Yosemite is one of our favorite National Parks and it's hard to argue about that. There are so many things to do and so many incredible photo spots all around this park! It was our first stop on our road trip and one of the most beautiful places we saw. We want to share our experience to make your trip even better!
This is one of Yosemites most famous viewpoints. It is easy to acces as it is just on the roadside of Wawona Road. You shouldn't miss this iconic view of Yosemite Valley. You can come here for sunrise or sunset or just on midday when the sun is at its highest and the whole valley gets some light.
From up here you can see all over the valley and the park. Half Dome dominates the whole valley with its unique shaped peak and in spring you can see all the waterfalls from up here. You can access the Viewpoint by car from Glacier Point Road which is about one hour drive from the valley. Or you can do it our way and hike the beautiful trail up to Glacier Point!
We started our trip early in the morning at Happy Isles Bus stop at the end of the Valley. From there the Mist Trail leads you along the river up to Vernal Falls. If you follow the trail further up you get to Nevada Falls (see the section Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls for more Information about that part of the trail). On top of Nevada Falls Mist Trail joins John Muir Trail which leads you further up to Glacier Point. There are more steep parts from there but you get beautiful views of Half Dome, the Waterfalls and Liberty Cap on the way. We arrived at Glacier Point at about 2pm and had lunch with a magnificent view. For our way down we chose to take Four Mile Trail. It is shorter but steeper than the walk over Mist Trail and John Muir Trail. Along the way you get nice views up the valley. Although we had a great day on that cool trail we were happy when we arrived back at our tent in Camp 4.
What to bring:
enough water (you can fill up at Glacier Point)
sun hut and sun block
Yosemite Valley is famous for its waterfalls. Especially for the Yosemite Falls. There are trails which lead you to Lower and Upper Yosemite Fall. The Trail to Upper Yosemite Fall is a longer and steeper hike. It starts from Camp 4 area and leads you up on top of Upper Yosemite Fall. The Trail to Lower Yosemite Fall can be accessed from Lower Yosemite Falls bus station and is just a short walk. Be aware that there is often no water in the falls in summer (from July to October)! Unfortunately we weren't able to see them either as we visited in September.
Vernal Falls and NEvada Falls
As mentioned before the Trail to these falls starts from Happy Isles bus station. You walk along Merced River up to Vernal Falls. In summer it often has not much water but it is nice though. From there you have to walk up some steep steps to the top of the waterfall. Then the trail leads you further up along the river to Nevada Falls.
We took some nice pictures in the late afternoon light of the river and the Falls.
If you're not the hiking type of person there are enough incredible views in the valley. When driving along the river you can discover some excellent photo spots. There you can also find mule deers resting in the shadows under the trees.
Yosemite is the home of numerous giant Sequoias. If you take a hike in the national park you might also see some. Another option is to take a walk to one of the groves in the National Park. The two nearest to the Valley are Toloumne Grove and Merced Grove. Toloumne Grove makes a great stop over when you are heading up (or down) Tioga Road. On the trail you can marvel at some of the giants and take some cool shots.
When you leave the valley and drive up Tioga Road you pass some beautiful photo spots. One of them is Olmsted point. From here you can get some new views of Yosemites landscape which changes a little bit up here from the ruff cliffy valley into a wider landscape with stoney mountains.
Tenaya Lake is the next stop on Tioga Road after Olmsted Point. It is a nice spot to watch the sunset and on a nice day mirrors the surrounding mountains perfectly.
Lower Cathedral Lake
Another hike we did around Yosemite was the hike up to lower and upper Cathedral Lake. If you like a shorter walk you can end the trip on lower cathedral lake (like we did) or for a longer hike walk up until upper cathedral lake. We decided to walk around the lake and got some nice mirroring of Cathedral Peak.
Tioga Lake and Ellery Lake
One of the most beautiful camping spots on our trip was the campground at Tioga Lake. even when you don't plan to sleep here the view over the lake is worth a stop. Further down Tioga Road also already out of the borders of Yosemite lie a few other lakes from which we found Ellery lake as the most beautiful as we got perfect mirroring when we stopped there.