Best time to visit Yosemite National Park
Most visitors arrive at Yosemite National Park from May to October, taking advantage of the warmer weather and flourishing wildflowers. July and August are the busiest months due to the summer holidays, so you should visit in the Spring or Autumn if you’d prefer to avoid this.
It’s important to remember that some facilities - such as campgrounds, trails and roads - can be closed due to snowfall in winter. To avoid closures and enjoy the best conditions, visit Yosemite between June and September.
Top landmarks in Yosemite National Park
Named after its unique shape, Half Dome is a granite rock formation that can be hiked or climbed. Rising more than 4,737 feet above Yosemite Valley, it’s not for beginner hikers, involving a steep final ascent with the assistance of steel cables. These cables allow hikers to reach the summit of Half Dome without the use of rock climbing equipment, making it more accessible. However, you should be well prepared for a 10 to 12 hour hike.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is home to around 500 giant sequoias. One of the most famous trees in the grove is the Grizzly Giant, standing at more than 90 feet tall and estimated to be around 2,995 years old. Nearby the Grizzly Giant is the California Tunnel Tree. In 1895 a man-made tunnel was carved through the trunk to allow stagecoaches to pass through. Nowadays the tunnel is too small for most cars, but can still be walked through to inspect the inside of this magnificent tree.
From many viewpoints in Yosemite National Park, El Capitan dominates the skyline. Standing at 3,000 feet above the valley, it has become a symbolic beacon of the park, and a challenging climb to be conquered. However, for a more peaceful way to enjoy El Capitan, simply reach one of the many viewpoints and wait for the Firefall. Enjoyed during mid to late February, watch as El Capitan’s eastern flunk becomes awash in golden red with the setting sun.
For a laid-back wildlife-watching experience, Tuolumne Meadows is a serene grassland surrounded by granite peaks. Wildflowers bloom in the spring making it particularly popular for photographers, but thanks to the wide open space, you’ll rarely run into crowds.
Overlooking Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and the high country, Glacier Point is perhaps the most iconic viewpoint in Yosemite National Park. At an elevation of 7,214 feet, it’s also a brilliant spot for bird watching. Glacier Point is accessible by the Glacier Point Road from June to October, and can also be reached via a moderately strenuous hike on the Four Mile Trail.
Best things to do in Yosemite National Park
From gentle out-and-back hikes to jaw-dropping climbs to a summit, Yosemite National Park has a multitude of hikes suitable for all skill levels. The Half Dome hike is Yosemite’s most challenging and requires a permit, but is a truly rewarding experience to conquer. The Glacier Point Trailhead hike, meanwhile, is an easy trip to one of the best viewpoints in the park.
Yosemite National Park provides over 12 miles of paved bike paths, giving you a unique perspective of the scenery. While cycling is prohibited on hiking trails and off-road, there’s plenty of landscape to be admired while enjoying the fresh air. Bikes can be hired during the warmer season, with trailers and tandems available.
Yosemite National Park provides two main rivers for rafting. The Merced River is perhaps more suitable for beginners due to the smaller rapids, but be aware that during April and May the waves are at their largest. Passing through the grassy canyon, you’ll be surrounded by oak and pine trees, with hillsides in full bloom during the spring. The Tuolumne River, on the other hand, offers an ample step up for thrill seekers. Thundering through boulders and spectacular scenery, you’ll catch glimpses of Half Dome as you sail down the rapids.
Follow in the hoofprints of the early pioneers as you explore Yosemite National Park on horseback. From gentle two-hour rides to immersive half-day adventures, you’ll soak up the landscape with your sure-footed companion to guide the way. It doesn’t matter if you have no prior horse riding experience. The Yosemite National Park ranches provide teams of experienced horses and mules to ensure you enjoy the journey.
Yosemite National Park is considered one of the world’s greatest destinations for climbing. Thanks to the vast size of the park there are a wide range of climbs to suit all skill levels. However, by far the most challenging and famous is El Capitan, requiring years of experience and determination to conquer. Half Dome is another iconic summit that draws countless climbers every year. But if you’re new to climbing and not sure where to start, you’ll find the Yosemite Mountaineering School a fantastic place to begin your bouldering adventure.