One of the most important camping tips is to just GO! The sites in Yosemite National Park are jaw-dropping! Everywhere you turn there is something to experience that will absolutely take your breath away! We have been asked, “What should we see at Yosemite National Park?” Our answer … it depends on how much time you have and your personal interests!
We have included our favorite top things to do in Yosemite National Park in our highlight VIDEO, and our top 10+ Yosemite National Park Must See Attractions, Tips … and … Why we love each of them!
Yosemite National Park Must See Attractions VIDEO And Tips
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Top 10+ Yosemite National Park Must See Attractions Tips
NOTE: Our most recent visit to Yosemite National Park was in July of 2018 so our tips are based on a summer busy season visit to the Park when the waterfalls are abundantly flowing along with the crowds! LOL
Most of us were doing the “first time visit to Yosemite National Park thing” (I was in this group) but one was happily visiting again. ALL of us had a great time!
1. Tunnel View.
Our RV camping trip to Yosemite National Park included entering Yosemite’s southern entrance and continuing on State Route 41 through the Park.
We heard about the tunnel years ago and the long-awaited experience did not disappoint!
Upon exiting the dark tunnel, the iconic and expansive views filled our windshield … WOW!!!
Just be careful as you drive because the small parking area requires pedestrians to cross the road to get to the overlook.
There is a bit of a traffic bottleneck with lots of people, vehicles and views that don’t quit!
There is no doubt that if we did not research Yosemite NP before we arrived at the entrance gate, we would have felt completely overwhelmed!
I am a planner and I get more than a little uneasy when I go into information overload! LOL
So, in advance of our trip, we bought many books to get a general idea of what we wanted to see and do during our Yosemite camping trip.
BY FAR, this Yosemite: The Complete Guide: Yosemite National Park book was our favorite guide book.
It covered adventures, hiking, history, wildlife and waterfalls (the things we were most interested in) and the full-color photos were fantastic!
2. Merced River.
This river is soooooo clear you can’t believe it is real!
You’ll find it a refreshing place to cool your feet during summer visits to Yosemite.
In addition to cooling your feet, you can cool your beer in the water!
That is just one of our 19 hacks we share on how to keep drinks cold when camping!
The Merced is also a great place for people watching as they float down the river on tubes, inflatable rafts and paddle boards … or you can partake yourself!
We set up our camp chairs in a location where the water was a little low and the rocks created an obstacle course for the unsuspecting floaters.
Come to think of it, the people who are experiencing the Yosemite National Park attractions are actually attractions in and of themselves!
Don’t forget to bring a pair of water shoes because the rocks in the river are really hard to walk on!
3. Mariposa Grove.
There are several locations in Yosemite National Park to see the giant Sequoias but Mariposa Grove has the most trees in one place.
You’ll see the famous Grizzly Giant, the California Tunnel Tree and more!
A free shuttle provides service from the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza (where you will need to park your vehicle) to the Mariposa Grove.
If you have limited time in Yosemite, Mariposa Grove definitely qualifies as one of those “Yosemite must see one day” type of attractions!
4. Glacier Point.
You can get to Glacier Point by hiking (if you are in good enough shape and have the time), driving your personal vehicle (and fighting the traffic on the roads and in the parking lot) or taking a tour bus (which requires advanced reservations during the busy summer season.)
Whatever way you get there … go to Glacier Point!
You’ll experience mind-blowing 360 degree views including Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Yosemite’s high country.
You’ll have to visit Glacier Point on cross-country skis if you are there in the off-season because Glacier Point Road is closed November to May.
Glacier Point is one of the most popular places in Yosemite so bring your patience and be ready for the crowds.
If you are looking for a little solitude, we have 12 Tips To Avoid Crowds In National Parks So You Don’t Go Crazy!
You might be surprised to know that Yosemite National Park is NOT the busiest Park in the country … see which one tops the list in that blog post too!
Some of the most famous waterfalls in Yosemite National Park include the Upper Yosemite Fall, Lower Yosemite Fall, Sentinel Falls, Bridalveil Fall, Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall.
The falls don’t run all year … so, if you are really anxious to see these magnificent thunderous bodies of falling water, you’ll need to be there before they dry up for the season.
Snowmelt creates runoff and the falls begin flowing in the spring with the peak runoff usually happening in May or June … most are dried up by August.
You can check the Yosemite National Park Webcams for real-time views including the Yosemite Falls webcam and other iconic landmarks within Yosemite.
Our personal favorite waterfall experience at Yosemite was hiking the Mist Trail … and yes, you really do hike through the mist generated by the waterfalls!
It’s a great way to refresh yourself on a hot summer Yosemite hike.
Critters are EVERYWHERE in Yosemite! You’ll see tons of birds, squirrels, deer, fish, ducks and an occasional bear!
It is obvious the wildlife is protected because the animals act more like house pets than wild beasts.
There are signs posted throughout Yosemite National Park and the rangers do their best to educate people … but … unfortunately, some people think the rules don’t apply to them and they feed the animals in spite of the instructions to the contrary.
Because the wildlife is used to being around humans and eating from the treats thrown to them, you don’t have to earnestly look for the critters, they are roaming out in the open and almost pose for pictures!
The bears are some of the most famous … and infamous … residents within Yosemite National Park!
Yosemite’s campgrounds provide bear-proof food storage boxes at the campsites. Using them protects you, your food, your neighbors and the bears.
It’s easy to look at them and think they are cute and harmless but they are wild animals and need to be treated with respect.
Check out our Safety Tips While Camping In Bear Country post for helpful information about camping in bear country!
If you are not a climber yourself, you’ll want to take some time to catch a glimpse of the CRAZY people who are ascending the shockingly steep monolith rock formations throughout Yosemite National Park.
These climbers look smaller than ants when they are hanging on the side of massive stone faces!
It’s even hard to see them with the naked eye!
So, when you encounter a group of people standing on the ground and gawking at a formation off in the distance, you can join them and eventually you will see the climbers moving ever-so-slowly up the stone.
It makes my heart race just thinking about it!
8. Visitor Centers & Museums.
The Valley Visitor Center is the best place to visit in Yosemite National Park BECAUSE you can get a quick overview of the Park and talk to rangers to determine which attractions are most interesting to you personally … which ones you have to see … and … which sites you may make it to “IF” you have enough time.
There are so many options to experience Yosemite National Park through arts and culture.
Our personal favorites were the Spirit of Yosemite film shown in the Valley Visitor Center (it was so moving I almost cried and I am NOT one of those people who cries at the drop of a hat)!!!
We also loved the little walk between the Happy Isles Art & Nature Center and the Happy Isles (yes, they really are islands!)
I felt like I was receiving a great big hug as I was completely surrounded by the rushing water and astounding beauty of Yosemite!
There are so many things to do and see in the areas of visitor centers and museums … kids can shoot off into a crowd before you know it.
Our Camping Safety Tips For Families post has tons of valuable information to keep your entire camping group happy, safe and having fun!
9. Attractions Along Biking Trails.
We can’t even begin to list all of the cool views and best things to see throughout Yosemite while riding a bicycle!
There are over 12 miles of paved bike paths in Yosemite Valley!!!
You can rent bikes in the Park or bring your own (which is what we did.)
Think about this … You can drive your own vehicle inside the Park but the traffic congestion and parking options will give you a headache!
The free shuttle buses that run in Yosemite Valley are super crowded in the summer and it is not uncommon to hear the bus driver shout out the door “You’ll have to wait for the next bus because this one is full!”
Walking gets you around but you can only cover so much ground on your own two feet.
All of that is why we are sooooo glad we brought our own bikes because we used them for sightseeing as well as an alternative mode of transportation that moved us around Yosemite Valley … quickly, efficiently and safely.
We just loaded them on our bike rack that mounts to the back bumper on our RV as we traveled from our home in Phoenix to Yosemite.
We used a bike lock to secure our bikes to the racks that were at the trailheads, shops and restaurants throughout Yosemite Valley.
Our bikes were the BEST transportation … and part of our camping fun too!!!
Want more tips on keeping your valuables secure?
Check out our post: A Secure Campsite Protects Valuables From Theft.
10. Valley Floor Tour.
This open-air tram tour is the only formal tour we took on our week-long camping trip in Yosemite National Park.
It was AWESOME!!!
Our only regret is that we waited a few days before we took the tour … it would have been better to start our week with this tour because it gives a great overview of things to do in Yosemite.
It tours Yosemite National Park at the Valley Floor level.
You can make note of the places you want to experience later during your visit.
After the tour was finished, we created our own personal Yosemite vacation guide to make sure we had time to do and see everything that appealed to us before we ran out of time (did I mention a week goes by in a flash when you are in Yosemite?!?)
Our tour was led by a knowledgeable park ranger who shared the history, flora, and fauna as we were driving and stopping for photos throughout the Valley.
The tour runs in the winter but the vehicle used is a heated bus rather than an open-air tram.
You know we love camping … wherever the camping location happens to be … BUT … not all campsites are created equally!
If you are planning to see all of the iconic attractions in Yosemite National Park, we have one really strong recommendation … YOU HAVE TO CAMP INSIDE THE PARK IN ONE OF THE CAMPGROUNDS IN YOSEMITE VALLEY!!!
There is nothing like waking up to the sights and sounds of Yosemite.
It is impossible to experience all 761,266 acres of Yosemite in one visit and the most iconic spots are located in the Yosemite Valley.
The traffic congestion at the Park entrance gate and on the roads within the Park is heavy during the busy summer months.
Even though it is really difficult to get a reservation at one of the Yosemite Valley campgrounds, we are really happy we did not settle for anything less!
Don’t give up!
Keep trying and eventually you will get a spot inside the Park at the campground of your choice … You will make the most of your visit to this magnificent place on earth called Yosemite National Park!
Stay tuned … we have a blog post in the works to give you the inside scoop in camping inside Yosemite National Park!
You’ll have such a great time in Yosemite, I’m guessing you won’t want to stop after that visit!
May we suggest heading off to the Canyon?
Check out our The Grand Canyon – There’s No Better Place To Get Edgy And Go Camping! post for more information.