We know what you’re thinking, Can I really get a full dream experience out of one national park? Well, when it comes to Yosemite National Park in California, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, there’s so much to do in this gargantuan stretch of land, you might just find yourself angling for a return trip. Sure, California has a lot to offer the intrepid traveler; from the sun-soaked shores of San Francisco Bay, through the stunning clearwater coasts of Big Sur, right down to the glitzy and glamorous sprawl of Los Angeles. But Yosemite National Park is like a country unto itself, so why not forget the obvious Cali-hotspots and lose yourself in this gorgeous natural wilderness for a week or two?
Covering over 1,160 square miles, Yosemite is certainly large enough to lose yourself in, and an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. The center of the park is the seven square mile area of Yosemite valley, and from there, you can take the rest of the park at any angle. Over 95% of the park is designated wilderness and there’s enough ground here to cover any sort of natural terrain you could care to ramble through, from waterfalls and streams to granite cliffs, lakes, mountains and even glaciers. Search for Yosemite on BUCKiTDREAM to see if anyone has already ticked this natural wonder off their personal bucket list, and get inspired by their photos and stories as you go.
Make some notes in your handy BUCKiTDREAM planner and keep it by your side as you go through our rundown of the top things to experience in Yosemite National Park!
Walk The Valley By Night The undisturbed night sky of Yosemite makes for some stunningly beautiful star scenery. Many people hike the valley by day, but it can be an even more memorable experience to ramble through it under the moonlight.
Ascend Half Dome A thrilling hike to the top of the unique-looking Half Dome on Yosemite Valley’s east side will stay with you for life. The final furlong ends in a steep climb up the peak’s smooth, rounded face; but don’t worry, there’s cable to assist you to the peak.
Tackle The Captain A seventeen-mile round hike will take you to the top of El Capitan, a staggering granite giant that’s 3,000 feet tall. If you’re really brave you can rock climb it, and if you’re really REALLY brave (not to mention properly trained and experienced) you can base jump off it.
Marvel At The Tallest Falls In America Yosemite Falls is separated into the Lower and Upper sections; combined, they make the daddy of all falls. Have a ramble up and see if you can spot a lynx or two.
Rent A Raft Rafting is a popular way to cool off in the summer; the Merced River is the perfect body of water to lazily soak in the Yosemite atmosphere.
Travel Back In Time To The Wild West Horseback can be another exciting way to experience the park; you can rent one from Big Trees Stable during the summer months and feel as if you’re trotting through the Old West.
Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias Sounding very much like a long-lost chapter from Lord of the Rings, Tuolumne Grove is a marvel to behold; each of the gigantic sequoias trees (more commonly known as redwoods) have been around for 3,000 years or so, and there are only a few left in the world.
Take In Yosemite The Classic Way Tunnel View provides onlookers with a stunning vista of Yosemite’s hotspots: El Capitan, Half Dome and Yosemite Fall, all in one place. If you’ve had enough of hiking, you can happily drive to this one too.
High End There are a couple of luxury resorts in and around Yosemite valley, which provides a comfortable and secure base from which to explore the surrounding areas. Tenya Lodge is an all-seasons resort that offers guests a plethora of activities, even before you head outside to the great outdoors.
Medium There are plenty of gorgeous lodges available to rent throughout Yosemite Valley; let’s face it, if you’re going to Yosemite for a comfy stay in your hotel bedroom, you should probably be heading somewhere else. Depending on who you’re traveling with, there’s lodges for everyone, whether you’re a family, group of friends or an adventurous couple.
Budget Arguably the REAL way to see Yosemite also happens to be the cheapest. Folks have been camping in the park for generations; there are several designated and well-equipped campsites dotted around the valley. What could be better than sleeping under the stars, awakening with the morning light and hopping out into the beautiful wilds to start your day’s adventure?
While people don’t come to Yosemite for the cuisine, there’s still a wide variety of restaurants to satisfy every palate. Let’s face it, most of the time you’ll just be looking for a place to dive in and refuel before getting back out into the great wide open; though if you do fancy more of a sit-down affair, great spots like The Majestic Yosemite Hotel Dining Room will see you through.
Drinks and Nightlife
As is the case with the cuisine, Yosemite National Park doesn’t exactly specialize in thrilling nightlife; a great night out in Yosemite consists of a cracking book, a roaring campfire and a clear, starlit sky above you. However, there are a few ways to socialize; in Yosemite Village, you can experience live theater and in the winter months there’s more than a few tales that are weaved around the campfire at The Ahwahnee. Most of the hotels and lodges in the Valley have splendid bars, and, of course, there’s always a fellow traveler or two to mingle with.
Tips and Culture
Spontaneity is the spice of life as they say, but when it comes to Yosemite, it’s best to plan ahead. The most popular accommodation and tours fill up a good few months in advance, so investigate the park, pick out what and where you want to do and walk, then get booking! To avoid the rush of crowds at the best sites, get up unreasonably early, or hold off until a little later in the day to head out.
Whilst the most popular time to visit Yosemite is by far the summer months, consider heading out there in the late fall or winter for a different perspective of the Park; it looks especially calm and serene under a blanket of snow.
Although most of Yosemite is accessible by car, don’t drive if you can help it. There’s great freedom in being able to ramble anywhere you like, and you’ll avoid the clogging traffic and parking fracases that plague the popular spots. Plus, there’s always YARTS, the local transport system, to avail yourself of if you’re in a hurry.
The splendor and natural beauty of Yosemite Park can be summed up in one single image; the view from Glacier Point. So if you do one thing while you’re in the park (and let’s be honest, you won’t do just one thing, you’ll do loads), make sure you put aside a day to hike or drive up to the tip top of Glacier Point and feel like the king of the earth surveying the land below.
Hopefully, all of these activities built up your appetite to get out there and experience some of the best sights and thrills that nature has to offer. Yosemite will be a trip you’ll never forget, so don’t let it remain a dream for much longer; strap on those hiking boots and get booking that bucket list trip to California!