Fun things to do in Yosemite National Park

  • Black Bears at Crane Flat
    Black Bears at Crane Flat
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  • Tunnel View
    Tunnel View
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  • Views from Glacier Point
    Views from Glacier Point
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Most Viewed Things to Do in Yosemite National Park

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    hike to Cloud's Rest

    by richiecdisc Updated Sep 24, 2009

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    The Cloud's Rest is the highest visible peak from the Valley floor at nearly 10,000 feet and can be climbed from the Valley or more easily from Tioga Road though it is not a flat stroll from there either. It climbs 2300 feet in 7 miles. We opted for the latter as we were camping at White Wolf and preferred to avoid the crowds in the Valley. This was a good idea in theory but once we got on the trail at Tenaya Lake we ran into a swell of water that made walking across in our boots a poor choice (unless you like hiking for 14 miles in wet boots!). We backtracked to our car, grabbed our water sandals and returned ready.

    On the way over we noticed some mosquitoes but were more concerned with getting to the other side. Once across, we stopped to change back into our boots and were swarmed by hundreds. Needless to say we didn't sit and enjoy the moment. Once on the trail we were fine but whenever we stopped, especially near any kind of water, there were lots of mosquitoes. The worst part was towards the top where there was still a lot of snow to traverse. It was tricky footing in places so not exactly quick going and the mosquitoes were all over us. We wondered where they were coming from but later surmised that with the snow melting, there were surely big pools of water beneath-perfect for mosquitoes to lay their eggs!

    There was a bit of a ridge walk out to the Cloud's Rest top which was a little hairy but at least there weren't any bugs out there. The views from the top were amazing, with Yosemite Valley sprawling out before us, including good views of Half Dome. We hung out for a bit but knew we had a fair walk back. We would have preferred to keep walking down into the Valley even though it would have been a longer hike and a big elevation drop but our car was unfortunately back on Tioga Road. We would have done anything to avoid the mosquitoes! We were better prepared but going down the snowy sections was tougher (and slower) than going up so attacked again we were. Back at the water crossing near the beginning, we decided to take turns putting on our sandals with the other one swatting the mosquitoes. It helped a bit but was nevertheless nerve wrecking. I'm not sure I'll ever forget that wining buzzing sound in my ears ever again.

    Half Dome puffing no mozzies on Cloud's Rest itself dramatic views of Half Dome from Cloud's Rest
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    go where your feet take you

    by richiecdisc Updated Sep 24, 2009

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    With over 750 miles of trails criss-crossing Yosemite National Park, it is safe to say that it is one of the premier hiking parks in the US National Park system. Trails range from wheel chair accessible paved flat strolls to cable-assisted slick rock climbs. While not everyone that visits the park takes advantage of this fine network, they are far from devoid of traffic. You will see entire families backpacking and senior citizens doing hikes you might not imagine possible. This park attracts a wide range of hikers and it's easy to see why once you get out on the trails. They are very well marked and maintained and bring you to some incredibly scenic places.

    The trail heads are scattered all over the park and with two vehicles you could hike from one part of the park to another over the course of a day or a few days. Rangers can help you pick out a hike that best suits your ability and interests.

    pick a trail, any trail
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    Yosemite: the three-headed monster

    by richiecdisc Written Sep 23, 2009

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    Yosemite National Park is divided into three areas: Yosemite Valley, Tioga Road, and Wawona. Each has a beauty and charm all its own so to truly see a good representation of the park, you need to see all three. Most first time visitors only visit Yosemite Valley and certainly if time is limited it's not a bad strategy but you must realize that you are missing quite of bit of what the park has to offer in doing so.

    The Valley is accessed via a one-way loop road that is serviced by shuttle bus with full amenities, hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, and many trailheads. For proximity, the Glacier Point Road would be included in the area though it is not truly within the Valley Drive.

    the Valley does have its charms
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    swimming

    by rkearns Written Oct 3, 2008

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    there are swimming holes everywhere and you will see them as soon as you start to get higher up into the park. the water is clean and cold, but soooooooo refreshing! you feel like a kid again, jumping into the water in just your underwear. it wakes up your senses and makes you feel alive.

    the perfect place to wade a friend about to strip down to swim just another beautiful roadside swimming area

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    Mono Pass Trail

    by HasTowelWillTravel Written Mar 23, 2008

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    This longer trail resides at the eastern edge of Tuolumne in Yosemite NP. It is a singularly beautiful trail, running 3.6 miles up to Mono Pass. It starts at around 9500' and finishes at the pass at almost 10600'. The trail is mostly a moderate grade, with only a few steep sections.

    The landscape rises through some beautiful alpine meadows, with wildflowers present well into the summer months. Creeks cut through the region, with glimpses of some of the most remote peaks in Yosemite NP. And after you turn the corner at Mono Pass (and leave the park), you can look down the canyon all the way down to Mono lake. It is a stunning hike. A good bonus is a quick dip in the alpine lakes outside the park boundary. Brrrr!

    It is a longer hike, taking most of the day, but it is worth it. The trail is mostly deserted, with few hikers venturing that far from the conventional trails, and there is a wonderful quiet over the whole region. I highly recommend this trail for all in the Tuolumne area.

    The pass in sight!
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    More Views--Mariposa Grove

    by VeronicaG Updated Sep 4, 2007

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    We visited Mariposa Grove in the late afternoon, when the sun was intense. It was blessed relief to be shaded beneath these huge, living 'umbrellas'. I loved the mossy smell of the woods, filled with bird calls!

    Mariposa Grove has several trails which can take you through the Lower or Upper Groves, where you'll find these amazing trees:

    The BACHELOR AND THREE GRACES,
    THE GRIZZILY GIANT (thought to be over 2,700 years old), THE TUNNEL TREE
    THE FAITHFUL COUPLE

    If you'd like to ride through the grove, a tram is available to take visitors to see these sights. (picture 5).

    Lightning fires are prevalent in the late summer at Yosemite Park. The heat generated by the fire actually helps the Sequoia release its seeds. Soon...a tree is born!

    In the Spring and Fall, park rangers begin controlled burns--this practice removes accumulated debris and small evergreens and brush from the forest floor

    Mariposa Grove is also home to lofty Sugar Pines, whose cones can reach two feet in length (picture 4)! Our guide told us that once a cone of this size fell and smashed someone's windshield.

    **Yosemite Sightseeing Tours took us on a daylong trek through the national park--we highly recommend them. Ask for Sherri, she was an informative source and a wonderful guide!

    Our knowledgable guide, Sherri I Can't See the Forest For the Trees! Tall Tree-Wee Person A Sugar Pine Sporting Cones Open-air Tram
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    Mountain Showers Near Nevada Falls

    by thebeatsurrender Written Jun 21, 2007

    On the John Muir Trail, leading up to Nevada Falls, the rock next to you will get wetter and wetter until you are being showered by runoff. It's a really nice cool down after a long walk up in the sun.

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    Take a Tour..

    by Shihar Updated Sep 4, 2006

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    There are a variety of tours you can take at Yosemite. Some tours that are offered are the following:

    1) Big Trees tour-1 hour tour thru Mariposa grove- Spring through Fall
    2) Glacier Point-1/2 day tour thru Valley to Glacier Point
    3)Grand Tour
    4)Moonlight tour
    5)Tuolumne Meadows tour
    6) Valley Floor tour

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    Pothole Dome

    by chewy3326 Written Jul 6, 2006

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    As soon as you arrive at Tuolumne Meadows, pull off at Pothole Dome and walk the short and easy trail to the top of Pothole Dome, the easiest dome to summit in the park. The hike is probably only about 1/2-mile long, round trip, and gains 200 vertical feet. Fromt he parking area, the trail, follows the road along the edge of the meadow. Soon it reaches and follows the base of the dome; after 4-5 minutes from the trailhead, you'll find a place where you can get onto the dome. From there, follow the granite to the top, where there's a 360-degree view encompassing Tuolumne Meadows, Lembert Dome, Mt. Dana, Mt. Gibbs, Mammoth Peak, Unicorn Peak, Cathedral Peak, Fairview Dome, and a collection of other domes and peaks. The round-trip should take no more than 30 minutes.

    Tuolumne Meadows View from Pothole Dome Pothole Dome View from Pothole Dome
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    Pywiack

    by chewy3326 Written Jul 6, 2006

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    Pywiack, the Lake of Shining Rocks, is an astonishingly blue lake beside Tioga Road. The Mariposa Battalion discovered this large natural lake and decided to name it Tenaya Lake after the Ahwahneechee Chief Tenaya, but Tenaya protested, saying the lake was already named Pywiack. Be sure to stop along the lakeshore a few times to enjoy the scenery and the domes; Pywiack is surrounded by Stately Pleasure Dome and Tenaya Peak. The south shore is the best place to have a picnic by the lakeshore; there is also a beach.

    Pywiack Pywiack Pywiack Pywiack Pywiack
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    Big Oak Flat Road

    by chewy3326 Written Jul 5, 2006

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    Big Oak Flat Road, from Crane Flat to Yosemite Valley, is a road largely ignored by most visitors. Many enter via this route, but take little time to stop at roadside turnouts and instead head straight for the valley. It is true that there is much less to see (and the scenery is less grand) here than just about anywhere else in the park, but you can still take your time and enjoy the road. From Yosemite Valley, Big Oak Flat Road climbs up the canyon walls, passing through a series of tunnels to the Cascades, where you can view the Cascade Creek Falls; further on, you'll come to a good viewpoint at Valley Portal, where you can see Elephant Rock, the Merced River, Sentinel Dome, Cathedral Spires, and Bridalveil Fall. After this viewpoint, you'll pass through a rather long tunnel to reach the next viewpoint, where you can see El Capitan, Half Dome, and Sentinel Dome. From there, the road winds around a ridge away from Yosemite Valley towards the foothills; for a while, the road provides a good view of a burnt forest. Then you'll come to the Big Meadow Overlook, which allows a view through trees to Big Meadow, which signs at the turnout say is being enroached upon by forest. From there, the road winds its way to Crane Flat, where there is a gas station, a general store, and the Crane Flat Meadow.

    If you were to continue about a mile past Crane Flat on Hway 120 west, you'd pass a closed gate for the Crane Flat Fire Lookout. Which brings up a question... my 2003 edition of the Lonely Planet guide to Yosemite states that you can drive this road 2.3 miles to a parking area and walk a bit to the fire lookout, where there are good views of the Clark Range. Interestingly, when I asked a park employee at the Crane Flat gas station about the lookout, he said it was closed to the public; is anyone able to clarify this discrepancy?

    Big Oak Flat Road Big Meadow El Capitan and Half Dome
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    Poopenaut Valley Overlook

    by chewy3326 Written Jul 4, 2006

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    Downstream on the Tuolumne River from the fairly unknown Hetch Hetchy Valley is an even more unknown valley: Poopenaut Valley, a gorge carved out by the Tuolumne River and resembling the lower reaches of Kings Canyon. The scenery here is dry and granite, though a meadow at the valley floor does create a little green. This valley is best viewed from an unnamed, unsigned, and unmarked turnout on the Hetch Hetchy Road; Lonely Planet identified the overlook as the Poopenaut Valley Overlook. Looking east, you can also see the O'Shaughnessy Dam and Tueeulala and Wapama Falls. The scenery may be more foothill than alpine, but it is still attractive in its own right.

    Poopenaut Valley
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    Wapama Falls

    by chewy3326 Written Jul 4, 2006

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    From Tueeulala Fall, the Wapama Falls trail continues on a rocky and often hot and dry trail. There are several good viewpoints of Tueeulala Falls along the way; later, as the trail approaches Wapama Falls, you'll get a good view of the lower tier of the falls. The trail then begins to descend a set of rocky stairs; all along this part of the trail, Kolana Rock dominates the opposite shore. Looking east, you can see much of the farther reaches of Hetch Hetchy; looking west, the O'Shaughnessy Dam is visible. At the bottom of the rock staircase, the trail re-enters the shade; here you can already feel the mist of the great Wapama Falls. Just 50 yards ahead of you is the Wapama Falls footbridge, which spans Falls Creek and offers an amazing view of Wapama Falls. Later in the season, from July to autumn, you can stroll across the bridge and photograph the amazing falls; but in spring and June, though, the snowmelt-swollen stream bursting down Wapama Falls completely floods out the footbridge (as in when I was there). The spray from the falls will knock you out; and be careful while crossing the footbridge. In spring, high, swift water covers the bridge making walking across potentially dangerous. From the bridge, you can see the many levels of the powerful Wapama Falls dropping 1200 feet down a narrow gorge. There is no other trail in the park (not even the Mist Trail) that allows you to experience the beauty and power of a waterfall as much as the trail to Wapama Falls. On the way back, the hot sun will probably dry out your entirely soaked body.

    Wapama Falls Wapama Falls Wapama Falls
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    Tueeulala Falls

    by chewy3326 Updated Jul 4, 2006

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    Most visitors to Hetch Hetchy will never see Tueeulala Falls, an 840-foot free-leap that plunges down into the Hetch Hetchy valley. It reaches its peak in May, and usually dries out by early June; by sheer luck, 2006's record snowfall kept it alive until I came to Hetch Hetchy in late June. You can see it from as far away as the dam, but hiking closer wil allow you to see the beautiful fall more clearly. The trail to Tueeulala Falls, and then on to Wapama Falls, is extremely popular, probably since it is one of the only easy day hikes around Hetch Hetchy; we saw 40+ people on this hike.

    From the O'Shaughnessy Dam, walk into a 500-foot long tunnel. When you emerge from the other side, you'll see signs that say "Wapama Falls - 2.7 miles." Follow the only trail along the shore of the reservoir, with great views over to the falls and Kolana Rock. The trail is wide and flat (very few uphills), but there is very little shade; on a hot summer day, you might want to do something else (it was 97 degrees when we hiked it). About 1.1 miles from the trailhead, you'll see a trail junction; take the trail to the right, which says "Wapama Falls - 1.6 miles". Keep following the trail, which becomes somewhat narrower, and pass through fields of wildflowers and butterflies. Look across the reservoir to Kolana Rock; from here it is quite impressive. Not too long afterward, Tueeulala Falls comes back into sight, dropping down the side of the cliff; hiking another 5-10 minutes will put you near the creek that forms the falls. There is no view of the fall from here, but the cascading creek often floods the trail, and the mist from the cascade is refreshing when the sun is out. Although the main drop of Tueeulala Fall is only 840 tall, if you count the cascades beneath it, it is over 1000 feet.

    Tueeulala Falls Tueeulala Fall
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    O'Shaughnessy Dam

    by chewy3326 Written Jul 3, 2006

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    Despite the impassioned cries of environmentalists, the O'Shaughnessy Dam was built at the mouth of Hetch Hetchy Valley, flooding a meadow and forest filled canyon. Visitors today can only see features like the reflecting surface of Rock Pool in photos now, since it is now buried under a few hundred feet of the water. When the reservoir is full, the dam lets out water through its spillway, creating a powerful and even somewhat attractive artificial waterfall; this is particularly so when the fall creates rainbows. From the Hetch Hetchy Parking lot, walk across the dam for good views; from the middle of the dam, you'll be able to photograph Tueeulala Falls, the lower level of Wapama Falls, Hetch Hetchy Dome, and Kolana Rock all in one shot.

    O'Shaughnessy Dam
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