Filled with millions of years of history and vistas that will reveal socks to you, Yosemite is the kind of national park that is fully worth the hyper. From hiking trails to famous lookouts, there are a bunch of the best things to do in Yosemite that are dotted all over the park.
For me, Yosemite was one of the first national parks in the United States which I have ever visited; and boy was that a good way to start!
During my visit, I embarked on a bunch of hikes, taking in all the stunning views that Yosemite offers. I had to see the most amazing submerged waterfalls, vast meadows, high granite cliffs and huge redwood trees – it was all just so much awe.
In Yosemite, nature is really great. So to help you make the most of your time in the national park, I wanted to share some of the best places I loved most when visiting.
Check out the best things to do in Yosemite National Park below. Have fun in California!
1.) View of the tunnel
View of the tunnel is easily one of my favorite vistas in Yosemite National Park. Just be ashamed of the Wawona Tunnel, which is a place that is completely easy to visit by car (especially when going by highway to the west of Yosemite).
Now for me, this view is what Yosemite really is – it shows how spacious and dramatic the park is.
Standing on this lookout, you will see a lush valley in front of you, with Bridalveil Fall on the right, El Capitan on the left and Half Dome somewhere in the distance. Try to spot them all if you can.
Are you going over? The best time to go to Tunnel View is in the afternoon, when you will see the granite walls glistening in the sunlight.
If you decide to leave in the morning, you will see a valley that has been cleared by transparent cliffs.
They’re both wonderful, but personally, I prefer an afternoon outing here.
Do you want to stretch your legs? Join the nearby Artist Point trail that will take you closer to Dewey Point.
2.) Half Dome
You can’t go all the way to Yosemite and not spot the Half Dome! Seeing it is easily one of the best things in Yosemite and a cult part of the national park.
There are so many lookouts from which you can get a good view of the Half Dome. You can admire it from a distance at Tunnel View or you can go to Mirror Lake and see the Half Dome up close.
That said, if you want a stunning view of this geological wonder, head to Glacier Point and see how it towers over the other mountains and stands like a watchtower over the valley below.
Looking for a more adventurous Half Dome experience? You can climb to its top; just insure required permits first.
Oh, and I always hike carefully, I made this hike quite exhausting and difficult!
3.) Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls consists of three waterfalls that combined make up one of the highest waterfalls in the world.
The Upper Yosemite requires a more challenging hike to the top, but the Middle Cascades and Lower Yosemite Fall can be accessed by a fairly easy hike.
For a completely epic experience of Yosemite Falls, take a one-mile walk at the foot. More experienced hikers can opt for an all-day hike to the top of Upper Yosemite and be rewarded with an amazing view of the area. Just be sure to plan ahead and hike only with accredited guides and proper equipment.
All this said, you can see Yosemite Falls without walking. It always appears in sight as you drive through the valley and is hard to miss. If you’re anything like me, you’ll keep stopping to see every point of view of the falls!
4.) Glacier Point
Another breathtaking lookout point in Yosemite, Glacier Point is a place not to be missed while traveling around the park. Standing at over 7,000 feet, it gives you a whole new perspective on the entire Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.
For me, early spring or fall is the best time to drive to Glacier Point, when the world is full of colors, but you can also check it out in the winter months, especially if you’re a cross-country skier.
There is a lot of activity at Glacier Point, you can also try star gazing and bird watching if that’s your thing. However, wrap warm as you will cool down quickly!
Of course, hiking is quite popular here as well. You can choose the Four Mile Trail or the Panoramic Trail from Glacier Point to the Yosemite Valley which is absolutely amazing.
Lastly, be sure to check out Washburn Point. It is just a few steps south of Glacier Point and offers spectacular views of Vernal Fall.
Oh, and if you’re visiting in the colder months, keep driving toward the nearby Badger Pass ski area. It is a great place for cross-country skiing, especially for beginner skiers.
5.) El Capitan
Dominating the western end of the Yosemite Valley, El Capitan is a legend among mountaineers. Standing at about 3000 meters above the bottom of the valley, it is a dramatic rock formation that makes Yosemite truly unique to visit.
Feel like a challenge, join the El Capitan trail, which is intended for more experienced mountaineers. Although heavy, it is worth an 8-10 hour walk due to the view. Just make sure you are safe and responsible hikers along the way.
Not hiking? For some great views of El Capitan, head to Tunnel View or El Capitan Meadow provides a more intimate close-up view.
6.) Bridalveil autumn
Seeing Bridalveil Fall is easily one of the best things to do in Yosemite and a sight to behold.
Although early spring really comes to life with a thunderous flow of water, it is still impressive all year round. So don’t worry about what time of year to visit, the views are still great.
You can take an easy hike along the paved path that leads to the foothills, where you will be rewarded with the cool humid fog of Bridalveil Fall.
For views go to Lookout Bridalveil Falls where you can drive to.
7.) Mariposa grove
It is home to about 500 mature giant redwood trees, Mariposa Grove is often considered the heart of Yosemite National Park.
Finally, the birth and founding of the park was founded in the Mariposa grove. Since the legislature in the 1980s, the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove have been set aside to preserve redwood trees that we could all enjoy.
They are easy to visit from the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park, the tall redwood trees are living examples of art carved in nature. It sounds cheesy, but you’ll see exactly what I mean when you arrive.
On your trails around Maripos Grove, you’ll learn that some trees even have names, like the Fallen Monarch, the Faithful Couple, and the Tree of Clothes.
Perhaps the most popular of all is Grizzly Giant, one of the largest in the grove, and is estimated to be more than 2,700 years old. There are serious rings on that tree!
8.) Tuolumne meadows
If you are looking for a dreamy and magical haven, Tuolumne Meadows offers a completely peaceful getaway.
Situated between the granite peaks and the Tuolumna River, this amazing place in Yosemite National Park is not to be missed. This is especially true when you have so much room to see around the meadow.
Once here, two miles of flowering fields await you with an incomparable view of the Lembert Dome, the top of the Cathedral and the Dome of the Holes.
Of course, spring is the best time to explore here., This is the time when the grasses are lush and the flowers are just starting to bloom.
9.) Cathedral Peak
With the best view from Tuolumne Meadows, Cathedral Peak is a granite masterpiece from the Sierras. Created from glaciers thousands of years ago, Cathedral Peak is an amazing view from any angle and totally worth a visit.
You can also reach its top if you are an extremely seasonal climber. John Muir, after whom the John Muir Trail was named, was the first person to climb to the top of the cathedral in 1869. Since then, it has been a famous climbing site in Yosemite National Park.
If you’re not a climber, follow the trails to Lower Cathedral (for some epic views) Trailhead Cathedral Lakes.
10.) Taffeta point
West of Glacier Point, Taft Point which is easily accessible via Trailhead Drive it’s just out of the way.
Just like glaciers, the views are stunning, but you always have to act responsibly around gazebos like these. They can be dangerous and you need to be careful not to take excessive risk by scaling over barriers or hanging on the edges of rocks.
After all, no one likes a reckless visitor to a national park!
11.) Spring fall
30 meters high, autumn fall is one of the best things in Yosemite if you like good hiking. You can take a foggy walk along the John Muir Trail or Mist Trails (which I did) to take a good look at the Vernal Fall from the bridge.
Now don’t forget to take plenty of water and sweet and savory snacks. I was hiking this route in June and was so exhausted at the top due to the lack of sugar and the bright sun.
While you don’t feel like you can only hike these trails in the summer, Vernal Fall is awe at any time of the year.
Spring and early summer are great times to jump on trails, but foggy trails can become slippery due to water leaching.