Backpackers Guide to Yosemite – California

Backpackers Guide to San Francisco: Things to do in San Francisco, places to stay, day trips and other travel tips

Yosemite National Park in California is perhaps one of the busiest National Parks in the world, with over 3.7 million people visiting every year. The National Park stretches across  747,956 acres of California but most people head to Yosemite Valley to photograph or hike the famous half dome.  Yosemite was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1984 being internationally recognised for its spectacular granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, and biological diversity.

Guide to Yosemite National Park

Things to do in Yosemite National Park

The most popular activity in Yosemite National Park has to be hiking.

Short hikes

Lower Yosemite Falls: This 1 mile walk takes you through interesting rock formations that lead to the bottom of upper and lower Yosemite Falls. There are so many great photo opportunities along this walk.

Guide to Yosemite National Park

Mirror Lake:  When water levels  are high you can see the reflection of the half dome on the lake. Magnificent.

Bridal veil Falls: This is only a half-mile hike and well worth it. The trail takes you to the bottom of the falls.

Guide to Yosemite National Park

Long Hikes

Upper Yosemite Falls: This strenuous 7-hour hike to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls was high on the list, but unfortunately we didn’t have the time. Just imaging standing on the edge of Americas tallest waterfall excites me. Next time.

Half Dome: Is one of the most popular hikes in America. You need a permit to do this hike and must pre book. If you are lucky enough to get a spot on this hike, I’m jealous.

Other activities

Swimming: There are so many beautiful spots to swim. I enjoyed finding spots off the beaten track to avoid the crowds.

Biking: I would have loved to hire a bike. Things are relatively close however still feel far away when walking. You can see so much more on a bike.

Horseback rides: Are on offer and I’m sure would be a great experience if you had a lot of time in the area.

Relaxing: Sit back in the sun and enjoy the unique views.

Photography: So many beautiful things to photograph.

Scenic drives 

Glacier point: An hour from Yosemite Valley is Glacier Point, a famous viewpoint for the Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.

Hetch Hetchy: Amazing. Located off Evergreen Road approximately 45minutes is Hetch Hetchy, a reservoir nestled amongst mountains with waterfalls flowing in. This area is much less busy than Yosemite Valley.

Guide to Yosemite National Park


Summer: June – August

Winter: December – February

I recommend travelling to Yosemite in spring or fall. The weather will be great and you will miss the crowd. I visited Yosemite in spring on a weekday and It was still packed.  Definitely avoid visiting in peak season.

Recommended trip length

I recommend staying in Yosemite for 2-3 days.

Getting around

A car is essential as the main attractions are spread out. Having a car will allow you to see sooo much more.Save $5 a day off your next weekly car rental at! Use code: 203966. Valid for rentals 11/1 – 1/31/18.

Where to stay

 I recommend camping.

If you want to camp inside Yosemite National Park, reserve a camping spot months in advance.

Outside of Yosemite in Stanislaus National Park you will find many campsites that are just as good if not better than the campsites in Yosemite.

We stayed at Lumsden the first night. This is a free campsite however the drive to it is dangerous with a one-way gravel road on the side of a 600ft cliff. This deters a lot of people so if you have a good car, aren’t afraid of heights and want to avoid the crowd, camp here.

Diamond O is another campsite we stayed at and is located along Evergreen Road on the way to Hetch Hetchy. The campsite was great, it had everything we needed and wasn’t crowded like the campsites in Yosemite. Hetch Hetchy reservoir is easily accessible from Diamond O.

I highly recommend Diamond O campsite and the scenic drive to Hetch Hetchy.

If you plan on getting a hotel you can search for great deals here.

See more from the US here. 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

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