Yosemite Viewpoints

You can admire the beauty of nature in California from innumerable Yosemite National Park viewpoints. 

Everywhere you turn, a stunning scene screams to be captured on camera.

Nonetheless, we outline 12 of the many viewpoints overlooking Yosemite’s most famous mountains and waterfalls, along with details on how to get there.

Some are conveniently situated off paved roads and offer stunning views with little effort.

Some, however, demand hikes that range from easy to difficult to witness those spectacular sights.

When visiting Yosemite for the first time, check out these excellent viewpoints:

Tunnel View

Tunnel View
Image: Commons.wikimedia.org

The Tunnel View is located along the Wawona Road near the eastern end of the Wawona Tunnel on Highway 41 and offers breathtaking views.

Appreciate the most iconic Yosemite Valley view, beautifully framed by a grove of pine trees and the expansive sky above.

You can capture the panoramic landscape of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall, with the Half Dome rising in the distance.

A 30-minute drive south from Yosemite Village will get you to the Tunnel View by car.

Take a day trip to Yosemite National Park and discover its breathtaking scenery, stopping at interesting views and recognizable locations for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Glacier Point

Glacier Point
Image: NPS.gov

After an hour-long drive from Yosemite Valley, you will find one of the best Yosemite National Park viewpoints, offering breathtaking scenery.

At 7,214 feet, the Glacier Point overlook offers a complete view of Half Dome and the three waterfalls—Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls and Yosemite Falls. 

Here, at one of the best views in Yosemite National Park, you can also see the Sierra Nevada mountain range extending past Yosemite.

The route to Glacier Point is usually accessible from late May or early June to around mid-November.

You can also reach Glacier Point through the free shuttles that offer services throughout the park.

Note: Beyond the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, the Glacier Point Road is normally closed from November to late May or early June.

Olmsted Point

Olmsted Point
Image: Tripadvisor.com

Get a Yosemite Valley view from a unique angle at Olmsted Point.

From this vantage point off the Tioga Road, you can see the northern slope of Half Dome, the Mountain Clouds Rest, and the Tenaya Canyon in between.

Also visible are Tenaya Lake and the nearby granite domes.

There is no need to hike to enjoy these breathtaking landscapes, but if you have some spare time, you can hike down a small route to observe some glacier erratics.

Tioga Road is accessible by car from late May or early June until November.

Take a self-guided GPS driving tour to explore Yosemite’s breathtaking views at your own speed. 
This tour offers you a customized and immersive encounter with this natural wonder.

Valley View

Adjacent to the Merced River, the Yosemite Valley View provides sweeping views of the valley. 

Usually, people stop here on their way out of Yosemite Valley, as it is along the one-way Northside Drive, right before the Pohono Bridge.

This point from the valley floor delivers some of the best views Yosemite offers.

Stand next to the Merced River and gaze up at El Capitan, towering 3,000 feet above the ground.

Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake
Image: Wikimedia.org

At Tenaya Lake, you will find magnificent views of the alpine scenery.

Take in the expansive Sierra Nevada Mountain Range from the shores of Tenaya Lake while breathing in the clean mountain air.

The reflections of the mountain and the trees on the lake are breathtaking on a clear day.

Take the exit east of Olmsted Point, then turn left to head toward Mount Conness to get to the lake.

El Capitan Meadow

El Capitan Meadow
Image: Wikimedia.org

For a straight view of El Capitan, stop at El Capitan Meadow, along the one-way Northside Drive.  

El Capitan is one of the main features of Yosemite National Park, reaching 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) above the valley floor. 

You can also observe the climbers trying to reach the summit with binoculars. 

One of the best times to visit is just before sunset, when you can sit and take in the last of the sun’s rays while enjoying food.

In February, during certain moments, the sun shines upon the water flowing down El Capitan’s rocks, giving the appearance of moving fire.

O’Shaughnessy Dam

O’Shaughnessy Dam
Image: Wikimedia.org

At the western end of Hetch Hetchy Valley is the O’Shaughnessy Dam, a 364-foot-tall concrete gravity arch spanning the Tuolumne River.

It offers a viewpoint of the valley’s waterfalls, including the Wapama Falls, rock formations, and reservoirs. 

You can also explore the short O’Shaughnessy Dam Viewpoint trail at the base of the parking area for the dam.

Observe the beautiful wildflowers along the trail’s right side in the spring.

You may encounter deer, rabbits, lizards, and snakes as well. 

But if you are looking for a long adventure, hike to beautiful Rancheria Falls on a 13.4-mile trail.

The Hetch Hetchy Road is open during daylight hours throughout the year but may close briefly after snowstorms.

Sentinel Bridge

Sentinel Bridge
Image: https://Facebook.com(Attilioruffophotography)

Sentinel Bridge on the Cook’s Meadow Loop trail is well-known for its breathtaking views of Half Dome reflected in the Merced River.

You will also be rewarded with views of Yosemite Falls from various backgrounds if you spend about 1 to 2 hours along this scenic trail.

The best time to visit is in the spring when the wildflowers bloom and the meadows are lush. 

The trail is virtually flat, making it ideal for beginners.

Taft Point

Taft Point
Image: Wikimedia.org

The hike to Taft Point is one of the easier ones at Yosemite.  

Passing through pine forests on this 2.2-mile (3.5 km) round trip, you will get impressive views of the north valley wall, including El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.

If you are brave enough, you can also freely approach the cliff’s edge and look down without being constrained by the stone barriers.

Taft Point trailhead lies approximately five minutes before the end of Glacier Point Road. 

Note: Glacier Point Road is normally closed from November to late May or early June.

Cloud’s Rest

Cloud’s Rest
Image: Wikimedia.org

The panoramic view at the summit of Cloud’s Rest is among the best in Yosemite. 

From the peak, you can see Tenaya Lake, Sentinel Dome, North Dome, Mt. Hoffman, and Half Dome’s summit, among other notable landmarks.

However, this 14-mile roundtrip hike ascending 1,800 feet is one of the hardest hikes in Yosemite National Park.

The ascent to Cloud’s Rest, 9,930 feet (3,027 m) above sea level, is strenuous, long (7.2 miles), and steep.

At the western end of Tenaya Lake, the Cloud’s Rest trailhead is accessible via Tioga Road.

Pothole Dome

Pothole Dome
Image: Wikimedia.org

Located along Tioga Road, this granite dome provides lovely altitude scenery at the west end of Tuolumne Meadows.

In addition to a view of the Tuolumne Meadows, you can also see the Cathedral and Unicorn Peaks in the distance.

To reach the 8,760-foot-tall dome, you must hike for a reasonable time—between 30 and 60 minutes.

The trail circles the meadow’s perimeter and leads to Pothole Dome.

There is also a lovely vantage point at the eastern edge of Tuolumne Meadows, close to Lembert Dome.

Note: The Tioga Road, which continues to Highway 120 through the park, is closed from November until the end of the snowy season and reopens in late May or early June.

Half Dome Summit

Half Dome Summit
Image: Wikimedia.org

The Half Dome Summit, at the eastern edge of Yosemite Valley, offers the best views in Yosemite National Park but will put your bravery to the test.

This granite dome rises 4,737 feet (1,444 m) above Yosemite Valley at an elevation of 8,844 feet above sea level.

Half Dome’s sheer granite slope requires around 10 hours and a cable ascent, but the Yosemite Valley view from the summit is unmatched and makes an effort worthwhile.

The climb to the Half Dome is long, steep and not suggested for absolute beginners.

One of Yosemite’s most difficult hikes, Half Dome, requires a permit to climb.


What is the best view of Yosemite National Park?

Valley View is one of the best viewpoints, offering spectacular views. 
However, all viewpoints offer something different and beautiful that’s incomparable.
Tunnel View, Glacier Point and Olmstead Point are also very popular.

Why is Yosemite so famous?

There is a lot to love in Yosemite. Natural beauty, clean air and a peaceful feeling are some factors that attract people to Yosemite.

It was recognized as a World Heritage Site in 1984 and is famous for its valleys, cliffs, waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, meadows, waterfalls and other wide-ranging biological diversity.

What is the most famous site in Yosemite?

It would be unjust to say just one site is the most famous. Yosemite National Park is a vast area with many popular attractions, such as Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Yosemite Valley and many others.

What should I see for the first time in Yosemite?

If you’re going to Yosemite for the first time, Yosemite Valley is a great place to start. 
You can see Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and El Capitan, among other wonderful sights. Tunnel View is another can’t-miss.

Give two to four days to Yosemite National Park to properly explore it and discover the pearls of nature.

Featured Image: Theatlasheart.com

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