Surrounded by granite cliffs aiming for the sky, giant sequoia groves, and remarkable tranquility, Yosemite’s natural beauty is hard to sum up in words. Home to one of the most stunning valleys on Earth and dozens of other temptations, including over 800 miles of hiking trails, a visit to Yosemite is simply a must.
Yosemite Valley: One of the world’s most dramatic natural landscapes, Yosemite Valley is striking from every angle and at every hour of the day. The valley’s grassy meadow appears detached from the outside world by tall granite cliffs, some of which are tearing with waterfalls.
Giant Sequoias: At the edges of the national park, groves of giant sequoia trees have been aiming for the sky for thousands of years. Walking amongst these ancient giants helps put life in perspective.
Superb Hiking: Whether you’re visiting Yosemite for the day or staying overnight, the park’s vast network of walking and hiking trails beckons visitors to put on their outdoor shoes and explore Yosemite on foot.
The best time to visit Yosemite is during spring and early fall when the temperature is pleasant and rainfall is infrequent. However, spring does have an edge over fall.
Winter: Yosemite’s high elevation areas are prone to snowstorms and road closures. Tioga Road is closed from November to May and Glacier Point Road opens depending on road conditions. Even down in Yosemite Valley, nights will be freezing cold. On the plus side, Yosemite does transform into a winter wonderland.
Spring: the melting snow brings Yosemite Valley’s waterfalls into full power, along with a strong flow in the Merced River. The valley floor is painted green and dotted with blooming flowers.
Summer: it gets really hot in Yosemite Valley and wildfires are unfortunately becoming quite frequent in the Sierra Nevada. Summer months drive park visitation to its peak, while its waterfalls run dry and the Merced River slows down to a trickle.
Fall: especially towards the end of fall, Yosemite Valley is painted gold, orange, and red, as the trees prepare for winter. There’s moisture in the air and the days are getting shorter. This is a great time to visit Yosemite, especially after some rain when the valley’s waterfalls might have woken up just in time for your visit.
Considering the time it takes to drive to Yosemite, it’s worth spending at least one night in or around the park. However, if you’re just visiting Yosemite on a day trip, you should focus on exploring Yosemite Valley and driving to Glacier Point for the views. Spending one or two nights in Yosemite opens up hiking opportunities beyond Yosemite Valley.
Camping and lodging inside the national park come at a steep premium compared to what you get, and require advanced reservation if visiting Yosemite during peak times.
For a pampering hotel stay, Yosemite Valley’s luxurious Ahwahnee is the top option along with the historic Wawona Hotel, on the southern Mariposa Grove side.
For a more basic stay in Yosemite Valley, try one of the lodges or campgrounds. The Yosemite Valley Lodge is the most upscale, Curry Village is large and has several types of cabins and tents, and the Housekeeping Camp is another comfortable option. There are also several campgrounds in Yosemite Valley, some of which operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
If no suitable accommodations can be found inside the park, check nearby options outside Yosemite (see all options here). Towns such as Groveland and Buck Meadows are near the western entrance to Yosemite, relatively close to Yosemite Valley, as is El Portal, close to the western entrance. Near the southern entrance, search for places in and around Wawona.
The bulk of Yosemite’s main highlights is located in the magnificent Yosemite Valley, though some sites are best seen from remote spots above the valley that are reached by car or by hiking. Scenic Tioga Road makes for a perfect road trip inside the park, and at least one of Yosemite’s three sequoia groves should be sampled. Here’s a guide to the top 10 things to do in Yosemite.