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A Travel Guide to Yosemite National Park

Updated: Jan 18

yosemite valley el capitan
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is world-renowned for its natural beauty—over four million visitors per year visit this park to see its dramatic granite cliffs, expansive meadows, roaring waterfalls, sequoia groves, and more. This park offers activities for everyone—from avid hikers and professional climbers, to families with children. This guide will detail everything you need to know to plan your visit.

Quick Facts About Yosemite National Park

Established: October 1, 1890

Size: 748,436 acres

Average annual visitors: 4 million

Fees in Yosemite National Park

A park pass is required to enter Yosemite National Park, and is valid for seven consecutive days. You can purchase a pass at any park entrance station. Below are the fees:

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

• $30: Motorcycle

• $20 per person age 16 or older: People entering by foot, bicycle, horse, or non-commercial bus or van

Tip: If you plan to visit multiple national parks within a single year, I recommend purchasing the America the Beautiful Pass. This pass covers entrance fees at all U.S. national parks, and is valid for one year from the month of purchase. Click here for more details.

Update: As of January 2024, a reservation is required to enter the park on specific dates. Click here for more details.

Where to Stay During Your Visit to Yosemite National Park

Staying near Yosemite National Park: If you’re on a budget, I recommend staying in an Airbnb in one of these communities nearby the park:

• Oakhurst: Airbnbs located roughly a 30-minute drive from the park

• Bass Lake: Airbnbs located roughly a 25-minute drive from the park

• Coarsegold: Airbnbs located roughly a 35-minute drive from the park

Staying in Yosemite National Park: If you're seeking convenience, there are several lodging options in the park, including hotelsAirbnbs, and campsites.

Getting around in Yosemite National Park

The best way to get around the park is by driving a car as you can access more areas at your own pace. However, during peak season, I recommend taking advantage of the park’s free shuttle service as trailhead parking lots fill up quickly. Click here for more details.

Note that some roads may be closed from November through June. For current road status and 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): Expect mild weather during the day and chilly weather at night. During spring, waterfalls are at their peak and wildflowers are in full bloom. The park is not as busy as it is during summer. Note that some roads may still be closed due to winter snow.

Summer (June-August): Expect warm weather during the day and cool weather at night. Summer is considered peak season as all roads are open—providing access to summer activities including hiking, climbing, biking, rafting, and fishing.

Fall (September-November): Expect mild weather during the day and chilly weather at night. This is my favorite time to visit as you can spot fall foliage throughout the park. Note that waterfalls begin to dry up during this season.

Winter (December-March): Expect snowy and cold weather. Wintertime offers access to activities including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice skating. Note that some roads will be closed due to snow.

Things to do in Yosemite National Park

Tunnel View: Tunnel View is a lookout that offers one of the most photographed and iconic views of Yosemite Valley. From this lookout, you can spot El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls.

tunnel view yosemite valley national park
Tunnel View

Cook’s Meadow Loop: Cook’s Meadow Loop is a 2-mile trail that loops 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.

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

yosemite valley chapel national park
Yosemite Valley Chapel

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail: Lower Yosemite Falls is a popular, 1.2-mile loop trail that ends with a 320-foot waterfall. Keep an eye out—we spotted a bear from the trail!

bear yosemite valley national park
Bear sighting on the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

Taft Point: Taft Point is a 2.3-mile out-and-back trail that offers unspoiled views of Yosemite Valley and El Capitan. On this trail, you'll also be able to see fissures, which are deep cracks along the granite cliffs.

taft point el capitan yosemite valley national park
Taft Point

Glacier Point: Glacier Point is a dramatic vista point with panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, that only requires a short walk from the trailhead parking lot. I recommend visiting this lookout during sunset to see the park draped in beautiful shades of orange and pink.

glacier point yosemite national park half dome
Glacier Point



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