Visiting Yosemite National Park is an incredible experience. In this national park, you will see giant redwood trees, the second highest waterfall in the USA, black bears and discover American outdoor culture.
In addition, if you are passionate about high altitude views, Yosemite will offer you the best panoramas you can imagine. Before heading to Yosemite, you have probably already seen the huge granite rocks that have made it a mecca for rock climbing: El Capitan and Half Dome.
As always, just before you leave for any trip to the US and assuming you’re from the UK or you’re a European passport holder, make sure you get an ESTA visa exemption at least 72 hours before flying (more details on the full ESTA process is here).
The Yosemite Valley
Visiting the Yosemite Valley is a plus if you come to this national park. In fact, this is the area you should really visit if you are going to spend just a single day in the Yosemite area.
It’s true that in summer the valley is pretty crowded with tourists who can turn your experience into something other than a peaceful escapade, but still, visiting the Yosemite Valley is definitely worth it.
The most touristic area is known as Yosemite Village (formerly known as “Curry Village”), where you’ll find shops, supermarkets, numerous car parks, a wide range of hotels and the Yosemite Visitor Center.
Remember that it is difficult to drive around the Yosemite Valley, partly because of the large number of tourists who make free parking sometimes nearly impossible in summer and partly because the road around the valley only goes in one direction. To facilitate passenger transit between Yosemite’s various points of interest, a free bus service is available, but I’ll cover that shortly.
The best hiking trails in Yosemite also start from the valley. Although the first thing I recommend you do in Yosemite is to go to the Visitor Centre to find out the current status of the various excursions in Yosemite because at various times of the year, it may fall on dried-out lakes, waterfalls or in the winter, snow-cut roads.
The main protagonist of the Yosemite Valley is El Capitan, a granite mass is 914 metres high that is nailed to one side of the valley.
It is the most coveted wall in the United States by climbers around the world, and it was only 40 years ago that it was first conquered, after 46 days of vertical climbing.
More recently, in June 2017, the breath-taking El Capitan was climbed without ropes or any other safety equipment by free-solo climbing expert Alex Honnold.
Even if you are not an expert in climbing, approaching its base to see those who are starting the path, or looking at it from afar to see the little climbers who are trying to reach the summit, is pretty amazing.
On the other side of the valley and in the distance, in the shape of a characteristic half-dome, stands the Half-Dome, another granite rocky promontory of about 1440 metres, just as coveted by climbers as the previous one.
If you don’t plan your trip as far in advance, you can also register for the lottery two days before the day you want to make the itinerary but be warned because only 50 permits are distributed per day.
Yosemite Falls, which reaches 714 metres in height across three different sections, are the second highest waterfall in North America.
The road to Lower Yosemite Falls is very accessible and simple, even for disabled travellers or if you happen to be travelling to Yosemite with children.
However, to reach the incredible Upper Yosemite Falls, you’ll have to make a 6 to 8 hour round trip with an accumulated climb of 823 metres so make sure you’re up to the challenge physically.
And finally, if you have the strength (and courage!), you can swim in one of several natural pools that forms at or around the base of the waterfall.