National Parks

Yosemite National Park, California


Yosemite National Park in California is popular for its beautiful landscapes. The park is renowned for its hanging deep valleys, raging rivers and waterfalls, ancient giant sequoias, cirque lakes, towering granite domes, and moraines. The park is best for all sorts of activities like driving along the scenic Tioga Road, backpacking, camping, biking, hiking, rock climbing, fishing, bird watching, horseback riding, etc.

These decade old photos are from our visit to Yosemite National Park during the first week of April, 2010. It was snowing and many trails and roads were closed. This was our first ever visit to any national park. We did not plan well, so we did not explore the park thoroughly. Time to revisit!

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Quick Facts and Tips

  • Best time to Visit: May to September
    • Summer: Crowded
    • May and September: Less crowded, but some roads and trails may still be closed
  • Airports
    • Closest: Yosemite International Airport – about a 1½-hour drive to South Entrance of the park
    • Good Deals: San Francisco International Airport, Oakland International Airport, San Jose International Airport – almost 4 hours drive to Arch Rock Entrance or Big Oak Flat Entrance of the park
  • Clothing
    • Summer is warm, so pack lightweight casual short-sleeved t-shirts/tank tops, comfortable pants/shorts/capri, hats, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes. Bring a waterproof lightweight jacket for afternoon summer thunderstorms and a long sleeve shirt/sweat shirt for warmth in high elevation
    • Spring and fall are cooler, so pack long sleeved t-shirts, comfortable pants, fleece jacket, warm jacket, gloves, rain gears and comfortable walking shoes
  • How many days: At least two days
  • What to Expect
    • Glacier-carved valley, High mountain meadows, Lakes, Raging Rivers, Waterfalls, Soaring granite monoliths, Panoramic views of the mountains and valleys, Cliffs, Giant sequoia trees, Wildflowers
  • Make sure to check the Park Website for alerts on road closures and trail/hike conditions before you heading out
  • The summer thunderstorms can be dangerous. Check the weather forecast for thunderstorms before you go. Best way to stay safe is avoiding a thunderstorm before it arrives
  • Entrance Fee: $35 per vehicle or from $20 to $30 per person/ motorcycle, good for seven days
  • Starting early is the best way not only to beat the traffic, but also for the best lighting, more elbow room, and an increased chance of seeing wildlife
  • It is hard to find parking space during the busiest months. Expect road delays and difficulty in finding parking. Use the park free shuttle service instead
  • There are plenty of pull-outs or overlooks along Yosemite Valley Loop road (Southside Drive and Northside Drive roads). Keep some extra time for stopping for photos, wildlife, sights, and for unplanned delays
  • Take caution and follow the posted signs while driving through the park while stopping for pullovers to take photos or to view wildlife
  • Be aware of wildlife on the road or near the road. Viewing wildlife from inside the car is the the best and safest way
  • Be prepared for afternoon thunderstorms in the summer. Carry rain gear and extra clothing
  • Take food and water so you can spend the day touring by covering as many park attractions
  • Weak/no cell phone signals, highly recommend to have maps downloaded or printed
  • There is a lot to capture, so keep your camera ready. Make sure that camera is fully charged and also keep backup battery and memory cards
  • Places to Go
    • Waterfalls: Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Falls, Ribbon Fall, Horsetail Fall, Nevada Fall, Vernal Fall,
    • Rock Formations: Half Dome, El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, Glacier Point
    • Giant Sequoias: Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Grove, Merced Grove
    • Vista Points on Drive: Glacier Point, Tunnel View, Olmsted Point, El Capitan Meadow
  • Best things to do
    • Drive through Yosemite Valley: One can truly experience the magnificent Yosemite valley by driving along the El Portal Road and one way Yosemite Valley Loop road (Southside Drive and Northside Drive). Some popular and picture perfect attractions are the Merced River Gorge, spectacular Bridalveil waterfalls, the granite monolith El Capitan in El Capitan Meadows, the Cathedral Beach, Swinging Bridge, Yosemite’s signature rock formation Half Dome, the oldest structure in the park Yosemite Chapel, Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Valley View, and the list goes on. Other than these vista points Yosemite Valley Loop road has many stops for popular hikes. You can take easy and popular trails like Bridalveil Falls Trail, Cook’s Meadow Loop Trail, Mirror Lake Loop Trail and Lower Yosemite Fall Trail
    • Drive Glacier Point Road: The drive is about 35 miles from the Yosemite valley to Glacier Point. The Glacier Point offers the panoramic unforgettable vistas of Yosemite Valley, stunning Half Dome, High Sierra crest, and three waterfalls. Check the Park Website for alerts on road closure before you go
    • Drive scenic Tioga Road: It takes almost 2 hours drive (75 miles) from Yosemite Valley to Tioga Pass. There are many gorgeous vista points along the drive. Best scenic spots are Olmsted Point, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne Meadows, Tioga Lake, Ellery Lake. Check the Park Website for alerts on road closure
  • Popular easy hikes
    • Bridalveil Fall Trail: This is an easy 0.5 mile round trip trail from Bridalveil parking lot and features the beautiful plunging 620 feet high waterfall often referred as the first waterfall in the Yosemite Valley
    • Lower Yosemite Fall Loop Trail: 1 mile loop trail that offers a lake and the tallest waterfall in Northern America
    • Cook’s Meadow Loop Trail: An easy 2 mile loop flat trail, that features beautiful wild flowers views of the Yosemite Valley
    • Mirror Lake: An easy 2 miles round trip. This trail is a seasonal trail and the pathway around the Mirror Lake offers beautiful reflections of the Half Dome and abundance of wildflowers
    • Big Trees Loop Trail: An easy 0.3 mile to see the Giant Sequoia forest
    • Vernal Fall Footbridge via Mist and John Muir Trail: 2.3 mile steep, paved and rated as moderate trail, offers beautiful views of surrounding peaks and falls