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Planning a Visit to Yosemite National Park

Updated: May 2, 2020

yosemite valley el capitan
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is world-renowned for its pristine natural beauty- visitors from across the globe flock to this park to behold its dramatic granite cliffs and seemingly unending valleys. The park offers activities and sightseeing opportunities for everyone- seasoned backpackers, avid hikers, professional climbers, and families with children. This guide will detail everything you need to know to plan a visit to Yosemite.

Quick facts

Established: October 1, 1890

Size: 748,436 acres

Annual visitors: 4 million

Fees in Yosemite National Park

A park pass is required to enter Yosemite, and is valid for seven days. You can purchase your pass at any park entrance station. The fees are as follows:

• $35 per vehicle: Non-commercial car, pickup truck, RV, or van with 15 or fewer passenger seats

• $30: Motorcycle

• $20 per person aged 16 or older: Foot, bicycle, horse, or non-commercial bus or van with more than 15 passenger seats

Tip: If you’re planning on visiting multiple national parks within a single year, I highly recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. This pass covers entrance fees at all U.S. national parks and is good for one year from the month of purchase. Click here for more details.

bear yosemite valley national park
Bear sighting in Yosemite

Where to stay in Yosemite National Park

Staying in Yosemite National Park: There are several accommodation options in the national park- hotels and lodges are plentiful. Here are a few top-rated spots to check out:

• Tenaya Lodge:

• The Ahwahnee Hotel:

• Yosemite Valley Lodge:

• Evergreen Lodge:

• Rush Creek Lodge:

Staying near Yosemite National Park: Airbnb rentals are a great option if you’re on a budget and don’t mind a further drive to the park. Here is a list of nearby locations that offer relatively inexpensive stays:

• Oakhurst: Located 30 minutes from the park

• Bass Lake: Located 25 minutes from the park

• Coarsegold: Located 35 minutes from the park

Camping in Yosemite National Park: Click here for detailed camping information.

Getting around in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is best explored by car. However, during peak season, I’d recommend using the park’s free shuttle bus service as trailhead parking lots fill up quickly. Click here for a map of the park’s shuttle stops.

Note that some roads are closed from around November through May/June. For road status and current conditions, call 209-372-0200 (press 1 then 1).

taft point yosemite valley el capitan national park
Taft Point

When to visit Yosemite National Park

Spring (April-May): Waterfalls are at their peak and wildflowers are blooming during springtime. The park is not as busy as it will be during summer; however, Tioga and Glacier Point Roads may still be closed due to winter snow. Weather: mild during daytime and chilly at night

Summer (June-August): Peak season lands during summer as there is open access to all roads and hiking trails. Activities during summer include hiking, climbing, biking, rafting, and fishing. Weather: warm during daytime and chilly at night

Fall (September-November): This is my favorite time to visit the park as Yosemite offers an incredibly beautiful fall foliage- there are gorgeous shades of yellow, orange, and red throughout the park. Waterfalls begin to dry up during this season. Weather: mild during daytime and chilly at night

Winter (December-March): Wintertime attracts the least amount of visitors because Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road will be closed. Activities during winter include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. Weather: snowy and cold

Things to do in Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View: Tunnel View offers one of the most photographed and iconic views of Yosemite Valley. You can easily spot El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls from this viewpoint.

tunnel view yosemite valley national park
Tunnel View

Bridalveil Fall Trail: Bridalveil Falls is easily accessible and can be reached by people of all ages. This 0.5-mile roundtrip hike boasts a 620-foot waterfall.

cook's meadow loop yosemite valley national park
Cook's Meadow Loop

Cook’s Meadow Loop: Cook’s Meadow Loop offers a 2.2-mile loop trail that takes visitors through Cook’s Meadow and Sentinel Meadow. From the trail, you can view Half Dome, Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls, and El Capitan. Don’t forget to stop by Yosemite Valley Chapel along the trail.

yosemite valley chapel national park
Yosemite Valley Chapel

Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead: Lower Yosemite Falls is a popular, 1-mile loop trail that rewards visitors with a 320-foot waterfall. It’s completely doable for people of all ages.

taft point el capitan yosemite valley national park
Taft Point

Glacier Point Road Attractions: Glacier Point Road provides the only access by car to the following locations:

Taft Point: Taft Point provides unspoiled views of Yosemite Valley and El Capitan. You'll also be able to view multiple fissures in this area, which are deep narrow openings along the granite cliffs. Taft Point is not as known as other viewpoints such as Tunnel View, making it a great place to go if you want to enjoy incredible views without large crowds. Length: 2-miles round trip

Glacier Point: After a 15-minute walk from the trailhead parking lot, you will reach a vista point with panoramic views of the entire Yosemite Valley and Half Dome.

glacier point yosemite national park half dome
Glacier Point

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