Yosemite National Park: 25 Must-See Highlights - AmazingPlaces.com

Yosemite National Park

The Ultimate Outdoors, according to the Americans

Yosemite National Park is considered the first true wilderness park in the United States. This nature reserve has unprecedented natural beauty. Think steep mountains, vast forests, countless grand waterfalls and rivers that continue to rearrange the landscape. It is a wonderful hiking area, where you can go out for days.

I have been to Yosemite National Park several times. In various seasons. Below I have collected the best attractions of this famous nature reserve. And I give you several tips for your visit. In addition, some information for a good hike, which you can do in this area very well. Take your time for Yosemite National Park, it’s more than worth it.

Yosemite National Park is home to wildlife. Which show themselves relatively easily. Such as wolf, American black bear and much more. In addition, various types of deer and many other animals roam the grounds. These are the best attractions of Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park with the Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, and the Half Dome.

Three Brothers

East of El Capitan you find three granite rocks, with beautiful names such as Eagle Peak, Middle Brother, and Lower Brother. Together they are called The Three Brothers, although Pompompasus is also used.

This Native American name means mountains playing leapfrog. A suitable name for those who look at the three mountains. Eagle Peak is the highest (2,173 meters) and rises about 1,150 meters above the valley.

Cathedral Rock

A mountain climber on top of Eichorn Pinnacle at Cathedral Peak in Yosemite.

Cathedral Rock is an impressive rock with its height of 2,025 meters. The name comes from its shape. It resembles a Gothic cathedral. Two narrow granite columns can be seen to the left of Cathedral Rock. They are called the spires. Cathedral Rock is located on the east side of the valley, diagonally across from El Capitan.

Liberty Cap

Next to the Nevada waterfall is the immense Liberty Cap. A granite 2,137 meters high rock, rising 1,402 meters above the Yosemite Valley. And towers are more than 600 meters above the Nevada waterfall. This makes the waterfall look remarkably small. Liberty Cap shows what the immense erosion has done here. If you see both, you will see typical Yosemite: rugged nature.

Vernal Fall en Nevada Fall

These two waterfalls are close to each other. Vernal Fall is 97 feet high, while Nevada Fall is 181 feet high. They both drop their water in the Yosemite Valley. From Nevada Fall you can walk to Vernal Fall. You can swim in the ice-cold water of both.

Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite.

This is the park’s other famous waterfall. It is 188 meters high and falls from the edge of the canyon into the Yosemite Valley. The action of a former glacier can be clearly seen in the U-shape of the canyon. Unlike Yosemite Falls, this waterfall can be seen all year round.

The water comes from Lake Ostrander, which is ten kilometers to the south. Next to the waterfall is the Leaning Tower, an immense boulder that seems to fall at any moment. Bridalveil Fall is at the roadside to the south of the park.

Yosemite Museum

Yosemite’s history is very colourful. Not only about glaciers and rivers, but also about the people who have lived here for centuries. In the Yosemite Museum, you can see everything about the original inhabitants, the various Indian tribes, and the first white settlers. From 1850 to now.

A story that brought little positive developments for the Indians. While they were the first to protect the land and appreciate the landscape, witness the many laudatory Indian names they gave to, for example, waterfalls and lakes. 

Discover the many types of trees

In this nature reserve you can also find the gigantic giant redwoods; the largest tree on earth. These trees are only found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. They have been referred to as “the largest living organism in the world.” They are the tallest trees in the world and also very bulky. These trees can grow up to 30 meters and their length can reach 115 meters. Most are easily 60 to 80 meters high. Their trunk is a striking reddish-brown, while the needles always remain green.

Yosemite is one of the best places to see the giant sequoia or giant sequoia. Mariposa Grove is the place to literally let yourself be belittled among these giants. Also, note the immense size of the trunk.


In the Yosemite Valley, yellow pines, Jeffrey pines, libocedars, California black oaks, and large-leaved maples form a mixed forest. In the rest of the park, conifers determine the vegetation image.

Wildlife of Yosemite National Park

A cougar in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite National Park is famous for its scenery. But many animals live in this landscape. Mischievous animals such as black-tailed prairie dogs and yellow-bellied marmots, but also dangerous animals such as black bears and cougars. Anyone who sets out early can encounter them everywhere. Take your time and see how the current residents live here. And yes, you will really find something here.

Hiking in Yosemite Valley

Those who want to experience Yosemite must put on their hiking shoes. And then the famous valley with all the waterfalls, forests and rivers is the place. The choice is wide, from almost level hikes to tough hikes with a lot of height difference. Most famous is the Valley Floor Loop, a 20.9-kilometer long walk through the valley. In which you walk a striking number of old settler paths, without too much difference in height. You can also walk halfway and take the bus back from the park.

Backpacking in the wilderness

Backpacking is very popular in this area. The possibilities are very extensive, no less than 95 percent of the park is designated as wilderness. Where people are guests. Here you can hike, camp, take pictures, and enjoy the tranquility and scenery.

You do need a permit to enter the hinterland. For this, you can go to various visitor centers. Also, ask directly about the safety measures you can take. This in connection with the black bears in the park. Yosemite also has many campsites, which are extremely popular. So be there on time and book online.

More information:
www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camping
www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/backpacking

Hike the John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail in Yosemite.

The John Muir Trail is one of California’s longer hiking trails. It is 334 miles long and follows the route the conservationist took when he explored Yosemite and the surrounding area. You don’t have to hike it completely, it is also possible to explore parts of the trail. Along this trail you can find Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls.

Follow in the footsteps of Ansel Adams

Famed American photographer Ansel Adams kept coming back to Yosemite time and time again. He tried to capture the wilderness as best he could in his black and white photographs. Photography tours are regularly held in the park. Together with a photographer, you go out and you get an explanation about light, composition and of course the most beautiful places. Check out the Yosemite Guide when this photography course is given during your visit.

More information: www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide

Get married in Yosemite

Some people want to get married in Las Vegas, others prefer the wilderness of Yosemite. Here you can get married for the Half Dome, for example, then give a party, and finally spend a few days in the woods. There are several locations in the park available to spend a romantic time.

More information: www.travelyosemite.com/group-travel/meetings

Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park.

More than 90 percent of the park is wilderness. And is hardly visited or not at all. Avoid the crowds and go to Hetch Hetchy in the west of the park. Hetch Hetchy is a relatively unknown part of the park. This is the catchment area of the Tuolumne River, which provides the water supply for San Francisco, among others.

A dam ensures that the water does not flow away. Because it is remote, you can find peace and absolute wilderness here. Hetch Hetchy is not on the most used roads, but it has its own entrance in the west of the park. The road to the lake is usually open all year round, although it can be closed from time to time due to snow.

Explore Yosemite with a park ranger

Those who want to learn a bit more about the area can explore the park with a park ranger. The activities vary from a chat (with a cup of coffee) to hiking or an interpretation tour. The advantage is that you can ask the park ranger anything, which increases your experience of the park.
More information: www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/guide

Explore Yosemite by bike

In a mountainous area like Yosemite, you can’t see everything per bike. But several valleys are within a good (and relatively flat) distance from the village in the heart of the park. At Yosemite Lodge, you can rent bicycles (and helmets) for a few hours, but also for a day. Take your time and look around you.

More information: www.travelyosemite.com/things-to-do/biking

Olmsted Point

The lovely Olmsted Point in Yosemite National Park.

Olmsted Point is one of Yosemite’s relatively unknown gems. This vantage point gives you a wide view over Clouds Rest, with Half Dome in the background. Olmstead Point can be reached via Tioga Road, after which it is a short half hour walk. What is also special here is that you can clearly see in various places that immense glaciers have been at work here. Especially in the morning this place is almost magical.

Tuolumne Meadows

This alpine meadow is famous for its rustic location. The backdrop is formed by countless granite peaks and the Tuolumne River. It is located on Tioga Road and can only be visited by car in summer and autumn. In winter you can go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.

Sentinel Rock and Sentinel Falls

Sentinel Rock is a 2,145-meter high sheer cliff. It is seen as the guardian of the south side of Yosemite Valley. Sentinel Falls is found next to Sentinel Rock. This waterfall consists of various parts from which the water drops or flows alternately. They are opposite Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Cemetery

Few visitors know that Yosemite has a burial ground. White settlers in particular are buried here. Their life was hard in this rugged area, where disease regularly arose. The pioneer cemetery is tucked away in a forest near the Yosemite Museum. Ask about visiting possibilities at the museum. Information about the people buried here is available on site.

Yosemite National Park in winter time.

Visiting Yosemite National Park

Whoever visits the center of the park sees American scenes. With many hotels, shops, and rows of cars. But this is only a small part of the park, the immense surrounding area is wilderness. Where people are guests and cars cannot come. Here you will find the real Yosemite that it has become famous for.

American photographer Ansel Adams brought the wilderness of Yosemite to the attention of the general public. Between 1944 and 1958 he took numerous black and white photos, capturing the drama of the landscape. How the weather here plays with the light and how the water models the landscape. His photos give credit to both him and Yosemite. Adams is therefore seen as the most influential American photographer of the twentieth century.

Two rivers play a crucial role in his photos. Which makes sense, because they shaped this area. The Tuolumne and the Merced have their source in the Sierra Nevada. This mountain range is not part of the Rocky Mountains but lies to the west of it.

Driving through Yosemite National Park.

Indian Village of Ahwahnee

According to scientists, the first inhabitants lived here about 8,000 years ago. After that, Indian tribes such as Mono Paiute, Sierrra Miwok and Ahwahnechee lived in the area. According to scientists, the Ahwahnechee descend from the Miwok and were the first in the park to have contact with white people.

They lived along the rivers and used, among other things, fire to keep various meadows free of trees. So that many wild animals came to graze there for hunting. The Ahwahnechee were very bloody and were called yohemite or yohometuk by other Indian tribes. Which stands for: they are murderers. Yosemite is named after this unfriendly name.

The whites arrived in the Yosemite Valley in 1851. Because the various Indian tribes in the area fiercely resisted, they were expelled or massacred. This happened during the infamous Mariposa Indian War, in which the whites tried to get all of California Indian free. In order to be able to search for gold in this part of the US without hindrance. For a long time, the Miwok tried to live with the whites, but in the end, they had to leave.

The Ahwahnee village belonged to the Ahwahneshee Indians. The village has been completely reconstructed and shows their environment from around 1870. In addition to the traditional construction method, Western structures can also be seen. Special are the sweat rooms underground, where warriors prepared for the hunt. The village is behind the Yosemite Museum, which is next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

History of Yosemite National Park

The past of this area is relatively unknown. Scientists have been able to identify some major events, but not many. The grounds rose about 10 million years ago, probably due to volcanic activity.

The climate has also changed drastically in the past. About a million years ago it created a solid ice mass on the peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The foothills subsequently formed into glaciers. And they continued to model the landscape with brute force. With today’s Yosemite as a result. Today’s mountains, gorges, waterfalls and lakes are very popular with tourists. Yosemite is therefore affectionately called the ultimate outdoors by the Americans.

This erosion created deep gorges in the landscape. These are now up to 1,200 meters deep. With strikingly steep mountain walls such as El Capitan and Half Dome. In addition, meltwater has remained in numerous places, making Yosemite more than 3,200 lakes. These are just a few indications of the forces of nature that once worked here, even though the rivers continue to change the landscape.

The climate of Yosemite National Park

Contrary to popular belief, Yosemite has a mild climate. That you can almost call the Mediterranean if you look at the limited rainfall. The reason is that this area is only a little over 200 kilometers from the Atlantic Ocean, so dry air is supplied. The temperature is lagging somewhat until July snow can fall in the higher parts.

Book your tour online

My Tips

Show all Bucket List Tips on United States of America

Read My Tips

all 29 articles on United States of America

Show all articles