Wondering when is the best time of year to visit Yosemite National Park? To help you plan your trip to Yosemite in California, we’ve put together this travel guide packed with tips on the best time to visit, how to get here, and the top things to do on your journey.
Best time of year to visit Yosemite
If you want to avoid traffic and crowds, the best time to visit is before or after the summer months, (Mid-May to June and September to early October.) During this time it won’t be too hot, making for more enjoyable hiking weather.
Nearly 75% of visitors come from May through October. If you want to make the most of your trip, wake up early and explore at night for a unique and quiet experience.
Check out my other National Park Travel Guides.
Yosemite National Park is open 365 days a year. All areas of the park usually remain open through October and sometimes November. Monitor Yosemite weather for snow closures. Even though this is California, if you visit during the colder months, we recommend that you bundle up. At night, temperatures drop significantly. Keep this in mind if you plan on camping during your trip.
How to plan your trip to Yosemite
As soon as you get to Yosemite National Park, you’ll realize that one visit is not enough. With its gushing waterfalls, giant sequoias, valleys, meadows, and hiking trails, a visit to Yosemite is on every adventure traveler’s bucket list. With 1,200 square miles of iconic landscapes, there is no place like it.
How to get to Yosemite National Park
When my friend Ashley invited me on a California road trip from Los Angeles to Yosemite, followed by a camping trip in Big Sur and a drive down the California Coast, I had to say yes!
The drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite takes approximately five hours on the US-395 Highway. We left LA early in the morning and tried to keep the stops to a minimum to make the most of our time inside the park.
We made a quick stop at Gull Lake and June Lake in Mono County, California. These places are worth a visit on their own, and an excellent place to stretch your legs if you need to break up the road trip.
Camping near Yosemite
If you want to camp inside Yosemite, you have to make a reservation early. Since all the campsites inside Yosemite National Park were already reserved, we stayed in Summerdale Campground.
This campsite is located 1.5 miles from the South entrance to the park, just past the town of Fish Camp. You can make reservations up to 6-months in advance.
Yosemite National Park is home to hundreds of American black bears; use a food locker or bear canister, and be aware of the speed limits.
Places to Stay
- Yosemite Valley Lodge – El Capitan is 3.9 km from Yosemite Valley Lodge.
- The Ahwahnee – Situated in Yosemite Village, The Ahwahnee is 700 m from Yosemite Valley.
What to do on your visit to Yosemite National Park
Glacier Point – This is one of my favorite places inside the park. Glacier Point is an overlook with a breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. Grab your camera, and soak in the views.
The parking lot can get full, but it’s accessible late May through October or November.
Half Dome – It can take 10 to 12 hours to complete the 16-mile round trip hike to Half Dome. (While we didn’t get to do this hike, I’m confident you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views if you do.)
El Capitan – Rising 3,000 feet above the floor, one of the best views of El Capitan is from the roads in western Yosemite Valley. You’ll also get a great view from El Capitan Meadow. Can you imagine free soloing here?
Bridalveil Fall – Located opposite from El Capitan, it’s a short walk from the road to get an even better view of Bridalveil waterfall.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – One of my favorite sites inside Yosemite National Park. Home to over 500 giant sequoias, this is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite. There is a free shuttle that takes you to Mariposa Grove from the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza, near the South Entrance. Trails range from easy to more challenging.
Unplug your phone, and connect with yourself and nature.
Did you know? In 1864 President Lincoln signed legislation protecting the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley for “public use, resort, and recreation.” For the first time in our nation’s history, the federal government set aside scenic natural areas to be protected for the benefit of future generations.
Yosemite National Park Packing Guide
Camping Gear– You’ll want to bring all your essential gear (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food, cooking utensils, etc.) Our campsite had water and toilets. There was also a bear sighting that night!
What to wear – If you’re visiting in the cooler months, bring layers to keep you warm underneath your jacket. A hat, beanie or scarf might also come in handy if you tend to get cold. As I mentioned, it can get pretty chilly at night, depending on the time of year you visit. Pack your hiking boots and other shoes to change into if you don’t want to wear your hiking boots all day.
You can purchase firewood inside the stores in the park near the gas stations.
Bring your National Parks Pass if you have one. It’s worth the $80 if you plan to visit more than one park.
The best time of year to visit Yosemite National Park is before or after the summer months to avoid traffic and crowds. California road trips are the best, and Yosemite is only five hours from Los Angeles. If you want to camp inside Yosemite, you have to make a reservation early. Bring layers to dress for cooler temperatures, and don’t forget your camera to capture memories of the best places to visit in Yosemite.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Yosemite National Park? When is your favorite time of year to visit?