There are a plethora of things to do in Yosemite Valley. For first time visitors, choosing what to do is very imposing, especially when subject to time constraints. Many people spend only a couple of days in Yosemite, which isn’t much time. If you’re one of these individuals, utilizing your time properly is crucial. I recommend spending an entire day exploring Yosemite Valley and seeing its iconic sights.
1) Tunnel View
Tunnel View not only ranks as one of the best things to do in Yosemite Valley, but the entire park as well. This viewpoint is so awesome that I have written an entire article about it. With beauty only rivalled by Glacier point, no visit to Yosemite National Park is complete without experiencing this awe-inspiring sight. Lastly, it’s almost impossible to miss Tunnel View if you’re driving to Yosemite Village on Wawona Road. When in doubt, consult your GPS or the map you picked up at the entrance.
2) El Capitan
El Capitan makes a person feel really small. This 3,000-foot monolith of granite is a longstanding favourite of rock climbers. Chances are you’ll see moving specks which are in fact people trying to conquer “the chief”. There are plenty of places to admire this giant, including Tunnel View, but my favourites include El Capitan Meadow and a stretch of road near Bridalveil Falls. If you happen to get a good parking spot in this area, I highly recommend going the extra “mile” and viewing Bridalveil Falls up close.
3) Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake is a small hike that begins at shuttle bus stop 17. The entire loop should take approximately one hour of walking to complete. However, people usually spend an extra 30-60 minutes lounging around the lake taking pictures. During calm days, Mirror Lake gives outstanding reflections of the surrounding landscape. The levels of water vary depending on the time of year. Like waterfalls, you can expect more volume during the spring.
4) Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park. It’s an insanely popular tourist attraction and widely recognized symbol of the park. Hiking up to the top would take an entire day, so if you’re looking for a sampler, walking up to the base is a better option.
While this area is extremely busy during the summer months, I would still highly recommend it. The falls are extremely accessible and you can spend as little as 30 minutes here if the crowds turn you off. In my opinion, the natural beauty greatly outweighs the negative impacts that crowds have on this area.
Peak flow occurs in May, which is the best time for photographers. The water goes through three cascades: Upper Yosemite Falls, middle cascade and Lower Yosemite Falls. If you were to add all three of these plunges together and you’d get 2,425ft. The falls are so big that you can see them throughout multiple viewpoints around the park.
Doing all four of the activities mentioned above would be an extremely busy day. I highly recommend becoming familiar with the Yosemite public transportation system. It can be difficult to find parking spaces in the summer and the shuttle service can sometimes be the only way around (besides hiking of course). Learning the routes can be a nuisance but it might end up saving your trip to Yosemite!
Last but not least, I would also like to mention Glacier Point. While not technically located in the Valley, it’s close enough that it can become a realistic option for people only spending one day in the park. Glacier Point is the most beautiful view in all of Yosemite and cannot be missed under any circumstance.
Thanks for reading my article “Things to do in Yosemite Valley”, for more information check out my Yosemite Travel Guide.