Yosemite is my favorite national park to date because of the vast amount of things to see and do in the park! This park is HUGE!
Want to wander through towering, ancient trees? See waterfalls on every corner? How about tons of wildlife living so peacefully? Epic views that make you feel incredibly small? Well, then Yosemite is the park for you!
When I traveled there in October 2020 (click here to read my full itinerary), I was in complete awe. I have always dreamed of visiting this incredible location, and it lived up to all expectations and more!
Even though I like to be as prepared as I possibly can for my travels, there are always things that shock me that I didn’t read anywhere online! That’s why I created this quick read to help you be as prepared as possible for your trip! 🙂
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1. Waterfalls are only flowing in the spring and summer
I traveled to Yosemite in the fall, which don’t get me wrong… it was GORGEOUS. But I do feel like I missed out on a huge part of Yosemite, which is the lakes, creeks, and flowing waterfalls!
I actually read this fact before going, but still had a slight sliver of hope that I would see waterfalls flowing.. but guys, it’s true. The main waterfalls only fall during late Spring & early Summer.
If you are planning a trip to Yosemite with the goal to see all the waterfalls, you will want to plan your trip in May – July!
2. Most of the viewpoints and hikes are closed late fall to early spring
If you didn’t already know this, Yosemite gets COLD. It will snow for the entire winter, making the roads extremely dangerous. The second the snow begins sticking to the ground, they close down all the winding roads that lead to all the best viewpoints.
If you want to see the famous sites like Taft Point, Glacier Point, or hike to Yosemite Falls, these will all be closed from late fall – early spring (think end of October to April). The opening / closing dates of Tioga and Glacier Point Roads vary every year.
The good thing about traveling to Yosemite in the winter months is that the park will be extremely empty! You will get to enjoy those brisk, peaceful views all to yourself 🙂
3. Wake up EARLY during high season!
Yosemite is one of the top National Parks in the world, meaning there will be crowds. In the high season (late spring / early summer), expect to fight over viewpoints and parking with hundreds of tourists.
Even though the crowds will be crazy, I don’t think this should deter you from seeing Yosemite in it’s prime season! Just be prepared to wake up early to beat the crowds, and you will still have loads of fun! 🙂
TIP: Yosemite is a photographers’ dream destination! Try to avoid seeing famous viewpoints during “golden hours” to avoid clashing with the flood of photographers. Golden hour is the hour after sunrise & before sunset!
4. Don’t just map to “Yosemite National Park”
Wow, I wish I knew this before traveling to Yosemite! Since there are no major airports near the park, you will likely be driving to the park. Don’t make the same mistake I did and just type in “Yosemite National Park” into your maps.
Yosemite Valley is where the hotels, restaurants, and where you will likely be headed. The valley is an extra hour or MORE from the park entrance.. the park is HUGE guys.
If you are looking for a specific viewpoint to map to, you can plug in any of the following locations and you will arrive in the valley:
- Yosemite Valley Lodge **my recommended hotel
- Tunnel View
- Cooks Meadows
- The Visitor Center
5. If you hate crowds, avoid Golden hours!
I briefly mentioned this tip on #3, but if you want to avoid crowds, you will want to avoid golden hours. If you are not familiar with the term golden hour, it is the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. This is when the sun is not above your head / subject and will leave a beautiful golden glow. AKA best time for photography!
When I visited the famous Taft Point on my trip to Yosemite (during slow season I might add), the viewpoint was PACKED with photographers right around golden hour / sunset. Expect to see photographers with their tripods & engagement sessions going on during these hours.
Recommended Read: What’s in my Camera Bag!
6. If you stay at the Yosemite Valley Lodge, you get free bike rentals to explore the valley!
I stayed at the Yosemite Valley Lodge and I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough. The rooms were clean, roomy, not breaking the bank, had tons of food options, perfect location, and the best part.. free bike rentals to explore the valley!
If you are debating between staying outside of the park to save money v. splurging a bit and staying at a hotel in the park.. I think its 1000% worth the extra money to stay inside the park. This will save you TONS of driving time every day and allow you to see more sights! 🙂
Click here to see rates for the Yosemite Valley Lodge – They sell out QUICK!
7. Fire season almost always affects Yosemite
Wild Fire Season is extremely likely to occur in the fall months! Not only is Yosemite a perfect climate for wildfires, but so is all the surrounding areas. If you are planning a trip in the fall months, cross your fingers that there are no major wild fires during your trip!
When I traveled to Yosemite in October 2020, there were wild fires ALL over California, and a huge one just south of the park. Half of our trip the entire park was covered in a thick layer of smoke, making all the viewpoints practically impossible to see!
8. Use Google Maps v. I-Phone Maps
For some odd reason, I-Phone maps just do not work in Yosemite. They think most of the roads in the park are toll roads and will say it takes hours to get somewhere, where it realistically only takes 10 minutes!
Be sure to use Google maps when you are inside the park and it will save you a ton of confusion! Plus, you can save all the viewpoints you want to visit beforehand, so you can still see directions in case you lose service. 🙂
9. Make sure you bring a portable charger with you!
In Yosemite National Park, you will be bouncing in and out of service all day. This means that your phone battery is going to die QUICK.
I would recommend bringing BOTH a portable charger & a car charger. If you are traveling with a group, make sure you get this car charger that allows for multiple plugs. That way no one is fighting over the charger 🙂
Bonus TIP: Make sure you put your phone on low power mode + airplane mode when you are out of service. This will lengthen your battery life tremendously. 🙂
10. Bears are a lot more common than you think!
When I planned my trip to Yosemite, I did not expect to see any bears. In all the blog posts I read, no one mentioned bear sightings!
Well, I saw MANY bears. Every single morning on my walk to coffee in the valley, I saw multiple bears eating breakfast! On my first morning, I saw a mom & her cub in the valley and two bears scavenging for acorns in the trees!
The park rangers said it is most common to see them in the valley early in the mornings when they are hunting for breakfast.
All photos are edited with my MPI Presets!
Okay, that’s a wrap! I wish so badly I had a guide like this when planning my trip to Yosemite! I hope you found a ton of value in this and it helps you prepare for your trip 🙂
If you are looking to visit more places in California, I think you would love these:
- 2 Days in Yosemite
- One Day in Death Valley National Park
- California Road Trip 7 Days
- Big Sur Road Trip
- Santa Barbara Day Trip
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