Many people come to Yosemite and other National Parks in the United States to Hike and Backpack, and Yosemite certainly shines when it comes to these types of outings. Yosemite has some of the finest trails in all the Sierra Nevada. Yosemite has over 800 miles of trails that range from the lower elevations of the valley floor, to well over 8,000 feet. They pass by spectacular waterfalls, lush meadows, beautiful lakes, and lead to rugged mountain vistas. But most folks spend nearly all their time in Yosemite's seven square mile valley, and there is nothing wrong with that, for the valley is jam-packed with spectacular scenic beauty. But if you want solitude, you will need to put on your hiking boots and hit the trails.
From spring through Autumn, Yosemite sports the typical fine Sierra weather, but as with any mountainous region, weather can change quickly, and thunderstorms or cold weather can take place even during the mild seasons, so be prepared. Backpackers will require wilderness permits, while day hikers can travel anywhere their human power will take them round trip. For information on wilderness permits, check out or page on Where to Stay.
If you are a rock climber, Yosemite will be a mecca for you. The park is world famous for climbs of all levels. From bouldering to high level big wall climbing on El Capitan. Curry Village also has a great mountain shop (upper photo to the right) that has all sorts of gear that outfits anyone from day hikers to backpackers, or top level climbers. If you decide to explore the wilderness, remember that all water must be purified to avoid things like giardia. So filter, boil, or treat your water with iodine based chemicals. For much more on this subject, see our page on Water/Dehydration.
For backpackers, proper food storage is required. You must carry a bear canister to secure your food from bears and other critters. Bears are very skillful when it comes to getting a free lunch or dinner. I found this out many years ago, when I hung my food in a rucksack between two trees high up in Little Yosemite Valley. In the middle of the night, a bear smelled the food, climbed one of the trees and broke the cord that the food was hung from. The cord I hung the goodies from was rated at 800 lbs.
Needless to say I was shocked when I heard the cord break and my food fall to the ground. The bear then casually climbed back down the tree, and ate 4 days supply of food that my wife and I needed for our trip. At that point, all we could do is pick up our things and hike back down to the valley floor and spend the rest of our time there. Thus today, bear canisters are mandatory.
In the photo to the left, you see hikers on the footbridge that leads to Lower Yosemite Falls. It is a fairly short hike to get to the lower falls, and it is well worth doing. For the more ambitious hiker, you can take the trail to the top of Yosemite Falls for great views of the falls as you ascend, and a super view of the valley floor below once you on top. Camp 4 hosts the Trail-head to Upper Yosemite Falls, and is located on the North side of the Yosemite Valley. Camp 4 has been a hangout for rock climbers for several decades, and many of the early climbers went on to become world famous after initially honing their skills right here in Yosemite Valley's Camp 4. I used to pour over guidebooks and read stories about men such as Yvon Chouinard, Warren Harding, Tom Frost, and several others. I would marvel at the incredible feats these guys performed on the sheer rock-walls of Yosemite Valley. For a detailed description of the hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, check out our page on the Yosemite Falls Trail Backpacking, long day hikes, or climbing are certainly not the only activities that are available to you in Yosemite. There are also very leisurely things like a stroll along level well maintained paths that have beautiful wooden bridges like the one shown above. Or a nice stone walkway like the photo shown to the right. People with wheelchairs or strollers have access to all sorts of fine walks and sights. The image to the right shows the lower portion of the Mist Trail that leads to a beautiful view of Vernal Falls at a bridge crossing.
As a participant on the Mist Trail, you will be treated to spectacular Vernal and Nevada falls. Roaring streams of snow fed water, Emerald Pool, marvelous trail engineering, and glacier carved granite cliffs (of awe inspiring grandeur) will delight each and every individual. The "Mist Trail" gets its name from the wind blown mist that tends to soak hikers as they pass by the falls.
Yosemite has High Sierra Camps that provide visitors access to a nice warm beds and hot showers. They also treat the back country traveler to a hearty meal. These camps are spread out throughout the high country, and make it possible for outdoor travelers to go deep into the wilderness without having to carry a heavy pack full of things like tents, sleeping bags, food, and cookware. For more information about these camps including cost, use the following phone number: 559-253-5674. If you are into winter sports, Yosemite has much to offer here too. Badger Pass Ski Resort offers great skiing for those so inclined. There are also plenty of opportunities for cross country skiing too.
River Rafting is also available in Yosemite (as shown in the image to the right). Curry Village rents six person rafts that you can use them to paddle down the beautiful Merced River.
The rafts are only rented out when the river flow is such that it will not endanger the lives of the participants. There are also guided trips if you would like to have a guide.
There are several beaches along the Merced River, and they are the perfect place for cooling off and/or hanging out at during the summer months. If you have a raft, the beach would be a great place to have some fun with it. Curry Village not only rents rafts, but rents bicycles too.
The traffic in Yosemite can be like rush hour on a LA freeway, so being on a bike is a way of getting around.
You could also take a bike in your vehicle to the top of Glacier Point, and then ride it back down the mountain to the valley floor. Horse back riding is another fun activity in Yosemite. In the above photo, you see riders going along the road that leads to Happy Isles. Yosemite has it's own stables, and you can rent horses there. Many years ago, I rented a pony, and put my 6 year old daughter on it, and then put my 3 year old son in a little toddler pack. By doing this, my wife and I were able to hike all the way up to Nevada Falls on the John Muir Trail without any complaints from the kids. They loved it! My wife and I would also spend a lot of time, while in Yosemite, enjoying things like the Visitor Center and the Ansel Adams Gallery (shown in the image to the right).
I remember many years ago (shortly after getting married) when my wife begged me to buy one of Ansel Adams enlarged signed photos of "Moonlight Over Hernandez." The cost was $200.00 at the time (over thirty years ago). But I thought it was a lot of money, so I told her I would take my own picture of some scenery in Yosemite rather than pay that kind of money for a photograph. Well, if you could see me now, you would see a grown man crying for not buying it. It is worth millions today. It was a lesson for me not to ignore my wife's pleadings in the future. They many times see things we guys just don't see.
Yosemite also has many short beautiful pathways to sights like Bridalveil Fall (as shown in the lower left photo), Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, or many other spectacular sights. And if you do not even feel like getting out of your vehicle (you should though), Yosemite has much to offer the motorist. Lots of fine roadways (like the one shown in the lower right hand photo leading to El Capitan) and other fantastic sights. I find the Tioga Pass road that goes from the Valley Floor to Tuolumne Meadows (or going from Tioga Pass back down to the Valley Floor), to be one of Americas most scenic byways. Well, that's just a very small sample of the many, many things to do in Yosemite. As mentioned above, there are lots of fine books, maps, and brochures about Yosemite National Park and I recommend that you make use of them. But no matter what you do, you will never be disappointed with a visit to this fine National Park.
The Park Service puts it this way "Yosemite's natural beauty can be found in things big and small, from towering granite cliffs and giant sequoias to diminutive wildflowers. Varied conditions in four geographic areas HIGH SIERRA, GRANITE CLIFFS, SEQUPIA GROVES, and VALLEY make such diversity possible. Explore Yosemite's many facets, take in its many moods, and enjoy its views, sounds, and smells." I have been going to Yosemite National Park for over four decades and have never been at a loss when it comes to things to do and see, and if I really sit down and think about it, even after vacationing in Yosemite countless times, I have not even scratched the surface when it comes to seeing the entire park! For more on Yosemite National Park, just click the link below and jump back up to the top of this page and select another adventure.
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