Yosemite National Park is a gem often underestimated for its sheer size and the wealth of experiences it offers. From biking and hiking to rock climbing and backcountry camping, it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. But when it comes to capturing the heart of this wilderness, Yosemite Valley takes center stage. This unique valley boasts jaw-dropping vistas, trails for all skill levels, lodging options, and convenient amenities. Our recent two-day adventure in Yosemite Valley, following a record-breaking winter, was nothing short of awe-inspiring, with the park’s waterfalls in full display. While we didn’t snag a campsite within Yosemite Valley, our stay just outside in El Portal at the Indian Flat RV Park was a pleasant experience, with one minor hitch – being off the grid due to a lack of cell signal. But with hot showers, spacious sites, and access to indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs at the neighboring Cedar Lodge, it more than made up for it.
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4 Must-See Sights of Yosemite Valley
1. Tunnel View and Inspiration Point: Tunnel View, often featured in the most-searched Yosemite images, is undoubtedly one of the park’s crown jewels. To avoid the crowds, either arrive early or pack some patience for parking. If you’re not up for a hike and just want to savor the view, Tunnel View is your spot. For those seeking solitude and a bit of adventure, embark on the moderate 2-mile roundtrip hike to Inspiration Point, a 1,000-foot elevation gain that rewards you with a perfect picnic spot. Just cross your fingers for clearer skies, as our visit coincided with a California wildfire.
2. Yosemite Falls: Yosemite Falls, particularly in late spring and early summer, is a showstopper. There are multiple ways to experience this natural wonder. The Lower Yosemite Falls Trail, paved but with a steep incline at the end, is accessible to almost everyone. If you’re pushing a stroller or wheelchair, it’s possible but might be a bit of a workout (we towed our Max Sports Wagon with teamwork). Once you reach the viewpoint, the effort is more than worth it. For those seeking a closer encounter, the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail is your ticket. This challenging 6.6-mile trail with a 3,245-foot elevation gain allows you to get up close and personal with the 1,430-foot Upper Yosemite Falls.
3. Valley Loop Trail: For a leisurely exploration of Yosemite Valley, look no further than the Valley Loop Trail. While the full 11.5-mile loop offers a comprehensive journey through the valley, even tackling a smaller section promises a delightful experience. Feel free to turn around or hop on the Yosemite shuttle system at any point.
4. The Mist Trail and John Muir Trail Loop: This trail is a personal favorite due to its unique charm. If Half Dome is on your radar, your journey starts at The Mist Trail. But even without Half Dome, this loop stands as an amazing experience. Arriving early to secure a parking spot at the Yosemite Valley Trailhead Parking is key. Begin at the Mist Trail Trailhead, where paved switchbacks lead you to your first glimpse of Vernal Falls. Be prepared for a drenching, as the trail name suggests. It continues along the Merced River, offering the choice to turn towards the John Muir Trail or head up to Nevada Fall. While challenging, the view is absolutely worth it. Descending the John Muir Trail, you’ll enjoy more breathtaking viewpoints. Our 9.23-mile hike with a 2,163-foot elevation gain was one of our most challenging yet memorable experiences, even with a three-year-old in tow.
Yosemite National Park boasts countless attractions, and these were just a few of our favorites. We can’t wait to return and explore more of this majestic park, with the dream of one day conquering Half Dome. If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Yosemite National Park, share your adventures with us in the comments!