Yosemite is a national park on its own level completely! You need a few days to explore the park properly but it can also be done in one day.
There are many places to stay in Yosemite both in the park and locally.
I chose to stay out of the park at Yosemite Mountain Bug Rustic This accommodation was a great place to stay with good facilities, lovely staff and also a great restaurant. Whilst it is about a 50-minute drive in the morning to the main Yosemite area, it is cheaper than anywhere closer, and is great for if you don’t want to camp.
The accommodation is old school set up in the forest, but there is plenty of people around with the rooms being fairly modern and very comfortable to stay in (I stayed in the 6 bed, mixed dorm). The kitchen was easy to cook in, but I gave up cooking when I realised how good their food at the dining hall was. The dining hall is where everyone gathers for meals, board games and to have a chat. They do a different menu every night, but the thing you must try is the pie! I ended up having pie for dinner two nights in a row. They also do a great packed lunch if you want something to take for your hikes through Yosemite.
So Yosemite is massive and there is a gazillion things to do there. Here are a few tips and also the main attractions, plus a few extra hikes you can do.
-Make sure you are up in the park by 9am, this will mean that you can find a park in all day parking and use the shuttle bus around the park. I parked at shuttle stop 17 where there is a camp site.
-There are a few spots to get lunch in the center of the park, but I would suggest bringing your own food with you
-There are bears around, make sure any food that is in your car is hidden from sight, and If camping be sure to use the food storage lockers.
-Never go hiking when there are Thunderstorms, and be sure to always take lots of water, food/ energy bars and some extra layers on hikes. Also a first aid kit can be helpful on long hikes.
What to see:
Yosemite Falls: These falls are massive, and are easily accessible by foot. Just a short 1 mile
hike to the bottom of the lower falls. Give yourself 30 minutes for the walk and a little bit of time to take some photos.
The easiest way to get to Lower Yosemite Falls (see right) is by the Shuttle Bus, at stop 6.
Hike 1: Lower Yosemite Falls
Distance: 1 mile (1.6km loop)
Time: 30 minutes
If you want to go higher up to see the full falls there are two options (Begin at camp 4, near shuttle stop 7)
Hike 2: to Columbia Falls
Distance: 2 miles (3.2km) with 1,000 ft. elevation
Time: 2-3 hours
Hike 3: Top of Yosemite Falls
Distance: 7.2 miles (11.6km loop) over 2,700 ft. elevation gain.
Time: 6-8 hours’ round trip
Mirror Lake (left): This lake is a great spot to start your day with an easy leisurely hike on mostly flat ground. It takes an hour and is a 2-mile round trip to the lake. The lake has an incredible reflection of the surrounding cliffs.
Distance: 2 miles (3.2km) round trip
Time: 1 hour
Tunnel View (featured image): This is one of the most famous picture taking spots in Yosemite. Tunnel View is located on the East end of the Wawona Tunnel along the Wawona Road (Highway 41).
Make sure you stop here and take in the breathtaking view of El Captain and Bridalveil Falls rising from Yosemite Valley with half dome in the background.
If you stop at different times of the day you will notice how the colours change throughout the day based upon the sun. I found the afternoon was the best time to get a photo here.
Glacier Point: In the summer it is possible to get a bus up here, but the rest of the year you need to drive to glacier point (be sure to stop at Tunnel View on your way out here). Glacier Point has its own car parking, but it can get quite busy, so get in early, or in the afternoon. This is a great spot to overlook the whole park, with breathtaking views going as far as the eye can see. When you get up here you also have the option to take the four mile trail hike explained below.
Distance: 1 mile (1.6km round trip)
Time: 20 minutes
Four Mile Trail Hike (above): This hike was my favourite of my trip to Yosemite, there are several options of how you complete the hike.
The hike is 4.9 miles from top to bottom. You can either start in Yosemite Valley or you can begin the hike at Glacier Point. The views in the last 1.9 miles up the mountain are incredible so make sure you get to see them, the one bit you miss out on is the full view of Yosemite falls.
Begin at Glacier Point, hike down to union point and back to Glacier Point
Distance: 3.8 miles
Time: 2.5 hours
Hike One way, if you want to hike one way and can set up a car pool this is a great option. There is also a bus that runs in Summer that you can get at the top of Glacier Point.
If you choose to hike one way, there are advantages of both ways.
From bottom to top (up to Glacier point): the views get better and better the higher you go up, whilst a harder walk uphill you just keep building on incredible views and are able to then enjoy a picnic when you arrive at the top overlooking all of Yosemite Valley
From top to bottom (down to Yosemite Valley): the advantage of this is it is a much easier hike! Going downhill will certainly save you some time, and if you aren’t as fit as you would like to be this is definitely the easier option of getting to do the whole hike.
Distance: 4.7 miles (7.5km)
Time: 2 hours down the hill, 3.5 hours up the hill
Difficulty: easy/ moderate (down), moderate/ strenuous (up)
Hike up and back.
This is of course the hardest option and will likely take you the full day, but it is a great hike to go up the mountain and then come back down and get to take in the views all over again!
Distance: 9.4 miles (15km round trip)
Time: 6 hours – 8 hours
Hike to Taft Point and Sentinel Dome
Beginning at the Sentinel Dome/ Taft point trail head you can turn left to get to Taft Point which will provide you with beautiful views of Yosemite Valley.
If you turn right you head to Sentinel Dome with gorgeous 360 degree panoramic views after climbing up the dome at the end.
Distance: 2.2 miles (3.5km round trip)
Time: 2 hours
If you only have one day I would suggest going to see the lower Yosemite falls, walking into Moro Rock. Then drive to Glacier Point, stop at Tunnel View on the way and do the top part of the four-mile trail and then hike back up.
If you have a few days then I would suggest the following:
Day 1: Explore the town and valley, stop along the way and walk through the meadows. See Lower Yosemite Falls, walk into Moro Rock. Stop at Tunnel View on your way to the hike to Taft Point.
Day 2: Do the hike from the Valley up to Glacier Point, stop at Glacier Point to enjoy some lunch that you pre-packed and then hike back down to the Valley. If you have any energy left, stop in at Bridalveil Fall on your way to your accommodation.
Day 3: Hike to the top of Yosemite Falls and back down. Make sure to take lots of water and some lunch with you.