Yosemite – this is an icon. Fans of rock climbing will instantly think about walls of El Capitan, Half Dome, Mount Lyell… Just to name a few. Many historic climbing routes were led in this National Park. Please don’t be discouraged – Yosemite has much to offer also for those feeling more comfortable in the lowlands. These are the best things to do in Yosemite!
1. GLACIER POINT
Start your trip from here. Beware – it may be difficult to get impressed by anything else later on! Visiting Glacier Point is one of the most overwhelming things to do in Yosemite. Located on nearly 2,200 m.a.s.l, this spot offers a mind-blowing panoramic view of the Yosemite Valley and most famous peaks. You can really feel as a small insignificant thing in the world here. The entire landscape is overwhelming, but the most eye-catching thing is…
2. HALF DOME
This mountain has ignited climbers’ imagination since forever. In the 70. XIX century, it was described as “perfectly inaccessible.” Of course, there is always someone who doesn’t know that something is impossible and just make it happen. In 1875, George Anderson stood at the top. He did this after a long climb, during which he drilled holes in granite to place iron eye-bolts. Now, when this wall has already been free-soloed at least several times, his achievement looks rather not subtle. Today, you can join the Half Dome climbers with less effort – there is the Cable Route leading to the summit, with rope handrails. The view of the sunrise from the Half Dome top of is an unforgettable experience. However, if you decide to climb this trail, remember to get an appropriate permit in advance (yes, they will check it!).
3. TUNNEL VIEW
This is another stunning viewpoint. This time, you can admire the panorama of Yosemite from the valley perspective. The landscape is even more impressive as it appears suddenly in front of you when your car leaves the tunnel. The first thing you see is the infamous, south-western wall of the legendary …
4. EL CAPITAN
Another “inaccessible” summit, number one of things to do in Yosemite for all climbers. It was conquered in 1958 for the first time after 47 days of the expedition (sic!). Nowadays Tommy Caldwell was able to climb the wall twice during one day… In 2015, he free-soloed (along with Kevin Jorgeson) the Dawn Wall, one of the most difficult routes in the world, in 19 days. 3 months ago, this achievement was repeated by Czech Adam Ondra, but… in 8 days only. Wow. Respect.
5. BRIDALVEIL FALL
Although it isn’t the highest waterfall in Yosemite (only 188 m), is perhaps the most spectacular one. The stream of water is often blown sideways by the wind, so the waterfall gives the impression that it ends in the middle of a massive granite wall – only mist reaches the ground… According to Indian legend, breathing in this mist will increase your chances getting married soon. Its name speaks for itself 🙂 If you go to Yosemite in summer or autumn, when the waterfall isn’t supplied by melting snow, you will experience this strange view.
6. YOSEMITE FALLS
Waterfalls always make it to the top of things to do in Yosemite… Don’t forget to visit the highest waterfall here, which is 739 meters high! It falls with triple cascade to a small pond. According to Native Americans’ legend, this tiny lake is inhabited by witches, which will take a cruel revenge on those daring to take some water from here. Why should you risk it? Better stay away.
7. VERNAL FALL
Another picturesque waterfall, maybe not that high, but still amazing. Waters of Merced River falls over the edge of wide stream, and continues further to Yosemite Valley, forming numerous smaller cascades. If you don’t want to go for a trip here, I have good news – you can see this waterfall from the Glacier Point!
8. MIRROR LAKE
If you go to Yosemite in spring or early summer, you have a unique chance to observe an interesting phenomenon. Peaks surrounding the Mirror Lake are reflected perfectly in its still surface. Unfortunately, if you visit this place later… the only thing you will see is a dried meadow. Unfortunately, this spectacular pleasure is seasonal.
9. MARIPOSA GROVE
If you haven’t had a chance to see giant trees in Sequoia National Park, cheer up. You can admire these giants also in Yosemite. You should stop by the oldest, the Grizzly Giant, which, as estimated, is over 2,000 years old! Also, take a walk under the California Tunnel Tree, the only living sequoia with a big hole inside.
10. TIOGA PASS
Thanks to this scenic road located even at an altitude of 3,000 meters, you can pass Yosemite from west to east. We decided on driving it mainly because on the next day we wanted to stay in South Lake Tahoe, but even driving it without purpose is worthwhile. Along the way, you will be surrounded by majestic, harsh mountains landscape, enriched with strands of rivers and peaceful lakes waters. Wonderful route. Pay attention, Tioga Pass is temporarily closed, sometimes even in October, till the snow melts. Check conditions here before you go. Definitely one of the most spectacular things to do in Yosemite!
How much time do you need? One day is enough to see selected attractions, but I would advise you to spend 2-3 days here and go for a hike!
Where to stay? There are campsites and cozy cottages available in the park, mainly in Yosemite Village. However, this area is extremely popular and sometimes it’s impossible to find a free spot even 3-4 months in advance. We stayed in Fresno. The park is easily accessible with SR-41. Bonus – you will pass few oil fields when driving this way!
Fee: ticket valid for 7 days – 25$ per car. If you plan to visit more national parks in the States, consider purchasing America the Beautiful Annual Pass for 80$. You get unlimited access to all parks until the end of the year!
Important: Before you hit the road, check updated conditions and warnings in Yosemite National Park (eg. roads closures). Also, remember to wear few layers of clothes – it was very cold in September! And don’t feed the bears! 🙂