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Written by
Mike Davidson
Mike Davidson

Guide to Hiking in Yosemite National Park

After only a few days of hiking through Yosemite National Park, you will quickly realize why the idea of the National Park system was born there. The towering granite walls, huge waterfalls, and tranquil meadows of the High Sierra lead Abraham Lincoln in 1864 to sign the Yosemite Grant, making this region the first land ever set aside for preservation and conservation. In 1890 Yosemite was officially designated a National Park. Naturalists like John Muir, along with president Theodore Roosevelt, were so inspired by a camping trip in Yosemite 1903, that eventually more protective measures were put in place to keep this landscape as pristine and protected as possible.

One could explore the endless trails, and gaze at the giant sequoias for years but we know most people only have a few days so please enjoy this guide to help you get the most out of your time in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Valley

HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED?

We recommend no less than three days! The arrival day you can enjoy a brief walk through the giant sequoias. These can be found all around the park but the best two groves to visit are either the Mariposa Grove or Tuolumne Grove.

One day must be spent enjoying the iconic Yosemite Valley. Here you will view some of the most impressive granite monoliths such as El Capitan and Half Dome, as well as the tallest waterfall in the United States, Yosemite Falls. Don’t forget to head to Glacier Point and Tunnel View for the best photo opportunities.

While you can easily spend a few days on the trails of the valley, with only a limited amount of time, I would highly recommend spending a day in the high country on Tioga Pass. Tuolumne Meadows offers plenty of hiking opportunities, as well as incredibly sweeping views of the glacier carved granite.

On either our Yosemite hiking tours, you will be able to take in all of the park’s grandeur, but if you have more time, we will be more than happy to add extra days for you as there is plenty to do!

Half-dome-Yosemite

THINGS TO KNOW

Get inside the park early! The trails are best before the crowds hit so we recommend getting on the trail as early as you can. Typically, in the Sierras you get the clearest skies in the morning as well.

When is the best time to visit? You can actually visit Yosemite year-round! Tioga Pass is only open during the summer months though due to snowfall, so you are limited to access in the higher country between Nov – May.  A spectacular time to visit is in the Fall when you can experience the fall foliage and wander through the trails as all the leaves are changing.

Timed entry tickets were newly put in place in 2020 to limit the number of visitors. Anyone could go online to get an entrance ticket but they were selling out within minutes of being released. While there is no official news yet if the park will continue with these permits in 2021, it sounds very likely. If you book a Yosemite hiking trip with Macs, we will take care of your timed entry ticket so you will be guaranteed a trip to the park!

It’s not uncommon to see a black bear so bear safety is taken very seriously in the park. Don’t leave any food out visible from the windows of your car while you are parked or you may invite an unwelcomed guest!

Before you visit the park, there have been two fantastic film made recently about the history of Rock Climbing in Yosemite. As long as you don’t have a fear of heights, we recommend watching both Free Solo, and The Dawn Wall. Those movies are bound to get you excited for a trip to the park. Also, a personal favorite, is an older film that has some amazing scenes regarding the birth of climbing in Yosemite called Valley Uprising.

Glacier Point with View to Yosemite Valley and Half Dome

WHAT TO PACK

The High Sierra has a wide range of weather, and it can all be experienced in a single day! We recommend packing layers because even if it’s sunny and clear when you set off on your hike, winds can bring in rain or cold weather very quickly. I recommend always bringing a raincoat as well, as it can double as a wind breaker if there’s a lot of wind.

Pack a lot of Water!! On the Panorama Trail, you start at Glacier Point which is 7,214 ft (2,198 m) above sea level so you will need to drink more water than normal. We would recommend no less then 3 liters of water. Don’t forget to check your map as well, there are water refill stations along some of the trails. Always top off if you pass a water fountain.

Lastly, I always recommend sunscreen, and sweet and salty snacks to get you through the hike. Please don’t feed the squirrels any leftovers either.

Find more information here about our Yosemite Short Break, or our Yosemite and Tahoe Trails, or contact an adventure specialist to answer any questions you may have.

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