I had the pleasure of visiting Yosemite National Park for the first time in partnership with Yosemite Mariposa County.
With the help of a local tourism board representative, I was able to see the best the area has to offer in a short time.
I visited in November, a great season since most things are still open but there’s more vacancy and availability.
Yosemite has many breathtaking views, here are 4 of my favorites.
1) Glacier Point
Glacier Point is one of the best views in Yosemite National Park, allowing you to see iconic landmarks like Yosemite Falls.
There is parking on site but it can get crowded so get there early. This is a popular spot for sunset since the rays cover Half Dome in a warm orange blanket.
It takes about an hour to drive here from the South Entrance to the park. There are no lights on the road so be careful after sunset when driving back.
Generally, Glacier Point Road is open from May to December but the exact opening and closing dates vary every year depending on the snow.
While I recommend driving, you can get to Glacier Point from Yosemite Valley on the Four-Mile Trail, Panorama Trail, and Pohono Trail.
Once at Glacier Point, you’ll find a spacious amphitheatre that sometimes has events like stargazing. There’s also a scenic house perched on an overlook where many people take pictures.
There are restrooms on site but they’re reminiscent of a port-a-potty in that they don’t flush and are just holes in the ground so I don’t recommend them. If you must use them, bring hand sanitizer.
2) Mariposa Grove
Mariposa Grove is the largest of three groves in Yosemite National Park that has giant sequoia trees.
These are part of the redwood family and considered the largest trees in the world.
There are over 500 mature sequoia trees in the grove, including the famous California Tunnel Tree, originally carved out to promote tourism to the area.
Advertisements showed cars driving through the opening in the tree to emphasize its stature. Today, the tree can be seen healing and growing bark on the inside.
This is just one of several impressive trees in the grove, known by name and having existed for centuries.
The Grove is accessed by shuttle which operates between April to November. Otherwise, you can still access it via snowshoeing or cross country skiing.
There is a parking lot at the shuttle stop, as well as a welcome center, nice restrooms, and a gift shop.
It’s located less than 10 minutes from the park’s South Entrance.
3) Tunnel View
Tunnel View is one of the most iconic views in Yosemite National Park, and also the most crowded.
You can see out over all of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Fall.
There is a parking lot on site.
I think they call it tunnel view because you need to drive through a tunnel to get there and once you emerge the views hit you all at once.
It’s especially stunning in the fall as you can see bright yellow, orange, and red fall foliage in the treetops.
It’s located about 45 minutes from the park’s South Entrance.
After you get your pictures, you can continue onwards into Yosemite Valley, its another 10-15 minutee drive.
4) Valley View
This is the last stop on the road out of Yosemite Valley along Northside Drive.
Importantly, the road is one way so once you pass a site, you can’t turn around and would need to loop back.
Pay close attention to your exits!
This has a small parking lot area that is usually packed.
You can see Bridal Veil Falls to your right and El Capitan to your left.
You’ll be alongside the Merced River.
In other locations in Mariposa County, you have the opportunity to pan for gold in the Merced River, a nod to Mariposa’s rich history as a gold rush town.
5) Sentinel Meadow and Yosemite Chapel
Sentinel Meadow and Yosemite Chapel give you a view of Yosemite Falls, the largest waterfall in North America.
It reaches 2,425 feet above the Valley floor and is in three distinct parts.
- Upper Yosemite Fall, 1,430 feet
- The middle cascades, 675 feet
- Lower Yosemite Fall, 320 feet
There’s a boardwalk area and this part of the park is dog-friendly.
The Falls are visible year-round but they’re stronger in the spring and summer as the snowfall is beginning to melt.
Do the Cook’s Meadows Loop here for views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock. It’s 2.25 miles on flat terrain.
There’s a small parking lot at Sentinel Bridge, otherwise you’ll be pulling off the main road.
6) El Capitan Meadow
Get up close and personal with Yosemite’s most famous climb!
El Capitan is Yosemite’s sheer cliff face, standing at over 3,000 feet tall.
It’s more than 2.5 times as tall as the Empire State Building, and someone climbed it without any ropes.
The documentary Free Solo followed Alex Honnold on his attempt to climb “El Cap” without ropes and alone. He completed the route in just under 2 hours in 2017.
This was one of the only times Yosemite made an exception to their extraordinary strict no drones rules, allowing drones to capture the process for the film. It is currently streaming on Hulu.
There is no official parking lot at the meadow, you just pull off to the side of the road.
The meadow is just that — a big open expanse right in front of the massive rock. While I was there, I saw a couple taking engagement photos.
Till next time, safe travels!