Things to do in Yosemite National Park

Things to do in  Yosemite National Park

Under the Half Dome

You’ve seen Ansel Adams’ black-and-white photographs. You’ve got the wallpaper on your laptop. But nothing can prepare you for witnessing Yosemite in real life. Mammoth granite walls tower over giant sequoias, flowing rivers, and golden valley meadows in this pinch-yourself-to-believe-it national park. You can see Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Falls—the most popular things to do—on a day trip. But pack your hiking boots (or climbing shoes) and stay a while to uncover the enduring magic of this California icon.

Top 15 attractions in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls

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The highest measured waterfall in North America and the sixth-highest in the world, Yosemite Falls is the superstar attraction in Yosemite National Park. With a cumulative drop of 2,425 feet (739 meters), Yosemite Falls comprises three falls and is especially stunning in late spring when the snow melts and water flow is at its peak.More

Yosemite National Park

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One of the United States' most popular national parks, Yosemite National Park is packed with natural beauty and views that never cease to amaze. From the majestic mountain peaks to the green meadows on the valley floor (plus all the waterfalls and groves of tall Sequoia trees in between), there's no shortage of outdoor and leisure activities set against the park's epic views. And whether you spend a single day or stay for a multi-day camping trip, you'll feel a deeper appreciation for nature at this national treasure.More

Yosemite Valley

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Yosemite Valley is the heart of California's Yosemite National Park and the place to see all of the well-known sights, from El Capitan and Half Dome to Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Falls. The valley is also a paradise for outdoorsy travelers; visit for endless opportunities to enjoy hiking, climbing, photography, and other types of adventures.More

Bridalveil Fall

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One of the first waterfalls that you'll see as you enter Yosemite National Park, Bridalveil Fall is a towering, plunge-type waterfall measuring some 620 feet (188 meters) in height. It flows year-round and reaches its peak around May. On windy days, it sometimes almost looks like the waterfall is falling sideways.More

Tunnel View

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Tunnel View is the most visited scenic overlook in Yosemite and the site of Ansel Adams’ famous shot. When driving into Yosemite National Park from the south, Tunnel View offers your first glimpse into Yosemite Valley. At the end of a tunnel, a magical valley is revealed, with towering granite peaks and domes, and waterfalls spilling over cliffs.More

El Capitan

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El Capitan is the largest exposed-granite monolith in the world and among the most popular rock-climbing destinations in the US. Rising 3,593 feet (1095 meters) above Yosemite Valley, El Capitan was once considered impossible to climb. However, since Warren Harding first conquered the "nose" in 1958, El Capitan has become the standard for big-wall climbing.More

Half Dome

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Iconic Half Dome rises 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) above the floor of Yosemite Valley. Perhaps one of the most famous hikes in Yosemite National Park, Half Dome was once considered impossible to climb. Now hundreds of park visitors reach this magnificent granite formation’s summit each day, and countless more gaze at its towering face from below.More

Tuolumne Grove

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Tuolumne Grove is one of three giant sequoia groves in Yosemite National Park, the other two being Merced and Mariposa. It’s home to two dozen towering sequoia trees reachable via a short hike along Old Big Flat Road. The grove is also home to the Dead Giant Tunnel Tree, which has a car-sized tunnel cut through the middle. (Cars, however, can no longer drive through.)More

Ansel Adams Gallery

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Ansel Adams is known for his striking black-and-white photos, capturing and preserving the wild beauty of nature’s monuments. Through his poignant images of Half Dome and Vernal Fall, Yosemite became a symbol for the evocative drama of the American West, and the park took its place in the hearts and consciousness of the American public.More

Glacier Point

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Yosemite National Park’s Glacier Point affords an incomparable bird’s-eye view over Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls, all with very little physical effort involved. Don't miss the small Geology Hut situated to the side of the paved trail leading to the main overlook either, which shows how the valley has changed over the course of the last 10 million years.More

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

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Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is home to more than 500 mature giant sequoias, the world’s largest tree species. Nestled within Yosemite National Park, this spot is easy to access from the road and contains 1,900-year-old trees up to 210 feet (64 meters) tall.More

Ahwahnee Hotel

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Of all Yosemite’s lodging options, the Ahwahnee Hotel (formerly the Majestic Yosemite Hotel) stands out not only for its location—you can see Yosemite Falls from the legendary dining room—but also for its interior, redolent of Yosemite’s early years. And you don’t need to book a room to enjoy this National Historic Landmark.More

Tuolumne Meadows

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Located in the eastern portion of Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne Meadows provides a peaceful alternative to the popular Yosemite Valley region of the park. A large, subalpine meadow surrounded by high granite domes and majestic peaks, Tuolumne Meadows is home to a vast array of wildlife, hiking trails, pristine alpine lakes, and world-class rock climbing.More

Tioga Pass

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Tioga Pass is the only entrance on the eastern side of Yosemite National Park. At 9,941 feet high, it is the highest point on the mountain drive and one of the most scenic in the park. Views of the surrounding forests and mountains are worth the drive alone, but if you’re after one of the park’s many hiking trails the trailheads for Gaylor Peak, Tioga Peak, and the Twenty Lake Loop are all nearby. For a less active experience, Tioga Lake offers picnic facilities and trout fishing close by.Driving to and through the Tioga Pass is an adventure: full of tight curves and steep drop-offs. But you’ll be rewarded with some of the most beautiful views in Yosemite Valley, and once you reach the pass you’ll be in the park itself. The road through the Sierra Nevada mountain range is the highest highway pass in California.More

Mist Trail

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Hiking the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal and Nevada Falls is one of the most popular day hikes in Yosemite National Park. As you climb to the top of Vernal Fall, you’ll quickly find out how the Mist Trail got its name. The path hugs the cliff along the river and the spray coming off the falls drenches hikers.More

Trip ideas

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All about Yosemite National Park

When to visit

Yosemite is glorious in any season, but it’s easiest to visit the national park in spring (March–April) and fall (October–November). Both seasons have smaller crowds than summer. In spring, you get thundering waterfalls from winter’s runoff; in fall, you get beautiful autumn colors and a chance to see wildlife busy preparing for winter’s arrival. It’s easier to book in-park lodging in these months, too.

Getting around

Unlike many national parks, you have lots of options for getting around Yosemite National Park. Having a car is certainly the simplest, though from late May to late September, you’ll need a reservation to enter the park between 10am–4pm. Hikers and backcountry campers have plenty of options for off-grid, sustainable adventures thanks to the Yosemite Valley Shuttle System, Mariposa Grove Shuttle, Tuolumne Meadows Shuttle, Yosemite Valley-Tuolumne Meadows hikers’ bus, and Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System or YARTS.

Traveler tips

To get away from what can feel like the world’s largest parking lot, park your car early in the morning, go off into Mother Nature (bring a picnic!), and come back at the end of the day. Or opt for one of Yosemite National Park’s less popular spots, such as Chilnualna Falls, Hetch Hetchy reservoir, or Tuolumne Meadows, all with trails far away from that river of brake lights. Don’t worry—these less popular spots are just as beautiful.

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People Also Ask

What is the biggest attraction in Yosemite National Park?

The biggest attraction in Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Falls in Yosemite Valley. Cascading some 2,425 feet (739 meters), it’s one of the world’s tallest waterfalls. It’s visible from Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and Loop Trail. View El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls from this scenic valley, too.

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What activities do people enjoy doing at Yosemite National Park?

As one of the country’s most popular national parks, there are many things to do at Yosemite National Park. You can go hiking, touring, and wildlife viewing. Or go picnicking, backpacking, biking, fishing, rock climbing, and camping. Others like to take photographs and scope out historic lodges like The Ahwahnee.

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What should you not miss in Yosemite National Park?

The crown jewel of Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Valley, which is about 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) long and easily driveable. It’s where many of the park’s famous icons can be seen—including Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and Bridalveil Fall. Hiking trails wind along the valley as well.

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What are three things you can do at Yosemite National Park?

If you do three things at Yosemite National Park, make one of them hiking around the park’s magnificent waterfalls—either Yosemite Falls or Bridalveil Falls. You’ll also want to scope out the Giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove and stop at the panoramic overlooks at Tunnel View and Glacier Point.

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What is fun about Yosemite National Park?

Yosemite National Park is fun to hike, bike, and drive through to gawk at its beauty. Have fun seeing its “cathedral” of granite, littered with waterfalls, wildflower-rich meadows, and a very scenic valley. Most visitors do a combination of hiking and driving to appreciate the park.

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How many days do you need to see Yosemite National Park?

You can do Yosemite Valley—the iconic portion of Yosemite National Park—in one day, with time to drive through the valley, stop at overlooks, and take a short hike. But with two or three days, you can stop at Mariposa Grove, south of the valley, and the scenic Tuolumne Meadows area.

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