*Please note: All photos were taken by me (and are un-edited….say whaaa?!)*
Ultimate Yosemite Travel Guide
Table of Contents
Happy Monday everyone!
Many of you know that we kicked off our “Summer Vacation Extravaganza” a few weeks ago when we traveled to Yosemite. Since then, I have received an insane amount of requests asking for suggestions for upcoming trips and general information for future traveling so I thought I would share all of this info in my Ultimate Yosemite Travel Guide! Sorry, no outfit photos today 🙁 haha! Come back Wednesday for that! 😀
I have been traveling to Yosemite once or twice a year for the past few years being as it’s my husband’s absolute favorite place in the world! He would probably live there if they’d let him. Yosemite is famous for it’s glacially carved granite mountains and breathtaking waterfalls among other things and we are extremely lucky to live only 3 1/2 hours away, so we can easily access it anytime of the year. This is such a dreamy and magical place that it’s no surprise that visitors fly in from all over the world making it the one the most famous and heavily visited national parks in the United States.
In this post, I will share the ins and outs of Yosemite Valley including where to stay, what to do and where to go. Read on for my Ultimate Yosemite Travel Guide!
Where To Stay in Yosemite:
Ultra glamorous hotel with all the accommodations needed for a comfortable stay. Located in Fish Camp, just before the south park entrance (maybe 45 minutes to the valley). Very pricey.
Big Tree Lodge
(formerly the Wawona Hotel)
Beautiful plantation-style hotel with amenities. Located about 25 minutes south of the valley (in the park). Pricey, but a more budget friendly option if you wanting a hotel instead of a tent.
Half Dome Village
(formerly Curry Village)
Tent cabins with private bathrooms. I believe they have heaters in the Winter as well. Located next to Half Dome Village and near North Pines Campground.
Like tent camping, but you don’t have to set up a tent. Located in Yosemite Valley near the Merced River.
Rear view of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel that overlooks a gorgeous grassy area. So sad it rained and I couldn’t get a full photo. 🙁
Majestic Yosemite Hotel
(formerly the Ahwanee)
Incredibly gorgeous hotel with all the accommodations needed for a comfortable stay. Located in Yosemite Valley. Extremely pricey.
Yosemite Valley Lodge
(formerly Yosemite Lodge at the Falls)
Motel style lodging with amenities. Located directly in front of Yosemite Falls (in the valley).
Camping in Yosemite:
*Please keep in mind that reservations need to be made FOUR months in advance. Reservation days are on the 15th of every month starting at 7am PST. These go EXTREMELY fast….usually within minutes. It’s helpful to have the reservation page open and ready to go on multiple devices (computers, phones, ipads) to ensure you get a spot.
*Do not leave food (including wrappers) or anything scented in your vehicle. You must place everything in a bear locker.
*You cannot start a campfire until after 5pm so if you are planning use the campfire as your main source for cooking, you can only do so for dinner. For all other meals, eat in the villages (see suggestions below) or bring a portable propane stove.
A meadow near the campsites.
A smallish campground with 81 sites. Located along the Merced River and is close to the Mirror Lake Trailhead and within walking distance to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Open late March to early November.
An even smaller campground with 60 sites. Located along the Merced River across from North Pines and is close to the meadow and within walking distance to Half Dome Village. Open early April to early November.
My favorite! The biggest campground with 238 sites. Located along the Merced River just below North and Lower Pines and is close to the Happy Isles Trailhead (Mist/John Muir Trail for Vernal/Nevada Falls and beyond). Open year round.
This is mainly where the climbers stay and is first come first serve. Located near Yosemite Falls (upper and lower) Trailhead. Open year round. I do not advise “regular” tent campers to stay here.
This is a “temporary” campground for those backpacking or just needing a place to stay for the night while on multi-day hikes. I do not advise “regular” tent campers to stay here.
Where To Eat in Yosemite:
If you don’t bring groceries with you, there are two general stores. One at Half Dome Village and the other at Yosemite Village. They have all the basic necessities and more.
Half Dome Village
Aside from the store, there is the Meadow Grill, Pizza Deck, Pavilion and Village Bar. You can get things like pizza, burgers, coffee, ice cream, etc. Speaking of ice cream…this is a must! They have the BIGGEST ice cream sundaes and banana splits I’ve ever seen! It’s delicious and definitely enough to share.
Aside from the store, they have a café and a grill that serve similar items to what you can get at Half Dome Village.
Yosemite Valley Lodge
At the hotel, they have a lounge, restaurant and food court. I personally love the food court! They have everything: burgers, sandwiches, snacks, pasta, pizza, fries and an amazing grilled cheese sandwich with kettle cooked chips!
Majestic Yosemite Hotel
At the hotel, they have a dining room that serves all meals and a bar. Appropriate attire and reservations are strongly recommended for dinner. The bar serves both coffee and cocktails, I highly recommend the hot chocolate with whip cream! And truffles from the sweet shop. So delicious!
How to Get Around in Yosemite:
Some of you had questions regarding transportation through out the valley. If you drove up in your vehicle, you can most definitely drive around the park with no problems other than the occasional traffic jam. There are also shuttles that run to different stops through the valley including the hotels, villages, trailheads and other points of interest. It does get quite a bit busier during the summer months, so the shuttle could be a better option (it’s free!).
What to Do in Yosemite:
There is SO much to do!
If you aren’t into hiking, there are plenty of other activities.
Beautiful Yosemite Valley.
There are day tours and night tour of the park including of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Glacier Point among others.
There are theatrical programs, evening program, ranger hikes, guided plant walks and even photography classes.
There are a plethora of children’s programs and junior ranger activities.
You can visit the famed Ansel Adams gallery, art center, museum, bookstore and wilderness center.
There are other ways to see Yosemite aside from hiking and driving. You can rent bikes, rafts or even a segway.
If you happen to come up during the Winter, they have a outdoor ice skating rink located at Half Dome Village.
Places to See in Yosemite:
Points of Interest:
View from Tunnelview with Half Dome in the Distance and Bridalveil Fall to the right.
If you are coming into the park via Hwy 41, you will eventually be greeted by the most breath taking, picture perfect view that Yosemite has to offer. It seriously looks like a backdrop or a postcard. The parking lot will be at the end of the verryyyyy long tunnel (you’ll know) so find a spot if you can and snap a few photos. You will see the famed Half Dome in the distance along with Bridalveil Fall to the right.
View from Glacier Point with Half Dome to the left and Nevada (top)/ Vernal (bottom) Fall to the right.
View from Glacier Point with Upper/Lower Yosemite Falls in the middle and Yosemite Valley directly below.
This is my absolute favorite view of Yosemite. It’s past The Big Tree Lodge, but not quite to Tunnel View. If you are coming from the south entrance via Hwy 41, you will see a sign for Glacier Point. Turn right and drive for about 45 minutes. Take a short walk up to see the most spectacular view in all of Yosemite (in my opinion). You will see an incredible view of Half Dome, Vernal/Nevada Fall to the right, Upper/Lower Yosemite Fall to the left and Yosemite Valley directly below. It is truly postcard worthy!
One of the many Sequoia Trees in Mariposa Grove.
This is located right after the south entrance of the park via Hwy 41. You can walk amongst the Sequoias, some of the oldest trees in the world! They are not only tall, but very wide and most definitely an impressive sight.
Yosemite Hiking Trails:
Many, many visitors come to Yosemite to experience and explore the park through hiking. There are tons of hiking trails for all ability levels and most are easy to navigate.
The incredible Bridalveil Fall gushing in May. I’m standing far from the fall and it still misted my lens!
After Tunnel View, continue towards the valley. You will see a sign for Bridalveil Fall to the right. Turn right, then left and you will enter the parking lot. It’s a short 5 minute hike to the falls. In the Spring, it is usually gushing water profusely making it unsafe (and impossible) to climb on the rocks. In the drier months, you can usually hike back to the falls via the rocks, but be careful because they are more slippery than they look! (0.5 mile roundtrip)
View from the bottom of Lower Yosemite Falls.
Lower Yosemite Fall
A fairly flat paved trail leading to the bottom of the lower falls. During the Spring, the water is gushing and the river is flowing like crazy! Be sure to continue on the trail to loop back to where you started. It’s a beautiful, pleasant walk. (1 mile roundtrip)
A gorgeous reflection of the mountains in Mirror Lake.
Another fairly flat trail leading to a gorgeous lake that resembles a “mirror” as it reflects it’s surroundings. You can continue on to Snow Creek and other trails. (2 miles roundtrip)
View from the Vernal Footbridge looking directly at a distant Vernal Fall.
Vernal Fall Footbridge
A pretty steep paved path that leads to the footbridge. From here you can see Vernal Falls and incredible views. (1.5 miles roundtrip) You can continue on to…..
The rock staircase alongside the mountain leading to the top of Vernal Fall.
View from the top of Vernal Fall overlooking the river and rock staircase to the right (doesn’t it look crazy?).
Top of Vernal Fall
After the footbridge, continue on. The path becomes a very steep rock staircase on the side of the mountain. In Spring, the falls will be gushing and will most likely mist you all the way up so be prepared. The rocks can also be very slippery, so beware. The view is SO worth is from the top. (3 miles roundtrip)
View from the Nevada Footbridge looking directly at toward Nevada Fall in the distance.
After you reach the top of Vernal Fall, you can continue a few miles up a steep trail to the top of Nevada. From there you can come back the way you came, head back down the John Muir Trail or go even further. (7 miles roundtrip)
View from Lower Yosemite trailhead looking directed toward Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.
Top of Upper Yosemite Fall
A strenuous hike to the top of upper Yosemite Fall. (7 miles roundtrip)
Four Mile Trail
A very strenuous hike to Glacier Point. (4.8 miles one way)
View from Glacier Point overlooking Half Dome.
Top of Half Dome
Tons of people come from around the world to conquer this famous hike. It is extremely strenuous and takes you to the top of Yosemite’s crown jewel, Half Dome. A permit is required. Once you get to the bottom of Half Dome, you must walk up the rock with the assistance of cables to reach the top. (14 miles roundtrip via Mist Trail and 16.3 miles roundtrip via John Muir Trail)
Valley Floor Loop
A trail that literally loops the entire valley. (13 miles for the full loop)
A very short, flat trail meandering through the meadow. (Near the campsites)
I hope my Ultimate Yosemite Travel Guide has answered any questions you have about traveling to Yosemite! I definitely think this one deserves a spot on everyone’s bucketlist. <3
Have a great Monday!