Yosemite National Park is a massive place to visit, but I will try to pick out some of my very favorite spots to share with you. If you’re planning a visit, give yourself some time and be sure to just pause and enjoy the grandeur that this park presents!
Tunnel View - The Classic Yosemite View
It is hard to miss this view, but be sure to stop at what may be a crowded parking lot and look around. “Tunnel View” provides an iconic view across the Valley and gives a glimpse of Half Dome, El Capitan, and some waterfalls, if you’re lucky. The views are breathtaking from every angle. When you’re ready to leave, drive through that tunnel. It's a drive through the side of a mountain, which is just fun. There is another lookout not much further up the road, which also has some fantastic views.
This waterfall tends to be somewhat crowded, but it is worth the crowd. At the right time of the year, Bidalveil Falls will be roaring and will likely splash you with its mist. The trail is short and very much worth the walk!
Yosemite Falls can be absolutely stunning at the right time of the year, and even when it’s not a roaring flow of water, it is still just beautiful. It is a huge waterfall - actually a three-part fall - that can be viewed from across the Valley floor. It can also be viewed from a short trail that leads right to the base.
Yosemite Valley Meadow
Yosemite Valley is the main attraction. There are lots of camping options and some lodging for the not-so-outdoorsy. There are views of amazing rock faces and beautiful meadows, and Yosemite Falls! A couple of shops and restaurants are also, there. The valley changes throughout the year, so at times, it may be covered in snow, or a wetland that reflects the scenery, or a lush green meadow. I prefer the winter scene, because it also tends to be less crowded. Coyotes are frequently seen snacking on what they can find under the snow, and that is one of my very favorite things to watch!
This hike is one of my favorites. It is a brief 2-mile roundtrip hike and ends at a beautiful lake. The lake is named Mirror Lake, because, in the right moments, it can become a mirror. The views around the lake are stunning, but add in the glassy mirrored surface of the lake, and wow.
Tuolumne Meadows: The Other Side of Yosemite
This area of the park is closed for most of the snow season, but when it is an option, it’s worth a visit. From the main meadow area, there are lots of hiking options. A short 1.5-mile hike through the meadow will give sweeping views of Lembert Dome and Cathedral Peak. Soda Springs is a weird, bubbly area that is fun to see. The trails in this meadow are all interconnected for the most part, so it becomes a "create your own adventure". Yosemite Valley can be such a crowded place in the summer. Tuolumne Meadows is a much less crowded option, and while it's a tad far from the valley highlights, it's a beautiful place.
The Tuolumne River
Perhaps not as popular as the Merced River over in the Valley, this river runs through the Tuolumne Meadows area and is just as beautiful. They have some nice trails that go right along the banks of the river and allow for some solitude. I toted along a tripod and ND filter for this part of our visit and had a blast with all the moving water!
Gaylor Lakes are accessible through a hike for the more adventurous. It isn’t long at 3 miles round trip, but will be a lung and leg workout, and it is a climb and descent to the lakes. That said, it is completely worth it and don't be scared to give it a shot. This is possibly my favorite hike in the park, because the views are so rewarding. Pack a lunch to have while you’re out there, and you’ll have an excuse for a nice break! There are two lakes out there – an upper and a lower. Find both!
Yosemite National Park has so much to offer, and so much to see, that it is difficult to list off what to see. These are a few of my favorite places and hikes. Clear water, cool breezes, (very) big rocks, and an absolutely stunning view no matter in every direction – that is Yosemite National Park.