pitching tents since the 1950s. 

Wawona Hotel: The National Historic Landmark, Wawona Hotel, used to be called Big Trees Lodge when it was first established in 1856. Set among lush forests located in the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park, Wawona Hotel is 45 minutes from the valley floor. Wawona Hotel sells out far in advance so book your room 10-12 months in advance.

The Ahwahnee: It may surprise you to know that the Ahwahnee was once used as a military psychiatric treatment facility. Today, the Ahwahnee Hotel is a National Historic Landmark and the premier place to stay in Yosemite, located in the main valley inside Yosemite Park near the base of Half Dome and Glacier Point. 

Tenaya Lodge & Cottages: One of Yosemite's two AAA four-diamond rated luxury mountain resorts, Tenaya Lodge is located just outside the park's south entrance in Fish Camp, California. The lodge offers 302 recently renovated rooms, decorated with Native American patterns, colors, and artwork. 

Tips To Know Before Visiting Yosemite National Park

There are tips and rules that are helpful to know before visiting Yosemite. 

Reservations and Permits

  • A reservation will be required to drive into Yosemite National Park from May 20 through September 30, 2022 between 6 am and 4 pm. 
  • Seventy percent of reservations for all dates from May 20 through September 30, 2022, will be available on Recreation.gov on March 23. 
  • wilderness permit is required year-round for Yosemite activities including backpacking, overnight climbing, or any other overnight stay in the Yosemite Wilderness. 

Travel Tips

  • One of the best things to do in Yosemite is beating the crowds. From spring through fall, arrive in the park before 9 am and after 5 pm to avoid traffic congestion
  • Pets are allowed in Yosemite on leashes and on most campgrounds, but they are not allowed on most trails. 
  • Get the same views from the top of Half Dome without the hassle of permits by trekking up to Cloud’s Rest 
  • The best time to appreciate Tunnel View is in the afternoon when the walls are glowing in sunlight. 

What Is There To Do In Yosemite For Kids?

One of the best things to do in Yosemite if you're a kid is stay at The Tenaya Lodge & Cottages, which offers Yosemite activities like hiking and mountain biking trails, kids adventure courses, climbing walls, ranger talks, kids day camps, and archery lessons. 

Kid’s eyes get big when they look up to try to find the tops of the 200-foot Giant Sequoias at Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne, and Merced groves. Kids can wear the Jr. Ranger badge after they complete and become a Yosemite Jr. Ranger after completing the program.

The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad offers train rides for kids and adults alike. 

During winter, an outdoor ice rink is set up on the valley floor where kids ice skate while marveling at the beautiful views in the Yosemite Valley. 

Visiting Yosemite National Park With Road Scholar

At Road Scholar, we have seven outstanding Yosemite National Park tours that you grant privileged access to the park. Join our naturalists on an expert led trip seeing the Best of Yosemite

Get up close to the giant sequoias of Yosemite Valley on the Choose Your Pace Hiking Tour. Channel the photography skills of Ansel Adams on the Road Scholar Photograph Yosemite Tour where you will learn the photography skills to capture that natural beauty in Yosemite. There are other tours for grandparents and grandchildren to explore the wonders of Yosemite together. 

Get ahead of the game and save when you enroll early. Book your Yosemite National Park tour with Road Scholar today to see what you can discover.

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