The Top 8 Things To Do in Yosemite National Park
Here in Sacramento, we are lucky to live within driving distance to some of the region’s finest attractions, including Lake Tahoe, the beaches of the Pacific Ocean, the wineries in Napa Valley, and Yosemite National Park. Encompassing an area of 747,956 acres in the western Sierra Nevada, Yosemite National Park is an absolute must-see for Northern California residents.
Yosemite is recognized across the globe for its granite cliffs, impressive waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, sparkling lakes, tall mountains, peaceful meadows, and its overall biological diversity. Make the most of your trip to this iconic national park with our must-do activities, from exciting hikes along waterfalls to fascinating tours through history and many inspiring attractions in between.
Drive to Glacier Point to See Half Dome
Let’s start the list with an absolute must-do. While much of the park requires visitors to look up to see sites, this spot at an elevation of more than 7,200 feet provides a rare vantage point looking out over the whole valley. Plus, this is by far the best place to view one of the park’s most renowned attractions, Half Dome, which is accessible with a difficult, permit-only hike. The drive to Glacier Point from Yosemite Valley takes about an hour, but the journey is dotted with a number of beautiful sites and hikes worth taking, like Four Mile Trail, which ends at Sentinel Rock, and Washburn Point, a lookout offering views of Vernal Fall.
Hike Through Yosemite Valley to Yosemite Falls
Did you know that Yosemite National Park is home to the largest waterfall in North America? Measuring 2,424 feet in height between its three separate tiers, Yosemite Falls is the largest on the continent and the sixth largest in the world. One of the best places to see this awe-inspiring site is at the start of the Yosemite Falls hike, on the non-handicapped section on the left side of the river. Here, you’re able to walk to the base of the falls and feel the mist from this powerful waterfall. Another great viewpoint is the picnic site at the Swinging Bridge. But no matter where you are in the valley, you’ll encounter plenty of exceptional viewpoints of the mighty Yosemite Falls.
Visit the Yosemite Museum and Indian Village
Get a history lesson to understand the complex past of the region, which has been inhabited for more than 3,000 years. The Yosemite Museum and Indian Village provide an excellent history lesson, complete with artifacts, detailed exhibits and knowledgeable staff. You can even explore some bark-covered dwellings built by the Miwok people who once inhabited the area, in addition to Euro-American-style buildings built much later. The museum structure itself is historic, as it was built in 1925 by architect Herbert Maier, and was the first building constructed as a museum in the national park system. Its educational initiatives served as a model for parks across the nation. The Yosemite Museum is completely free and open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Bike to Mirror Lake
Don’t forget to pack your bike! Yosemite National Park hosts 12 miles of paved paths ideal for biking. Many visitors bike along the 1-mile paved service road leading to Mirror Lake, a small, seasonal lake situated on Tenaya Creek. The lake is most full and scenic during the spring and summer, at which point you can enjoy breathtaking reflections of surrounding cliffs when the water is calm. Another popular place for biking is the loop skirting the Upper Pines Campground east of Half Dome Village. Here, you’ll bike past the trailheads for Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall and the John Muir Trail.
Need a bike? Consider renting a bike and other equipment like tag-along bikes for kids, trailers and helmets from Yosemite Valley Lodge or Half Dome Village.
Admire Sequoias in Mariposa Grove
Travel to the southernmost section of Yosemite to encounter Mariposa Grove, one of three groves in the park filled with towering sequoia trees. This one is by far the largest of the groves, hosting approximately 500 mature giant sequoia trees dating back thousands of years. Don’t miss the Fallen Monarch, the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree, the only sequoia in Yosemite with a man-made tunnel carved out of the trunk. One of the easiest trails to hike in Mariposa Grove is the Big Trees Loop Trail, a paved path that guides you past some of the best attractions in the grove, including the Fallen Monarch. But perhaps the most all-inclusive trail is the Grizzly Giant Loop, a 2-mile hike passing by the Fallen Monarch, Bachelor & Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant, and the California Tunnel Tree.
Stop By the Ansel Adams Gallery
Take a break from the sun by tucking into the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village. If you’re not familiar with this famous photographer or his work, Ansel Adams was a renowned landscape photographer and environmentalist who lived from 1902–1984. He is known for his stunning black-and-white images of the American West, many of which were taken in Yosemite National Park, specifically of Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, and Jeffrey Pine. This quaint gallery hosts some of his most famous pieces, both original and reproductions, plus a variety of posters, books and more.
Pitch Your Tent
One of the best ways to truly experience all that Yosemite National Park holds is by pitching your tent at a rustic campground. During your stay, you’ll be able to hear the peaceful sounds of wildlife, roast marshmallows by the fire, and admire the countless stars dotting the sky overhead. Take a look at this helpful guide detailing the best campgrounds in the park, from car camping paradise to remote backcountry sites. Determine your camping style and must-haves, like tap water access, nearby hiking trails, and more, and learn about some of the best campgrounds in Yosemite National Park, including Yosemite Creek Campground, Bridalveil Creek Campground, Upper Pines Campground and more.
See the Wildflowers at Tuolumne Meadows
During the spring and summer, make sure to make a trip to Tuolumne Meadows, filled with stunning alpine wildflowers. The flowers reach peak bloom during July and August in this subalpine meadow, the largest in the Sierra. With a backdrop of towering mountains and a foreground of brilliant blooms, this is one of the most picturesque and serene settings in Yosemite. The most popular drive in the park, Tioga Road, leads directly to the meadow, once the path is cleared of snow during the spring. Take your visit to the next level by hiking the 2-mile Lembert Dome to enjoy a panoramic view of the meadows down below.
What must-do activities would you add to the itinerary? Let us know in the comments below!
Cathy Harrington is Lyon Real Estate’s director of marketing, overseeing the content on the Lyon Local blog, website and social media channels.