15 Reasons Why You Should Visit Yosemite National Park
- Sentinel Dome
This is an easy 2.2 mile hike near Glacier Point that provides great views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.
- Tuolumne Meadows
This is a large meadow in the High Sierra region of Yosemite. This is a nice place to relax and escape the crowds of Yosemite Valley. The Tuolumne River calmly meanders its way through the meadow beneath granite domes and mountains.
- The Merced River
The Merced River shows itself as two distinctly different rivers. It is a mighty, turbulent river that explodes over two waterfalls on the Mist Trail. First it shoots off a cliff in the form of Nevada Fall and then it folds over a large cliff as Vernal Fall. After that it narrows as it makes its way to Yosemite Valley before widening considerably. Throughout most of the infamous valley the river is calm and slow-moving.
- Tunnel View
This is one of the most famous scenic vistas in the park. For many travelers, this is their first look at Yosemite Valley. After exiting a long, dark tunnel from the Wawona area of the park, you exit to a large turnout that showcases the amazing view of Yosemite Valley with El Capitan at one end and Bridalveil Fall at the other. Half Dome is in the center of the view, beyond a sea of green trees.
- Bridalveil Fall
This is one of many exceptionally tall and beautiful waterfalls within Yosemite. This stunning fall is more than 600 feet high and drops in one dramatic plunge. It flows year round, unlike several falls within the park.
- El Capitan
This is a massive granite monolith that towers 3,000 feet above the north side of Yosemite Valley. It is a magnet for many of the world’s most adventurous rock climbers.
- Nevada Fall
This 594-foot high waterfall is atop the amazing Mist Trail. It shares the 7-mile hike with Vernal Fall, but looks considerably different from its counterpart. The waterfall explodes off of a steep cliff. I highly recommend visiting Yosemite National Park in the spring, because all of the waterfalls will be flowing with so much more water than later in the summer.
- Yosemite Falls
This is the tallest of all of Yosemite’s treasured waterfalls. It drops in three stages, totaling 2,425 feet. It is one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. This waterfall doesn’t collect nearly as much waterfall as Nevada Fall or Bridalveil Fall, so this one should definitely be seen in the spring if possible. It typically runs out of water by late summer or fall.
- The High Sierra
Take a break from the incredibly crowded Yosemite Valley and head northeast on Tioga Road to get to the high sierra region of the park. The elevation is higher so the weather is often different from that in the valley. There is also often snow into the early summer. There is much less people in this area of the park so it can be a welcome change for a day or two on a longer visit. There are several hiking options in the area and many mountains, domes, and meadows to explore.
- Glacier Point
If it’s not Tunnel View, Glacier Point is the most famous and incredible viewpoint within Yosemite. It is an overlook that is eye-level with Half Dome and also provides stunning views of Yosemite Falls, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Yosemite’s high country. Two strenuous day hikes (the Four Mile Trail and Panorama Trail) connect Glacier Point with Yosemite Valley.
- Vernal Fall
Of all the impressive waterfalls in the park, this is my favorite. This large cataract is 317 feet tall. The Merced River flows over Vernal Fall a mile or two after dropping off Nevada Fall as the second part of “The Giant Staircase.” Vernal Fall is a wide curtain of water that flows year round, but is greatly diminished by late summer. It is famous for rainbows.
- The Mariposa Grove
The Mariposa Grove is the largest of three sequoia groves within Yosemite. The largest sequoia in the park, Grizzly Giant, resides there. Grizzly Giant is 209 feet tall and has a circumference at the ground of 96.5 feet. In other words, it is one gigantic tree.
- The Mist Trail
Take the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall and you’ll get a workout as you ascend hundreds of stone stairs and you’ll also get soaked along the way. It is the best trail in the park (and also one of the most popular ones). I encourage you to continue past Vernal Fall to the brink of Nevada Fall before descending on the John Muir Trail back to the Happy Isles trailhead. This is one of my favorite hikes in the entire National Park System. If you have time for one hike in the park, make it this one.
- Yosemite Valley
The valley is likely the most famous and most scenic valley in the world. The majority of the items on this list are located in Yosemite Valley. Beware, the valley is always crowded. That should come as no surprise considering it is only about seven miles long and one mile wide. Once you find a place to park, get out and just walk around. Take your time and admire the sights. You’ll spend most of your time looking up. There’s Half Dome, Yosemite Fall, El Capitan and several other magnificent sights to see. There are also short, easy hikes to enjoy and large open meadows to scout for wildlife. There are a couple of campgrounds and lodges located within the valley as well as my top National Park General Store.
- Half Dome
When I hear “Yosemite,” Half Dome is the first thing that pops into my mind. Maybe that’s because I will never forget the grueling hike I made to its summit. The granite monolith is easily recognizable and impressive from the valley floor or from Glacier Point, but it is equally striking and intimidating up close. It is extremely popular among hikers (a permit is now required to cut down on the crowds), rock climbers, and photographers. There’s nothing quite like ascending the cables up the final 400 feet to reach the summit.