“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.
There 282 great hiking, biking, and running trails in and around Yosemite National Park.
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.
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.
There are tips and rules that are helpful to know before visiting Yosemite.
Reservations and Permits
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.
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.
Stay in the loop on our new blogs, special offers, new adventures and more.