10 Attractions in Yosemite National Park You Must See

Yosemite Valley

Tucked in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in central California, Yosemite National Park is world-famous for its jaw-dropping natural wonders. It encompasses more than 700,000 acres of gorgeous wilderness. Every inch of this place is bursting with natural beauty in the form of incredible granite formations, elating waterfalls, streams, and massive giant sequoias. The abundance of beautiful attractions in Yosemite can leave you completely overwhelmed.

Not sure where to start? Check out these 10 amazing Yosemite attractions for a blissful trip.

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A Quick Glance Through

10 Most Amazing Attractions in Yosemite

1. El Capitan

El Capitan - One of The Most Iconic Attractions in Yosemite

Rising 3,000 feet from its base in Yosemite Valley, El Capitan is an incredible natural rock formation. This gigantic monolith looms over the western end of the valley.

El Capitan is known for its arduous climbs that should only be attempted by seasoned climbers.

Alex Honnold, a famous rock climber, made the first successful free solo ascent of the summit in 2017. The climb was featured in a 2018 documentary named Free Solo.

Hiking is another option to get to the top of El Capitan. You will need to hike about 18-20 miles depending on the trail route. The journey to the summit is tough and challenging.

If you are not up for this, then head over to the El Capitan Meadow to get an up-close view of the monolith. It is undoubtedly one of the most iconic tourist attractions in Yosemite National Park.

2. Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Fall - One of The Best Attractions in Yosemite

Gushing down from an impressive 620 feet, Bridalveil Fall is a magnificent spectacle of nature. 

Though the cascade is the most voluminous in the spring, the allure of the waterfall is irresistible throughout the year. It is definitely one of the must-see attractions in Yosemite Valley.

From the nearest parking area, a 0.5-mile round trip trail brings you to the base of the waterfall. Due to its powerful currents, you may find yourself getting sprayed by the mist of the water. So be prepared to get soaked.

There are several vantage points affording great views of Bridalveil Fall. Tunnel View and Valley View Lookout are a few of the best spots to photograph this gorgeous waterfall.

3. Glacier Point

Glacier Point - One of The Best Attractions in Yosemite

One of the most popular viewpoints in Yosemite, Glacier Point offers awe-inspiring vistas of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls.

It is positioned 3,214 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley and 7,214 feet above sea level.

Besides taking in the fantastic views, you can hike downhill from Glacier Point to the valley. But all hikes are extremely challenging. So, attempt it only if you are an experienced hiker.

Another thing to do here is stargazing. Stay back after sunset to enjoy a clear night sky adorned with stars and galaxies.

From Yosemite Valley, it is about a 30-mile drive to the Glacier Point parking area. The journey is about an hour long and you can easily walk to Glacier Point from the parking lot. This paved trail is wheelchair accessible.

The glacier point road is generally closed from late fall through early spring due to the snowpack. So, plan your visit accordingly.

4. Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls - One of The Must-see Attractions in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Falls is a spectacular three-tier waterfall cascading down the north wall of Yosemite Valley.

There are essentially three separate falls with a total drop of 2,425 feet. It is not only the tallest waterfall in Yosemite National Park but in all of North America.

This waterfall truly has an unbeatable charm that earns it a mention on the list of the best attractions in Yosemite.

For an amazing view of the falls, you can hike the 1-mile loop trail to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall. The top of Yosemite Falls is also accessible via the 7.2-mile out and back trail.

The hike to Yosemite Falls Top is strenuous yet one of the most rewarding. It can take 5-6 hours to complete this trail depending on one’s fitness level.

If you want to see Yosemite Falls at their peak, plan to visit during spring when winter snow begins to melt.

5. Half Dome

Half Dome - One of The Must-see Attractions in Yosemite National Park

Half Dome is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Yosemite. It stands nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level.

You can see this granite dome from a number of viewpoints in the park including Glacier Point and Mirror Lake.

The Glacier Point overlook lets you take in stunning views of Half Dome. For a closer look at this rock outcrop, head towards Mirror Lake. Here you can look up at the face of Half Dome from its base.

In addition to that, it is a famous hiking spot in Yosemite for expert hikers. A 17-mile out and back steep trail leads to the summit of Half Dome.

You can’t hike this trail without a permit. Read more about the Half Dome permit requirement on the NPS website.

6. Mariposa Grove

Mariposa Grove

Located near the south entrance of the park, Mariposa Grove is populated by over 500 mature giant sequoias. In 1864, the U.S. Congress passed legislation to protect Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. 

It is one of the best attractions in Yosemite National Park that you shouldn’t miss during your trip. The sheer size of the sequoia trees can leave you totally awe-struck.

A few of the top sights in the grove are the Grizzly Giant, the Fallen Monarch, and California Tunnel Tree. 

The Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove’s oldest tree, is estimated to be around 3,000-year-old. You can hike the 2-mile Grizzly Giant Loop trail to glimpse this ancient tree.

7. Tunnel View – One of The Coolest Attractions in Yosemite

Tunnel View - One of The Most Amazing Attractions in Yosemite

Tunnel View is Yosemite’s most cherished historic overlook. It has lured travelers and photographers since 1933 when the Wawona Tunnel opened for public travel.

Head to Tunnel View if you want to see the park’s most famous natural wonders in one frame.

From this spot, you can behold captivating vistas of Yosemite Valley with views of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall.

The viewpoint is located just outside of the Wawona Tunnel on State Highway 41. You can easily get here by car.

8. Vernal Fall

Vernal Fall

The 317-foot high Vernal Fall is a jewel in the crown of Yosemite National Park. Fed by the Merced River, it flows almost throughout the year though the flow reduces considerably by late summer. 

Vernal Fall is one of the most popular attractions in Yosemite National Park. To see this waterfall, you can hike the 1.6-mile round trip from Happy Isles trailhead to the Vernal Fall Footbridge. 

If you want to make it to the top of the fall, continue to hike further via Mist Trail. It is a 2.4-mile round trip hike with over 1000 feet elevation gain.

9. Taft Point

Taft Point
Image: Jim Bahn

Sitting at 3,500 feet above the valley floor, Taft Point is one of the most epic viewpoints in Yosemite.

A moderate 2.2 mile out and back trail from the parking lot leads to this spot. Once here, you will be rewarded with astounding views of Yosemite Valley with El Capitan and Yosemite Falls as a backdrop.

As you hike this trail, you will come across massive fissures dropping down to the floor of Yosemite Valley. Check out if you have got time.

Be extremely cautious while strolling around and enjoying the views. Leaning over the railing or stepping too close to the rock edges can be risky. So, act wisely when you visit any vantage point like this.

10. Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows
One of The Most Scenic Attractions in Yosemite (Image: Don Graham)

Tuolumne Meadows is home to some of the most enchanting landscapes in Yosemite National Park. It sits in the eastern high country of Yosemite at 8,600 feet.

If you want to bask in nature away from the touristy crowd of Yosemite, then you must visit this place. It offers breathtaking natural scenery dotted with rushing streams, towering granite peaks, huge domes, and colorful wildflowers, particularly in spring.

Another best thing to do is to hike Tuolumne Meadows’s easy-to-follow trails like Soda Springs Trail (1.5-mile round trip), Gaylor Lakes Trail (2-mile round trip).

You can drive through Tioga Road/Tioga Pass Road to get to this expansive subalpine meadow.

Before going there, be sure to check road conditions because Tioga road closes each year from winter through late spring due to heavy snowfall.

Tours of Yosemite National Park

If you prefer to visit Yosemite National Park on a guided tour, here are some great tours that go there.

Yosemite National Park Full Day Tour.

2-Day Yosemite Park Tour.

3-Day Yosemite Camping Tour.

Where To Stay

There are a handful of hotels inside Yosemite National Park. They are usually fully booked a year in advance during peak season.

If you can’t secure your lodging inside the park, then look for accommodation in a nearby town.

Oakhurst is one of the best locations to stay outside the park’s South Entrance. It is located just 16-mile away from the park. 

From budget inns to mid-range hotels, you will find a nice range of lodging options. Plus, there are many restaurants and shops in the town.

Best Hotels in Oakhurst

Mid-range: Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn.

Lower Budget: Oakhurst Lodge Yosemite.

Groveland is a historic town located 24 miles away from the park’s Big Oak Flat Entrance. If you are a history buff you will love your stay in the town. The intriguing history of this gold rush town oozes out of its historic buildings.

Best Hotels in Groveland

Mid-range: Yosemite Westgate Lodge.

Lower Budget: Berkshire Inn.

Map – Best Attractions in Yosemite

Click the icons to get more information about each attraction.

How To Get There

There are five entrances to Yosemite National Park.

– Tioga Pass Entrance to the east
– Big Oak Flat Entrance and Arch Rock Entrance to the west
– South Entrance to the south
– Hetch Hetchy Entrance to the north

If you are driving to the park from San Francisco, you can choose between Big Oak Flat Entrance and Arch Rock Entrance. For those traveling from San Diego or Los Angeles, the South Entrance will be the closest entrance.

To get to Yosemite by car from Las Vegas, you can use the Tioga Pass Entrance. However, this entrance closes in winter due to snow conditions. When Tioga Road is closed, the best option is to use the park’s South Entrance.

Hetch Hetchy Entrance is the least used entrance as it is only open during daylight hours.

If you are looking to fly in for a visit to Yosemite, there are many options to choose from.

– Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT): 95 miles; San Jose International Airport (SJC): 180 miles; San Francisco International Airport (SFO): 195 miles

Best Time To Visit

Yosemite has something unique to offer in each season. The best time to visit really depends on things you want to do there. 

To see Yosemite Valley’s waterfalls roaring and thundering, you should plan a visit in spring. Summer months are the best for hiking and rock climbing. It is also the high tourist season in Yosemite. So, popular sites in the park can easily get crowded.

For those looking to escape the summer crowds, fall is a great time to visit Yosemite. You won’t see many waterfalls in the fall though. Most waterfalls dry up completely by this time of the year.

Winter is the low season in Yosemite. Thick snow blankets the park making several areas of the park inaccessible by road. If you are looking to enjoy winter activities like skiing, ice skating, or snow-shoeing, then winter is an excellent time to visit here.

Further Reading

For more USA travel inspiration, read some of these posts.

Top 10 National Parks in The United States.

Best National Parks in Southern California.

10 Unmissable Attractions in Joshua Tree National Park.

12 Must-Visit Places in California.

Amazing Facts About Death Valley National Park.

12 Attractions in Yellowstone National Park You Must See.

Best Things To See in Zion National Park.

Over To You Now…

We hope you found our travel guide with the best attractions in Yosemite National Park helpful. Which are your favorite sights and attractions in the park? Please leave a comment below to let us know.

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