Yosemite National Park is one of the most stunning places in the United States. Towering trees, massive monoliths, and a fascinating history make this park a very special place.
This is a large National Park, so it’s important to know your priorities before you begin. These are our favorite things to do in Yosemite National Park. If you want to find more information about what to do in Yosemite and where to stay, check out ExploreBetter.com for expert information.
Drive up to Glacier Point for a Closeup of Half Dome
Glacier Point is one of the most stunning views of Half Dome you’ll see, and probably the closest you can get to this monolith without actually climbing it, which requires some planning, permits, time, and a lot of endurance and strength. Getting to Glacier Point from the valley takes about 45 minutes, but it’s a beautiful drive through the woods with spectacular views along the way. There is ample parking at Glacier Point, restrooms, and a gift shop. It does get crowded with everyone seeking pictures with this amazing view, so getting there earlier in the morning is a good idea.
Take the trail to Yosemite Lower Falls
Yosemite Falls is an easy, flat 1-mile walk from the visitor parking in the valley. Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in Yosemite National Park. It is 2,425 feet from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall. However, when you walk to Yosemite Falls, you’ll really only be able to enjoy the Lower Falls. Keep in mind that this waterfall dries up in the dead of summer. It can kind of be a disappointing sight if you don’t know this. But you can also swim and play in the water at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls in the summer. If you happen to go in the early Spring, that’s when the falls are at their best and they’re an awesome sight!
Take in the Stunning Beauty of Tunnel View
Did you know that this is estimated to be the most photographed view in all the world? This view has been captured by visitors since 1933 and was made famous by Ansel Adams, whose photographs you can view in the gallery in Yosemite Valley. This stunning view is perfect any time of day, but my favorite time to see it is during sunrise when you can witness the rays casting over the valley and take in the grandeur of El Capitan to your left, Half Dome in the back, and Bridalveil Falls on the right. It’s truly breathtaking. If you’re into night photography, this is also a great spot to test your skills and capture the stars.
Hike to Sentinel Dome
This is an easy to moderate out and back 2.2-mile hike to Sentinel Dome, a big dome rock that you can climb up for incredible views of both Half Dome, El Capitan, and the Valley below. What I love about this hike is that it really gives you a 360-degree view of the entire Yosemite National Park! It’s not a tough train, but there are a lot of rocks and you’ll need to hike up the dome, so I recommend having shoes with a decent grip on the bottom.
Be Inspired by El Capitan
Looming over Yosemite Valley’s west end, “El Cap” is famous among mountain climbers. Standing at a massive 3,000 feet above the valley, this imposing rock formation cannot be missed!
If you’re up for a challenge you can take the El Capitan Trail for more experienced hikers. It’s tough, but well worth the 8-10 hour climb for the incredible views at the end.
If you’re not up for a hike of that magnitude, don’t worry, you can catch a view of this monolith from nearly anywhere in the valley and also from Tunnel View.
Seeing Bridalveil Fall up close is definitely one of the best things to do in Yosemite. You can take an easy hike along the paved trail leading to the base, where you will be misted by the impressive falls!
Mariposa Grove is one of the most special places in the park and one of the best things to see in Yosemite.
With over 500 massive giant sequoia trees, it’s truly an impressive sight to behold and is sure to make you feel small. Be sure to see the Grizzly Giant, which is one of the largest trees in the grove, estimated to be more than 2,700 years old!
You can find Mariposa Grove off Highway 41, at the end of Mariposa Grove Road. Park in the parking lot and take the shuttle up. Sometimes the shuttles aren’t running, and if that’s the case you’ll have to hike in about 2 miles along the Washburn Trail.
Visit the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center
This is a great place to start your Yosemite National Park visit, especially with kids. Purchase your Junior Ranger Books and any gear you might want.
Visit the Yosemite Museum
The Indian Cultural Exhibit and The Indian Village teaches the cultural history of Yosemite’s native Miwok and Paiute people. You can watch demonstrations of traditional skills and view the gallery which displays rotating exhibits throughout the year.
Visit the Yosemite Conservation Heritage Center
Yosemite’s first public visitor center, operated by the Sierra Club, offers a children’s corner, library, and a variety of environmental education and evening programs. This is a great place to start your visit to Yosemite National Park and learn all you can about this amazing land.
Ride Bikes in Yosemite Valley
The bad news about Yosemite Valley is that it can be tricky to drive and park in some places. The good news is that the valley is nice and flat, making it really easy to ride bikes. There are several places to rent bikes, including bikes for kids.