What to do and see in Yosemite National Park

Ellie Swain

Senior Contributor

Yosemite National Park is one of the United States’ most iconic areas of natural beauty, known for it’s looming cliffs, postcard-perfect vistas, and rushing waterfalls. The national park welcomes over 3.5 million visitors a year, and the region is a UNESCO world heritage site. But with so much to see and do, planning a trip to this craggy wonderland can be challenging, especially for newbies. If you’re wondering how best to explore the third biggest national park in California, here are five memorable things to do.

Rent a Bicycle and Zoom Around Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Village is the beating heart of the park, with many guests staying overnight in the region. In the area, bike rentals are available during the warmer summer months.

Home to more than 12 miles of paved, flat trails, riding a bicycle is a fun way to explore the rolling woodlands of Yosemite Valley. The 12-mile loop takes an average of two hours to complete, including plenty of photo stops. Hop on a bicycle and whoosh past cascading rivers, verdant green meadows, and striking rock formations.

During your ride, you’ll see plenty of elegant deer feeding on the lush green grass and grazing underneath the summer sun.

Admire the Famous Panoramas of Tunnel View

When you spot photographs of Yosemite National Park printed across glossy magazines or on travel websites, you’re often presented with the famous Tunnel view consisting of some of the region’s iconic landmarks: El Captain and Half Dome.

Fortunately, these heart-stopping vistas are easily accessible from the paved roads winding throughout the park. Head to Tunnel View from the western entrance to Yosemite Valley and expect your jaw to drop as you marvel at the world-famous panorama of the park.

Spot the Bridalveil Falls, spilling rapidly off steel-coloured granite cliffs and gawk at the legendary rock formation of El Capitan with Half Dome peeking in the distance. With a blanket of alpine forest covering the earth, the scene could be straight out of a fairytale.

During the wet, waterfall peak season in May, keep your eyes peeled for smaller flows of water frothing steeply over the rocks.

Hike to the Giant Sequoia Trees

In Yosemite National Park, mammoth, ancient sequoia trees grow in three groves. The most easily accessible of the three is the Mariposa Grove, located near Yosemite’s South Entrance.

Mariposa Grove is home to over 500 mature and towering giant sequoias. There are a variety of walking trails ranging from easy to strenuous within the grove, allowing visitors to walk among the giants.

As you pad among the colossal sequoia trees, you’ll feel teeny tiny in comparison. Take the time to reflect as you amble through this unique grove.

During most of the year, a complimentary shuttle links the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza and the Mariposa Grove making the giant sequoias easily accessible for those staying in the area. Otherwise, the drive from Yosemite Valley is just over an hour.

Enjoy a Picnic Lunch at Yosemite Falls

Tumbling wildly over a massive granite wall, Yosemite Falls is a must-visit landmark in Yosemite Valley. As you navigate Yosemite Valley by car, cycling, hiking, or any other means, you’ll notice the fresh, tumbling falls pop up into view. The falls look different from every viewpoint and angle, and you’ll have a challenging time tearing your eyes away from the sight.

One of the best ways to enjoy the magnificence of the falls is to pack a yummy picnic to tuck into at the falls’ dramatic base. Or, escape the crowds and enjoy lunch at the picnic site of Swing Bridge. From there, you’ll be gifted with memorable vistas of the fizzing water spilling down the granite rocks.

For the adventure-seekers out there, it’s possible to trek to the top of the Yosemite Falls on a gruelling, all-day hike. To observe the falls at its most flowing and frothiest, visit during the peak season of May. You may have to elbow your way in for the best views, though.

Camp Underneath the Stars

Visitors, families, and climbers have been camping in the peaceful grounds of Yosemite National Park, and there’s a good reason why.

Camping underneath the stars surrounded by stunning scenery is a wonderful way to experience the park. Wake up in a peaceful setting, enveloped by beauty, ready for a day of exploring, hiking, or climbing.

Yosemite National Park is home to many excellent campgrounds. Some popular options for visitors include North Pines, Upper Pines, and Lower Pines. Climbers should head to the infamous Camp 4. It’s also possible to temporary rent tents and cosy cabins at Curry Village.

Unzipping your tent in the early morning and gazing out at the dramatic views that Yosemite National Park offers will be an unforgettable moment.

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