Yosemite National Park
Camping and Hiking Travel Guide
Say it with me, Yo-seh-mittee, not Yo-seh-might! Most people have heard of Yosemite but not everyone has been there. If you're one of the lucky few people in this world who's gotten to spend some quality time in Yosemite then you probably agree with me when I say "breathtaking" takes on a new meaning.
Should you visit Yosemite?
Yes! Yosemite is a true privilege to experience.
Yosemite is one of our country's most famous and memorable National Parks. At Yosemite you'll hear people speaking many different foreign languages which helps confirm it's status as an international travel destination. And the geological history behind the cliffs and why the granite is polished is extremely fascinating, and the story of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt's legacy is inspiring.
As cheesy as it sounds, the natural beauty of Yosemite gave me a new reason to live.
Planning and Preparing to visit Yosemite
To start your Yosemite planning process, consider your accommodations first. Overnight or not? If yes, and you're a camper, secure a tent spot online ASAP. Yosemite Camping Reservation Information. If the camping spots are all taken, keep checking online until the day-of your trip. You might get lucky!
If that doesn't work, consider getting up early on the day-of your trip and get to Yosemite for first come first serve camping spots. You can drive around the first come first serve campground and look for open spots. If they're all full, you can ask the campers if they're leaving. If they are, you have a spot! You can also check the post on their campground. The slip of paper on the post says the date they are checking out. Getting a FCFS spot is more difficult on weekends than weekdays. Here's some more info on camping without a reservation.
Yosemite Hiking Checklist - don't forget these essentials!
- Clothes according to the weather
- Good hiking boots or trail shoes
- A hat
- Trail snacks
- Lots of water
How to get to Yosemite
Yosemite is a three hour drive from San Francisco and a four and a half hour drive from LA. Yosemite is very reasonable to get to if you're in California. Just plug in Yosemite Valley Visitor Center on your GPS and go!
What to do in Yosemite
You're going to want hiking, and lots of it. There's many great hiking trails. Stop by the visitor's center and ask which hikes are best for your skill level.
Best Yosemite Hikes
- We really recommend hiking to Vernal Falls via the Mist trail, it's a little steep but only a few miles round trip
- If you're not tired at the top of Vernal Falls, and still have daylight, walk a couple more miles uphill past Vernal Falls to Nevada Falls
- If you have all day and are an experienced hiker, apply for a permit to summit Half Dome
The permit for the Half Dome hike is picked lottery style. Only a certain number of people are allowed to go up Half Dome each day and no one is allowed up during certain seasons/weather. If you don't get the permit, apply again a couple days before. If that fails try to get one day-of at the Visitor Center. Check out our How to Hike Half Dome Guide Here.
In addition to world-class hiking and rock climbing, there is also river rafting in Yosemite and winter sports.
Tip for Visiting Yosemite
While in Yosemite, think about all the elements that played together to make the valley look the way it does today. The huge boulders and cliffs used to be molten lava under the ground. The lava cooled and hardened, turning into sparkly grey granite in the form of unique shapes. Tectonic movement pushed the shapes upwards and into the sky. Erosion and tectonic movement washed away loose dirt and rocks. During an ice age, the valley used to be filled by one giant piece of ice. This glacier slowly polished the rocks and made them shiny and smooth, like a smooth bowling ball. Learn more about Yosemite's Geology on the NPS website.
- Take a picture with you friends and family at one of the iconic Yosemite viewpoints such as the Glacier Point View or the Wawona Tunnel view
- The Sierra Nevada rocks also host some of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Within driving distance to Yosemite there are lakes such as Tanaya Lake and Bass Lake. 2-3 hours from Yosemite there's also Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake. We stopped at Bass Lake on the way back to LA during the summer and rented a boat for some lake fun and tubing
Visit Yosemite Today!
Yosemite is so beautiful that visiting will leave you wanting more. I wish everything in life could be as beautiful as Yosemite. The scenery is just unreal. So what do you do after all the serotonin wears off? You tell your friends about your great experience. You get them to visit if they haven't been. You read more about the history of the park. You look at the pictures you took, over and over. Then you start planning your next camping and hiking trip!
Check out our pictures from the Half Dome Hike below!
What hike is best for people who don't hike a lot?
Some of the best hikes for people with less experience are the Vernal Falls Hike and the Lower Yosemite Falls Hike. Both offer gorgeous views. For more information about either of these hikes and to see more hiking options sorted by difficulty click here.