31 Things to do in Yosemite National Park (Ultimate Bucket List)

Reviewed by Suneel Jain
Last updated:

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TL;DR: The best things to do in Yosemite National Park are hiking to Upper Yosemite Falls and the Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada Falls; taking a scenic drive to glacier viewpoints like Glacier Point and the iconic Tunnel View; and walking among ancient giant sequoias in Mariposa Grove.

We’ve all been there – you’ve spent years dreaming up a vacation. You finally make it happen, start planning, and book the trip. 

Finally, the time comes to actually enjoy it, and you want to maximize every second of your hard-earned vacation. 

Or maybe your vacation rolls around, and suddenly the weather doesn’t cooperate, or the visitor center is closed, or your knee hurts, and you can’t do the big hike you planned. 

Maybe you’ve never been to Yosemite and want to know what the must-dos are, or perhaps you’re a long-time visitor looking for something new to do. 

No matter which camp you fall in, we’ve rounded up the top and unique things to do in Yosemite. 

Not only will this article help you maximize your long-awaited trip, but we’ve included links directly to the Yosemite National Park webpages most relevant to you. 

By the end of it, you’ll get vacay inspo AND have all the most updated and accurate information at your fingertips. 

So go ahead, bookmark this site, and use it for all your Yosemite planning needs. This is the ultimate bucket list for the best things to do in Yosemite National Park!  

What to do in Yosemite National Park

Table of Contents

Map of Things to do in Yosemite

Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state. 

Practical Info

Practical info for Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California

It’s home to famous sights like El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls and is one of America’s first national parks. 

And Yosemite National Park is huge! With 800,000 acres (aka about the size of Rhode Island), there are a million fun things to do here. 

Yosemite is most easily accessed by car or public transportation. San Francisco International Airport and Reno-Tahoe International Airport are the two biggest airports near Yosemite. 

There are several entrances to the park, which you can read more about in our complete guide to California National Parks

Top Things to do in Yosemite National Park

Take in the Majestic Viewpoints on a Scenic Drive

Tunnel View

Scenic viewpoint - Tunnel View

Hands down, one of the top things to see in Yosemite National Park is the vista from Tunnel View

I remember the first time I emerged from the tunnel and saw Yosemite Valley for the first time – I literally gasped. 

Tunnel View is perhaps one of the most iconic landscapes in America. It overlooks beautiful Yosemite Valley and is accessible from Highway 41 towards Fresno, CA

Tunnel View also offers one of the best vantage points to see El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls, and Half Dome. 

Glacier Point

Take in the scenic viewpoints, like Glacier Point

Another excellent location for Yosemite sightseeing is Glacier Point

Glacier Point is located at the end of Glacier Point Road, off Highway 41, and gives an unparalleled view of the iconic Half Dome. 

Glacier Point not only features some of the most dramatic drop-offs in the park but also the Geology Hut, with informational signs about the incredible geology of Yosemite. 

Glacier Point is also a particularly good spot to watch the sunset or sunrise in Yosemite. 

Olmsted Point

Scenic yosemite viewpoint - Olmstead point

Olmsted Point is located along Tioga Road in the Tuolumne District of Yosemite. 

From Olmsted Point, you’ll get to see Yosemite Valley from the back, with Half Dome in the distance. 

Olmsted Point is also a great place to get out and stretch your legs if you’re on a long road trip around the park. 

Yosemite Valley View

Yosemite valley view

Yosemite Valley View is another beautiful location to see El Capitan and Bridal Veil Falls, but a little closer than you would see them at Tunnel View. 

Valley View is a small, unmarked pullout on Northside Drive in Yosemite Valley. It’s located just before the Northside Drive splits into Highway 140/Southside Drive. 

Taft Point

Taft Point

Taft Point is not accessible by car, but it’s only a 2.2-mile round trip hike with minimal elevation gain to another stunning vista in the park. 

You can look across Yosemite Valley to El Capitan from this vantage point. 

Another cool thing you’ll see if you hike Taft Point is “the fissures,” which are large cracks in the rock along the edge. 

These are neat geological features, but, of course, be careful near the edge!

You can access the Taft Point trailhead from the Sentinel Dome parking lot on Glacier Point Road. 

Walk Along Cooks Meadow

Walk Along Cooks Meadow

One of the best views of Yosemite Falls is from Cooks Meadow

Walking along Cooks Meadow is one of those fun things to do in Yosemite that many people miss out on because they’re set on hiking mountain peaks. 

Cooks Meadow is located near the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center and is a combination of paved sidewalk and wooden boardwalk with interpretive signs. 

Chase Some Waterfalls

Chase some waterfalls in Yosemite

Although Yosemite might be best known for its breathtaking viewpoints and mountainscapes, it’s also home to many stunning waterfalls. 

Yosemite is the perfect place to do a waterfall hike to immerse yourself in the natural misty beauty. 

These are a few of the waterfall hikes I’d recommend (usually best seen in the spring when the snow starts melting).

Vernal Falls

The Vernal Falls hike is one of the top things to do in Yosemite Valley because it takes you to a giant, beautiful waterfall – Vernal Falls!

Vernal Falls is located on the Mist Trail and is a 2.4 mile round trip with 1,000 feet of elevation gain (it’s strenuous!). 

The Mist Trail is very heavily trafficked in the peak summer months, so the best time to see Vernal Falls is in the spring, early summer, or late winter. 

Always check for trail closures before you plan your hike!

Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls is another one of the most popular waterfall hiking trails in Yosemite and is also located on the Mist Trail past Vernal Falls. 

To get to the top of Nevada Falls is a 5.4-mile round trip hike with 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

This is a very strenuous hike, but if you go prepared with enough water and the proper footwear, the views of the waterfall are spectacular. 

The route to Nevada Falls is not open year-round due to icy, dangerous trail conditions; the best time to hike it is early summer or late fall. 

Remember to check the trail conditions before you go!

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite falls hike [to go in chase some waterfalls section, for Yosemite falls)

Yosemite Falls is one of the top Yosemite attractions because it takes you to the top of one of the tallest waterfalls in North America!

The Yosemite Falls trail, also sometimes called the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail, happens to be one of the oldest historic trails in Yosemite (1877). 

The top of Yosemite Falls gives a unique vantage point of Yosemite Valley in that you can see the valley from the north side (whereas most other viewpoints are from the south side). 

This trail is not for the faint of heart or knees. It’s 7.2 miles round trip with 2,700 feet of elevation gain and is rated as strenuous. 

Lower Yosemite Falls

The Lower Yosemite Falls trail is one of the best things to do in Yosemite with a dog or young kids because the trail is entirely paved. 

This is an easy, 1-mile loop trail located directly across from the Yosemite Valley Lodge that offers a close-up vantage point of the lower and upper portion of Yosemite Falls. 

The best time to walk the Lower Yosemite Falls trail is early spring, when the lower falls are roaring.

Bridalveil Falls

Bridalveil Falls is undoubtedly one of the most iconic waterfalls in Yosemite National Park, but as of December 2021, this short, 0.5-mile round trip hike was closed to rehabilitate the area. 

Once this trail reopens, it’s a sight to see. It’s rated easy and usually takes people about 20 minutes to enjoy. 

The best part is that you can enjoy Bridalveil Falls any time of year; just be aware that the mist from the waterfall makes the trail very icy in the winter. 

With that said, the best time to walk the Bridalveil Falls trail is early spring, when runoff is at its highest. 

Keep an eye out for the trail opening date here

Tackle an All-Day Hike

Tackle an all day hike like the Half Dome hike or Clouds Rest Hike

There are plenty of amazing hikes to enjoy in Yosemite. However, if you’re looking for a bucket list hike that’s as challenging as it is rewarding, these are the top two all-day hikes in Yosemite. 

Hike Half Dome

If you’re lucky enough to score a permit, hiking Half Dome is an experience of a lifetime. 

The Half Dome trail is a 16-mile round trip hike with 4,800 feet of elevation gain (in other words, it’s extremely strenuous). 

Much of the hike takes place in designated wilderness, and while beautiful, it should only be hiked by those in good shape. 

Permits to hike Half Dome are available for the year starting in March, but there are a few permits available two days in advance as well.  

Rangers at the base of Half Dome will check permits to make sure you have the proper paperwork. 

The route to the top of the dome takes place on the Half Dome cables, which are thick metal cables strung up on either side of wooden boards. 

The only time to hike Half Dome is between late May/early June and early October when the cables are up. 

Learn more about the permit system and how to prepare for a Half Dome hike here

Clouds Rest

Clouds Rest Hike

The Clouds Rest Trail is said to rival Half Dome in terms of views, and you don’t need a permit to do it. 

This 14-mile out-and-back trail begins at the Sunrise Creek Trailhead, adjacent to Tenaya Lake on Tioga Road. 

The trail for Clouds Rest features 3,166 feet of elevation gain and is rated as strenuous. 

The reward for all your hard work is a stunning 360-degree view of Yosemite’s granite peaks and the lush Yosemite Valley. 

The best time to hike Clouds Rest is early summer to early fall due to some exposed parts of the trail that may become icy during the colder months. 

Explore the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is Yosemite’s largest grove of giant sequoia trees and is located near the south entrance to the park, near Fish Camp, CA. 

Mariposa Grove is home to over 500 giant sequoias and walking among them is truly an awe-inspiring experience. 

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is typically accessed via shuttle bus. 

However, due to the pandemic, you must park your car at the Mariposa Grove Welcome Center and walk the rest of the way on a paved road. 

The total trip is 5.5 miles round trip with 1,000 feet of elevation gain and is considered moderately difficult. 

Road Trip Along Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows via Tioga Road (Tioga Pass)

Tuolumne Meadows is one of the best places to visit in Yosemite National Park by car because it’s about an hour and a half from Yosemite Valley. 

This section of the park is located along Tioga Road and is situated at the highest elevation in the park – making it much cooler than the valley during the summer. 

Tuolumne Meadows also has a much quieter and peaceful atmosphere than Yosemite Valley, so it’s an excellent place to get away from the bulk of the crowds.  

Tioga Road, also known as Tioga Pass, is one of the few roads that cross the Sierra Nevada from east to west and is the only way to access Tuolumne Meadows. 

Along Tioga Pass to Tuolumne Meadows, you’ll take in stunning scenery, including sparkling alpine lakes and white granite mountains. 

There are many hiking trails, picnic areas, parking areas, and trailheads along the way. 

To make a day out of your trip to Tuolumne Meadows, make a stop at the Olmsted Point parking area and read about the geology of the Sierra Nevada. 

Next, take a dip in Tenaya Lake, then grab a burger at the Tuolumne Meadows Grill.  

Hike to a Lake

If you’re looking for more water-focused hikes, hiking around a lake is another must in Yosemite. These are two of my favorite lake hikes.

Mirror Lake

If you want a close-up view of Half Dome, Mirror Lake is your destination. 

Mirror Lake is a 2-mile round trip, flat hike located on the east end of Yosemite Valley, right at the base of Half Dome. 

The trail is named “Mirror Lake,” after the fact that you used to see the reflection of Half Dome in the lake. 

Over the years, the dam that once created the lake has eroded, and today the gully features more of a peaceful river than a standing lake. 

Cathedral Lakes

Hike to a lake - cathedral lakes

Cathedral Lakes are located at the base of the majestic Cathedral Peak in the Tuolumne District of Yosemite. 

The hike is moderately strenuous, at 7 miles round trip with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. The trailhead is just west of the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. 

Take the Valley Floor Tour

Take the Valley Floor Tour

Do you want to immerse yourself in the deeply complex history of Yosemite while sitting in the comfort of an open air-tram? 

How about avoiding the confusing valley traffic while still getting to see all the best sights? If all of this sounds good, the Valley Floor Tour is for you. 

The tour takes you to all the icons of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan and Tunnel View, while being guided by an expert park ranger. 

Yosemite Valley traffic is notoriously confusing and congested, but you can avoid the worst parts of road tripping this area of the park with a tour. 

Have a Drink at the Ahwahnee Hotel

Have a Drink at the Ahwahnee Hotel

Unwind from the day and grab an El Capitini at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel

The Ahwahnee Hotel is a uniquely elegant lodge that was designed to highlight the beauty of Yosemite Valley. 

The Ahwahnee is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has had both queens and presidents as guests!

To boot, the Ahwahnee is within walking distance of Yosemite Village and Curry Village, two bustling areas in the park.  

Watch Climbers from El Capitan Meadow

Watch Climbers from El Capitan Meadow

Since the movies Dawn Wall and Free Solo came out, watching climbers from El Capitan Meadow has become one of the top things to do in Yosemite. 

You can see little blobs of color against the giant granite wall, see them make progress, or gasp as they take short falls. 

El Capitan Meadow is located on Northside Drive in Yosemite Valley. Be sure to bring your binoculars and a camp chair

And remember to be respectful of the vegetation while you watch. The meadow is closed to foot traffic, so be sure to stay on the sidewalk. 

Explore Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy reservoir

Hetch Hetchy and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir are located in the northwest corner of the park, one of the least visited areas of the park. 

The stunning valley, which is part of the Tuolumne River, has been dammed and is a source of drinking water for the Bay Area. 

The area is definitely worth visiting; it’s known for its gorgeous spring wildflowers and excellent birdwatching. 

Attend a Ranger Program

Ranger Programs at Yosemite National Park are excellent. The programs are sometimes called “interpretive” programs because the rangers help “interpret” nature for visitors. 

Yosemite has ranger programs on all sorts of topics, including nature and history, as well as photography programs, which you can learn more about here.  

And don’t forget the best part – programs led by park rangers are entirely free!

Go on a Yosemite Naturalist Walk

Are you looking for things to do with kids in Yosemite National Park? In addition to ranger programs, you can also participate in a Yosemite Naturalist Walk

A naturalist walk is led by an expert naturalist with the Yosemite Conservancy, the partner organization for Yosemite National Park. 

The Yosemite Conservancy helps raise money to fund Yosemite’s critical operations, so while a naturalist walk comes with a small fee, the money goes directly towards keeping Yosemite beautiful. 

The Yosemite Conservancy also runs several tours that feature park icons like El Capitan and Half Dome. 

Ansel Adams Gallery

The Ansel Adams Gallery is located in Yosemite Village and is a great place to pick up unique gifts and keepsakes. 

The gallery is dedicated to the work of photographer Ansel Adams, who is famous for capturing breathtaking black and white photos of the park in the mid 20th century. They even have some of his originals for sale!  

The gallery also features books and other fine art mediums from local artists. 

Visit the Yosemite Museum & the Pioneer Yosemite History Center

Visit Yosemite museum

The Yosemite Museum is located in Yosemite Valley and is primarily focused on historical artifacts and stories from indigenous cultures. 

And the Yosemite Museum was actually the first building constructed as a museum in the national parks system in 1925.

The Pioneer Yosemite History Center is located in the Wawona District of Yosemite, near the south entrance to the park, and highlights the history of the first European-American immigrants. 

As a bonus, the Pioneer Yosemite History Center offers blacksmith demonstrations and horse-drawn carriage rides during the summer. 

Enjoy a Picnic with a View

Picnicking in Yosemite next to the Merced River can be a peaceful respite on a hot day. 

Just remember that Yosemite is home to many wild animals, including bears, so it’s essential to keep your food stored properly at all times. 

All picnic areas in Yosemite National Park are on a first-come, first-served basis and are open from dawn to dusk. 

Cascade Picnic Area

The Cascade Picnic Area is located on Highway 140 between the Arch Rock entrance station and Yosemite Valley, next to the Merced River. 

This picnic area offers tables and grills and is situated in the most tumultuous section of the Merced River. 

Cathedral Beach Picnic Area

Have a picnic with a view - Cathedral Beach Picnic Area

The Cathedral Beach Picnic Area is another picnic location along the Merced River on Southside Drive in Yosemite. 

From Cathedral Beach, you can watch the sunlight off El Capitan and, of course, take a dip in the Merced. 

Swinging Bridge Picnic Area

The Swinging Bridge Picnic Area is located on Southside Drive in Yosemite Valley and features excellent views of Yosemite Falls and a large beach area.

Swinging Bridge is the most popular picnic area in the valley, and for that reason, you can expect it to fill up quickly on nice days.  

View the Wildlife

View the Wildlife in Yosemite

No trip to Yosemite is complete without some wildlife viewing! For some people seeing wildlife is the highlight of their trip to the park. 

Yosemite is home to a huge variety of animals, including some endangered species. 

Some common species you may see include mule deer, coyotes, bears, foxes, and peregrine falcons. 

While it can be very exciting to see wildlife, never approach or follow wildlife. Wildlife that loses its fear of humans sometimes has to be killed by rangers, which no one wants.  

To view wildlife safely, always give animals at least half a football field of space (even if the animal seems to be ignoring you), and come prepared with binoculars and a camera with a zoom lens. 

Ski at Badger Pass Ski Area

Ski at Badger Pass Ski Area

Look no further than the Badger Pass Ski area if you’re looking for Yosemite winter activities. 

The ski area includes groomed trails for cross-country skiing, as well as downhill skiing areas and a lift. 

The Ski School at Badger Pass offers lessons for new winter sports lovers, as well as a shuttle.

Unique Things to do in Yosemite National Park

Take a Climbing Class with Yosemite Mountain School

Rock Climbing Class with Yosemite Mountain School

Do you want to learn to rock climb in the home of the greatest outdoor climbing on earth? 

Take a class with the Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service. These guys are the only official climbing guides in Yosemite, and every instructor is an expert climber. 

As an added safety precaution, every instructor is also a certified Wilderness EMT or Wilderness First Responder. 

Learn About Indigenous Culture at Indian Village

Behind the Yosemite Museum in Yosemite Village is a reconstruction of an Ahwahneechee Indian village

In fact, one of the biggest indigenous villages in the valley is located where the modern Yosemite Village is today. 

You can walk among reconstructed structures and learn how indigenous Southern Sierra Miwok and Northern Paiute people lived. 

Take a Jeep Tour

If you don’t want to waste a second of your day in Yosemite, consider booking a 4×4 Jeep Tour, which picks up at select locations outside the park. 

The tours can be customized to cater to your personal interests. They also have an all-inclusive option with a picnic lunch included. 

Take an Art Class

Take an art class in Yosemite

Many people throughout history have felt inspired by the majesty of the valley, so taking an art class isn’t really an unusual thing to do in Yosemite National Park. 

That said, you might be surprised to learn that the park offers daily art classes. 

Classes must be booked online ahead of time and are open to anyone 12 years old and up. The classes cost a small fee but remember that these fees support the park. 

If you didn’t come prepared with art supplies, you can purchase them at the Ansel Adams Gallery. 

Bike Yosemite Valley

Biking Yosemite

Biking is one of the best things to do around Yosemite if you want to see the sights but don’t want to wait in traffic or walk everywhere. 

There are a few ways to bike in Yosemite. You can rent a bike at Curry Village, you can bring your own bike, or you can take part in the pilot bike share program. 

Bikes are only allowed on fully paved surfaces, you must wear a helmet, and biking on the road is not advised during peak traffic for safety reasons. 

Snowshoe the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias

The Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias is located off Highway 120 and features a smaller but less trafficked grove of giant sequoias. 

The grove is located on a closed road, but you can travel it via snowshoe or cross-country skiing during the winter. 

The trail is three miles round trip and includes 500 feet of elevation gain on the way back. 

This is an excellent trail for those who don’t want a strenuous hike but still want to see giant sequoias in the snow.  

Make Your Dog a BARK Ranger

Make Your Dog a BARK Ranger

The honest truth is that there aren’t many things to do with dogs in Yosemite. 

National parks are set aside in part to preserve scenery and wildlife, and pets can be a direct threat to the health and safety of wildlife and other visitors. 

Dogs in Yosemite are only allowed on completely paved surfaces. They aren’t allowed on any trails except the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail, and they’re also not allowed on beaches. 

If you want to bring your dog to Yosemite, though, you can learn how to be a respectful visitor by making your dog a BARK Ranger

BARK stands for:

  • Bag your waste
  • Always leash your pet
  • Respect wildlife
  • Know where you can go

You can complete a short activity card to understand the rules around pets, and then your dog will get sworn in by a real ranger as a BARK Ranger. 

Being a BARK Ranger means setting an example for other dog owners by following all the rules.

Yosemite Valley Chapel

Yosemite valley chapel

The Yosemite Valley Chapel is a picturesque, scenic chapel built in the 1870s that’s the oldest European structure in Yosemite Valley. The chapel still holds nondenominational church services and weddings. 

The chapel is located on Southside Drive just before Sentinel Bridge and might be one of the most charming places to visit in Yosemite National Park. 

Experience Yosemite Firefall

Yosemite firefall

The Yosemite Firefall is a naturally occurring event that usually happens around the last two weeks in February. 

A combination of sunlight hitting a small, ephemeral waterfall causes the waterfall to look like it’s on fire, hence the name, “Firefall.”

If you want to learn more about this beautiful natural phenomenon, you can read our complete guide to Yosemite Firefall

Go Fishing in the Merced River

Fishing is one of those outdoor activities many people (including myself) consider fun and relaxing, and great news, you can fish in Yosemite National Park.

Just like anywhere else, you must have a valid California fishing license to fish in the park, and you cannot use live, dead, or scented baits of any type. 

You can fish almost anywhere in Yosemite except from bridges. 

See Hill’s Studio at the Wawona Visitor Center

The Wawona Visitor Center, located directly adjacent to the Wawona Hotel, contains Hill’s Studio

This space is dedicated to the fantastic floor-to-ceiling artwork of Thomas Hill, an American artist during the 19th century. 

Hill is most famous for his California landscapes, including, of course, Yosemite Valley. 

Enjoy a Night of Stargazing

Yosemite stargazing

What better activity to do on your Yosemite vacation than stargazing? If you’re from a city, take advantage of the dark night skies to enjoy the wonders of a dark night in Yosemite. 

You can do your own stargazing in places like Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, or really anywhere there aren’t trees in the way. 

If you’d like a more curated stargazing experience, you can sign up for any number of night sky programs offered by the park concessionaire. 

Volunteer During Facelift

If you have a day in September and love giving back, you can volunteer for Yosemite Facelift

Facelift is a service day organized by Yosemite Climbing Association and the National Park Service to help clean ol’ Yosemite up. 

Volunteers walk around Yosemite Valley to pick up trash and enter to win giveaways. 

The event was inspired by the fact that, well dangit, with millions of people visiting the park every year, trash and micro-trash can accumulate quickly. 

Take a Private Winter Tour

Take a Private Winter Tour in Yosemite_

In addition to the million different things to do in Yosemite, there are also a million different times of the year to do them. 

Yosemite in winter is a special time. With fewer crowds, and snow dusting the granite cliffs, the park has a different and unique feel. 

One way to take advantage of this time of year is to book a customizable winter tour

This allows you to enjoy the park with a knowledgeable guide without having to worry about driving on the park’s winding mountain roads in the snow. 

Looking for an already planned out itinerary? Read our two days in Yosemite itinerary.

Where to Eat & Drink in Yosemite National Park

Where to eat in Yosemite, Ahwahnee hotel

Lots of people bring food in with them to the park, but if you need a snack, check out one of these places to eat at Yosemite. 

Where to Stay in Yosemite National Park


Where to stay in Yosemite National park

For more information on hotel-style lodging in Yosemite, click here. 

My picks for hotels include:


Yosemite camping

Click for more information on camping, including canvas-sided tent cabins and campgrounds

Note that many campgrounds are only open seasonally and some campgrounds have remained closed during the pandemic. 

Canvas-Sided Tent Cabins

Tent Campgrounds

Where to Stay Near Yosemite National Park

See more about Autocamp Yosemite in our article on uniquely beautiful Glamping Spots in California. 

Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park

Best time to visit Yosemite

The best time to visit Yosemite National Park depends on what you want out of your trip. 

If you want to hike Half Dome and other trails, you should visit between May and October for warmer weather and more open trailheads. 

If you’re looking for a quiet getaway, try a January trip to Yosemite. 

There’s really no wrong time to visit the park as long as you plan ahead and prepare for the season.

How to Get Around Yosemite National Park

how to get around Yosemite

There are several ways to get around Yosemite National Park. Check out the park website on getting around for the most up-to-date and accurate information.

You can use your own vehicle to get around Yosemite, and this is especially recommended for visiting anywhere outside of Yosemite Valley. 

Note that some national park roads close during the winter, and tire chains may be required at any time. 

Also, note that traffic in Yosemite Valley is notoriously bad during the summer and the rest of the year on weekends and holidays. 

Traffic is known to back up for hours as thousands of private vehicles attempt to enter or exit the park simultaneously. 

To avoid this, you can use public transportation to get in the park any time of year. 

Yosemite offered a free shuttle around Yosemite Valley before the pandemic. It’s currently not operating, but keep an eye on the park website for updates on when the shuttle will return. 

Tips for Visiting Yosemite National Park

Tips for visiting Yosemite National Park

Don’t let surprises ruin your Yosemite vacation! Follow these tips for a smooth national park adventure. 


Yosemite National Park required entrance reservations between May and October during the pandemic. 

As of October 31, 2021, the park no longer requires reservations; however, this may be subject to change depending on public health guidelines. 

Entrance Fee

The park always collects entrance fees at each park entrance station. 

If the station is closed when you arrive, you must fill out a self-registration card and submit your payment into a box (bring cash and a pen). 

The fee for a private vehicle is $35 for a seven-day pass. Click here for detailed fee information for other types of vehicle entrances

Read our guide on how to get from San Francisco to Yosemite.

Expect crowds

Yosemite National Park is routinely listed as one of the most visited national parks in the country. 

On top of that, most of the park’s visitors want to visit Yosemite Valley, which is a relatively small portion of the park. 

For this reason, expect very crowded facilities and congested traffic, especially in the summer months. 


Help keep Yosemite wildlife wild by following these tips.

  1. Keep 25 yards from deer and 50 yards (half a football field) from bears and all other wildlife.
  2. Even if wildlife appears to be ignoring you, or walks towards you, keep your distance.
  3. Store food and trash properly. Always keep food and trash within arms reach or in a locked vehicle or food storage locker.
  4. Obey the speed limit! Every year up to 30 bears are hit by vehicles in Yosemite.
  5. Know what to do if you see a bear


We’ve all seen amazing footage of beautiful outdoor spaces taken with drones, so I understand the appeal of a drone. 

However, national parks, and especially Yosemite, are not the place for drones. 

First and foremost, Yosemite regularly uses helicopters for emergency rescue operations, and if there’s a drone flying, the helicopter can’t fly. The same goes for wildfire emergencies using aircraft. 

Second, people have used drones to locate wildlife, and in the process of getting their amazing shot, have harassed and disturbed the wildlife. Don’t be that person!

What to Pack for Yosemite National Park

What to Pack for Yosemite National Park

When you’re ready to gear up for your Yosemite vacation, be sure to pack all the necessary gear to keep you safe and comfortable. 

Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state. 


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Mimi McFadden
Founder & Editor-In-Chief

Mimi McFadden initially started The Atlas Heart in 2013 to write about her adventures abroad. But since 2019, The Atlas Heart has become a love letter to the Golden State. Mimi enjoys sharing her first-hand knowledge and expertise with the places she knows so well and making the most comprehensive travel guides possible. When she’s not hiking and exploring new places in California, she loves to travel abroad, read in her cozy chaise lounge, play basketball, and connect with friends and family over board games. Over her 28 years in California, she has lived in Santa Cruz (18 years), San Diego (5 years), and the San Francisco Bay Area (5 years), where she currently resides.

Looking for more California parks and Sierra Nevada travel inspiration? Check out my related posts below!

Pinnacles National Park Guide

Palm Springs to Joshua Tree National Park

Best Joshua Tree Hotels and Campgrounds

Things to do in Death Valley National Park

California State Parks List (Every Park Organized by County)

50 Things to do in Lake Tahoe

Where to Stay in Lake Tahoe

45 Things to do in Mammoth Lakes, California

California National Parks Road Trip

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Hi, I'm Mimi! I'm an outdoorsy Californian who has spent over 28 years immersed in the incredible natural beauty that California has to offer. My goal is to inspire others to get out and find their next adventure in California. Whether it’s escaping to an alpine lake in the Sierras, finding peace among the giant redwoods, or road tripping down the PCH, there’s always more to explore in this beautiful state.


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