Yosemite is a popular national park for hikers, though for most, when we speak of National Parks in the U.S., places such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone immediately spring into mind. Although not as well-known internationally, Yosemite National Park in northern California is an attraction for nature lovers since the 1800s; its granite cliffs, waterfall, lakes and meadows attract 4-5 million wanderers flocking there each year.
Getting to Yosemite
As with most places in the US, driving is your best option as public transport is scarce. Do not set Yosemite National Park as your GPS destination- pinpoint a specific location e.g. Curry Village, Campsite you are going to, otherwise, you might end up in a completely different part of the park to where you intend to go.
The price of entry for a car is 35 USD and last for a week, for other types of vehicles please check info here.
What to bring to Yosemite National Park
- GPS- or download offline map of the area on Google Map as there’s no signal in the valley
- Water- this is really important as you will be doing a lot of physical activities in the Park
- Food- whilst there are stores in the Valley, I do recommend getting your supplies before arriving because prices will hike up in the park
For those driving from San Francisco, will like to recommend stopping over at Oakdale, which is along the way and save you from having to do food shopping in the city.
Address: 1550 E F St, Oakdale, CA 95361
Best Hikes in Yosemite
One good place to research on Yosemite Hike would be https://www.yosemitehikes.com/hikes.htm
This website has a comprehensive list of all the hikes in Yosemite National Park, and it’s broken down by region so it’s easy to plan your day around one area.
Below are some of my recommendations (and photo proves!) of key spots to hit in 2 areas: the Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point Road.
Getting around Yosemite Valley
Although there is no restriction on driving your car around the Valley, it is highly encouraged that visitors should park their car and take the free shuttle, which runs regularly around the Valley (see the stops below).
I will be referring the stop numbers on the green line for the trails below.
The Mist Trail
Stop: 16 Happy Isles/ Mist Trail
For my fellow waterfall chaser, look no further than the Mist Trail: this gem packed in Vernal and Nevada Falls, and expect to get a little wet when you pass by the first waterfall (Vernal)- hence the name ‘Mist’ trail.
Once you reached the top of Nevada Fall, you can either descend the same way or go back down via the Muir Trial Return segment.
Stop 17: Mirror Lake Trailhead
For those of you looking to cool off or just relax and take a stroll, Mirror Lake is the place for you. A gentle loop within the Tenaya Canyon, the route is relatively flat and suitable for everyone.
Bring your swimsuits if you are heading there in the summer and fancy a dip!
Lower Yosemite Fall
For the lazier waterfall chaser, Lower Yosemite Fall is just a short 5-10 minutes walk from where the bus shuttle drop you off, making it the ideal place to go after a hard day’s hike.
Upper Yosemite Fall
Stop 6: Lower Yosemite Fall
So you have seen the fall on ground level at Lower Yosemite Fall- how would you like to climb up on top of the fall?
This was my original choice but was rejected by my friends, who think this is too hardcore (rightly so I would say). With an elevation gain of 890m if you intend to go all the way up to Yosemite Point, the trail is the ultimate Stairmaster challenge.
Half Dome Hike
Stop 16: Happy Isle, Mist Trail
How can I not talk about the most iconic thing in Yosemite Valley? When Yosemite was first established as a tourist destination, a guidebook once said that “no human will ever set foot on Half Dome”. Generation of climbers have since proved them wrong.
2 things to note:
- The cable system is only up from late May or early June to October
- A permit is needed to climb Half Dome
Also, I strongly recommend those who are considering doing this hike to watch the video below
——–outside of shuttle area——–
This park-and-stop vistas point give you a nice overview of the major sights in Yosemite Valley, and is a great place to absorb the atmosphere and admire mother nature.
Unfortunately, I did not get to see this waterfall up close (driving by doesn’t really count), but being a short distance away from Tunnel View and an easy walk in like Lower Yosemite Fall, I will recommend dropping by to admire this waterfall that takes the name of a Bride’s veil.
Glacier Point Road
Note: Glacier Point Road is only open in the summer, please check online to see if the road is reopened before planning your trip.
A short hike (around half an hour less one way) from its parking, Taft point offers a great view at an easy distance. With a view to the west, it is a good alternative to watch the sunset, as Glacier Point tends to get crowded with photographers, videographers, and tourists, making it difficult for you to catch a good view.
A gentle reminder is that Glacier Point Road is windy and for those who are not used to driving country roads in the dark, it’s best to leave as soon as the sun set so you can catch the last bit of ‘light’.
For those who refused to even walk half an hour, Glacier Point comes to your rescue.
Accommodation in Yosemite National Park
The best (and most affordable) way to live in the Yosemite Valley in my opinion, as it allows you to stay within Yosemite Valley inexpensively and also truly experience nature (that depends on your neighbour too, mind you).
With the popularity of the park, it is ideal to book your campsite before going- more information on camping below:
For those who want to stay in the Valley but hate camping, there are other options listed below:
But do bear in mind that price will be higher and despite that, spaces quickly fill up.
Yosemite View Lodge
Merely a half an hour drive to Yosemite Valley, if you can’t get an accommodation in the Valley, this is a good alternative option. My friends and I booked this place and was expecting a motel. But the accommodation is far nicer than expected.
Check Yosemite View Lodge Availability