Photography Provided By: Yosemite Mariposa Visitors Bureau
Photography Provided By: Yosemite Mariposa Visitors Bureau

A Breath of Fresh Air—8 Things To Do in Yosemite National Park

Plan a Back-to-Nature Escape in the Crown Jewel of the High Sierras

With its rugged vistas, pristine lakes and waterfalls, top-notch hiking trails and expert-level climbing routes, Yosemite National Park is an outdoor lover’s paradise. From must-see viewpoints like Half Dome and El Capitan and stargazing at Glacier Point to walking through wildflowers in Tuolumne Meadows during the summer and snowshoeing among giant sequoias in winter, nowhere takes you back to nature or inspires awe quite like Yosemite. Here’s eight must-dos when visiting this magnificent CA destination. Best Yosemite Guide


1 | Evergreen Lodge Best Yosemite Guide

Tucked amongst towering pines just a mile from the park’s Hetch Hetchy entrance, the charming and woodsy Evergreen Lodge is the perfect place to check in before your weekend of adventure. Set on 20 acres, this historic resort is home to 88 cabins ranging from vintage and deluxe digs to the John Muir house, which can sleep up to 10. Other perks include the heated saltwater swimming pool, game-filled recreation room and complimentary s’mores kits for guests each evening.

Local Insight: Welcoming travelers since 1921, Evergreen is celebrating its 100th birthday this year with events and specials, including the two- or three-night Centennial Adventure Package.

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2 | Postcard-Perfect Views 

Whether you’re a seasoned visitor or first-timer, Yosemite‘s natural landmarks make for some stellar photo ops. Best visited in late afternoon, the eastward-facing Tunnel View along Hwy 41 (which packs in El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Cathedral Rocks) is easily the park’s most photographed vista. For a commanding view of the valley, head to Glacier Point. Its namesake road is closed during winter, but experienced cross-country skiers can make the 22-mile round trip out and back in one day. During summer, it’s also possible to earn those views by hiking in on the Four Mile and Panorama Trails.


3 | Take a Hike Best Yosemite Guide

Sitting at a total elevation of almost 9,000 feet, Yosemite‘s iconic Half Dome is a challenging 17-mile and 10- or 12-hour adventure. If that feels too advanced (or you weren’t lucky enough to score a permit in the preseason lottery), The Mist Trail to Vernal Falls is an excellent alternative. Follow the Merced River on a 1.5-mile trail that winds its way up to the falls, culminating in a steep granite stairway of 600 steps where The Mist Trail earns its moniker. Don’t forget to take plenty of water, layers and a snack. 


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4 | Rush Creek Spa

Another perk for Evergreen guests is the use of amenities at its sister property, Rush Creek Lodge—namely its gorgeous indoor-outdoor Rush Creek Spa. Book a massage, facial or magnesium foot soak and elevate the experience with a private buyout. Currently, couples (or groups of up to 15) can enjoy exclusive use of the space from 90 to 150 minutes, respectively. Experiential highlights include the granite waterfall hot tub, warm river rock immersion beds, the aromatherapy steam room and wraparound forest views.

Local Insight: The spa boutique stocks clean beauty products, VitaJuwel water bottles and chakra mala necklaces by local artist Baxtalo Creative.

5 | Giant Sequoias Best Yosemite Guide

Yosemite‘s famous Mariposa Grove is closed due to recent storm damage, but the Tuolumne and Merced groves are both open. It’s about 1.5 miles from the parking lot on Big Oak Flat Rd to the Merced Grove, which is home to a smaller group of 20 mature giant sequoias. Depending on the season, Evergreen Lodge can arrange guided snowshoe and walking tours of Tuolumne Grove. You will find “Big Red” and “The Twins,” two highlights at Tuolumne that travelers have enjoyed since the 1870s.

Local Insight: The third longest-living tree species, giant sequoias have a lifespan of up to 3,000 years and depend on forest fires to regenerate. 


6 | Go Stargazing Best Yosemite Guide

With almost no significant light pollution, Yosemite National Park transforms into a stargazer’s paradise after dark. Go on a cosmic astronomy tour with Yosemite Family Adventures, whose guides use state-of-the-art tracking telescopes to spot far-away planets and constellations. Or learn about the moon, meteors, the Milky Way and more on the one-hour Starry Night Skies Over Yosemite experience.

Local Insight: During summer, amateur astronomers set up their telescopes for stargazing parties at Glacier Point. This July 17 to Aug. 24 will be a peak time to catch the Perseid meteor shower. 


7 | The Ansel Adams Gallery

Ansel Adams’ black-and-white photographs of Yosemite cemented his place in history as a prominent landscape photographer and early ambassador for wilderness protection. Founded in 1902 and continuously run by his family, The Ansel Adams Gallery showcases a collection of his iconic images. The gallery is set to reopen April 1 and will resume its weekly photography classes, teaching technique and composition. Multi-day workshops can be booked through November.


8 | Shop Local

Shop National Park souvenirs and local gourmet items at the Yosemite Village Store, including Yosemite National Park jams, Yosemite Cellars wine and small-batch roasted ground beans from Mariposa Coffee Company. For upscale gifts, including American Indian pottery, jewelry and limited-edition Pendleton blankets, head to The Ahwahnee Gift Shop inside the landmark 1920s era hotel, The Ahwahnee

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Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel, culture, and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Beyond Ordinary Guides, DISfunkshion Magazine, Roam Magazine, Modern Luxury, and Eater San Diego, among other outlets and publications.


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