There is no place like it. With 1,200 square miles of iconic landscapes, waterfalls, valleys, meadows and giant sequoias, one visit to Yosemite National Park isn’t enough.
I’ve always wanted to visit this magical place, and when my friends invited me on a camping trip to Yosemite and a few nights in Big Sur, I was all in.
The drive from Los Angeles to Yosemite can be done in under approximately five hours on the US-395 Highway. We left LA in the morning and tried to keep the stops at a minimum so that we could take advantage of the day inside the park. We did, however, stop at Gull Lake and June Lake, in Mono County, California to break up the drive a bit. So Beautiful!
VISITING YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
Nearly 75% of visitors come during May through October. Wake up early or explore at night if you want to avoid the crowds.
Yosemite National Park is open year-round, and all areas of the park usually remain open through October, and sometimes November. There can be closures in the winter because of snow. You’ll want to bundle up, especially at night, since temperatures start to drop in the Fall. Despite wearing several layers to go to sleep, I was still cold at night and in the early morning.
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.
WHAT TO DO IN THE PARK
Glacier Point – An overlook with a breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. There is a parking lot here that’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, El Capitan is best seen from the roads in western Yosemite Valley. You’ll also get a great view from El Capitan Meadow.
Bridalveil Fall – Located opposite from El Capitan, it’s a short walk from the road to get an even better view of the 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. Check out various trails that range from easy to more challenging.
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.
WHERE WE STAYED
Since 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. Reservations here can be made up to 6-months in advance.
WHAT TO BRING
If you are camping – You’ll want to bring all your essential gear (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food, cooking utensils, etc.) Our campsite had water, but I like to bring my Camelbak to stay hydrated throughout the day.
What to wear – Bring layers so you can wear 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.
If you forget firewood, you can buy it at the stores inside 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.
Don’t forget your camera; I always bring my GoPro because it takes great pics and it doesn’t take up too much space.
Check out my other travel guides for National Parks here.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Yosemite National Park? When is your favorite time of year to visit?