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Yosemite National Park 【2024】A Complete Travel Guide

Yosemite National Park is located in California. The entire park is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and streams that can be seen everywhere.

As long as you hear the name “Yosemite”, you know that this is a beautiful national park. It is also one of the most visited national parks in the United States, with more than 3.7 million tourists visiting each year.

  • Tickets: $35/car/7 days, or purchase an annual pass to the National Parks of the United States
  • Opening hours: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
  • The best tourist season: June to September is the best, and there are unique snow scenes in winter  [check the current weather forecast]
  • Main scenery: granite mountains, green trees, green hills, waterfalls, streams
  • Main activities: hiking, climbing, camping, swimming, watching animals
  • Nearest airports: San Francisco (SFO), San Jose (SJC)
  • Pre-departure preparations: book air tickets, rent a car, book a hotel
  • Precautions: Go as early as possible, because there will be many people. Prepare sun protection and insect protection in summer, fill up the car before entering the park, book accommodation in advance, download Google offline maps, and do not get close to wild animals [View current park alerts]
  • Google Maps: Yosemite Valley Visitor Center
  • Paper map: Download and Print
  • NPS official website: Please click here

The park covers 761,268 acres, most of which are complete wilderness.

Visitors can explore only a small area of ​​the park, the most famous of which is Yosemite Valley.

Visitors hike, climb, camp, swim, and watch wildlife here.

Yosemite Weather

The most suitable season for visiting the park is from June to September. It is cool in the morning and evening, and the temperature is not too high at noon. It is the best time for outdoor hiking and enjoying nature. You can see almost all the waterfalls.

At the same time, the green trees, green hills, and beautiful streams are all very beautiful.

Although summer is the prime time to visit Yosemite, the snow-covered beauty of Yosemite is also unique in winter. Tourists come here for skiing and snowboarding in winter.

The core area of ​​Yosemite National Park is called “Yosemite Valley”. The average temperature (in degrees Celsius) for the twelve months of the year is shown in the figure below (See more weather data):

Yosemite-weather-in-12-months
12-month temperature distribution in Yosemite Valley

Transportation in Yosemite

The closest airports to Yosemite are:

  • San Francisco International Airport ( SFO ): 4 hours
  • San Jose International Airport ( SJC ): 4 hours
  • Sacramento (SMF): 4 hours
  • Los Angeles International Airport ( LAX ): 6 hours
  • Las Vegas International Airport ( LAS ): 8 hours
Distance between airports and Yosemite
Driving time from surrounding airports to Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is about a 4-hour drive from SFO, SJC, and SMF.

You can also drive from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS) to Yosemite Valley, which takes 6 and 8 hours, respectively.

What are the entrances to Yosemite Park?

There are five entrances to Yosemite National Park: A, B, C, D, and E (as shown in the picture below).

Yosemite five entrances
  • If you are driving from San Francisco, you generally enter from Port A (#120 Freeway) or Port B (#140 Freeway).
  • If you are driving from Los Angeles, you generally enter from the southernmost Port C (Highway #41).
  • If you fly directly to the local Mammoth Yosemite Airport (MMH), you can enter from port D (highway #395), which is not open in winter.
  • Yosemite Park also has the Eth entrance (Hetch Hetchy entrance) near the small town of Mather. 

What are the precautions for visiting Yosemite National Park?

  • Although the weather in Yosemite is cool, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is very strong. The UV index value here is ten during the day. Therefore, sun protection work cannot be ignored, especially if you have children. You must do an excellent job of sun protection and carry sunscreens with you. For example, EltaMD and Australian Gold Botanical are good choices.
  • When you go in summer, you should also be prepared to prevent mosquitoes. Among them, Sawyer and Repel are good choices.
  • Yosemite Park has two gas stations: one near the fork of Big Oak Flat Road and Tioga Road and one near the South Gate entrance. Before entering the park, consider filling up the car’s gas tank.
  • Black bears, which are less aggressive, can also be seen in Yosemite. Bear spray is prohibited in the park, so please stay away if you encounter one.
  • Pay attention to storing food in the park. You can’t put food in the car at night since bears are in the park. If you live in a hotel, bring it into the hotel. If you live in a camp, place it in a special Food Locker.
  • There are so many tourists in Yosemite, especially near Yosemite Valley, the core area of ​​the entire park, and parking is tough. Therefore, it is recommended that you enter the park before 10:00 in the morning or after 2:30 in the afternoon. Check out the video below from the National Park Service (NPS) to see how hot this park is.
Yosemite Busy Hours

How much are tickets for Yosemite?

The parking ticket is $35 for a car, which can be used for seven consecutive days. Therefore, you can consider staying near Yosemite for one or two nights to visit Yosemite National Park many times.

A park staff member collects fees at the park entrance, which is accessible 24 hours a day. If you enter the park too late and no staff member charges you, you can voluntarily make up the ticket when you leave.

Entrance to Yosemite

How to arrange accommodation in Yosemite?

How to stay in Yosemite National Park?

You can live in the park or the towns surrounding the park.

  • Living outside the park: It takes about 30-60 minutes to drive to the park every day, but the accommodation conditions are relatively good, and life is more convenient.
  • Living in the park: It is very convenient to visit the park, and the time required to reach the scenic spot is short, but the accommodation cost is relatively expensive, and the accommodation conditions are relatively ok.

Here are a few places to stay inside and outside the park:

Lodging outside the park

You can find cheap and convenient hotels in the small towns around the park. First, look at the map around the park.

Entrance A, B, and C are the best choices for accommodation.

Among them, Rush Creek Lodge at Yosemite at Port A, Yosemite View Lodge at Port B, and YoBee at Port C are closer to the park’s core area.

Hotels with better accommodation conditions are concentrated in Mariposa at Port B and Oakhurst at Port C.

For example, the Best Western Plus Yosemite Way Station in Mariposa and the Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn in Oakhurst are good choices.

Yosemite lodging
优胜美地园外住宿

Drive from Exit A to the park

You will pass through Groveland, where there are many accommodation options. Click to view the hotel list. This small town is about 1 hour and 10 minutes from Yosemite Valley.

Between the town and Exit A, there is a Yosemite Westgate Lodge, only ten minutes away from Exit A of the park.

Drive from Exit B to the park

You will pass through two important towns: Mariposa and El Portal.

El Portal is about 30 minutes from Yosemite Valley. Yosemite View Lodge 7.9/10 (7351 ratings) is an option.

Mariposa is about an hour and 10 minutes from Yosemite Valley. Best Western Plus Yosemite Way Station 8.1/10 (1094 ratings) is about $250 a night, and the hotel provides complementary breakfast, WiFi, and parking.

Drive from Exit C to the park

You will pass two Yosemite Southgate towns: Oakhurst, Fish Camp, and Yosemite West. Click to view the hotel list (OakhurstFish Camp).

near Oakhurst

Oakhurst is about an hour and a half away from Yosemite Valley. There are many big-brand hotels in this city, such as Marriott’s Fairfield Inn and Suites and
Hyatt’s Hounds Tooth Inn.

Accommodation near Fish Camp: Fish Camp is about an hour from Yosemite Valley.

Accommodation near Yosemite West: about half an hour away from Yosemite Valley.

Take Exit D to the park

You will pass through the small town of Lee Vining, about 2 hours from Yosemite Valley.

There are not many accommodation options here. Consider Lake View Lodge (7.8/10, 663 ratings).

Accommodation in the park

If you plan to live in the park, please visit the NPS homepage to make a reservation.

At the heart of Yosemite National Park is the “Yosemite Valley,” a visitor center that is the hub of traffic for the entire park, and parking is often difficult to find.

Two hotels (Ahwahnee and Yosemite Valley Lodge) are in the park, both concentrated in Yosemite Valley.

Yosemite campgournds
  • Ahwahnee (formerly called Majestic Yosemite Hotel): The only 4-star hotel in the park, built in 1921, the price is relatively expensive, generally needs to be booked in advance, and the accommodation price in August can reach $600/night.
  • Yosemite Valley Lodge (formerly Yosemite Lodge): There are 241 rooms here, and the accommodation price in August is around $300/night.
  • There are also some campgrounds and cabins on the grounds: Curry VillageWhite Wolf LodgeTuolumne Meadows, and High Sierra Camps.
  • Park camp: 13 in total, 4 of which are in Yosemite Valley, 2 in the south of Wawona and Bridalveil Creek, and 7 in the north, including Hodgdon Meadow, Crane Flat, Tamarack Flat, White Wolf, Yosemite Creek, Porcupine Flat and Tuolumne Meadows

Note: The High Sierra Camps mentioned above are not tent houses or log cabins but campgrounds to be hiked into. There is only water and toilets, and tents can be set up, but cars cannot reach the camp, and tents and everything else must be carried in steep steps. (Contributed by reader Turlock)

Yosemite Valley Map (Core Area)

Yosemite Valley is the core area of ​​activities, and its surrounding map is shown below. You can directly reach it from #120, #140, or #41 highway.

Yosemite Valley Map
Yosemite Valley Map

Yosemite Valley has two main traffic lanes: eastbound and westbound (See picture above).

The southbound one-way street leads into the valley, while the northbound one-way street leads out.

The roads marked with green circles in the picture above are two-way streets. If you need to turn around or go wrong, you can make corrections from these roads.

Therefore, whether you enter the park from Exit A, B, C, D, or E, you will first enter the southbound one-way street first, then make a big circle and exit the park from the northbound one-way street.

What are the attractions in Yosemite?

Yosemite National Park attractions include waterfalls, boulders, streamsvalleys, century-old trees, and wildlife.

The suggested schedule is as follows. Please adjust according to your itinerary.

  • Day 1: Visit the attractions #1~#5, which are mainly Yosemite panoramas, waterfalls, and relatively easy hikes
  • Day 2: Visit the attraction #6. The hiking distance is far, but you can ultimately reach Half Dome. It takes 12 hours to go back and forth, and you will pass Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall.
  • Day 3: Visit attractions #7 and #8. To the south, you can view Glacier Point and the Giant Sequoias.
  • Day 4: Visit scenic spots #9~ and #11. Drive on Tigua Road and enjoy the beautiful scenery of mountains and prairie.
Yosemite Points of Interest 1
Yosemite Attractions
Yosemite Points of Interest Pictures

Many of Yosemite’s waterfalls are among the highest in the world. Check out all the waterfalls in the park.

The Sierra Nevada Mountains run through Yosemite National Park. Many of the mountains are high and steep, and endless waterfalls fall from them, which is spectacular.

Most of the Sierra Nevada mountains are made of granite (Granite. These granites are conducive to the formation of very cliffs. Among them, the most famous Half Dome (Half Dome) is the iconic view of Yosemite National Park.

half dome yosemite

These seven attractions (#1~#7 ) are located in the core area of ​​Yosemite Park near Yosemite Valley.

It should be noted that #7 seems next to #6 but cannot be reached directly. You must return to Yosemite West from #6 and then go there. The drive takes about 1 hour.

Yosemite Valley Points of Interest

It takes about 2 to 3 days to explore activities #1~#7.

Consider spending one day at attractions #1-#5 and another at attractions # 6.

#7 (Glacier Point) is an hour’s drive from #6 (Vernal Fall). On the way back, you might consider enjoying #8 (Mariposa Grove).

1. Tunnel View

Tunnel View is a highly famous and spectacular viewpoint in Yosemite National Park.

See Yosemite’s most famous landmarks, including El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall.

Yosemite Tunnel View

Standing in Tunnel View, you can see the panorama of Yosemite Valley. On your left is El Capitan, a massive granite wall that rises more than 3,000 feet (about 914 meters) and is a challenge for rock climbers.

Directly in front of you is the Half Dome, a unique dome resembling a giant half-dome loaf.

On your right is Bridalveil Fall, a 620-foot (about 189-meter) waterfall that gently falls like a bridal veil, especially in spring, when the waterfall is full of water and the scenery is magnificent.

The video below was shared by YouTuber “Walking Introvert” and captures the beauty of Tunnel View.

2. Bridalveil Fall

This waterfall is as beautiful as a bride’s veil. This might be where the name comes from.

This waterfall is the first one you can see when you enter the park and is one of the most famous waterfalls in Yosemite.

The height of Bridalveil Fall is 188 meters, equivalent to a skyscraper, and the waterfall can be seen all year round.

Bridalveil Fall

How do you find this waterfall?

This waterfall is just off the eastbound one-way street.

Below, follow the lens of YouTube “Amy Darling” to this Bridalveil Fall.

You can’t miss this location when you drive into this lot. The traffic can get very heavy with cars parked on both sides of the road.

You need to find a parking space and walk for 20 minutes to see this beautiful waterfall.

3. Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Fall is on a northbound one-way street next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Fall is divided into upper and lower parts: Upper Yosemite Fall and Lower Yosemite Fall.

After you park your car, you need to walk about one mile to see Lower Yosemite Falls. This trail is called the “Lower Yosemite Fall Trail.” The road is very flat, and even the elderly and children can walk.

To see Upper Yosemite Falls, you must hike the extremely tough Yosemite Fall Trail, which may take a day.

The starting point of this Trail is slightly different from the Lower Yosemite Trail. The Yosemite Fall Train starts next to Yosemite Valley Lodge, a hotel in the courtyard. The distance is about 3.2 kilometers, and the height is about 328 meters. If you want to hike this Trail, please check the NPS details provided.

Let’s follow the lens of YouTuber “Dan Treks” to walk into these two Yosemite Falls step by step.

4. El Capitan

Many of Yosemite’s mountains are granite, the most famous of which can be seen at El Capitan.

El Capitan is the largest monolith of granite in the world. Its name, derived from Spanish, means “captain” or “chief.”

El Capitan of Yosemite
Granite Cliff

At about 3,000 feet (about 914 meters), El Capitan’s vertical rock walls challenge rock climbers.

Because the mountain is a granite structure, it is very steep and is often the first choice for rock climbers. The following is a documentary film of two rock climbers climbing the Yellow Granite Mountain in Yosemite.

在优胜美地攀岩

Since American rock climbing pioneer Warren Harding and his team successfully climbed this huge rock wall in the early 1960s, El Capitan has become a holy place for rock climbers worldwide.

Every year, many rock climbers worldwide come here to try to climb this magnificent natural wonder.

5. Valley View

Valley View, also known as the Gates of the Valley, is located at the western end of the beautiful Yosemite Valley.

Standing at the Valley View viewing point, visitors can enjoy the Merced River meandering through the greenery, the wide valley bottom, and the two major landmarks in Yosemite Valley—El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall.

Tunnel View of Yosemite

El Capitan, a massive granite cliff, stands on the left. Bridalveil Fall is the spectacular waterfall on the right, gently hanging down like a bride’s veil.

Valley View is an excellent photography location in Yosemite National Park, especially at sunset. When the afterglow of the setting sun sprinkles on the peaks and rivers, the entire valley presents a dreamlike view, which makes people linger.

6. Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall & Half Dome

Vernal FallNevada Fall, and Half Dome are all on the east side of the entire Yosemite Valley, and their positions on the map are shown in the following figure:

Vernal Fall Nevada Fall

To reach Vernal Fall, park your car at the red circle in the picture above and walk for 2 hours via the Mist Trail.

If you still want to see Nevada Fall, you must walk for about four hours to reach it.

Nevada Fall
Vernal Falls
Vernal Falls
Nevada Fall

This trail allows you to enjoy views of Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall and then rock climb Half Dome.

However, this requires a special climbing permit before it can be carried out. For details, please refer to NFS’s official notes.

Below is a video of Half Dome rock climbing filmed by NPS. In the video, the park staff said: “It could be dangerous”.

So please note that you need to apply for a climbing permit, and you must be 100% prepared and clearly understand the conditions you may encounter before starting your Half Dome rock climbing trip.

Every year, a large number of tourists injure ankles and fall while climbing.

在Half Dome徒步

7. Glacier Point

Glacier Point is far from Yosemite Valley and takes 1 hour to drive.

However, this place must not be missed. It offers views of the entire valley and an overlook of the Half Dome.

The map for driving to Glacier Point from the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center is as follows:

From Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point
From Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point
glacier point 1
Glacier Point

Half Dome (Half Dome) is the iconic view of Yosemite, which you can see from Glacier Point. Significantly, when the sun rises in the morning and the first ray of sunlight shines on Half Dome, it is gorgeous.

Half Dome Sunrise
Half dome sunrise

Below, we take a quick look at the beauty of Half Dome, following the footage of YouTuber “Let’s Go Liz”.


8. Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza

The eighth scenic spot is located on the south side of Yosemite Park, and it is about an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley.

Giant Sequoia Trees are the largest plants in the world, and many are over 2,000 years old.

It’s about an hour’s drive from Yosemite Valley.

Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza

You can also see large numbers of giant sequoias in California’s Sequoia and Kings Valley National Parks.

These giant sequoias are so huge that it often takes dozens of children to embrace a giant sequoia.

Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza 1

The video below is also from YouTuber “Let’s Go Liz”. Let’s take a look at these giant trees together.


The following #9~#11 attractions are located on the east side of Yosemite Park and can be reached along Tioga Road.

9. Olmsted Point 

Olmsted Point is an important viewing point in Yosemite National Park, located east of the park, along Tioga Road.

Olmsted Point

Visitors can enjoy a magnificent view of the Yosemite Alpine from Olmsted Point. There is a large expanse of granite outskirts, the traces of which have been scoured by glaciers and are visible. 

You can overlook Half Dome, the most famous landmark in Yosemite, and from this perspective, Half Dome presents an entirely different perspective.

Another feature of Olmsted Point is the many large granite boulders scattered around it, remnants of glacial activity. Trees grow on some boulders, showing the tenacity of life and the wonder of nature.

Here’s a video shared by YouTuber “Today is Someday”:

10. Tenaya Lake

Tenaya Lake is a beautiful alpine lake in the park, located in the eastern part of the park, along Tioga Road.

The lake is the largest and most accessible natural lake in the park, at an elevation of approximately 8,150 feet (approximately 2,484 meters).

Tenaya Lake

It is filled with icy, clear snow water, tall granite peaks, and clumps of pine trees surrounding the lake.

On clear days, the lake reflects the sky’s blue and the surrounding mountains’ colors like a giant mirror.

In summer, people can go kayaking, canoeing, swimming, fishing, and doing other water activities here. They can also relax on the beach by the lake, enjoy the scenery, or have a picnic.

In addition, several hiking trails around the lake allow you to get a closer look at the lake and the surrounding nature.

The six-minute video below gives a quick view of Tenaya Lake. It is from a YouTuber named FlyingDawnMarie.

11. Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows is a prairie area located in the eastern part of the park, accessible along Tioga Road.

Tuolumne Meadows

The grassland is about 8,600 feet above sea level (about 2,621 meters), and the scenery is beautiful and peaceful. Verdant pine trees and towering granite peaks surround open grassland.

Rivers meander through, and lakes dot it. In summer, wildflowers of all kinds form a colorful tapestry.

Beyond its beauty, Tuolumne Meadows offers a wealth of outdoor activities. From here, there are many beautiful hiking and backpacking routes, such as to the magnificent Waterwheel Falls or the charming Lembert Dome.

It’s also a trendy spot for picnics, wildlife watching, fishing, camping, rock climbing, and more.

12. Animals of Yosemite

Yosemite National Park is one of the best protected national parks in the pristine natural environment. Visitors often see mule deer and skunks by the lake and bobcats, foxes, and owls in the forest.

If you’re lucky, you might also see bighorn sheep and marmots.

Mule Deer
Mule Deer
Yellow Bellied Marmot
Yellow Bellied Marmot

Yosemite National Park is one of the most attractive national parks in the United States. If you have the opportunity to visit San Francisco or Los Angeles, you might as well spend two to three days there. It will make you linger.

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FAQs

Question 1: What is the best season to visit Yosemite National Park??

Both summer and winter are great times to visit,
with summer camping, climbing, hiking, swimming, and wildlife watching, and
winter skiing and snowboarding.

Question 2: What are attractions of Yosemite National Park?

The attractions of Yosemite National Park include:

1. Waterfalls: Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Fall, Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall;

2. Granite mountains: very easy to form steep peaks;

3. Glacier Point: you can see the entire valley;

4. Half Dome: The most picturesque view;

5. Giant Sequoia: Many trees are over 2,000 years old.

Question 3: What airports are there around Yosemite National Park?

San Francisco International Airport (SFO): 4 hours
San Jose International Airport (SJC): 4 hours
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): 6 hours
Las Vegas International Airport (LAS): 8 hours

Question 4: Which state is Yosemite National Park in?

Yosemite National Park is located in California, the closest to San Francisco and San Jose in California, and it takes about 4 hours to drive.

Question 5: When was Yosemite established?

Yosemite National Park 
was established as a national park in 
1890 , the third to become a national park in the United States.

The other two earlier national parks are 
Yellowstone National Park and 
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Two important historical figures are mentioned here: 
John Muir  and President 
Roosevelt of the United States , who made tireless efforts to protect Yosemite National Park.

John came to Yosemite in 1868 and fell in love with it deeply. He strongly promoted Yosemite to become the third national park in the United States in 1890.

The executive decree that Yosemite became a national park was personally signed by then US President Roosevelt. During President Roosevelt’s tenure, a total of 5 US national parks were established.

He and John camped together in Yosemite National Park for three days in 1903, and had the most precious photo below. In the photo, President Roosevelt is on the left and John Muir is on the right.

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A team of travel enthusiasts with over 15 years of experience in traveling around the USA and the world. They have been creating travel guides since 2017, and "HowLifeUSA Travel Guide" has become one of the most popular free travel guides site in the industry. Check other guides: www.howlifeusa.com

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