Wanderlust America

An extensive guide to the Yosemite National Park

Located in California is Yosemite National Park. It is often credited as being the site that gave birth to the entire national park idea. Yosemite is home to glacial granite domes, amazing waterfalls, ancient groves, and over 800 miles of hikes and trails. All of this not only makes Yosemite one of the best national parks in California but also a landmark that keeps on amazing you whether you are visiting it for the first time or the tenth time. Let us take a closer look at some of the best features of Yosemite National Park.

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Best Time to Visit

Like most of America’s national parks, Yosemite has vastly different elevations which result in extreme weather conditions in different zones of the park. It is home to amazing granite walls and high waterfalls which sit at 4,000 feet. It gets hot in the summer and sees some minimum snowfall during the winter. The “high country” is open from late May through October typically depending on the weather.

Spring is the best time to see the spectacular waterfalls of Yosemite Valley. While summer will bring in all the crowds and brilliant hiking weather with it. During fall time, the waterfalls run dry, and the weather can be a bit cooler which makes for some amazing backpacking trips across the park. The slowest and quietest season in Yosemite is winter even though things revive at Curry Village ice rink and Badger Pass Ski Area once the first snow arrives.

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Things to do at Yosemite National Park


Easily, the best way to go out and see Yosemite is through hiking. It is home to some of the best hiking and trail spots anywhere in the country. For quick, family-friendly options, you can take in the powerful California’s tallest waterfall on this one-mile trail known as Lower Yosemite Fall Trail. After completing this, head over to the 0.3-mile-long, Big Trees Loop or the two-mile-long Grizzly Giant Loop.

For serious hikers who are looking to exercise their calf muscles, go along the road to Glacier Point. Hikers can even soak up the views of the valley on a five-mile Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop. You can also head to the high country on a seven-mile round trip to the Cathedral Lakes.

If you are for some reason irritated by large crowds, then you can plan an overnight backpacking trip to Yosemite’s wilderness which stands to about 747,956 acres of land. Make sure that you have a wilderness permit and pack a bear canister to store your food. Be sure to take the beautiful 6.5-mile alpine journey to Ten Lakes or go to the 4.5-mile Sunrise Lakes.

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Scenic Drives

For visitors who do not want to get their hands and feet dirty, there are many excellent stretches of scenic pavement to look at. In the summer, when the Tiger Road is open you can motor across from the “range of light” on the western edge of the park. Along the way, you can stop and enjoy the views of Half Dome from Olmstead Point.

If you are 100% sure of exploring Yosemite Valley by car, make sure you go early in the morning to avoid any traffic hiccups and enjoy the peace as deer graze at Cook Meadow. Keep yourself ready to stop at the Vernal and Yosemite waterfalls. Another way to avoid crowds altogether any time of the day is to head to the Hetch Hetchy area which is sitting in the park’s northwest corner. This has some extraordinary reservoirs and a cascading waterfall.

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Yosemite has some breathtaking multi-use bike paths available in the national park. You can either bring your cycle or rent one at Curry Village, Yosemite Village, or Yosemite Valley Lodge. After renting, go on and wheel out at 12 miles of specially designated bike trails all of which go past Half Dome, Happy Isles, Mirror Lake, and Lower Yosemite Falls.


There are plenty of expert-led guided tours available in Yosemite. If you only have a day or two inside the park, make sure you book the Grand Tour with Aramark. It will take you on an all-day adventure with lunch included that takes in the beauty of Yosemite Valley and the massive trees of Mariposa Grove. Rush Creek Lodge also offers a variety of day trips that will explore sunsets to view-filled excursions.


  • No matter the time of year, make sure you are packing some sun gear and sunglasses while visiting Yosemite.
  • Make sure you bring along day hike shoes, socks, and a water bottle. Other than these also pack bug spray, a light jacket, and a torch for the dark. These are all non-negotiables for day hikes.
  • A first aid kit is recommended in case of an emergency.
  • Remember that bears are roaming around Yosemite so do bring a bear box along with you. It is not necessary if you are camping in one of the areas that provide them.
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Getting there

The address for Yosemite National Park is PO Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95380. California is a massive place, and the Sierra Mountain range is hugely protected. The closest airport to Yosemite is Fresno Airport. It is approximately 90 minutes from the boundary of the park and 2 hours 15 minutes from the valley cliffs. You can always rent a car to the park, put on some music, and enjoy the scenic drive leading up there.

The small Merced Airport does have year-round YARTS public transport coming into the park. Yosemite does offer a free shuttle bus around its most popular valley. If you are taking public transit, try opting for a paid hiker bus between Yosemite and Tuolumne Meadows.

Where to Stay

Whether you love to stay in a camp or prefer a top-notch lodging option with full dining amenities available. There is something for everyone’s choice available here.

  • Camping – In total, there are 13 car-accessible campgrounds in Yosemite. All these campgrounds must be booked and usually end up getting booked within minutes. Reservations can range from April up to October. It can be a bit of a headache to book a camp, as most of these campgrounds become available five months in advance while some are just two weeks from a trip. It is therefore essential for you to plan for your trip and keep checking the park’s website regularly for updates. Most of the campgrounds are closed in winter although some are available on a first come first served basis.
  • Hotels – Available just outside the park’s boundary, Yosemite has a wide range of accommodations. The Rush Creek Lodge & Spa is just within minutes of the Big Oak Flat Entrance and is a wonderful place for families looking for tasty food or even just a massage after a long trek. Those looking for top-notch service and fine dining need to head over to Chateau du Sureau, which is a European-style castle with a magnificent restaurant. Opened in 1927 and known for its ultramodern dining room and unparalleled location, The Ahwahnee is the gem of the bunch.
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Yosemite National Park has a wide range of food options available which range from groceries to pizza to a fine dining experience. You can reserve 366 days in advance at some of the below listed options especially from spring through fall and the holidays.

  • The Ahwahnee,
  • Dining Room
  • The Mountain Room
  • Tuolumne Meadows Lodge
  • White Wolf Lodge

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