Yosemite’s unique glacial landscape is a shrine to the power of nature. Imposing granite monoliths. Breathtaking waterfalls that tumble over massive cliffs. Giant sequoias that almost touch the clouds. These make Yosemite one of the most iconic national parks in the US.
Located in the central Sierra Nevada of Northern California, Yosemite is a large wilderness that Abraham Lincoln made a protected area in 1864 with the Yosemite Grant. This area was then increased to about its current 1,169 square mile size and designated a National Park in 1890, with significant help from John Muir.
Almost 95% of the park is designated as wilderness. Whether you want to check out the highest waterfall in North America or catch some sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, you’ll be blown away by the untouched natural beauty of Yosemite. It also boasts unrivaled biodiversity to boot.
Around 4 million people visit Yosemite every year, making it one of the most visited parks in North America. Most visitors only pass-through for a day to check out the main sites of Yosemite Valley. However, If you only visit the Valley, you’re seriously missing out.
You’ll get far more out of this beautiful patch of wilderness by spending a few more days off the beaten track. Yosemite offers more than 800-miles of hiking trails! From family friendly day hikes to arduous alpine treks, there’s something for everyone at Yosemite.
Yosemite Valley and the Tunnel View are the two most well-known sites of the national park. Tunnel View is the first glimpse most people get of the Yosemite Valley, cut into a deep U-shape by slow-moving glaciers millions of years ago. While Yosemite Valley is the most visited section, it only makes up a tiny 1% of the total National Park area. From El Capitan to Dana Meadows, there are plenty more must-visits in Yosemite apart from the Valley!
What To See And When To Go
Yosemite is jam-packed with phenomenal sights and trails. Let’s take a look at the highlights along with important seasonal information, so you plan an unforgettable adventure.
When we think of Yosemite, many of us think of El Capitan. This impressive icon of the park is a famous granite cliff that looms over the Valley. It’s most famous amongst rock climbers who flock to the area to take a crack at the perfect granite.
At a massive 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. Believe us; it’s well worth taking a look. The waterfall is at it’s best in Spring as the snowmelt gushes over the cliff with unimaginable power.
It’s hard to miss the spectacle of the Sentinel Dome and Half Dome that rise to 4,800 feet over the Valley. There are many more domes like this in the park, but none as famous as these two.
The Tuolumne Meadows and Dana Meadows are vast, sub-alpine meadows through which the Tuolumne River winds. Surrounded by majestic rock formations and mountains, you’ll be captivated by this area’s scenery year-round.
As you hike, you’ll probably catch glimpses of the Clark Range and Cathedral Range along with the highest point of the national park, Mount Lyell, which reaches 13,100 feet. You can also check out the largest glacier in the park, Lyell Glacier. It’s one of the few remaining glaciers in the Sierra Nevada.
You can’t take a trip to Yosemite without visiting the ancient Sequoia Groves. There are three groves of age-old sequoia trees, which are among the largest and oldest in the world.
We also recommend you visit Glacier Point and Badger Pass. Glacier Point overlooks Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and much of the whole Sierra Nevada range. It’s 30 miles from Yosemite Valley and takes about an hour by car. This vista is easily one of the best views in the entire park.
On the road to Glacier Point, you’ll swing through Badger Pass. In winter, this is where you can reach Glacier Point by cross country skiing. It also offers excellent downhill skiing and snowshoeing opportunities.
Hetch Hetchy Valley is another lesser-known area, but it’s akin to the little brother of Yosemite Valley. It’s home to incredible scenery, but most importantly, it’s the starting point for many of the less-traveled trails.
Let’s not forget the fantastic biodiversity of this region. You can see all kinds of fauna here, including black bears, deer, bobcats, cougars, bighorn sheep, and foxes. The park is also home to 250 species of birds, several species of amphibians, and three kinds of reptiles that can only be found in the Sierra Nevada.
June To August features beautifully warm weather and complete access to all that Yosemite National Park has to offer. Lower elevation temperatures typically hover within the 50 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit range, dipping down to the 30s at higher altitudes.
Tioga Pass should be open by mid-June, providing spectacular views of imposing granite mountains and beautiful meadows. Speaking of views, the famous Glacier Point is a very popular waypoint for those looking for obstructed pictures of half-dome, among other Yosemite icons.
Take note, however, that high season is marked by a massive surge in visitors to Yosemite. Expect roads and popular day hikes to be very busy along with congested in-park traffic. Crowds typically diminish as backpacking trips move further away from populated areas, but all visitors must expect to share the magnificent views with others.
April through May and September through October see a sharp drop in visitors to Yosemite but feature spectacular opportunities for adventure. Temperatures typically range from 30 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and glistening snow patches can likely be seen on the mountain tops. Keep in mind that several high altitude roads and trails will likely be closed due to this snow, but there are still plenty of scenic opportunities at lower elevations.
Spring wildflower blooms are absolutely stunning and well worth the slightly cooler temperatures in May and early June. When Autumn rolls around, many visitors will retreat, but hiking and sightseeing opportunities still abound along with a somewhat higher chance of rain showers. But to avoid being shoulder to shoulder at every viewpoint, it may well be worth it!
November to March mark winter season at Yosemite, along with the tourist low tide mark. The temperature drops significantly, and most areas of the park receive plenty of snow. Therefore, if you’re looking to avoid crowds, this is the best time to come.
Due to snow and ice, many of the higher roads are closed from November to May or even June. However, you can still explore many of the higher trails on skis or snowshoes. Most of the lower trails remain open and snow-free all year round. What’s more, Wildland offers an array of beautiful winter tours that allow you to take in the full winter splendor of the area, and avoid crowds at the same time!
Yosemite’s imposing granite monoliths and powerful waterfalls offer some of the most mind-blowing mountain scenery in the world. Our backpacking trips show you the magic of Yosemite’s wilderness through the eyes of an adventurer, away from those busloads of tourists. You’ll want to prepare for these trips, and you should be comfortable walking 6-10 miles a day, including up steep inclines, with a 25-35 pound load strapped to your back. The work pays off, however, with epic views and delicious guide-prepared meals.
Do you want to adventure without the heavy pack and camping? Our inn-based hiking tours let you explore the wonder of Yosemite with the added luxury of a few cozy nights spent at the area’s best lodges. While we’ll take care of all the heavy gear for you, you should still have a decent level of fitness for these treks and be comfortable hiking several miles a day with a light daypack. For the perfect blend of comfortable lodging and adventurous hiking, look no further than these inn-based tours!
Are you looking for something in between a backpacking trek and inn-based tour? Our Basecamp Tours will take you to breathtaking waterfalls, sparkling granite formations, high peaks, and alpine lakes – but with only a daypack. We’ll still camp at larger car-accessible sites, but leave the setup to us and enjoy the scenery at these established campgrounds with amenities.
Hate crowds? Explore Yosemite National Park at its most peaceful time of year. Do you love snow? We’ll guide you through a snowshoe tour where you’ll experience the marshmallow world of winter in the Sierras. No huge crowds, fantastic views, and cozy cups of hot chocolate, what could be better?
Need to Know
Our professional guides will take care of all the logistics during your trip. However, you’ll still have to arrange your travels up to your trip rendezvous along with your post-trip itinerary.
Primary Departure Point For Yosemite
All of our tours depart from various locations within Yosemite National Park itself. While many of our hikes leave from Yosemite Valley in the parking lot of Curry Village – including all backpacking trips – your guide will be in contact well before your trip start date to confirm your meeting place. Additionally, click on the ‘logistics’ tab of your desired trip to view that trip’s regular rendezvous.
Book in Advance
Once you’ve chosen your Yosemite adventure, you should book as soon as possible. Yosemite National Park is an incredibly popular hiking destination, and our tours fill up quickly. This early booking is particularly vital for all our backpacking trips, as Yosemite issues backcountry permits 5.5 months in advance.
Before you make any other travel arrangements, book your tour with Wildland Trekking. Once the trip dates have been confirmed and permits issued, go ahead and book your other travel arrangments. These separate arrangements will include your flights, transport in and out of the park, and any pre and post-trek lodging.
Don’t forget that your tour will include all lodging and transportation for the duration of the trip.
You’ll find that accommodation can be tricky if you haven’t booked in advance. We, therefore, recommend booking pre and post-trip lodging as soon as possible, and ideally at least 3-months in advance. There are several fantastic lodging options in the Yosemite Area, and we’ve listed several of them below.
Yosemite Valley Lodging
Website / 801-559-4884
Yosemite Lodge (in El Portal, 30 minutes from Yosemite Valley)
Website / 209-379-2681
Yosemite Blue Butterfly Inn (in El Portal, 30 minutes from Yosemite Valley)
Website / 209-379-2100
The Cedar Lodge (40 minutes from Yosemite Valley)
Website / 209-379-2612
Redwoods in Yosemite Vacation Rentals
Website / 877-753-8566
If you’d prefer not to arrange – or pay for – pre-trip lodging, Wildland offers a free camping option the night before your trip starts. Contact us for more details.
If you need to fly into the region, there are several small airports nearby, such as Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (1.5 hours from the park) and Merced Airport (two hours by car). Bigger airports such as Oakland, San Francisco, or San Jose will offer cheaper and more frequent flights, and you can arrange transportation directly from there. Take note that Yosemite Rapid Area Transit runs buses directly from several cities in the area – including Merced and Fresno – to Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite is relatively isolated from major towns and cities but easy to access by car. There are four major entrances into the park. From the Bay Area or Sacramento, it’s best to take State Route 120. If you’re coming from Fresno or Southern California, take State Route 41. Don’t forget: For some roads, you may need snow chains from November to March. Take note that the park gets very busy during high season, and parking can be next to impossible at some locations. It can be much more convenient to use the shuttle service to get around the park if crowds levels are high.
Please visit our Travel Resources Page for more complete transportation information.
General Travel Advice
Planning an adventure in Yosemite National park will require you to do some planning and preparation. We recommended arranging flights or travel days with one day of wiggle room before and after your scheduled trip dates. This wiggle-room will ensure that you’re on time to start your tour and not miss a return flight afterwards. Our expert guides do a great job of keeping our tours on schedule, but sometimes life brings on unexpected travel delays.
For more detailed information about Yosemite, visit our Travel Resources Page and select the Yosemite-specific travel section. If you have any questions or concerns before your trip, feel free to contact Wildland Trekking at 1-800-715-HIKE (4453).
Have more questions? Send us an email or call us at 800-715-HIKE (4453). We’re here 7 days a week from 9:00 to 4:30 Mountain Time to make sure your trip planning goes as smoothly as possible.
For more information about all your options, check out our Yosemite page on the website with the button below! Individual trip pages have detailed itineraries, trip specifics, travel information, and more.