Comprehensive Guide to Yosemite National Park 2024

Comprehensive Guide to Yosemite National Park 2024

Yosemite National Park Introduction

Yosemite National Park is located in northern California and covers nearly 1,200 square miles, but most of it is in an undeveloped and primitive state. The scenic area we often visit is only the Yosemite Valley with a radius of 7 square miles. If you want more than just fleeting impressions, it's essential to drive there yourself to fully experience its beauty. The park is replete with views, from grand to intimate waterfalls, and wildlife like deer that roam as freely as the visitors. Embark on a hiking trail with your gear, and when hunger strikes, simply sit and slowly take in the magnificent views, feeling at one with this natural paradise.

The routes centered around Yosemite Valley are packed with attractions, including various waterfalls. Mirror Lake and Tenaya Lake are easily accessible, and the proximity to Glacier Point allows for stunning views of Half Dome. While attractions on other routes might be farther, the journey is compensated by breathtaking scenery. With numerous hiking trails suited to different weather conditions and personal fitness levels, plus options for horseback riding and biking, and dedicated RV camping sites, spending three to five days is typical, and even a week or two will not feel excessive.

Ticket Price

Hotels and small supermarkets are available within the park, ensuring convenience for visitors. Toilets are accessible at each scenic spot, ensuring comfort during your exploration. The park's south and west gates are open throughout the year, but the east gate closes in winter. Check the official website for precise times.

All visitors must have an entrance pass.
Tickets are valid for 7 days.

  • Private car (less than 15 people): USD 30/car
  • Motorcycle: USD 20/car
  • Walking or biking: USD 15/person
  • Large car (more than 15 people): USD 15/person

The latest prices can be found here.

Itinerary recommendations and route arrangements

Recommended itinerary:
DAY 1 Sightseeing: Tunnel Viewpoint - Bridal Veil Falls - Yosemite Chapel - Glacier Point - Half Dome - Majestic Hotel - Yosemite Falls - El Capitan - Horsetail Fall - Valley Viewpoint
DAY 2 Hiking: Mariposa Grove - Fallen Monarch - Bachelor & Three Graces - Grizzly Giant - California Tunnel Tree


Three highways lead into the park: Highways 140, 120, and 41. From Northern California, like San Francisco, use Highways 140 or 120. From Southern California, like Los Angeles, take Highway 41. From Nevada, Highway 120 is the closest. Highways 120 and 41, at higher elevations, may close in winter due to ice and snow. Always check road conditions on the park's official website before you depart.

The park offers numerous campgrounds, some open year-round and others seasonally. Visitors can bring trailers, RVs, or tents, or opt for pre-set tents and cabins, which should be reserved online in advance. According to the official website, securing a spot can be challenging without a reservation.

Recommended attractions

Half Dome


Half Dome, a monumental granite formation, epitomizes Yosemite's natural grandeur and has inspired the North Face logo. Visible from Yosemite Valley's western part, it offers a sublime view from Glacier Point across the valley.

Merced River Restoration

Flowing through Yosemite Valley, the Merced River is a central feature, with the valley road splitting at the river, creating a loop for easy access to various sights. Parking spots are plentiful along this route, allowing visitors to explore on foot.

Valley View

This vantage point near Pohono Bridge offers a stunning view of El Capitan, the Merced River, and Bridalveil Fall, revealing the valley's grandeur as if unveiling a hidden gem.

Tunnel View

A must-visit spot offering a panoramic view of the valley, including El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall, accessible via Wawona Road before the tunnel.

El Capitan

El Capitan stands as a colossal granite monolith, a beacon for climbers and photographers, offering some of the best views from Tunnel View and Bridalveil Fall areas.

Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall Trails

These trails offer access to breathtaking water falls, with the Mist Trail providing a close-up experience of Vernal Fall, renowned for its refreshing spray.

Horsetail Fall

Every year in mid-to-late February,thousands of tourists and professional photographers flock to Yosemite National Park to catch a glimpse of the legendary "Firefall" spectacle.

The "Firefall" refers to the Horsetail Falls on the eastside of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. When the sun sets at a certain angle, the water from the waterfall is illuminated and looks like lava erupting from a volcano, hence the name "Firefall".

The conditions for the Firefall phenomenon are very demanding. First, there must be water flowing in Horsetail Falls. If there is not enough snowmelt in February, or if the daytime temperatures are too low and the waterfall freezes, the Firefall will not occur. This is also why the Firefall does not occur in October, even though the sun angle is the same.

Pioneer Yosemite History Center

A collection of historic structures gives insight into Yosemite's past, showcasing the lifestyle and architecture of early settlers.

Preparation Before Departure

Choose a time that suits you

Yosemite welcomes visitors year-round, with each season offering distinct experiences. Select a time based on the activities you enjoy, whether it's summer river play, spring or fall hiking, or winter sports.

Book in advance

Accommodations and activities in Yosemite should be booked ahead, especially during peak seasons, to ensure availability.

Driving advice

Adhere to speed limits and be cautious of wildlife. Use snow chains when required in winter for safe passage.

Sun protection

Regardless of the season, sun protection is crucial in Yosemite's outdoor environment.

Hiking advice

Familiarize yourself with trail maps, wear appropriate footwear, carry sufficient water, and prepare for varying weather conditions.

Camping suggestions

Utilize Bear Boxes to store food and scented items, maintaining safety and respecting wildlife.


Yosemite caters to diverse preferences, whether seeking serene nature, adventurous outings, or cultural insights. This guide aims to enhance your Yosemite exploration, inviting you to discover your unique connection with this iconic park.

More travel guides are available here.

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