The Best Things to Do in Yosemite, CA

The Best Things to Do in Yosemite, CA

With its majestic waterfalls, towering trees, and grand granite cliffs, California’s Yosemite National Park is nothing short of a breathtaking wonderland—one that’s become a living symbol of the Great Outdoors.

Ready to learn more about this amazing slice of the American wilderness? Pack your bags, grab your camera, bust out that map, and join us as we unveil the top things to do in Yosemite, California.


One of the most iconic outdoor destinations in the country, Yosemite National Park—often simply referred to as Yosemite — is a treasure trove of geological as well as cultural history. While it was first inhabited 4,000 years ago, the very area dates back to eons. The entire valley covers over 1,200 square miles or nearly 760,000 acres, filled to the brim with fantastic geological formations, large swathes of undisturbed forest, and giant sequoias—some of which are the most massive trees you’ll ever see.

A brief history

Located in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite was originally inhabited by indigenous tribes. They include the Ahwahneechee tribe, who called Yosemite “Ahwahnee,” which means “large mouth” or “big valley.” This is due to the area’s resemblance to a bear’s open mouth. In 1851, the place was renamed “Yosemite” by L. H. Bunnell of the Mariposa Battalion, who chose the name as a way to immortalize another tribe who lived in the area.

The park gained prominence in the mid-19th century when pioneers and explorers began to venture into the area. Already a popular destination for explorers, the area gained even more attention in 1864, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act. This allowed for protection of the land and paved the way for the concept of national parks in the United States. Yosemite was officially designated as a national park in 1890.

Before You Go

Yosemite’s climate varies greatly with the changing seasons. Summers are warm and dry, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s Fahrenheit (20-30°C) in the valleys and cooler temperatures at higher elevations. Winters bring snowfall, turning the park into a winter wonderland. The iconic waterfalls often freeze, creating a breathtaking spectacle. Spring and fall offer milder weather and fewer crowds, making them popular times to visit.

In addition to its amazing landscapes and other natural formations, Yosemite National Park is also home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. These include black bears, mule deer, bobcats, and the rare Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. The flora is equally varied, with forests of giant sequoias, wildflower-filled meadows, and a variety of trees and shrubs calling the park home.

Today, Yosemite attracts over four million visitors annually, making it one of the most visited national parks in the United States.


Yosemite National Park is a haven for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike, with the park offering something for just about everyone. Here are some of the things you can do during your visit to this stunning national park:

  1. Camping. Camping will always be first on the list when it comes to things to do in Yosemite, California. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a first-timer, you’ll find a range of camping options in the area, each with its unique charm and amenities. (We’ll cover camping sites and options in Yosemite below.)Wherever you choose to make your camp, make sure to follow park regulations to ensure your safety and enjoyment of the area.
  2. Hiking. Hiking in Yosemite, California is a breathtaking experience that immerses you in the very heart of nature’s grandeur. To make the most of your adventure, remember to always check trail conditions and closures. Carry enough water and snacks, wear sturdy hiking shoes, and pack layers for unpredictable weather. Most importantly, make sure to follow Leave No Trace principles to help preserve this pristine wilderness for future generations.
  3. Biking. Biking is an excellent way to explore the great outdoors, which is why Yosemite National Park offers a variety of bike-friendly trails to visitors. These trails range from easy, family-friendly paths to challenging mountain routes, each one allowing riders to immerse themselves in the park’s breathtaking natural beauty. Remember to bring a sturdy bike, helmet, and plenty of water. Stay on designated trails to preserve the park’s ecosystem and be mindful of wildlife on the roads. Last but not the least, don’t forget to check trail conditions and park regulations before you set out.
  4. Rock climbing. Those looking for an adrenaline-pumping adventure will do well to add rock climbing to their list of things to do in Yosemite, California. With its stunning vistas and thrilling routes, Yosemite offers world-class climbing opportunities for both beginners and seasoned climbers. Before you hit the rocks, however, please make sure that you’re wearing the proper gear, including a helmet, harness, and climbing shoes, to have maximum protection. You should also familiarize yourself with the Yosemite climbing regulations, check weather conditions, and inform someone of your climbing plans.
  5. Observing the local wildlife. As mentioned earlier, Yosemite, California, is home to a breathtaking variety of animal species such as black bears, deer, and golden eagles. Do note that visitors—whether first-timers or seasoned veterans—are required to keep a respectful distance from the animals. Bring binoculars or cameras with good zoom lenses to help you view these majestic creatures from far away. Guests are also advised to carefully keep track of time and to plan their excursions, as most of the wildlife in the park is active only during early mornings and late afternoons.
  6. Stargazing. When it comes to things to do in Yosemite, California, nothing beats stargazing. This is largely due to the park’s remote location and minimal light pollution, both of which make the activity a celestial experience like no other. Before venturing out for a night of stargazing, however, remember to bring warm clothing—even in summer—as temperatures can drop significantly in the area. A flashlight with a red filter will also help you preserve night vision.
  7. Enjoying the park’s water activities. Yosemite offers a stunning array of water activities, all of which provide a refreshing escape from the summer heat. These include swimming in the refreshing waters of Tenaya Lake, as well as kayaking and rafting down the Merced River. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen, water shoes, life vests, and reusable water bottles. Swimming in designated areas as well as following posted rules will also ensure your safety. For those who want to do some fishing, make sure to have a valid California fishing license.
  8. Joining the park’s ranger-led programs. For a truly unforgettable experience, try joining the park’s ranger-led programs. Apart from exploring the national park, you’ll also learn important information first-hand from Yosemite’s protectors. These programs, which range from stargazing sessions under the pristine night sky, informative hikes through lush forests, or engaging talks on the park’s ecology.
  9. Join art and photography classes. It’s no secret that Yosemite, CA, offers an inspiring canvas for both art and photography. Even esteemed American photographer Ansel Adams has captured and immortalized its beauty through his now-iconic black-and-white images. If this is something that you’re interested in trying, Yosemite has several art and photography workshops that will teach you how to capture the park’s breathtaking landscapes on canvas and photos. Book slots as early as you can and don’t forget your gear!

Camping Options and Destinations in Yosemite, CA

Camping remains one of the best things to do in Yosemite, California. The valley has an abundance of camping spots, each one offering top-quality amenities to visitors. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Bridalveil Creek Campground

    Bridalveil Creek Campground offers nature enthusiasts a serene and picturesque escape. Shaded by towering pines, located close to Bridalveil Fall, and composed of over 100 campsites, Bridalveil Creek Campground is an excellent spot for camping, whether in tents or RVs. It’s open mid-July through early September, and as with most Yosemite campgrounds, requires visitors to make reservations due to its popularity among campers.

  2. Yosemite Creek

    For hardcore campers, Yosemite Creek is the place to be. More rugged compared to other campgrounds in the area, Yosemite Creek is located nearly 26 miles west of Tuolumne Meadows and has an elevation of 7,700 feet.  Do note that this campground is noted for being very bare-bones in terms of facilities as well as for being inaccessible to RVs and trailers, two factors that make it extremely popular among survivalists.

  3. Wawona Campground

    Located near the park’s south entrance, Wawona Campground is a good starting point for those who want to explore Chilnualna Falls and Mariposa Grove’s giant trees. The campground has three loops, all of which are located along the serene South Fork of the Merced River, which helps to provide the area with a peaceful atmosphere.

    Wawona Campground can accommodate RVs measuring up to 35 feet. Campground amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, and food lockers. As with several other campsites, reservations are essential at Wawona, especially since demand for slots tends to be quite high.

  4. Hodgdon Meadow Campground

    Hodgdon Meadow is located a short drive from the Big Oak Flat Entrance. It’s perched on an elevation of 4,875 feet and provides campers easy access to the park’s waterfalls, sheer granite cliffs, deep valleys, ancient giant sequoias, and vast wilderness areas. The camp, much like most of the other campsites in the park, operates on a first-come, first-served basis for most of the year, except from early to mid-April through early to mid-October, during which reservations are required.


Yosemite is a hiker’s paradise, with a wide network of trails that loop in and around the valley. Whether you’re after a relaxing walk through a forest or a challenging hike, you’ll find a trail that fits your mood. For starters, some of the best known trails in Yosemite include:

  1. Half Dome Trail

    Stretching approximately 14 to 16 miles round trip, Half Dome is not for the faint of heart. One of the best trails in Yosemite Valley, it takes hikers through breathtaking vistas, waterfalls, and dense forests as they ascend toward the park’s famed granite dome. This trail’s highlight is its final ascent, which sees hikers using cables to reach the summit. There, they are rewarded with jaw-dropping panoramic views of Yosemite Valley.

  2. Yosemite Falls Trail

    Built somewhere between 1873 and 1877, this trail is among the oldest in Yosemite Valley. The round-trip hike up to Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America, takes about six to eight hours and covers approximately seven miles. If that seems grueling, you can opt to only hike up until Columbia Rock— it’s a two-mile round-trip hike that you can finish in about three hours. Regardless if you go halfway or all the way, this trail is incredibly rewarding and stunning. Spring may be the best time to go as the falls is also at its most beautiful.

  3. Glacier Point

    One of Yosemite’s easiest hikes, this trail spans a relatively short 1.6 miles, making it a popular choice for beginners. Don’t be fooled by its short and easy nature, however: the hike provides visitors with an amazing vantage point, allowing them to see postcard-worthy views of the Yosemite Valley, as well as get glimpses of iconic Yosemite landmarks like Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.

  4. Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

    Home to about 500 mature giant sequoia trees— perhaps the largest living things on Earth— Mariposa Grove is one of the most special attractions in the Yosemite Valley. You can reach it through several trails, which include Grizzly Giant Loop and Wawona Point. The hike takes about four hours, making it suitable for hikers of all ages.


If you’re planning a trip to Yosemite, follow these essential tips and reminders to make the most of your visit:

  • Plan your trip carefully. Yosemite is a popular destination, making it wise to plan your trip well in advance. Make reservations in advance and regularly check the park’s website for any updates, from road closures to trail and weather conditions.
  • Leave no trace. When visiting Yosemite—and other parks, for that matter—make it a point to practice Leave No Trace principles. Dispose your trash properly, stay on designated trails, and avoid disturbing the local wildlife and plants. Only light fires in designated areas and keep your pets away from pet-free zones.
  • Pack properly. Whether you’re planning on hiking or just staying in a camp, make sure you have the proper gear with you. Include enough food and drinks, an emergency and first aid kit, as well as a compass and printed map in case signal reception is unavailable. Do check the weather to ensure you bring the right type of clothing. And since black bears live in the valley, pack your bear spray.
  • Respect the local wildlife. Only observe wildlife from a safe distance, either with binoculars, a telescope, or a camera with a telephoto lens. Also, keep in mind that feeding wild animals in any national park is illegal, as doing so can cause health problems for the animals as well as lead to them equating people with food. On a similar note, Yosemite is home to black bears, which are known to be skilled at finding food. Because of this, always use bear-proof storage containers for your food or use the bear lockers provided throughout the park.


If you want a new home that’s close to Yosemite, Sherri and Jack DuBeau would be happy to help.

As a full-service real estate team, we have over six years of experience in the industry and take great pride in providing concierge-style service to buyers and sellers in the region. Aside from residential real estate, our team also specializes in retail, agricultural, and commercial sales.

Ready to get started? Call us at 559.694.1063 or send us an email here to schedule a meeting with our team.

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