One of the world’s most beautiful National Parks is located right in our backyard! More than 5 million people visit Yosemite each year, the majority of them spending all of their time in Yosemite Valley. The valley is a spectacular sight to see, but the park as a whole is 1,189 square miles! There is so much to explore and discover year round. We want to share with you some of our favorite Yosemite spots and hope to continually add to this list as we check more off our Yosemite bucket list!
Rush Creek Lodge is the place to go if you would like to stay at a hotel while visiting Yosemite. It’s brand spankin’ new, the and has all of the creature comforts you could want. It’s rustic, modern decor is cozy and welcoming. There is an on site restaurant, bar, and an amazing pool area for fun in the sun (or hot tubbin’ in the winter). Large rooms and hillside villas make it perfect for families or a friends retreat. All rooms come with a patio too, so you can enjoy the beautiful sunsets and fresh mountain air.
If you plan to visit in the winter, check out their winemaker dinner series for a luxuriously delicious meal paired with local wines.
Housekeeping Camp is great if you love the outdoors without the fuss and muss of setting up camp. It’s perfectly situated on the Merced River which offers amazing views. The camp is filled with structures made with concrete walls and a canvas opening. All of them are outfitted with electricity so you can bring along some mood lighting, a space heater, and of course that smartphone charger…Make sure to make reservations early for this camp.
Half Dome Village, formerly Curry Village is our go to budget accommodations. The tents are located in the middle of Yosemite Valley and have all the necessary sleeping essentials. We would suggest this option if you’re looking to save money and want to stay close to the valley action. Make sure to bring ear plugs since the tents are fairly close together and are made of canvas.
Camping (in tents) is the most popular Yosemite lodging option. With 13 campsite options spread throughout the park you have your choice. Campsites vary in amenities like toilets and water sourcing so you can rough it as much as you feel comfortable with. Some sites are even horse friendly! Check out our Camping Gear Review if you are looking to get some new equipment for your trip.
Yosemite High Sierra Camp reservations are highly sought after, so you’ll have to be prepared to be put in a lottery and have flexible travel dates. Applications are accepted in September and October for the following year and winners are notified in the spring. Get off the grid and hike from camp to camp for a true backcountry experience. Camps are spaced 6 to 10 miles apart, but no fear…you won’t have to carry all of that pesky backpacking equiptment. Shelter, beds, restrooms and meals are available at each camp!
Arch Rock Entrance is worth a photo! If you enter Yosemite on El Portal Road (Highway 140) you’ll pass underneath this iconic arch.
Tunnel View is a must see for anyone visiting Yosemite. Best seen during a stop in or out of the Valley, this rest stop has breathtaking views of a little of everything Yosemite has to offer: a waterfall, beautiful views, towering granite walls, and greenery of all sorts.
Sentinel Meadow & Cook’s Meadow Loop is a great boardwalk stroll through Yosemite Valley. Make sure to gaze up and around you as you stroll in this open area to take in the sights and beauty that surround you. Often you’ll see deer grazing and you’ll most likely be wanting to take a photo every few steps.
Mirror Lake is one of the shorter and flatter trails of the area. The trail winds through the woods, along the river, and is great for the whole family. You can either take a paved route (dogs allowed on the first mile) or the one a more woodsy route. The Lake is named after it’s very still surface water allowing for a perfect reflection!
Yosemite Falls is the park’s crown jewel. When it’s flowing you can watch water tumble down 2,425 ft to the valley floor. It’s easily accessible from Yosemite Village so you won’t want to miss it. To see Yosemite Falls in action make sure to visit sometime April-June.
Horsetail Fall is one of the smaller less noticeable waterfalls in the Valley, only flowing for a short period of time each year. It is most known for the Yosemite Firefall phenomenon that occurs for only two weeks in early February if the conditions are right. During this time the sun hits the waterfall right before sunset causing the waterfall to light up in a bright orange color for a few minutes before fading away. Skies have to be clear and enough water has to be running in order for a good viewing. Make sure to get there early to stake out a spot because it does get crowded!
Nevada Fall flows all year long. To see it in all of it’s glory we recommend hiking up to the top of the fall for a cool perspective. It’s a tough 7 mile round trip hike, but it’s definitely satisfying and you’ll be happy you made the journey.
Vernal Fall is a beautiful waterfall. We love the hike since it is perfect in length and difficulty- not too long or too short and not too hard or super easy. Another cool thing is that there is often a rainbow hovering near the bottom!
Half Dome is the most recognizable landmark in Yosemite. The 14-16 mile hike to the top is one of the longest and hardest day hikes in the park with an elevation gain of 4,800 feet. This hike definitely requires preparation in both training and planning as a permit obtained in a raffle is needed. At the top the views are unmatched and its extremely rewarding. Make sure to allow yourself enough time for descent since no overnight stays are allowed.
Hetch Hetchy is a lesser known Yosemite gem. It’s located in the northwest corner of the park and is just outside of the park on Highway 120, near the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station. The rocky cliffs and pristine waterfalls are breathtaking and it’s cool to see where our drinking water comes from. The O’Shaughnessy Dam feeds from the 117-billion-gallon reservoir providing water to 2.4 million Bay Area residents. This is a lovely place to visit for a day hike and a history lesson.
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias is one of the lesser known Sequoia groves located in Yosemite just a few miles past Mariposa Grove. You must hike in to see the grove since it is not accessible by road. In the winter you can also snowshoe in. We loved the white snow against the contrast of these big, beautiful trees!
Fork & Love has some of the best food for miles around. There’s a high chance you’ll be driving through Groveland on your way to and from Yosemite. If you’re looking for the perfect place to rest fill up on delicious food, make sure to stop by Fork & Love. Chef Aaron uses local ingredients for unique and mouth watering meals. His presentation is also beautiful and the service super friendly. It’s best to call for a reservation since it gets busy with Yosemite visitors. (Open for dinner only)