Yosemite is one of the most well-known national parks, and for good reason: it has spectacular landscapes and history. And while the top things to do in Yosemite include spectacular treks, massive waterfalls, and stunning panoramas – hiking isn’t the only thing to do there. Sure, hiking and camping are the two most popular Yosemite activities – either at packed campgrounds on the valley floor or in the backcountry gained by undertaking a more lonely trek – but there’s so much more to Yosemite.
Looking for something else than hiking and camping? Yosemite truly offers it all, from vigorous sports such as horseback riding and skydiving to meditative art forms such as photography and yoga.
1. Mist Trail
This three or seven mile trek with up close, feel-the-spray views of two of Yosemite’s most beautiful waterfalls is the ultimate Yosemite experience. Amazing vistas may be seen from this iconic climb, including one that includes Nevada Fall, Liberty Cap, and Half Dome’s back. Although the crowds thin down if you continue, if you don’t feel like hiking for five hours, turn back around Vernal Fall (about two hours total). The finest seasons to visit are early spring and early summer, and you should travel as early as you can.
2. Skydive Yosemite
Only at this skydiving facility can you see Yosemite National Park. You’ll fly in a Cessna between 10,000 and 14,000 feet and get a fresh perspective of Half Dome, El Capitan, and Yosemite Valley. Oh, and the bit when you leap out of an aircraft and fall for 40–60 seconds while seeing the Sierra isn’t too awful either. At the Mariposa-Yosemite Airport in Mariposa, beyond the park’s boundaries, you’ll land where you took off from. When your intended is already out of breath, you might purchase a large “marry me” banner for the landing area.
3. Mariposa Grove
500 mature giant sequoias may be found in this lovely area of the park, which is where the concept of national parks originated. The first time that scenic landscapes were set aside by the federal government to be safeguarded was in 1864, when President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation conserving the Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley for “public use, resort, and enjoyment.” The “Faithful Couple” and “Bachelor and Three Graces” trees, among others, are so large in this area that they have their own names on the map. Even the “California Tunnel Tree,” which was cut into in 1895 to allow horse-drawn stagecoaches to pass through, is accessible to pedestrians.
4. Gold Rush BBQ at Tenaya Lodge
In the little village of Fish Camp, have a summer BBQ at a stunning hotel property that is just outside the park. The BBQ, which is available on specific times, is all about experiencing a flavor of the Old West and is held in a clearing in a conifer forest. There is a hearty cuisine and great music. The hotel’s Jackalope’s Bar & Grill serves great burgers and sandwiches as well as the tastiest house-cooked olive tapenade you’ll ever taste (if you’re visiting Yosemite in cooler season).
5. Yosemite Trails Horseback Adventures
The one- and two-hour horseback excursions offered by this family-run pack station depart every day. The same equine means can also be used by experienced riders to travel the five-hour roundtrip distance to Grizzly Giant, a 2,000-year-old redwood tree that President Theodore Roosevelt and naturalist John Muir visited. All of the trail horses are American Quarter Horses who have been trained since they were young to travel in the high Sierra. Whenever the routes pass over streams, you’ll have the pleasure of riding with these gentle horses through the water. Before leaving, each trail ride begins with a practical instruction in the arena.
6. Yosemite Falls Trail
You have the opportunity to climb 7.2 kilometers roundtrip to the summit of the highest waterfall in North America’s continental interior. The round-trip journey will take six to eight hours as you ascend 2,700 feet on a difficult track through an oak grove. You begin by climbing one mile to Columbia Rock, which offers stunning views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock. Another half-mile climb will bring you to Upper Yosemite Falls. Even though the final two miles are challenging, they are worthwhile for the views and to observe the little brook that causes the raging runoff in the spring and early summer.
7. Happy Isles Art and Nature Center
There are natural history exhibits, interactive displays, and art classes in this welcoming environment. The Yosemite Conservancy Bookstore is also housed in the facility. Outside, you may take short paths for short legs and view the results of a terrible rockfall that occurred in 1996 and sent 90,000 tons of rock, or the weight of 2,000 SUVs, over the Glacier Point cliff above the center. It down a huge number of trees! For a charge, everyday summertime outdoor art programs for ages 12 and up let you paint that enormous cliff. The facility is open from April until October.
8. Glacier Point
This breathtaking viewpoint offers stunning views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and the High Sierra from its 3,200-foot elevation above Yosemite Valley’s bottom. Although all Yosemite vistas are beautiful, this one is particularly outstanding. The majestic curve of Half Dome will be almost in your line of sight. The Four Mile Trail, Panorama Trail, and Pohono Trail all have excellent beginning or finishing points near Glacier Point. For road renovations, Glacier Point will be closed to automobile traffic for the entirety of 2022. During this time, you may still trek or ski in, but you’ll need to do a round trip.
9. Hetch Hetchy Valley
In the northwest portion of the park, there is a stunning glacier valley with hiking, fishing, waterfalls, and wildflowers. It is peppered with inaccessible lakes and secret valleys and has one of the longest trekking seasons in the park. The 430-foot O’Shaughnessy Dam, which forms the reservoir that supplies San Francisco with some of the purest municipal water in the country, is also located there. Because of this, you cannot swim or boat in the reservoir, but you may fish there all year long. John Muir, who opposed the dam’s building, described Hetch Hetchy as “a marvelously accurate replica of the vast Yosemite” before it was completed.
10. Half Dome
If you can climb Half Dome, it’s one of those unforgettable experiences you won’t soon forget. You climb 5,000 feet in elevation over the 14-mile (10–12-hour) round-trip trek, and you reach 8,800 feet above sea level, when the air is thin. For the last, steepest 400-foot length, you’ll need the notorious cables, which are metal ropes you hold onto while your feet rest on widely spread wooden planks. For this activity, which is available from the end of May to the middle of October, you must get a permission in advance.
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