17 TOP Things to Do in Yosemite National Park → by a Local

hiker with a backpack walking in Yosemite national park

I might be biased based on the West Coast, but Yosemite National Park has to be the best national park! There are endless incredible things to do in Yosemite National Park, and as your local guide, I’m here to help you navigate through all of them.

I’ll give you an overview of the activities and helpful tips that only locals know, so by the end of the article, you know you’ll be well-prepared. I even added a section with the best accommodation nearby, so you don’t have to waste time on that, too!

Lace up your hiking boots, and let’s head out!

If you are in a hurry

When you arrive at Yosemite, you’ll want to start exploring, not booking reservations. Make sure you take the time to book your hotels and activities in advance:

And here are the best hotels: Inside Yosemite Winter Wonderland (luxury), Hounds Tooth Inn (mid-range), McMillan Ranch Yosemite (budget)

Feeling indecisive? Need more options? I’ve got you covered. Check out our article on the best places to stay in Yosemite.

1. Take in breathtaking views from the iconic Glacier Point

Glacier point, yosemite national park, california.

It’s easy to see why Glacier Point is one of the most popular things to do in Yosemite National Park – the viewpoint is absolutely stunning! You can catch amazing vantages of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Nevada Falls, and Merced River down below.

Situated at the end of the 16-mile (26 km) Glacier Point Road, the viewing area opens up to unreal panoramic views.

Another reason this stop is so popular is that it’s accessible by car. My local tip is to check the official website for any latest updates before you go. It may save you from a big inconvenience such as park closures.

If you’d rather someone else do the driving to all the major landmarks in Yosemite, I don’t blame you! Check out this awesome small-group tour that will provide an amazing adventure without all the work!

PRICE: from US$200 per person

Join a small-group tour

2. Experience the grandeur of Yosemite Falls

trail surrounded by trees leading to a waterfall

When visiting Yosemite National Park, you don’t want to miss this one!

Yosemite presents powerful waterfalls, such as Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Fall (the latter we’ll get to in just a bit 😉).

Yosemite Falls is phenomenal! It actually consists of 3 separate waterfalls and hiking trails, and you can find the map trail and important information here.

Experience the Lower Falls on a leisurely 1-mile (1.6 km) round-trip hike or the Upper Yosemite Falls on a more challenging 7.6-mile (12.2 km) hike that opens up to fantastic views of the waterfalls down below.

3. Travel through Tunnel View

tourists on a road in Yosemite national park in california.

Ok, the name kind of gives this one away! 😂 And there’s no question why it’s one of the top Yosemite National Park things to do.

When you visit Yosemite National Park, drive along Wawona Road from the park’s south entrance and discover this iconic viewpoint – a breathtaking vista of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall, all framed perfectly by the tunnel’s opening.

Easily accessible by car, this spot provides an unparalleled opportunity to capture the park’s most iconic landmarks in one incredible panoramic photograph.

4. Gaze at the iconic peak of Half Dome

trail next to a rock

When I think of Yosemite, I immediately have the image of Half Dome in my mind – a gigantic granite monolith shooting into the sky.

One of the most popular hikes in the world, the 16-mile (26 km) round trip Half Dome hike to its summit is a challenging yet ridiculously rewarding journey offering breathtaking vistas and a thrilling ascent aided by cables.

Many tours and groups invite challenging hikes to the summit of Half Dome.

When you actually arrive at Half Dome’s summit, you’ll experience unparalleled panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and surrounding granite peaks – check that box off your bucket list! ✔️

If hiking is your favorite pastime, I highly suggest joining this guided hiking tour of all the best areas of Yosemite, including the overlooks of Half Dome.

Want to stay overnight? Check out Curry Village, formerly Half Dome Village, an amazing place to “glamp” with cabins and bathroom facilities within the park.

TOUR PRICE: US$260 per person

Join the guided hike

5. Gasp at the magnificence of El Capitan

Yosemite national park in california.

Besides Half Dome, El Capitan has to be the most recognizable image of Yosemite. This colossal granite monolith is an iconic vertical rock formation and a mecca for rock climbers, but don’t worry, you can also appreciate it from the valley floor.

Find El Capitan Meadow on Northside Drive, near the west end of Yosemite Valley, for the best viewing point. 

The size of this thing is crazy! At almost 3,000 ft (914 m) from the valley floor.

6. Enjoy the beauty of Mirror Lake

lake with mountains and rocks in the background at Yosemite national park in california.

Yosemite offers tranquil walks around the mirror-like surface of Mirror Lake (see trail info) – a special piece of serenity in the large, vast openness of the park and one of the most peaceful things to do in Yosemite.

This gorgeous body of water nestled at the base of Half Dome offers a peaceful 5-mile (8 km) round-trip hike or a 2-mile (3.2 km) round-trip loop to the lake and back.

On a clear summer days, get an incredible reflection of Half Dome.

If you love the lake life, don’t miss Tenaya Lake (see trail map) as well! Tenaya Lake, with its crystal clear waters, also mirrors the surrounding granite peaks.

7. Explore the magnificent Bridalveil Fall

Yosemite falls

Bridalveil Fall is my favorite of the waterfalls in Yosemite because it is so easy to access!

This captivating 620-foot (c. 190 m) waterfall in Yosemite Valley is only a short, 0.5-mile (0.8 km) round trip hike.

Named for its ethereal appearance resembling a bridal veil, this iconic waterfall is the perfect spot to snap photos and make memories!

The indigenous Ahwahneechee called it “Pohono,” or “Spirit of the Puffing Wind,” referencing the waterfall’s misty appearance.

TIP: don’t forget to check the website for updates before you go.

8. Wander through Mariposa Grove

mom and child walking through a forest with sequoia trees

One of 3 sequoia forests in Yosemite, Mariposa Grove is an enchanting place where the giant sequoia trees tower overhead.

This awe-inspiring grove houses over 500 of these colossal trees, including the famous Grizzly Giant.

If you love the sequoias as much as I do, consider a guided tour to get you up close and personal with these gentle giants, as well as other great areas of the park. It includes an exploration of the ancient Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

PRICE: US$580 per adult

Save your spot

9. Enrich your experience at Yosemite Museum

A building with trees around it.

It’s nice to take a little break from all the hiking and sightseeing to spend some time inside in the air-conditioning! 🤣

Check out the Yosemite Museum, a cool treasure trove of park history and Native American culture. 

Located in Yosemite Valley, the museum provides amazing area info through exhibits, artifacts, and art that celebrate the park’s beauty and the indigenous people who have called this land home for millennia.

Explore the stories of Yosemite’s first inhabitants, the Ahwahneechee, and their deep connection to the land – it’s such a fascinating part of history!

PRICE: free

10. Hike Mist Trail: Vernal Falls to Nevada Falls

A group of people standing on rocks.

Aptly named, the waterfall’s cascading waters create such a thick mist that hikers often get drenched.

This hike is so fun and beautiful, and definitely one of the most rewarding things to do in Yosemite! 🌊

It will take you on a 7-mile (11.2 km) adventure through lush greenery right alongside the Merced River. This journey will lead you to 2 of the park’s most incredible waterfalls, Vernal Fall and Nevada Falls.

The Mist Trail (see trail map) offers jaw-dropping views, steep granite staircases, and an unforgettable experience.

11. Hike through the lush Tuolumne Meadows

The yosemite river in yosemite national park.

When visiting Yosemite National Park, take some time to explore Tuolumne Meadows, a beautiful flat piece of lush land inside the park.

The actual hike is 2 miles (3.2 km) long, and the stunning Tuolumne River wiggles its way through – gasp at the picturesque surrounding granite peaks!

If you begin smack in the middle of the meadow, you’ll find Soda Springs and a lovely footbridge.

If you want a VIP experience, try this guided hiking tour through the meadow that will open up your world to the vast wildlife and flora in the region.

TOUR PRICE: US$350 per person

Save your spot

12. Explore the Sierra Nevadas on the John Muir Trail

A stream runs through a forest with mountains in the background.

The legendary John Muir Trail (JMT) is a 211-mile (340 km) trek that winds through the pristine wilderness of the Sierra Nevada.

Named in honor of the renowned naturalist John Muir, this long-distance trail showcases some of the most breathtaking landscapes in California.

Beginning in Yosemite National Park and concluding at the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States, the JMT will take you on a journey through alpine meadows, ancient forests, and high mountain passes.

This challenging adventure typically takes about 2 – 4 weeks to complete. Yeah – it’s not for everyone! 🤣

13. Stroll around the charming Yosemite Village

A sign on a stone wall.

A favorite of mine in Yosemite NP, Yosemite Village is a central hub with amenities and attractions of the National Park Service, like bathrooms, info, and groceries.

Stop at the visitor center to gather information, Yosemite map, and permits for hikes and activities.

Don’t miss the Ansel Adams Gallery, showcasing the iconic photographer’s work.

Yosemite Village also has convenient dining options, casual cafes, and the classic Ahwahnee Dining Room.

The village is also close to Lower Yosemite Falls, so it’s a great jumping-off point after lunch.

14. Take in the serenity of Cathedral Lakes

lake with rocks and trees at sunset

These glistening gems are properly named, sitting at the base of the stunning Cathedral Peak.

The famous John Muir Trail cuts through this area, and it’s also very popular with rock climbers.

Take in impressive views of Cathedral Peak and Echo Peak, as well as access to Sunrise Lakes (see map).

One of the busiest hikes in the Tuolumne Meadows area, Lower Cathedral Lake is a mellow stroll, and you can see the map here.

Parking is limited, so try to get here super early or take the shuttle bus!

15. Discover the lesser-known Hetch Hetchy Valley

A hiker on a trail near a lake in yosemite national park.

Escape the busyness of the park and explore the epic beauty of Hetch Hetchy Valley, one of Yosemite’s lesser-known but equally stunning areas.

This hidden gem in the park’s northwest corner provides a quieter alternative to Yosemite Valley, with its own unique charm.

At the heart of Hetch Hetchy is the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, a source of drinking water for San Francisco. Surrounding the reservoir you’ll find gorgeous meadows, granite cliffs, and the impressive Wapama and Tueeulala Falls splashing down the sheer rock faces.

Explore the Hetch Hetchy Loop (see trail map), taking you across the famous O’Shaughnessy Dam, providing breathtaking views of the valley.

16. Cruise along the famous Tioga Pass

A winding road in yosemite national park.

I love scenic drives, and Tioga Pass doesn’t disappoint! This spectacular mountain pass traverses the Sierra Nevada Range and connects the eastern and western regions of Yosemite National Park.

Often referred to as Tioga Road, you’ll enter at the eastern entrance near Lee Vining, California, and the road winds up to elevations exceeding 9,000 ft (2,743 m), providing unparalleled panoramic views of the surrounding peaks, glacially carved valleys, and pristine lakes.

Tioga Pass is seasonal, so keep in mind it’s typically open from late spring to early fall when the snow has cleared.

This area of high-country wilderness is filled with hiking, picnicking, and photography opportunities.

17. Drink in the sensational views at Sentinel Dome

A man sitting on a rock overlooking yosemite national park.

Sentinel Dome offers a breathtaking 360-degree panorama of Yosemite’s awe-inspiring landscape.

Standing 812 ft (247 m) above the valley floor, this granite dome rewards you with unobstructed views of iconic landmarks such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and the high Sierra peaks.

Short and sweet, a 2.2-mile round trip (3.5 km) from the trailhead (see trail map), it’s accessible to just about any hiking skill level.

Sentinel Dome is especially magical at sunset – just keep in mind you’ll be driving back in the dark.

🏛️ Best museum:Ansel Adams Gallery
🎢 Top paid attraction:Yosemite Full-Day Tour
🚶🏽‍♂️ Best free attraction:Yosemite Falls
⭐ Best hike:Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

Where to stay in Yosemite

There are some really cool places to stay when visiting Yosemite. See below for my top choices for every budget, ranging from US$100 to US$450 and above.

collage of 3 images with: hotel's building, bedroom and a pool table with couches around it

Luxury (US$450 and up)

  • Inside Yosemite Winter Wonderland – an incredible, luxury experience awaits you inside Yosemite at this beautiful 3-bedroom cabin. Enjoy mountain views, a full kitchen, and an amazing outdoor space.
  • Autocamp Yosemite – free bikes, free parking, and an incredible outdoor swimming pool and terrace await you at this super cool camper.

Mid-Range (US$200 – US$400)

  • Hounds Tooth Inn – this place is designed with every comfort in mind: cute cottages, adorable gardens, comfortable, serene decor, and an awesome location 10 minutes drive from Bass Lake.
  • Berkshire Inn – you’ll love this B&B with free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, private balconies, and a rustic ambiance.

Budget (up to US$150)

  • McMillan Ranch Yosemite – free Wi-Fi, private parking, and mountain views await you at this quaint, budget option close to Yosemite’s south entrance.
  • Sierra Meadows – this adorable budget option feels more like summer camp, with clean, rustic cottages, a fun, social outdoor swimming pool, and lots of on-site activities.

Check the rates

FAQs about things to do in Yosemite

a sign on the side of a road that says yosemite national park

🌳 How many days do you need to visit Yosemite?

2 – 3 days will allow you to experience a good portion of the park.

🚵 What should I see for the first time in Yosemite?

If you’re going to Yosemite for the first time, be sure to check out Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Fall!

🏔️ What should I do in Yosemite for 2 days?

With 2 days in Yosemite, you should hike Yosemite Falls, check out Yosemite Village, and take a drive on Tioaga Pass. You can also follow our 2-day Yosemite itinerary.

🌟 What is the best town to stay in while visiting Yosemite?

I recommend staying in Yosemite National Park but outside the park in El Portal, Mariposa, or Bass Lake. See our guide on where to stay in Yosemite National Park for more information.


Yosemite National Park at dusk with snow caps

Yosemite National Park is filled with awesome, exciting, unique, EPIC activities – I hope you get to experience them all!

From sightseeing to hiking the stunning mountain peaks to exploring the rich history of the area, you’re sure to fall in love with the things to do in Yosemite NP.

Is your trip coming up soon? It is?! Well, you need to book in advance for your top tours and hotels!

I love to hear the tea when it comes to just about any travel story. Comment below with your best!

Aloha & safe travels,

Hayden G.

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collage of 2 images of: a museum in the woods and view over a lake with mountains in the background

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waterfall viewed from the bottom

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