Tips for Yosemite National Park Visit

Yosemite is a famous national park that attracts millions of visitors each year with its beautiful views, waterfalls, and granitic domes.

Here are some beginner-friendly Yosemite tips to help you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Have a Plan 

One of the best Yosemite tips is to make a strategy, no matter if you’re spending a day or a week in Yosemite.

With multiple regions spread across roughly 1200 square miles (3108 square km), there is a lot to do in Yosemite. 

It is wise to know what you want to see and do before traveling and lodging, camping and backpacking reservations accordingly. 

Planning ahead will save you from last-minute rushes and disappointments.

Most waterfalls in Yosemite flow only from May to July during the spring and summer months.

So, if you are planning a trip to Yosemite with the goal of seeing all the major waterfalls, you should schedule your vacation around these months.

Yosemite is a top-rated national park, so if you wish to come during the summer, you must make travel arrangements and hotel reservations well in advance. Book now.

Most of the viewpoints, trails and roads remain closed from late fall to early spring (November to May/June) due to snow and extreme weather conditions.

But the wintertime presents many other opportunities to enjoy Yosemite, including skiing, snowboarding, winter trails and more.

Explore the numerous Yosemite winter activities to enjoy the quiet, brisk, and tranquil scenery.

Avoid the Rush

Yosemite National Park receives around 4 million visitors each year.

The roads in Yosemite Valley may crowd during the high season, summer, and school breaks. 

However, if you get a head start, you’ll be astonished to see only a few other cars on the road.

Arrive at the park before sunrise to have an amazing start to the day with spectacular views and no crowds.

After sunset, the pace begins to slow again around 7 pm.

There are a ton of great locations to lodge at Yosemite. 

Still, for visitors arriving and departing the valley, we advise getting on the road early in the morning or just before nightfall when traffic won’t be an issue.

To avoid a large number of tourists, May, September, and the beginning of October are some of the finest months to visit Yosemite.

Use the Free Shuttle Service

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Image: NPS.gov

Another of the most important Yosemite tips is using public transport.

Yosemite National Park offers free bus transportation for tourists and hikers to various parts of the park. 

There are two bus routes within Yosemite Valley, the Valleywide shuttle and East Valley shuttle that run about every 10 to 20 minutes daily between 7 am and 10 pm.

Several other buses serve regions during the winter, including Tuolumne Meadows, Mariposa Grove, and the Badger Pass Ski Area.  

Learn more about how to get around Yosemite to take advantage of the free Yosemite shuttle services.  

Alternatively, bike rides are another great way to explore and travel within Yosemite. 

You can rent bikes or bring your own to travel throughout the Valley. It is first-come, first-served for bicycle rentals.

You can also ride your EV in the park, which offers charging stations free of cost at some sites.

Be Aware of Road Conditions  

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Image: NPS.gov

Certain roads, including Tioga Road and Glasier Point Road, must be closed during winter, from around November to May or June. 

If you plan to visit the park, you must check the road status beforehand.

Even when the roads stay open, they may have icy patches and sometimes require tire chains to drive safely.

Additionally, you must avoid relying solely on your GPS navigation services when driving within Yosemite, as they can frequently be inaccurate in the park. 

When in doubt, consult the road signs or accurate paper maps.

Pre-planning your excursions inside the park will give an added advantage in saving time and confusion. 

Look over the usual opening times of various roads, hiking trails, campgrounds, and other park facilities during opening hours.

Don’t Skip Other Park Areas  

Image: NPS.gov

This Yosemite tip is for those traveling to the park for the first time.

While the famous Yosemite Valley is undoubtedly breathtaking and offers various scenic viewpoints, tall waterfalls, huge granite domes, hiking opportunities and more, other park areas are no less incredible. 

Mariposa Grove, near the park’s south entrance, is home to some of the most gigantic sequoia trees in the world and offers a few easy to strenuous hikes. 

Hetch Hetchy Valley offers the longest hiking season in Yosemite, while Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Road have some amazing campgrounds by the river.

If you have the time, try outdoor activities like fishing, picnicking or camping to complement the hiking. 

Yosemite National Park offers water activities like swimming, rafting and kayaking in the Merced River or Tenaya Lake.

Pack All Necessities

Carry appropriate layers of clothes; the temperature can swiftly decrease in Yosemite National Park as the sun sets.

Pack lots of water, calorie-high snacks, reusable water bottles and a compass if you plan hiking.  

You can also buy water, food and other things in general stores in Yosemite Valley or Curry Village (Half Dome Village). 

Hiking shoes are also a must to pack. Blisters can ruin trips.

If you intend to hike overnight or during dusk, make sure to pack a flashlight.

Bring binoculars to view the climbers as they ascend El Capitan or Half Dome.

It goes without saying, but if you own a camera and/or tripod, do not forget to carry them. 

Yosemite offers seemingly unlimited stunning views, and you must not miss these opportunities to capture and relive them in the future. 

Don’t Forget to Go Hiking 

Image: NPS.gov

There is no need to worry if you are new to outdoor wilderness travel and find Yosemite overwhelming with all the long and strenuous hikes.

Yosemite offers many easy and short hiking trails, including the one-mile climb to Lower Yosemite Falls, the half-mile trail to Bridalveil Falls, and the one-mile paved road to Mirror Lake.

Mariposa Grove also offers a few interesting trails to see some old and big trees, from the 0.3-mile Big Trees Loop Trail to see the Fallen Monarch tree to the longer 6.5-mile Guardians Loop Trail.

The short trail is a great way to prepare for moderate hikes of around two and a half to five miles. 

Check out detailed information on some of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park to see some stunning waterfalls, historic trees or panoramic views.

Experience a 3-day adventure with the Yosemite 3-Day Camping Ticket or a backpacking trip with a 4-Day Half Dome Backpacking Ticket

Yosemite Lodging and Campground Reservations

Image: NPS.gov

For the best Yosemite experience, you must reserve a place inside Yosemite to stay overnight.

Lodging in Yosemite National Park during the summertime fills up months in advance, specifically in the months of June, July, and August. 

With limited options (three lodges and four canvas tent sites) to stay inside the park, you will likely not get a place unless you reserve it months before you plan to travel.

You can reserve The Ahwahnee, the most sought-after hotel in Yosemite; Yosemite Valley Lodge, another popular lodging site; and other places within the park 366 days in advance. 

If you want to go camping in Yosemite, especially from May to September, reserve campgrounds in advance too. 

You can make the reservations online or call 877/444-6777. 

Find more tips for Yosemite camping reservations and information about Yosemite campgrounds here.

Winter Activities 

The best times to visit Yosemite National Park are in the spring, summer, or fall, but the winter offers a whole other experience.

If you have already visited Yosemite in the summer, you must return in the winter to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and other winter activities.

A special event that only happens during the winter is the well-known Horsetail ‘Fire Fall,’ which occurs a few days in February.

Learn more about the many wintertime activities and events before visiting Yosemite for a few days.

Overnight Hiking and Camping Permits 

Make sure to get a wilderness permit before any overnight trek in Yosemite.

All overnight stays in Yosemite, including backpacking and climbing, require wilderness permits.

All-day hikes do not require a wilderness permit except for the climb to Half Dome.

Overnight stays in hotels and front country campgrounds are also exempt.

60% of all permits are available by lottery 24 weeks in advance, while the rest 40% is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Follow the general rules and regulations

Lastly, you must know and try to obey all the basic guidelines to protect the Yosemite wilderness and yourself. 

Store your food away from sight to avoid black bears from eating them. 

Read our article on safety for more information and tips to reduce risks while visiting Yosemite. 

You can also download the NPS app for details on Yosemite park hours, facilities, maps, alerts, events, etc. 

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