Yosemite National Park had about 4.42 million visitors in 2019, but it dropped to 2.27 million visitors in 2020 due to COVID-19. This national park is one of the oldest and most visited national parks for its waterfalls and granite formation. People recommend going during the Spring to see the waterfalls at their fullest, but we came here during the summer and still loved it. Here’s my list of recommended places to see while you’re at this national park.
The construction of the Wawona Tunnel opened to the public on June 18, 1933, and it took about 230 tons of dynamite to create this near-mile-long tunnel. This famous overlook has views of the El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridalveil Fall, and more. We loved this spot so much that we decided to have lunch here on the second day. If you grab lunch here, I would sit on the ledge on the upper parking lot to avoid the crowd.
What Have I Learned: Tunnel View is about 45 minutes from the park’s southern entrance. It’s best to come during sunrise or sunset to watch the light come up or descend onto the beautiful overlook.
This easy 1-mile trail ends with a view of North America’s tallest 2,450 feet waterfall. We went in July and there was not much of a waterfall and no river stream. April and May are the months you want to come if you want to see the waterfall at its fullest but it depends on the rainfall and other factors. After the storm in October 2021, you can see water flowing in force which is rare in the Fall. The great thing about the summer months is that you can hike up to the falls if you are willing to climb on top of all the rocks. It didn’t look easy so we decided to skip it so we didn’t hurt ourselves at the start of our trip.
What Have I Learned: The Yosemite Village Visitor center is a short walk from the trail. We parked near the entrance to the trail and walked to the Yosemite Village Visitor center to hit the restroom and learn more about the park first.
El Capitan is over 3,000 feet high in granite land formation. During the fall and spring, you’ll find rock climbers scaling El Capitan. The El Capitan is a great spot to watch the climbers but you’ll probably need binoculars. In addition, you’ll be able to see the Lower and Middle Cathedral Rock, and the Cathedral Spires. This is also a great spot for sunsets according to others.
What Have I Learned: If you heard about the fire waterfall in Yosemite, this is a favorite spot to capture it in February. When the sun hits the waterfalls, the water flowing over El Capitan’s rock looks like moving fire. Lucky visitors were able to see the fire waterfall in Oct 2021 after the crazy storm that brought down more than 6 inches of rain within 36 hours.
This overlook at an elevation of 7,214 feet has panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country. This is only accessible by car from late Spring through October or November and it’s a quick walk from the parking lot.
What Have I Learned: If you stay here until it’s dark, you may be able to see the Milky Way spread across the sky. It’s always colder at Glacier Point than in the Valley so wear an extra layer if you go.
This is a 1.8 miles round-trip trail where you’ll have to scramble up the Sentinel Dome’s granite This is a 1.8 miles round-trip trail where you’ll have to scramble up the Sentinel Dome’s granite slope to enjoy a breathtaking 360-degree view of the park. We got to the top just in time to see a lightning storm on the other side of the park. We stayed for a little bit to watch but left shortly since it was headed our way.
What Have I Learned: The Sentinel Dome and Taft Point trails can be combined into a loop hike which makes it a 4.9 miles loop. We originally planned to do the two trails together but when it started to thunder, we knew it was just a matter of time before it started to rain.
This 2.2 miles round-trip hike has a close view of the Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Fall, and El Capitan below. Looking back at our photos, I wish I wasn’t scared of heights and enjoy the views more when I was there. Depending on where you stand, it’s about a 2,000 feet drop.
What Have I Learned: The trail is only accessible when the Glacier Point Road is open, approximately late May through October or November.
Mist Trail (Vernal Falls)
This was no easy 1.6 miles round trip trail because it’s all uphill going to the falls and going back downhill wasn’t easy either. Although it wasn’t easy, it was worth the hike to get up close to such a powerful waterfall during the Summer. You can get some great shots by the stairs. We were debating if we wanted to do the upper trail but decided not to since we had more hikes to do the next couple of days. I googled some photos after to see what I missed and I am glad we didn’t do it.
What Have I Learned: The mist trail leads to two large waterfalls: Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. It’s 2.4 miles round trip to the top of Vernal Falls but you can continue to the top of Nevada Falls for a 5.4 miles round trip trail.
Washburn Point – This is just 3/4 miles south of Glacier Point with a side view of Half Dome and more direct views of Vernal and Nevada Falls. This is also only accessible by car from late May through October or November.
Devil’s Elbow – We noticed a lot of cars parked by the river so we decided to check this spot out. There were a lot of people swimming and enjoying the cool water on a hot summer day. We ate our lunch and took in the beautiful calming scenery around.
Mariposa Grove – This is filled with giant Sequoia trees. This is a great trail if you have never seen Sequoia trees before. The upper parking lot where Mariposa Grove was closed when we went in July 2021. You have the option to hike 2 miles to Mariposa Grove from the lower parking lot. Once we got to the top, we realized that the Grove was closed and the hike down was no easy fleet. So the lesson here is to make sure it’s open before you start the hike there.
Bridalveil Fall – This is a short 0.5 miles roundtrip waterfall trail. At 620 feet tall, it’s famous for its mist which resembles a bridal veil. You will most likely get wet if you go during Spring and Summer. We didn’t get to go to this one sadly because it was closed due to construction.
Plazuelas Mexican Restaurant & Taqueria – This popular restaurant is located in Oakhurst which is about an hour from Tunnel View where we stayed. It was packed when we arrived around 7 PM but we probably didn’t wait for more than 10 to 15 minutes. There are indoor and outdoor seating available. We ordered the chicken super wet burrito and loved it.
Hours: Mon to Wed: 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM/Thur to Sat: 11:00 AM to 8:30 PM/ Sun: Closed
What Have I Learned: We had to make reservations in advance to enter Yosemite National Park during the Summer but it looks like you no longer need to make reservations in advance now. It’s always good to check before you go.
Cost: 35 USD (7-day non-commercial vehicle permit)/ Motorcycle: 30 USD/ Individual: 20 USD
Hour: Open 24 Hours
What is your main transportation in Yosemite National Park? Car
How long did it take to get to Yosemite National Park? It was a 3+ hours drive from Sequoia National Park.
Where did you stay? Yosemite Southgate Hotel & Suites
When did you go to Yosemite National Park? End of July 2021/First week of August (48 to 77 degrees)