Yosemite National Park: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Vernal Falls from the John Muir Trail

Vernal Falls from the John Muir Trail


Say it with me, Yo-seh-mittee, not Yo-seh-might. Most people have heard of Yosemite but not everyone can put a face to the name. If you're one of the lucky few people in this world who has gotten to spend some quality time here then you agree with me when I say "breathtaking" takes on a new meaning.

So why visit Yosemite? Yosemite is one of our country's most famous and memorable National Parks and a true privilege to experience. At this park you will hear people speaking many different foreign languages which helps confirm the park's status as an international travel destination. The geological history behind why the rocks look the way they do is extremely fascinating, and John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt's legacy is inspiring.

As cheesy as it sounds, after my first time there, the natural beauty of Yosemite gave me a new reason to live.

The Visor at the top of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley down below

The Visor at the top of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley down below


Everything you need to know about visiting Yosemite National Park

Planning and Preparing to visit Yosemite

To start your Yosemite planning process, consider your accommodations first. Overnight or not? If yes, and if 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, get up early day-of your trip and get to Yosemite for first come first serve camp spots. Drive by people's camp spots in first come first serve campgrounds. If they're awake ask them if they are leaving that morning. 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. More Info on camping without a reservation.


There are a lot of other options nearby including Airbnb's, Yosemite hotels, and Yosemite cabins - Yosemite Lodging Information

Items you might consider bringing on a trip to Yosemite include: tent and camping gear, hiking gear, camping food and hiking snacks, sunscreen, Camelback, hat, comfy shoes with good grip, hiking clothing according to the weather, swimsuit, basic essentials and toiletries, firewood, water, snacks, and cash.

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 the area, considering the reward your presented with once you're inside the park.

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. The scenery is majestic and leaves you wanting more. There's a lot of good hiking trails. Stop by the visitor's center and ask which hikes are best for your skill level.

Contemplating at Emerald Pool

Contemplating at Emerald Pool

  1. We really recommend hiking to Vernal Falls via the Mist trail, it's a little steep but only a few miles round trip
  2. 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
  3. If you have all day and are an experienced hiker, apply for a permit to summit Half Dome

The permit 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.


Tips 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.

Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Falls in the Distance

Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Falls in the Distance

  • Make sure to 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 from Yosemite there is also Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake (The Donner Family!). We stopped at Bass Lake on the way back to LA during the summer and rented a boat for some lake fun and tubing

Yosemite National Park Website

Back to Reality

Leaving Yosemite is depressing because you're left wanting more. I wish everything in life could be as beautiful as Yosemite. The scenery is just unreal. What do you do after all the serotonin wears off? You tell everyone about your great experience. You get them to visit if they haven't been. You learn about the history behind the park. You look at the pictures you took, over and over.

Now is also a great time to plan your next trip. Consider going to Pinnacles Nation Park or Zion National Park as your next destination!

Check out our pictures from the Half Dome Hike below!


Yosemite Q&A

Question: What hike is best for people who don't hike a lot?

Answer: Hi, thanks for sending us a message! Yosemite is our favorite destination and we're really happy you'll be visiting. 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. Thanks again for your message and we hope you have a wonderful time in Yosemite! -Exsplore