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How to visit Yosemite National Park

One of the most impressive National Parks on the West Coast and in the entire United States is Yosemite National Park.

Its exuberant nature and its relative proximity to cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles make it a must see if you are thinking of traveling to California or want to do a road trip along the West Coast.

In this post you will find a complete guide to visit Yosemite National Park, with what to see in the park, practical advice, how to get there, how to get around, where to stay... Everything you need to know to prepare your trip!

In other California articles I have already told you about Yosemite, and it is one of my favorite places. Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Nevada of California and occupies an area of ​​3,029 km2.

The area where the park now occupies was once inhabited by different Indian tribes (mainly Ahwahnechee) until the mid-19th century, when they were driven out and nearly wiped out in the Mariposa War (1850-51).

Although Yosemite was protected thanks to Abraham Lincoln in 1864, it was established as a National Park in 1890, by then becoming one of the top ten national parks in the world.

It was not until 1984 that Yosemite National Park was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

In the park you will find impressive rock formations, wild animals, giant sequoias, lakes of glacial origin, rivers, waterfalls, lush vegetation and movie landscapes. It is very difficult not to fall in love with Yosemite.

When you start preparing your trip you should keep in mind that Yosemite National Park is very large. It spread over 4 California counties.

However, the vast majority of its visitors are concentrated in Yosemite Valley, an area of ​​barely 20 km2 that is located in the southwestern sector. It is the easiest area to visit, with the best access and where you will find more infrastructures (campsites, hotels, the tourist service point, shops, restaurants...).

Being the most popular area, there are also more people. But depending on the time of year you travel, you may find this area practically empty, as it happened to us. We have traveled to Yosemite Park twice, once at the end of May and once at the end of September. We were very lucky because we hardly found crowds.


Yosemite Valley area

To visit only this area of ​​Yosemite Valley I recommend a couple of days. Especially if you intend to do some of the walks to get to the waterfalls or the viewpoints.

Tunnel View

If you're coming to Yosemite from the South, Tunnel View is the first picture of Yosemite you'll come across. Awesome! This viewpoint is located at the foot of the road at the entrance to the Wawona tunnel. From here you will have stunning views of the Valley, with El Capitan on the left and the Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Falls on the right.

Bridalveil falls

The Bridalveil waterfall is one of the essential things to see in the valley. This imposing waterfall measures 188 meters, which flows all year round, especially abundant in spring.

It is located near the main road. When you park in the parking lot you must walk about 5 minutes until you reach the waterfall. Being an easily accessible waterfall, its parking lot is usually full.


El Capitan is an immense rock 914 meters high and is one of the most photographed symbols of the Valley. The best areas to see this rock from afar is from El Capitan Meadow Recreation Area or from Cathedral Beach.

Half Dome and Mirror Lake

One of the easy trails to do in Yosemite Valley is to see the Half Dome. It is a rock formation with a peculiar shape. It resembles a dome split in half.

There are several routes to get there, we chose the Mirror Lake Trail. It is only about 3.3km round trip. And it is a simple route in which you will enjoy the views. The lake is much more abundant in spring, at the end of summer or beginning of autumn it is more like a pond. Even so, the landscape is beautiful and it is worth doing this route.

Sentinel Dome

The Sentinel Dome is a 2,476 meter high mountain. If you dare to do the route to reach the top you will enjoy some amazing views. The most popular route is the Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop. This route does not start from Yosemite Valley, but from Glacier Point Highway, about an hour from the valley by car.

Sentinel Dome and Taft Point Loop is an 8.2km loop trail.

Lower Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in the park and one of the 20 highest waterfalls in the world, although its 739-meter drop is divided into three sections: Upper, Middle and Lower Falls.

From Yosemite Valley there are very easy hiking trails to Lower Yosemite Falls. The trails to reach the tops of the waterfalls are well marked, but they are quite demanding. We did one of the routes to the top and you have to go well prepared. Good shoes, lots of water, hat, sun cream…

The waterfall is visible from different places in the Valley. Like Yosemite Village or Cook's Meadow.

Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall

Another of the interesting routes to do in Yosemite Valley is the route that takes you to visit the Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall waterfalls. A lot of water flows all year round, although its most abundant moment is in spring. Most visitors only make it to the first waterfall, Vernal Fall, which is a 1-hour round trip. The second waterfall, Nevada Fall, has a journey of 5.3 hours. It is worth doing the whole tour. But depending on your days in Yosemite you will have to choose one route or another.

Other areas to see in Yosemite

If you dare to dedicate more days to Yosemite, you can get to know some of the areas outside of Yosemite Valley.

Butterfly/Mariposa grove

I have an article dedicated to Mariposa Grove. It is an area that is well worth knowing. I loved! Here you can get lost among giant sequoias and although it is similar to Sequoia National Park, Mariposa Grove has beautiful trails to walk. I tell you in detail everything you can do and see in this link.

Olmsted Point

Olmsted Point Lookout is one of the most beautiful lookouts. Perhaps because it encompasses a great diversity of landscape. You will be able to see Tenaya Lake, Half Dome, Tenanya Canyon, forests and El Valle. It's really pretty and you can get here by car.

It is located on Tioga Pass Road, the road that runs through the park from east to west. It is a road that is closed in winter.


In Yosemite there are many hiking trails. Even to get to the same place sometimes there are several options. The entire park is very well signposted. You can also see the hiking routes on the official page from this link. And do not hesitate to go to the information point "visitor center" where they will explain the routes, they will give you maps and advice.


In Yosemite National Park there are about 400 species of vertebrates; black bears, coyotes, foxes, pumas, deer... However, it is difficult to see them. Keep in mind that the park is huge and the animals tend to be in places where there are fewer visitors. However, it is not uncommon from time to time to see one of them in the distance or if you go off on unpopular trails.

If you want to see these types of animals, consult the visit center, the routes that go deeper into El Valle and get up very early. It's what we did. Every day we get up at 5am to start a route and finally, one day out of nowhere we find this wonderful picture.

The easiest animals to see and that are quite friendly are the squirrels that are abundant in Yosemite and the deer.


Yosemite National Park has 5 entrances; 3 of them to the west (Hetch Hetchy, Big Oak Flat and Arch Rock), one to the south (South Entrance / Mariposa Grove) and one to the east (Tioga Pass). Depending on where you come from, choose the one that suits you best.

If you are thinking of doing a road trip along the West Coast or doing the excursion to Yosemite from one of its cities, I recommend renting a car. It will give you freedom not only to get to the Park, but also to move around it afterwards. If you don't have this option, don't worry, I'll explain everything to you:

How to Get to Yosemite from Los Angeles

Rental car

If you have a rental car, the best option is to enter through the south entrance. So you will have to take the 5, then the 99 and finally the 41. As soon as you enter the Yosemite National Park, you have the option of making a stop at Mariposa Grove, since it is located in this area. More or less from Los Angeles it is almost 6 hours of travel. For this reason, it is impossible to visit Yosemite from Los Angeles in a single day and return... you must read this into account to reserve accommodation in the Park.

Public transport

To get there by public transport from Los Angeles you must take into account that the route is not direct. First you have to get to Fresno. There is no option to do it by train, so you must take a bus in Greyhound. Once in Fresno you must take another bus (Yarts) to Mariposa Grove or Yosemite Valley.

How to Get to Yosemite from Las Vegas

If you plan to visit Yosemite after passing through Las Vegas, I warn you that the journey is not the fastest. The ideal is that with time you organize your route so that you do not have to do this option. However, if you have no alternative to modify it and you must go to Yosemite from Las Vegas, I will tell you how to do it:

The shortest route is through the North of Death Valley. First you must take the 95, then the 266 and the 6, in the direction of the east entrance of Yosemite (Tuoga Pass). The scenery is certainly worth it, but it takes about 8 hours of non-stop travel by car. The best option is to prepare the route to make an overnight stop in Death Valley.

Public transport

There is no simple and fast option to be able to do this route by bus. Yes, it can be reached, but you will have to change buses so many times and many hours, that it really is not worth it.

How to Get to Yosemite from San Francisco

Rental car

To get there by car, the fastest way is to take the 580, the 205 and finally the 120 to enter the park through Big Oak Flat. They are about 4 hours long journey. There is also the option of taking a route further south. You must take the 140 that will allow you to enter the Park through Arch Rock.

Public transport

If you want to arrive by public transport, you must first take a trip to Merced. This journey can be done by train and is faster than the bus. The train leaves from Emeryville and you can get here by bus from San Francisco. Once in Merced you must take a bus (Yarts) to Yosemite Valley.

Organized tour

If you don't have a rental car and you prefer not to complicate your life with public transport, you can also visit Yosemite with an organized 3-day tour. Is very complete. I leave you the link so you can study this option:

Another option is to take a day trip. They leave and you return to San Francisco the same day. The excursion is long and I don't think you will have time to see much of Yosemite National Park. However, if you have no other option, something is something :) It is an excursion of about 16 hours.


The best option to get around Yosemite is by rental car. Just keep in mind that in winter some roads are closed (Tioga Pass Road and Glacier Point Road).

There is also a shuttle service around the park. Yosemite Valley Shuttles operate year-round from 7am to 10pm. And they are free. They have a frequent service every 30 minutes and have stops at the main points of interest.


In Yosemite you have many accommodation options, from campsites to hotels, Airbnb... Being such a touristy place, prices are usually high. So if you are going to travel in high season, I recommend that you book in advance to avoid last-minute price increases. And even with time the prices are very high.

Campgrounds in Yosemite National Park

There are a total of 14 campsites in Yosemite National Park. In Yosemite Valley there are 4. Keep in mind that the rate is usually around 26-28 dollars per person. It tends to be more affordable to buy the tent, bag etc (about 180 dollars all)... at Wallmart and then resell it before you leave or simply throw it away than one night in any of the hotels. It may not be your idea of ​​accommodation, but it can be a good option to spend too much.

Campsites, being the cheapest alternative, are in great demand and you have to reserve well in advance, sometimes even with 6 months to spare. You can see more information about Yosemite campsites on their official website.

Hotels and Bungalows in Yosemite National Park

As I mentioned, hotels are not cheap. More or less to give you an idea, booking a 3-star hotel more than 6 months in advance can cost you around 250-300 dollars a double room/night. And here you see adding if they are more stars, if they are better located or if you are booking with less time.

There is also the option of renting a house, small bungalows or even rooms in apartments.

Yosemite Valley, being the most popular area, is also the most expensive. So, if you prefer to save a little, look for accommodation within the Park, but not in this specific area. If you have a rental car, then you can move without problem and you will save a little money.


Access to national parks in the United States is paid. The fee can be paid directly at the park entrances (there is a toll at each access). However, if you are going to be traveling through the Western United States, visiting more national parks, it is more profitable to buy an annual pass.

Please check that the rates have not changed. You can view more information here.

Yosemite National Park Fees

Cars, vans and motorhomes: 30 Dollars.

Motorcycles: 25 Dollars.

Tickets valid for 7 days. You pay per vehicle, not per person.

United States National Parks Annual Pass

Single fee: 70 Dollars.

Passes are valid for 1 year from the month purchased and only one is needed per vehicle (not one per person).

This was the option we chose since on the West Coast there are many National Parks that you can visit. Just by stopping a couple of hours in each of them, you will enjoy this environment with the same pass. It's worth it!

*Rates updated in 2021

I hope you enjoy Yosemite National Park very much. It is impressive and it is well worth investing a few days to enjoy this natural wonder. I hope this article has been helpful to you in planning your trip.


I hope you enjoy your trip to the United States and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.

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A hug and see you soon!


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