Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Parkis almost 1,200 square miles of high cliffs and outcroppings, waterfalls, ancient sequoias, and wilderness. There are three groves of giant sequoia trees, some of which are more than 1,000 years old. The park is also home to Half Dome and Yosemite Falls - both spectacular formations in their own right. Whether you want to visit these world-famous landmarks, or spend time in the less populated backcountry, there’s something for everyone to do at Yosemite.
The park sees millions of visitors every year. Because of this, you may have a better chance of hiking and exploring where you wish by using the park’s transit system instead of hoping to find parking at a popular spot.
The weather at Yosemite is fairly mild, though the park usually has snow from November through May. Winter temperatures are mostly in the 40s-50s during the day and in the high 20s-low 30s at night. During the summer, highs are in the 70s-80s and lows are in the 40s-50s. Bring a warm jacket and plan on layers while hiking and touring around the park.
There are several quaint towns near Yosemite, and many of them draw on the area’s history during the Gold Rush and as part of an arduous pioneer path west. Whether you’re looking to raft one of the area’s rivers, learn more about the history of the Yosemite region, or treat yourself to a dining experience with a once-of-a-kind view, there’s an activity for you!
If you’re looking for things to do inside Yosemite, the park has scheduled events year-round. It’s a popular place during winter as well as summer, with cross-country skiing, tubing, ice skating, and even a ski and snowboard resort. You can find a full schedule of park events and activities planned throughout the year here.
Where To Stay
Yosemite offers many places to camp, both public and private. Because the area is so popular, be sure to make reservations before your trip. Also, some campgrounds are seasonal so be sure yours is open at the time you want to visit.
Yosemite National Park Public Campgrounds
Yosemite National Park Private Campgrounds
RV Rentals Near Yosemite National Park
Nearby RV Rentals
Hit the Trails
There are so many iconic landmarks in Yosemite, and so many great trails where hikers can get a closer look. You can choose from less strenuous hikes to the bottom of these spectacular waterfalls and mountains, or challenge yourself with a trek to the top. Whatever you decide, you’re guaranteed a picture perfect moment...or several.
Yosemite Valley Trails
Lower Yosemite Fall
Distance: 1 mile, round trip
Terrain: Paved loop trail to the bottom of North America’s tallest waterfall, Lower Yosemite falls. A short, easy walk with views of both the Upper and Lower falls.
Cook’s Meadow Loop
Distance: 1 mile, round trip
Terrain: The flat trail is paved in parts, boardwalk in others. An easy walk with views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock.
Vernal and Nevada Fall
Distance: 1.6 miles RT to Vernal Fall, 5.4 miles RT to Nevada Fall
Terrain: This popular hike is paved at the beginning, then gives way to a dirt trail that is almost entirely uphill. A steep granite stairway of over 600 steps takes you to the top of Vernal Fall. After that, steep, rocky switchbacks lead you on to the top of Nevada Fall.
Yosemite Valley Loop
Distance: 7.2 miles for half loop, 11.5 miles for whole loop
Terrain: The fairly level trail follows many of the valley’s first wagon roads and offers some rare solitude in Yosemite Valley. Hike through meadows, talus slopes, and along the Merced River.
Distance: 16 miles round trip, with 4,800 foot elevation gain
Terrain: A strenuous hike that ends with hikers pulling themselves up cables on the side of the rock, but also with spectacular views of the Yosemite Valley below. Hikers must apply for permits in advance for this popular hike.
Wawona/Mariposa Grove Hikes
Grizzly Giant Loop
Distance: 2 miles round trip
Terrain: Begin at Big Trees Loop and hike past the Bachelor and Three Graces, the Grizzly Giant, and California Tunnel Tree. A section of this trail is also wheelchair accessible.
Wawona Meadow Loop
Distance: 3.5 miles round trip
Terrain: Unpaved fire road that loops around wildflower-strewn Wawona Meadow.
Swinging Bridge Loop
Distance: 4.8 miles round trip
Terrain: Paved road for 2 miles, then a dirt road that crosses Swinging Bridge, passes Pioneer Yosemite History Center and ends after crossing a covered bridge.
Mariposa Grove Trail to Wawona Point
Distance: 7 mile round trip
Terrain: Wide, relatively smooth trail that follows a route people have used to get to the grove for generations. Walk past trees such as Bachelor and Three Graces, the Faithful Couple, and the Clothespin Tree to the upper reaches of the grove and on to Wawona Point.
Distance: 8.2 miles round trip with a 2,400 foot elevation gain
Terrain: Follow Chilnualna Creek for half a mile, then hike a series of switchbacks into open forest with views of the Wawona area
Tuolumne Meadows Trails
Soda Springs and Parsons Lodge
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Terrain: Gravel road that passes Soda Springs where carbonated, cold water bubbles out of the ground. Parsons Memorial Lodge has exhibits, then a path winds to the bridge below and on to Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center.
Distance: 4.8 miles round trip
Terrain: Steady climb to a glacier-carved lake at the base of Unicorn Peak.
Distance: 7 miles round trip with a 1,000 foot elevation gain
Terrain: This popular hike is a steady climb to Upper and Lower Cathedral Lake.
Distance: 8 miles round trip with a 1,000 foot elevation gain
Terrain: The historic trail begins with a gentle climb through meadows and creeks, then heads more steeply up to Mono Pass. Views of Mono Lake and Bloody Canyon, then on to Sardine Lake.
Vogelsang High Sierra Camp
Distance: 13.8 miles round trip with a 1,400 foot elevation gain
Terrain: Trail is relatively flat as it follows a fork of the Tuolumne River, then heads up Tuolumne Pass to the camp and lake beyond.
What to Do
There is, of course, a ton of stuff to do inside Yosemite National Park. However, the area around it is full of exciting activities and events as well. From exploring more of the area’s Gold Rush history to dining with spectacular views of the Yosemite Valley, there’s plenty to do once you’re done on the trails.
Type: Upscale Dining
Location: Yosemite Valley
Location: Fish Camp
Furniture and home decor handcrafted by the shop’s owners mingle with other gifts, vintage and antique items and locally handcrafted products. Browse the Cabin, the Cottage, and the Potting Shed for items themed after their names. And yes, there’s candy available as well.
Shop fair trade world imports along with locally handcrafted gifts. Find unique jewelry, printed dresses and clothings, and beautiful pottery.
Yosemite Bicycle & Sport
Get everything you need to hit the bike trails at Yosemite, including bikes, helmets, clothing, accessories, Camelback products, tires, wheels, and more. You can also rent mountain bikes, road bikes, bike racks, and kayaks.
Branches Books & Gifts
After a day of hiking, relax with the perfect book from Branches, a locally-owned, independent bookstore. You can also browse cards, journals, toys, and games.
Bring home a unique souvenir from your trip. The rock shop stocks gems and minerals, necklaces, jewelry, and more.
Located on part of an old horse-drawn freight wagon road, the Coarsegold Historic Museum now houses artifacts stemming back to the 1800s. Various sections of the museum show the Coarsegold Market and Supply, a blacksmith and tool shop, a gold panner, a tack shop, and an authentic Native American village.
The Yosemite Museum was the first building in the national park system constructed as a museum. The changing exhibits in the museum include geological exhibits, specimens, artwork, and other pieces of the history of the park.
This hands-on museum is designed to let children explore, imagine, create, and learn. Kids can investigate The Medical Area, The Good Cents Bank, The Artist’s Corner, The Dig Exhibit, The Pizza Restaurant, The Natural History Exhibit and more.
Gold seekers flocked to California in 1848...and there’s still gold in those same hills today. Learn about California’s mineral wealth, history, and geologic diversity and see the mineral collection of the state of California. The collection includes more than 13,000 objects like mining artifacts, and gem and mineral specimens. The museum also displays the Fricot “Nugget”, a 13.8 pound nugget of crystallized gold which is the largest remaining from 19th century California.
Middle-Pleistocene fossils of Mammoth, Smilodon, sloth, dire wolf, camel, and horse are just some of the more than 15,000 fossils found at the Fairmead landfill in Madera County. Visitors can see the landfill where fossils were discovered, and see exhibits at the Discovery Center across the road.
The largest natural lake wholly within the boundaries of California, Mono Lake is best known for its tufa towers - cement-looking calcium carbonate spires that line the shores and look like ancient cities. Visit the South Tufa Reserve or take a boat tour to get a closer look at the formations.
Go water skiing, fishing, swimming, or participate in other water sports at this four mile long mountain lake. Also, do all of this without chattering teeth - Bass Lake is a warm water lake, with water temperatures reaching near 80° during the summer months. Be sure to look for bald eagles, which are known to nest near the shores of the lake.
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad
Spend the day steeped in California’s Gold Rush history. Take a ride on a steam train, pan for gold, visit the Thornberry Museum, and check out the gift store.
Horseback and Mule Riding
When you get tired of exploring Yosemite on your own power, book a mule ride for a one-of-a-kind adventure. Big Trees Stable in Wawona offers two-hour mule or horseback rides through parts of the park.
Raft the Tuolumne River as it cascades through a breathtaking river canyon near the northern entrance of Yosemite. Choose from day trips, or two- or three-day trips during the summer months here
How to Get There
There are several ways to get to Yosemite National Park. The park is about four to five hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, and about a six-hour drive from Los Angeles.
From San Francisco and the Bay Area, take 580 east to 120 east, or 140 east into the park. From Los Angeles and Southern California, take the 5 freeway north to Hwy 99 to Hwy 41 into Yosemite.
The closest airport is the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, a little over an hour away. If you want more choices for flights, your next options are the airports in San Jose or Sacramento.
You can also travel around Yosemite by renting an RV. RVing allows you to travel at your own pace and stop wherever you’d like on your journey. If you don’t own an RV, RV rentals are available in many places along the way. You can fly into one of the areas above and rent an RV near Yosemite, or rent one in your hometown for your vacation.
There are several RV campgrounds in Yosemite. Check to make sure the campground you’re interested in is open when you plan to visit (some are seasonal), and be sure to make reservations in advance.View RV Rentals
Entering the Park
You will need to purchase a pass to enter Yosemite National Park. You can buy it at the entrance gate, or online here before you go. There are also a few free days, which you can find here. Fourth graders get free entrance to national parks for themselves and everyone in their vehicle - you can find more information on the Every Kid in a Park Pass here. You can also purchase Annual Passes to the park, along with Senior Passes here.
Private Vehicle : $35
Private, non-commercial vehicles (15 passenger capacity or less) and all occupants.
Motorcycle : $30
One or two passengers on a private, non-commercial motorcycle.
Per Person : $20
One individual with no car (bicyclist, hiker, pedestrian). Youth 15 and under are admitted for free.
It’s not surprising that Yosemite National Park is one of the more popular parks in the country. The striking beauty of places like Half Dome and El Capitan share space with stunning waterfalls, wildflower-sprinkled meadows, and spectacular giant trees. Regardless of which parts of the park you visit, you’ll see some amazing sights. It’s our joy at RVshare to help people explore the amazing outdoors and create lifetime memories with their loved ones. Visiting Yosemite in an RV allows you to see the park in comfort and at your own pace. Regardless of whether you choose to visit Yosemite in an RV rental from us or use other accommodations, we’d love to see pictures of your trip! Send us photos at [email protected] and tag us on social media to share details and tips about your visit. Your adventures could be featured on our blog or social media!