Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite National Park is famous for its giant sequoia trees. Famous features include Tunnel View, Bridalveil Fall, and the granite cliffs of El Capitan and Half Dome. You can find many shops and accommodations in Yosemite Village. There are also museums and a gallery featuring prints of Ansel Adams’ landscape paintings.
Of the four million visitors who come each year, most spend their time in Yosemite Valley, which is open year-round. At only 8 miles long and 1 mile wide, this valley packs in more jaw-dropping scenery than just about any other place on Earth.
Where is Yosemite National Park?
If you want to know the location of Yosemite Valley then read it.
As you enter the Yosemite Valley ring road from the west? it’s worth taking a short detour to Tunnel View and standing before a sweeping panorama that’s reduced generations of visitors to silence, and many to tears.
There’s the ethereal mist of Bridalveil Fall to the right side, and to the left, the sheer granite face of El Capitan, while in the background, the rising majesty of Half Dome beckons you deeper into the valley.
From Tunnel View, it’s just a short drive, and then an easy walk to the base of Bridalveil Fall. The fall reaches its peak in May, yet possesses magic all year round. If you’re looking for love, breathe deeply; the park’s original custodians, the Ahwahneechee, believe that inhaling the fall’s mists increases your chances of marriage.
The park’s ring road follows the banks of the Merced River, a national wild and scenic waterway, which shifts in character as it thunders and tumbles from the valley walls, before gently winding across the valley floor.
Here, the river is lined with pine forests, rich meadows, and beaches. These are the places to pause, and let the park’s spirit wash over you. These are the places that inspired President Teddy Roosevelt to write, “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.
Map of Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park Weather
If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite National Park, you’ll want to be prepared for the weather. While the park is open year-round, the best time to visit is from June through September, when the waterfalls will be running and wildflowers will have emerged from their winter shells. It’s also when the grass will be green and full of visitors. The average high temperature in Yosemite National Park is in the low to mid-70s, with a few days of rain in October. During the daytime, temperatures will rise, but they’ll cool down in the evening.
Although the park is usually a bit cold in the winter, temperatures are usually milder. Summers can be hot in the Valley, but cooler in higher elevations. You’ll want to check the forecast daily and be prepared for any closures in the park. It’s also important to check the webcams for conditions since the water level in the river can be affected by high temperatures. You should also bring tire chains.
The average humidity in Yosemite National Park is only slightly above the national average. Regardless of the season, you can expect to see clouds in the area for at least five months a year. The cloud cover in Yosemite Lakes varies greatly depending on the day. Clouds are most common during the month of August, but they only last for 5.5 months. This means that the summer months are typically drier.
The waterfalls of Yosemite national park are among the most spectacular sights to see. Yosemite Falls, which is the tallest waterfall in North America, reaches a staggering 2,425 feet. Yosemite’s hydrologic system is driven by snowpack and the waterfall’s water levels are monitored at 13 courses. The spring floods reshape the landscape in a natural house-cleaning. During the dry summers, the water is depleted, forcing plants to adapt.
As one of the iconic features of the park, Cathedral Rock is an amazing photo opportunity. Hikers also often make the journey to Glacier Point to capture this renowned view of the park. This 17-mile round-trip hike can be done in a single day or two, depending on the weather. Once you reach the top, you will be amazed by the panoramic views of the park. Whether you’re visiting the park for the first time or exploring a new area, you’ll be impressed by the sights of Yosemite.
Famous Rock Formations
Visitors to Yosemite National Park can enjoy the valley’s famous rock formations. You can explore them on the Valley Loop Trail and Southside Drive. For a closer look at these formations, pin them on your Pinterest travel board or save them to your list. For more information, see our other blog posts about the park’s famous rock formations. We’ve also put together an itinerary to showcase the park’s most notable rock formations.
The Valley itself has many breathtaking rock formations, including Half Dome, which rises nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor. You can hike up to Glacier Point for a view of the valley below. Half Dome is Yosemite’s most famous symbol, rising nearly 5,000 feet above the Valley floor. While visiting the park, don’t miss the opportunity to hike to Half Dome for the view.
There are many ways to enjoy the hiking trails in Yosemite national park. Summer is a popular time to visit the park, you can also enjoy it at other times of the year, such as the fall and spring. The summer season is particularly popular, with summer crowds making the park’s valley crowded. Nevertheless, it is possible to find solitude even in the most popular season.
A great way to get to know the different hiking trails in the park is to take a tour. Yosemite has a vast network of hiking trails, and you can choose from many of them to enjoy the magnificent scenery. There are two main hikes that are suitable for all levels of fitness, from novice to advanced. A moderate hike that follows the Tuolumne River is the Glen Aulin Trail. It leads to three waterfalls in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne.
Visitor Centers in Yosemite National Park
The Visitors Center is a year-round facility that offers maps of Yosemite and a wide range of nature exhibits. It also includes a bookstore and a theater. A short film about Yosemite will entertain and educate you about the park and its beauty. The center is also an excellent place to get an insider’s look at the park. Visitors can also learn about wildlife and the park’s history from a knowledgeable guide.
The Valley Visitor Center is the largest and most informative of the four visitor centers in the park. The center is located in the heart of Yosemite Village. It contains a gallery of paintings and Native American artifacts. The other three are smaller and open only for limited hours. The Valley Visitor Center is a great place to start exploring the park. There are also several trails to hike and exhibits about the local environment.
Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum
The Groveland Yosemite Gateway is an excellent place to learn about the history of the region. Its exhibits showcase the local Native Americans and early pioneers. The museum is run by the Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society, a nonprofit organization that celebrates local history and culture. It includes exhibits that explore Native American culture and history, as well as Native American art and specimens. Visitors can also take part in educational activities, including genealogy research, and take home souvenirs and books.
The Groveland Museum is part of the local library and has an interesting collection of local history. It also has a small gift shop and a movie theatre where visitors can view local history films. The museum was built entirely through donations and aluminum can recycling from the local community. You should allow about 45 minutes to walk through the museum. The museum is free to visit and has a knowledgeable staff. It is also easy to find free parking in the area.
Threats to the park’s Outstanding Universal Value
The stunning scenery, majestic sequoia trees, and other features of Yosemite National Park make it a World Heritage site. But the park’s Outstanding Universal Value is threatened by air pollution, invasive species, and a deteriorating ecosystem. There are also environmental problems related to climate change, such as wildfires, which will lead to diminished snowpack and extended fire seasons. Moreover, the park’s ecosystem is already suffering from overcrowding in a critical part of the park.
In the last three decades, fires have hammered Yosemite park’s boundary. Two fires forced the park to close, the A-Rock and Steamboat fires. In 2013, the Rim fire burned 257,314 acres within the park, including a large area in Yosemite. In 2018, the Ferguson fire surged over the western boundary, and the Castle fire brushed against the south perimeter.
So if you’re looking for things to do in Yosemite National Park or curious to see if it’s the spot for your next American wilderness vacation, watch on for our top picks in this perfect all-season destination.
Check out Hotels Near Yosemite National Park
Things to do in Yosemite National Park
1. Wish on a Waterfall
Did you know that one of Yosemite’s oldest trails ever established leads to the top of the USA’s tallest waterfall? That’s how passionate we Americans are about seeing water cascading over cliff faces.
Some of the best to add to your list include Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls, Horsetail Fall (it glows orange at sunset), and Wapama Falls (great if you want to avoid crowds). For the best waterfall experience, head to the park in the spring.
The snow is melting, filling the rivers—and therefore the waterfalls—with enormous volumes of water. If you’re traveling in the winter, keep an eye on the weather and road reports. Due to heavy snowfall, the roads to some of the park’s waterfalls are closed in the colder months.
2. Watch the Abundant Wildlife
Honestly, wildlife watching is probably the reason most people come to Yosemite. There are hundreds of species of animals to check off your wildlife Bingo card and numerous plant zones to walk through and observe.
Some of our favorites include marmots and squirrels, black bears, bighorn sheep, and mule deer. There are also over 200 songbird species to listen out for! Are you looking for more deep dives into what to see and do at the most exciting vacation spots across America and the world? Then, be sure to like and share this video–for the algorithms, you know–and subscribe to our channel for more just like it.
3. Plan Around Festival and Activities
Are you nervous about exploring the vast Yosemite National Park on your own or keep to hear what the experts have to say about everything you’re seeing? book a ranger-led tour.
There is a wide range of options to take part in, from going camping to simple multi-hour or multi-day hikes. Time your vacation to coincide with a music festival or holiday activity and experience the park at its best—with things to do for kids and adults, you can relax knowing the itineraries already planned out for you.
4. Walk Among Giants Trees
Of course, a lot of the reason people make a journey to Yosemite National Park is to walk among some of America’s most enormous trees. The towering sequoias can be seen in Mariposa Grove, and with newly renovated boardwalks, the entire area is now very family-friendly.
If you hate crowds or want to get in a bit of solitary forest bathing, a few other groves are less popular—namely Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove.
5. Hike the Trails
Honestly, few tracks in the States compare with the majesty of Yosemite National Park. If you’re looking for leisurely walks with classic Yosemite views, try the Valley Loop Trail.
If you want to stand in front of a mighty waterfall, head off on the Mist Trail. And if you’re up for a real challenge, climb the Half Dome. You can even ride your horse on some trails!
6. Catch Your Dinner
Believe it or not, fishing is allowed in many rivers and lakes in Yosemite National Park. You need to have a California fishing license if you’re over 16 years old and can’t use any bait. To ensure you don’t break any rules and arrive back at camp with nothing for your supper, we recommend hiring a guide or booking a fishing charter.
7. Take in the View
Not everyone is willing or able to go hiking, but that doesn’t mean you should have to miss out on those incredible Yosemite views. There are numerous viewpoints located just off the road.
The Tunnel View is at the western entrance to Yosemite National Park, just outside the east end of the Wawona Tunnel. And the Glacier Point view, probably the most spectacular in the entire park, is right at the end of Glacier Point Road.
And be sure to add a drive up to Tenaya Lake, just off Tioga Road, to your bucket list, too.
8. Get on Yer Bike
Okay, so this one is a little bit sneaky. That’s because mountain biking is prohibited within Yosemite National Park.
However, just outside the park are an endless maze of quality off-road bike trails to suit skill level. For those looking for a more sedate ride, the Yosemite Valley boasts over 12 miles of paved bike paths with a 15 mph speed limit, and road riding is also allowed.
Are you new to biking and don’t have your own bike? Don’t fret. There are plenty of places near the park to rent one.
9. Go Ice Skating
Yosemite National Park often gets covered in a layer of fine, powdery, white snow in the winter.
It gets cold enough for snow sports and what could be more wintery than ice skating? Probably the most popular ice skating rink in the park is at Curry Village. After all, you get to skate underneath the Half Dome!
10. Admire Art About Nature
If the weather’s bad, embrace it. After all, it gives you the chance to check out some Yosemite-themed art. Ansel Adams was a famous photographer and conservationist who captured images of natural America in black and white.
The Ansel Adams Gallery, founded way back in 1902 and still run to this day by the Ansel family, houses some of his greatest works.
Read more about Yosemite Valley