YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK – When you’re visiting Yosemite, there are more wonders of nature to see than most travelers can fit into one visit. Many of us who’ve lived near here for years haven’t seen half of it! Below are a few of our favorite places that you just can’t miss.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Located in the southern portion of Yosemite, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is the largest sequoia grove in Yosemite and is home to over 500 mature Giant Sequoias. The Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza is located near the South Gate entrance into the park. There are around 300 parking spaces and they fill up FAST! So make plans to arrive early to increase your chances of finding that coveted parking spot.
A FREE (magical word to our ears) shuttle provides service from the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza to Mariposa Grove. May 15th thru October 14th 8am to 8pm buses will pick up every 10 minutes (last bus leaves Mariposa Grove 8pm). October 15th thru November 30th 8am to 5pm buses will pick up every 10 minutes (last bus leaves Mariposa Grove 5pm). There are many breathtaking Giant Sequoias in the grove — we hope you are able to visit them during your next getaway and fully appreciate their glory up close.
Glacier Point offers the best views of Yosemite Valley that are easily accessed: you can drive almost right up to the viewing area. From an elevation of more than 7,000 feet, you’ll overlook the full valley below, seeing Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and more. Pass the South Gate entrance on the way into the Valley, and turn right up onto Glacier Point Road.
Hike and bike through the 2.8 mile-long Yosemite Valley to gaze at impressive waterfalls, high cliffs, unusual rock formations, sunny meadows, groves of pine and oak and sparkling rivers and lakes.
Yes, this is likely the most iconic view of Yosemite Valley. You’ll see El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridalveil Fall. How do you see it? Well, if you are driving into the park from Oakhurst, you can’t miss it! The main road, Hwy 41/Wawona Road, goes through the tunnel as you head into the Valley.
In the valley, Bridalveil is the first waterfall you will drive near — the parking lot for it is right off Wawona Road as you enter the Valley. Get out of the car and walk right up to the base of the Falls — it’s well worth it!
This is a granite dome rising 8,800 feet above sea level. The adventurous can climb the summit using the seasonal steel cables. The rest of us can appreciate the sight from many vantage points throughout the Valley.
Vernal Falls and the Mist Trail
Vernal is a 317-foot waterfall that gushes from the Merced River into the valley. The Mist Trail is a mostly paved path to the base of the cascading waterfall, where you can feel the namesake mist (or get soaked by it during peak seasons). If you’re feeling energetic, continue on up past Vernal to Nevada Falls. While we recommend the free shuttle, the nearest parking lot is just past Curry Village.
In early Spring, you can experience the thunderous sound of Yosemite Falls throughout the Valley. The main Valley loop road takes you to the main access point to it. Enjoy an easy hike up to the base of the Falls.
Mirror Lake is a nice hike up from the Valley to the “half” side of Half Dome and the slow moving stream that runs at its base. While not as deep as in the days when it got its name, you can still peer into it from certain angles and see the rocky walls of Half Dome reflected in its mirror surface.
This monolith is known as the largest exposed slab of granite in the world. It’s especially striking when lit by the sunset, which you can best see as you head West toward the Valley exits, and it’s on your right.