Top 10 things to do in Yosemite National Park
You know that any national park in California is going to be up there with the best of them and as the UNESCO World Heritage protected borders of Yosemite stretch to almost 800,000 acres then you're bound to find a little slice of picture postcard perfection to call your very own.
So, without further ado, below are a few more reasons why Yosemite National Park rocks and if you're looking for just one location in America to visit in the near future then, seriously, look no further than our top 10 things to do in Yosemite.
Any birdwatching fans will find themselves in paradise as Yosemite NP forms the natural habitat for a whole host of migrating and resident birds. Aside from the local robins, woodpeckers and jays, this is also considered to be one of the best locations to spot a great grey owl and peregrine falcon so if you know your feathers then get your binoculars and notepad out and start ticking off the talent.
As with the rest of the state, fishing in Yosemite is only to be considered once the regulatory licence and special park requirements have been firmly adhered to however, once the rules and regs are completed then kick back and relax as this is stream and river bank heaven. Trout is usually the catch of the day and although 'rainbows' are strictly catch and release you'll still find plenty of 'browns' to more than fill your swag bag.
Even if you've ridden a horse before, there's just something about the Californian air and the Yosemite hillsides that make this the perfect place to contemplate life on four legs. Guided tours will take you all over the park with a wide range of landscapes, including: meadows, valleys and lake sides, ensuring you see things from a new perspective and also cover more ground. In the southern entrance of the park, you can explore Yosemite the way our first pioneers did by horseback around the Meadow Loop Trail with views of The Big Trees Lodge, a former Native American encampment, Wawona Dome, and lush pine forests.
The sport of modern rock climbing was pioneered in Yosemite on its massive cliff walls and still is very popular today. If you want “learn the ropes” you can join a beginner workshop or book a custom lesson with an experienced Yosemite climber at the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Great for families and anyone looking for a challenge, all experience levels are welcomed.
Aside from the pools that you'll find available in and around the hotels and leisure lodges, Yosemite also offers the chance to dip in a more natural setting with the likes of the Merced River presenting no end of opportunities to cool off on a hot summer's day. Other well-known swimming spots can be found at Tenaya Lake, Sentinel Beach, and at great spots all along the Merced River Canyon. Swimming is best in late summer when the temperatures are warm enough to swim. Be aware of the swiftness of the water, cold temperatures and never leave young children unattended near Yosemite’s lakes and rivers.
Another great way to get all wet and wild on a warm summer's day is to try your hand at river rafting and believe you me once you find yourself holding on to the side of an inflatable raft as you float down the Merced River you'll soon realise what fun in Yosemite's all about. The best rafting route is around 3 miles in length and lies between Stoneman bridge and Sentinel beach with rentals from the local recreation centre providing buoyancy aids, paddles and a shuttle service back upstream so you can enjoy the whole of your time afloat.
If you've got plans to hit the trail during the snow season then there's plenty of scope for fun and games in Yosemite with all manner of winter sports available no matter what you're into. Cross-country skiing is definitely one of the best ways to make the most of the icy white landscapes and the season tends to stretch all the way through to Easter. Skiing, snowboarding and snow-shoe shuffles are all great fun in Yosemite and although the valley doesn't encounter that much white stuff, a ranger-led backwoods tour will no doubt point you in the right direction so don't forget your mittens and woolly hat.
No doubt, one of the main reasons that most people make the pilgrimage to Yosemite is to take in the mighty Giant Sequoias and if you want to get that all-important photo of you and your friends attempting to form a human chain around a massive trunk then head to Mariposa Grove and fill your film. Situated around an hour's drive from the valley, Mariposa boasts some of the largest trees on the planet and no trip to Yosemite National Park is complete without visiting the 500 or so specimens that you'll find in this magical protected grove.
Stay at The Big Trees Lodge
This National Historic Landmark can be found in between Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley in the south of the park and is thought to be one of the oldest of its kind in the whole of the state. With more than 100 guest rooms and built on just over 16 acres of land, the lodge presents an exquisite example of both late Victorian architecture and landscaped grounds with a cheeky 9-hole golf course located just over the way.
Arty Note: Check out the paintings of Thomas Hill who stayed at the lodge (when formerly named the Wawona Hotel) and used the hotel pavilion to create some magnificent images of Yosemite Valley and the surrounding area.
Walk to Glacier Point
One of the best hikes (note, a strenuous, full-day hike) to undertake in the whole of Yosemite NP is Four Mile Trail that leads you up to over 3,000ft and promises some absolutely stunning views of the park and its most impressive landmarks. The valley, Half Dome and the falls can all be seen from the top of Glacier Point and the chance to observe the park as it settles down for the night is simply a joy to behold. If you don't fancy the walk then there is access for cars and buses however, a little bit of exertion is well-worth it and those views will instantly wipe away any aches or pains. To enjoy the amazing views of Glacier Point with a less strenuous hike, take the Glacier Point Tour Bus one way to the top of Glacier Point and follow trail signs for the Panorama Trail. This is a full day, mostly downhill hike that will display extraordinary views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Nevada and Vernal Falls.
Discover the the best of Yosemite and beyond with these recommended tours & stays
Great Western American Adventure Escorted Tour (14 nights)
California's Great National Parks Escorted Tour (7 nights)
Western Explorer Small Group Tour (12 nights)
Experience San Francisco, Yosemite & Lake Tahoe Self-Drive (9 nights)
Self-Drive The Great West (20 nights)
Yosemite Valley Lodge
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite