THE BEAUTIFUL YOSEMITE VALLEY
WHAT TO DO IN YOSEMITE? MY JOURNEY
Before telling you what to do in Yosemite, I will tell you about logistics. The period I was there, we needed a pass to enter between 6am and 4pm, unless you have a campsite in the national park or you enter outside these hours. To check if this is still the case, I invite you to consult the official website by clicking here. If you have the « America the Beautiful » annual pass, Yosemite is included in the pass. You can buy the card in any national parks normally.
Then, getting there without a car is very difficult. For my part, I rented a car to do a road trip of more than a month in the American national parks. Once you go into Yosemite National Park, there are a few viewpoints only accessible by car with small parking lots. Then you can go park in a lot they call “day use”. Be careful, there are car parks reserved for campsites where you should not go if you do not have a reservation. At the Visitor Center there is a large parking lot where you can park for the day. Buses run all day to drop you off at points of interest, and at the start of some hikes. They pass quite often, and are free.
THE VIEWS FROM THE CAR
View on the road
To start your visit to the park, there is the Tunnel view, the view is just incredible! I don’t recommend it early in the morning because you can’t really distinguish the valleys. But from late morning, this view is worth the detour! You can see the whole valley from the heights.
When you leave the park, go through the Valley View point. A very beautiful point of view also on the valley, but from the bottom this time. We can see the Bridalveil waterfall very well (which unfortunately I could not do because it was closed for the season). The view is really beautiful from this point!
THE BOTTOM OF THE VALLEY
View from the Lower Yosemite falls trail
View from the Meadow trail
View from the Cathedral Beach Picnic
My first hike was the one to arrive at Mirror Lake. I took the bus to get to the start of the hike to stop 18. Follow the “Mirror Lake Trailhead” hike to arrive at Mirror Lake 30 minutes later. I did this hike around 8am and saw very few people. The hike is an out and back, I did it in an hour. You know you’ve arrived when you get to the Mirror Lake sign. Continue a little bit and go towards the plain and the small lake. From there, you will understand where its name comes from. The view is just amazing! A beautiful view of the valley from which is perfectly reflected in the lake. That’s wonderful ! On the way back I met some deer who were walking quietly next to me. It is obvious that they are used to seeing people. Speaking of animals, do not hesitate to read the various signs that are present in the park, they tell what to do in case of encounter with certain animals such as bears or mountain lions. Personally, I haven’t seen any in Yosemite, but you never know.
A very nice short hike to do is the “Meadow trail“. A path that allows you to walk in the meadow, sometimes by the river, with incredible views of the rocks and some fountains. I did not do the whole hike, the hiking time will depend on what you want to do as a route.
There is also the “Valley loop” hike which I didn’t do but it does a full loop down the valley. There must be good views.
If you want to rest a little by the river after your big hikes, here are two nice places with a small pebble beach where you can rest. The Swinging bridge which has a small island. At the end of May, the water was not hot but with the heat it was, it was very pleasant to be able to swim. There is also my favorite spot which is the Cathedral Beach Picnic! Oh this view is amazing! You are almost at the foot of this huge El Capitan rock, it is impressive. We also did the Capitan picnic area but the view is not as good, I do not necessarily recommend it.
Do not miss to take a short tour in the village of Yosemite. A pretty cute little center with an open museum about the Indians who lived here. Go check out the Ahwahnee Hotel. The interior is magnificent, with a huge chimney. Do not hesitate to take a look at the restaurant, an incredible architecture!
From one of the day parking lots in Yosemite Village, you can easily access the Lower falls trail which will take you about 20 minutes to get there. As I often say, if you want to be alone, go early. I didn’t follow my own advice, and was too busy… The waterfall is separated into several pieces, with this hike you will come to the bottom of the last part of the waterfall. And just seeing this part so close is impressive! If you’re a little more athletic, you have the “Upper falls” hike which takes longer and has more views of this famous Yosemite waterfall.
Another fairly popular hike in the park is the Mist Trail to the Top of Nevada Falls. I found this hike harder than the Four Mile Trail because it is steep and there are a lot of “stairs” to climb. But you follow the waterfall for a good part of the hike, and it is super pleasant. To see this flow of water spinning at full speed is impressive! Be prepared to get a little wet though. The view from the top of the waterfall is also super beautiful! I really advise you to do a loop by going to the top of Nevada falls by the Mist Trail and then go down by the John Muir trail which allows you to have a great view of the waterfall, and to go down again in the dry. The hike took us about 4h30 (with a few breaks) for 12.7 km, and 610 m of elevation. If you are scared of heights, there are some parts where you are confronted with emptiness but frankly these passages are of very short duration.
FOUR MILE TRAIL
Glacier point view
View from the four mile trail
The four mile trail, which is actually not 4 miles at all but rather 10! Being scared of heights, I have to admit that I was a little afraid of this hike. I really advise you to start it early to avoid the crowd, but especially the heat because it only goes up for about 2h / 2h30. The way there is very exhausting. But the views… They are just incredible! During the climb you have several beautiful views of El Capitan and Yosemite Waterfall. The path is quite wide and well maintained to be honest. For those who are afraid of heights, you have a few parts that are exposed but they really don’t last long. On all the way you have trees present most of the time. The climb is rewarded with a great view at Glacier Point! You have the whole valley in front of you, including the Half Dome. One of the most beautiful views of the park in my opinion. That’s wonderful ! You can do another hike from up there, but be careful it is not a loop, so plan enough water and food, as well as energy. After a good break at Glacier Point, it’s time to turn around and hike back down all the way you’ve come. The hike is 15.4 km, 975 m of elevation. We did it in 5h counting the break at the top. An unmissable hike in my opinion!
Yosemite is one of my favorite American national parks. The views are so beautiful and there are all kinds of hikes to do. Every corner of the valley is different. It is a park that is definitely worth a visit!
WHEN TO GO?
I was there at the end of May, and the beautiful days were there. Not very hot in the morning and evening but great sun. The heat was bearable during the day.
It all depends on what you are doing, I would say that 3 days is perfect to enjoy it to the fullest.
WHERE TO SLEEP? MY ACCOMMODATION
When I organized this road trip, all the campsites in the national parks were almost full, including the one in Yosemite. So I went to sleep at 1h30 from the valley, in Bass Lake.
S Shore Rd,
Wishon, CA 93650
Price: $41 – €39 / night / person for a tent spot
Click here to book a night.
The campsite is super beautiful with a view of the lake. I loved this location! Bears are present, if you keep any food in a closed car there is no problem. No shower at the campsite, just toilets.
In Yosemite Valley
Price: $21 – €19,5 / night for 2 persons for a tent spot
Click here to book a night.
When I had looked 2 months before to book the accommodations, everything was complete. But apparently they do a lottery sometimes to refill campsites at the last minute. It’s up to you how you prefer to organize yourself. My friend managed to get a place for my last night there. And I admit that having a view of the Yosemite waterfalls is not bad!
And as a bonus, if you’re not familiar with Smore’s, then you should give it a try. Buy the marshmallow, chocolate bar and biscuit package (they sell them in packaging in the valley in general). During your campfire, melt your marshmallow. Then cut the biscuit in half, put 2 or 3 squares of chocolate on the biscuit. Once the marshmallow has melted, place it on the chocolate part and close the “biscuit sandwich”. It’s so good !
MY 3 TIPS TO VISIT YOSEMITE
- Go hiking early, for two reasons: to avoid the crowd and the heat.
- In 2022, over a certain period, a ticket was required to enter the park, valid for 3 days. Check if this is still the case.
- Plan enough water and food for your hikes, there are not many water points on the paths.