Visiting Yosemite for the first time?

posted May 26, 2016, 11:29 AM by Paul Wagner
We've had quite a few questions about this topic over the years, and just got another flurry of them, so we've written this summary to help you find your way.    Bear in mind that in August the waterfalls are going to be less impressive than they are in May...but they'll still be cool.  And the High Sierra will be blanketed by snow in a normal year until the middle of June or so...but the mosquitoes will be fierce when the snow melts. 

And September is lovely.  Actually, it's always lovely.

With that in mind, when you first plan a visit to Yosemite:

1.  Don't overlook dayhiking.  Many of the truly stunning parts of Yosemite are easily available as day hikes, and you should make a real effort to see the following:

Too many things here to name---but I'll try anyway. North Dome, Mt Watkins in th left middleground. The Cathedral Range in the center back, Cathedral Peak being the high point, Cloud's Rest. Half Dome peeking over the top of the ridge. And below Cloud's Rest, Tenaya's granite canyon.©
>  Glacier Point and its nearby hikes of Sentinel Dome and Taft Point--and if you have time, Dewey Point for a stunning view. That's the view from Glacier Point at left.  The view from Dewey Point is below. 
>  The Giant Sequoias at Wawona--also visible in the Mariposa Grove, although that is closed this year.  Add in the hike to Chilnualna Falls for a real workout near the South entrance to the park.

>  Tuolumne Meadows and its local hikes:  Lembert Dome, Pothole Dome, Gaylor Lakes, and Elizabeth Lake.  That's a shot from near Tuolumne Meadows below, on the trail to Young Lakes.

> A day in the Valley to watch the climbers on El Capitan, view Bridalveil, Yosemite, and the other falls, hike out on the trails into the main meadows, where you will be amazed at how quiet and peaceful it all the middle of everything.

We picked out some of the trails we've hiked through those peaks ©
Longer dayhikes not to be missed:
>  Merced Canyon past Vernal and Nevada Falls (Half Dome if you can get a permit).

> Clouds Rest from Tenaya Lake (a better hike than Half Dome, and when get to Clouds Rest you are looking down on the people on Half Dome--plus an amazing view of the Sierra crest.

> North Dome from Porcupine Creek--the best view of Half Dome in the Park

> May Lake and Mount Hoffman, one of the best views anywhere, period.

2.  Now, once you've done all of that, you can look for a backpacking permit to some nice locations.  You'll need a permit for a trip.  The most popular sites fill up quickly, but I would recommend the following:

> Ten Lakes Basin is a great hike.  And it's only two days---leaving you some time to explore the hikes above.

> Young Lakes, for the same reason. See photo above.
Cockscomb. Budd Lake is over the ridge to the right...  ©

> Cathedral Lakes, for the same reason---explore Echo Canyon from there, just over the pass, if you have time.   That's Cathedral Peak at right.

> Glen Aulin pass through permit to go downstream of the High Sierra Camp to see even more waterfalls.

>>  What I would NOT recommend is a high up to LIttle Yosemite Valley where there are so many people.  Not exactly a wilderness experience.  But it's the most direct route to Half Dome.  Which is why it is so crowded.

What you will need is a campsite, and those can be hard to find during the middle of the summer.  A backpacking permit helps, because it allows you to stay in a backpackers campground the day before and after your backpacking permit.  But you can probably find a site at Tamarack or Porcupine if you get there earlier in the day...

Does that give you enough to get started?  We have photos of most of these hikes in the destinations section of this feel free to poke around there.