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Best things to do in Yosemite National Park

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Where in the world: USA  /  California  /  Yosemite National Park

Top 15 things to do in Yosemite National Park

1. Half Dome

Half Dome is a granite dome at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park, California. It is a well-known rock formation in the park, named for its distinct shape. One side is a sheer face while the other three sides are smooth and round, making it appear like a dome cut in half. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 ft (1,444 m) above the valley floor.

Suggested duration: 5h 30 min
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2. Mariposa Grove

The biggest grove of giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park, Mariposa Grove is home to two of the biggest sequoias in the world. The Grizzly Giant is thought to be 1,800 years old. Your best is to hike to the grove, which also features the California Tunnel Tree that you can walk through. You can park at the entrance to the grove, or take a one-hour tram tour that operates seasonally. Visit the National Park Service's website for updates on temporary closures that periodically occur.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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3. Yosemite, Tunnel View

Take in the majesty of nature at Yosemite, Tunnel View, one of Yosemite Park's most iconic viewpoints. This site has drawn visitors, photographers, and artists since it opened in 1933. Those arriving by road must drive through a long, dark tunnel before emerging to see the breathtaking scenery, hence the viewpoint's name. A turn-out with ample parking enables you to stop for photographs of El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome. If you are feeling adventurous, you can embark on a hike up to Inspiration Point from here.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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4. Bridalveil Fall

At 188 m (617 ft) tall, Bridalveil Fall is one of the highlights of Yosemite National Park. This fall flows year-round, and was named for the mist that blows off it on breezy days, which resembles a bridal veil. In the spring, you can see the fall at its most powerful, roaring with snowmelt. The Ahwahneechee tribe believed the fall was home to a vengeful spirit, and according to legend, if you look directly at the waterfall when leaving the valley, you will be cursed. However, the tribe also believed inhaling the mist would increase your chance of marrying. The park features an easy, short hike to get a close-up view of the natural wonder. Bring water as it's not available at the trailhead or parking area.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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5. Vernal Fall

Surrounded by green foliage, Vernal Fall flows all year round, spraying mist onto the hikers climbing along its steep granite stairway to enjoy the scenery. Plunging from a height of 96 m (317 ft), the fall is accessible via several shaded trails passing along the Merced River and offering exceptional vistas across Yosemite Valley. The trails are fairly strenuous and slippery in places, so watch your step and don't cross the railings. Facilities include several restrooms along the hike and a shuttle stop with drinking water at the Vernal Fall footbridge.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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6. Mirror Lake/Meadow Trail

Hike around Mirror Lake/Meadow Trail and take in the beautiful scenery, including surrounding cliffs. In spring or early summer, the water swells and offers fantastic reflections, while during the low season it is playfully called "Mirror Meadow." No matter when you visit, the area offers plenty of tranquility. During your walk, be sure to check out the informational panels alongside the trail, which discuss the lake's seasonal qualities and some of the area's cultural history. Remember to wear comfortable hiking shoes and take plenty of water.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Yosemite Falls

With three separate drops measuring 739 m (2,425 ft) in total, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America and ranks among the top ten in the world. It can be seen from many places throughout the Yosemite Valley, but you can also hike to the base and the top of the waterfall. An easy hike to the base is wheelchair accessible and rewards you with a stunning view of the upper drop. Just be careful of the slippery ground and don’t be surprised if you get sprayed by the water. The trail to the top offers breathtaking views of the valley, but you should consider it only if you’re a serious hiker.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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8. Valley View

At Valley View, you'll think you're about to jump into a postcard. This roadside lookout offers great views of the Merced River and the towering Cathedral Rocks and Spires.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
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10. Yosemite Valley Loop Trail

Suggested duration: 2 hours
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11. Cathedral Range

The Cathedral Range is a mountain range immediately to the south of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. The range is an offshoot of the Sierra Nevada. The range is named after Cathedral Peak, which resembles a cathedral spire.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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12. Glacier Point

Take in the majesty of Yosemite from Glacier Point, a viewing area 980 m (3,214 ft) above the bottom of the valley. From here you can admire and photograph Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, and Clouds Rest. Depending on the time of year, the spot is accessible by car, bus, foot, or skis. From the parking lot, you must walk along a short, paved trail to get to the viewpoint. If you are feeling adventurous, set off on a hike from here. Bring along some munchies or purchase some snacks from the visitor center for a meal with a view.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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13. Elizabeth Lake

In addition to offering scenic views, Elizabeth Lake is small enough to provide a personal feel to a traveler looking to escape the crowds. Nestled at the foot of Unicorn Peak 2,892 m (9,487 ft) above sea level, this glacier-carved lake--fringed with evergreen trees and a steep granite cliff face--carries the name of a geologist's niece, Elizabeth Crow Simmons. The moderate hike to the lake is an attraction in its own right, offering peace and tranquility.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
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14. Tioga Pass

At an elevation of 3,031 m (9,943 ft ), Tioga Pass represents the highest highway pass in the Sierra Nevada. Serving as an entry point for Yosemite National Park, the 95 km (59 mi) stretch of road is considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the Sierras, according to National Geographic magazine. The road winds through forests and meadows and hugs the edge of Tenaya Lake. Along the way, you'll pass by the granite outcroppings and cliffs that Yosemite is known for--you can often spot rock climbers on the cliff faces. The pass features lots of off-the-beaten-path hiking opportunities and numerous picnic spots.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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15. Wapama Falls

Wapama Falls is the larger of two waterfalls located on the northern wall of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. It flows almost year-round and during peak flow has been known to inundate the trail bridge crossing its base, making the falls impossible to pass. The falls consist of two primary drops angled roughly 60 degrees to each other, and a broad cascade at its base. Wapama Falls is fed by Lake Vernon, a few miles to the north, and is below Hetch Hetchy Dome.

Wapama Falls descends just under 1,100 feet. Like Yosemite Falls, it has three distinct parts. The topmost is a free drop of perhaps 300 feet, followed by a steeply-cascading stream which descends 600 feet in a steep-sided gorge, much like the stream between Upper and Lower Yosemite Fall. These cascades cannot be seen in their entirety from the trail: such a view is seen from across the Valley high on Kolana Rock. Finally, the bottom drop, seen from the dam and intimately from the trail, is one of about 200 feet down an escarpment that is not vertical, but in high water the water shoots outward to clear this descent.

Visitors can reach Wapama Falls by hiking 2.5 miles (4.0 km) up Hetch Hetchy Reservoir Trail from O'Shaughnessy Dam.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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