Best Guide to Yosemite – Attractions, Trails and Camping

Petr Novák

Yosemite National Park is considered by many to be the most beautiful national park in America. The enormous granite massifs, high waterfalls, and redwood forests more or less confirm this. Yosemite National Park is located in central California, near the border with Nevada in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Yosemite National Park | © Pixabay

Table of Contents
  1. Information About Yosemite National Park
  2. What to Do in Yosemite National Park
  3. When to Go to Yosemite National Park
  4. Yosemite National Park Entrance Fees
  5. Traveling to Yosemite National Park
  6. Accommodation in Yosemite National Park
  7. Visitor Tips for Yosemite National Park
  8. Photos of Yosemite National Park

Information About Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park was officially established on October 1, 1890. This makes it the third oldest national park in the USA, after Yellowstone and Sequoia, which is only a 2.5-hour drive from Yosemite. With 3,287,595 visitors in 2021, Yosemite National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Yosemite’s main attractions are its massive rocks and waterfalls. The park is even home to the tallest waterfalls in North America – Yosemite Falls. Made up of several smaller waterfalls, it totals 2,425 ft. Interestingly, if there is a lack of snow in late summer, the falls can dry up.

The park’s 2,953 ft high granite monolith, El Capitan, stands as the world’s tallest at 7,569 fts above sea level. Along with the Half Dome formation at 4,790 ft and Sentinel Dome at 2,986 ft, these are the most popular challenges for action-minded park visitors.

What to Do in Yosemite National Park

Most visitors to Yosemite National Park will spend only one day there. Hiking plays a major role, with a variety of trails that cater to both the casual walker and the physically fit.

Among the most popular trails is the one leading to Tunnel View. Tunnel View offers stunning views of all of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan Rock, Bridalveil Fall, and the granite Half Dome in the background.

Trails leading to Upper Yosemite Fall and Lower Yosemite Fall are also popular. The trail to the lower falls is only 0.99 mi long and takes about half an hour, so anyone can manage it. The views of both falls are breathtaking, but keep in mind that the falls can dry up in the summer. The hike to Upper Yosemite Fall takes 6 to 8 hours, covering a good 7.46 mi, and the elevation gain is 2,700 ft.

If hiking in Yosemite National Park appeals to you, check out the relevant section of the official website.

When to Go to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is open year-round, with three-quarters of visitors arriving between May and October. If you want to see the falls, I recommend visiting the park in May or June. For hiking, the weather is better in July and August, when daytime temperatures sometimes exceed 86°F.

Between May and October, daily temperatures in the national park range between 57°F and 68°F. In winter, between October and February, they are usually around zero.

The driest month is August, followed by July. These months are ideal for camping. If you plan to visit between December and March, I recommend waterproofing your boots as rainfall is highest in these months.

Average Temperatures and Visitor Numbers in Yosemite National Park

This table shows the average temperatures in Yosemite Valley at 1,220 m elevation, measured from 1991-2020. Visitor counts are based on a 2017-2021 average. The data source is the National Park Service.

Max Temp Min Temp Precipitation Days Visitors Popularity
January 48°F 28°F 7.9 114 653 🟩
February 52°F 30°F 8.1 140 846 🟩
March 57°F 34°F 7.7 191 596 🟩
April 63°F 37°F 4.9 288 072 🟨🟨
May 70°F 45°F 3.2 411 167 🟨🟨
June 81°F 52°F 1.3 547 922 🟧🟧🟧
July 90°F 57°F 0.8 629 129 🟧🟧🟧
August 90°F 57°F 0.7 577 080 🟧🟧🟧
September 82°F 52°F 1.5 525 958 🟧🟧🟧
October 72°F 41°F 3.2 401 477 🟨🟨
November 55°F 32°F 5.8 213 718 🟨🟨
December 46°F 28°F 7.4 175 512 🟩

Yosemite National Park Entrance Fees

The entrance fee for Yosemite National Park is $35 per car, inclusive of all occupants, or $20.00 per individual. These rates apply if you arrive by foot, bus, or even horseback.

If you plan to visit multiple national parks during your visit to the USA, consider purchasing the America the Beautiful Annual Pass. With one pass, you can visit as many parks as you want for a year. The official price is $80.

Traveling to Yosemite National Park

The most convenient way to reach the park is by car. It’s quite practical to drive to Yosemite either before or after a visit to Sequoia National Park and Death Valley. The approximate driving distances and times to Yosemite are as follows:

From / To Distance Driving Time Route
Sequoia National Park 137 mi 3 hours route
San Francisco 197 mi 4 hours route
Death Valley National Park 239 mi 5 hours route
Los Angeles 279 mi 5 hours 30 minutes route
Las Vegas 375 mi 7 hours route

Before you set off, it’s recommended to check Google Maps for any potential road restrictions due to weather conditions.

To get around within the park, consider using the free buses (identified by the green Yosemite Shuttle sign). Shuttles operate on three routes throughout the day, every 10-20 minutes. Check out the map. You can also use a car, but be prepared for possible traffic.

Accommodation in Yosemite National Park

🏨 Hotels

You’ll find the most hotels around Mammoth Lakes, where prices for a double room start at approximately $90 per night. The majority of these are mountain lodges, which are typically cheaper than the well-known Motel 6 chain.

Accommodation in this area often sells out well in advance. If you wish to save money and have a set itinerary, don’t delay in making a reservation.

⛺ Campsites

Yosemite Valley offers several campgrounds, all of which require reservations during the high season, from mid-May to late September. The first-come, first-served policy does not apply here.

Most campsites charge a flat rate of $36 per pitch per night. However, Tamarack Flat and Yosemite Creek campgrounds are less expensive, at $24.00. You can book your stay at Recreation.org.

Visitor Tips for Yosemite National Park

ℹ️ Visitor Center

The Visitor Center is situated in Yosemite Valley and is open all year round. Operating hours can be found on the park’s website.

👍 Good to Know

Before your visit, I recommend reading and downloading the current version of the Yosemite National Park guidebook to your phone. This resource is available for free on the National Park Service website. It contains all the essentials, including maps, opening hours for shops and services, and a schedule of cultural performances.

Photos of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park | © akasped

Yosemite NP | © akasped

Yosemite NP | © akasped

Yosemite National Park in California | © akasped

Yosemite Waterfalls | © samueldotj

US National Parks

  1. List of US National Parks
  2. America the Beautiful Annual Pass
  3. Timed-Entry Reservation for US National Parks

Travel Guides to USA National Parks

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