Yosemite National Park claims nearly 750,000 acres of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and 95% of it is designated wilderness. The short and simple: this place is brimming with unique things to see…and do. Whether it be cooling off in the thousands of lakes and ponds, hiking the 800 miles of trails, driving or biking the 350 miles of roads, climbing the likes of famed El Capitan, or exploring the historic mining sites that brought the fortune-hungry to the area in the mid-1800s, there’s something for everyone in Yosemite.
Places to Visit in Yosemite
- Half Dome
- El Capitan
- Tunnel View
- Glacier Point
- Sentinel Dome
Unique Things to See and Do in Yosemite
- Dine at the Ahwahnee Hotel
- Plunge into Tenaya Lake
- Admire the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
- Gaze at your reflection in Mirror Lake
- Take a rock climbing lesson
Who Goes to Yosemite?
Nature-lovers, Yosemite National Park is your utopia; here, you’ll find over 250 species of vertebrates, including black bears, bobcats, cougars, deer, owls, and the list goes on. John Muir, the Scottish-American naturalist we have to thank for Yosemite — fought long and hard for its preservation — said of the park, “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.”
Yearly, the park attracts millions of visitors, but the land remains unspoiled, and there are animals aplenty. Lodging establishments have been built, but tastefully so: regulations ensure new buildings blend in with the natural surroundings.
Getting Around Yosemite
Just 195 miles from San Francisco, Yosemite is an easy-to-reach refuge not to miss. Local tour guides in Yosemite will take you to unadulterated places you thought only existed in movies from long ago. See the park via bike or hike (for the energetic: you can rest assured the trails seem endless, and bicycle rentals are available in the Valley spring through fall), or saddle up for a horseback riding adventure. The park is open year-round, but with snowy winters, you may opt to rent a car, or take advantage of Yosemite’s shuttle bus.
Should you drive, beware of summertime traffic — it’s wise to drive in before 9 am, and leave after 6 pm — and, in winter, beware of road closures. Also, to allow through-traffic to proceed steadily, be sure to use turn-outs when taking in the views, and, since wildlife haven’t yet mastered the crosswalk, be sure to abide by the slower speed limits.
Best Time of Year to Travel to Yosemite
For some, it’s any time, but for those looking to enjoy Yosemite National Park in its less crowded form (peak season is summer), your best bet is to visit during April and May or September and October. During these months, tourists are far fewer, and the weather is still agreeable.
Between snow-topped trees, sparkly white meadows, cozy lodge fires, and a trip to the ice skating rink, wintertime in Yosemite is magical, but, for the sake of travel safety, a reasonable portion of the park is also closed during these months. Thanks to the Ahwahnee Hotel, a national historic landmark built in 1927 with panoramic views of Glacier Point, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls, and boasts a walk-in fireplace and Native American-inspired decor — and the Wawona Hotel, a white-clapboard hotel decorated in period style, it’s possible to lodge in the park year-round. Lodging fills quickly; reserve early.
Did you know…?
Some of Yosemite’s sequoias are the tallest living things in the world, reaching up to 300 feet, and dating back some 3000 years.
Did you ALSO know…?
The mountains in Yosemite grow about one foot every 1,000 years.
Ready to plan your visit to Yosemite National Park? Check out these popular guides and trips.