Located about 150 miles away from the San Francisco Bay Area, Yosemite National Park is my favorite go-to destination for a day hike. I fell in love with this place in 2016 when I came to visit for the very first time. No wonder it’s a popular tourist destination. With a view like this, I could sit here all day everyday if I had a chance.
Tip #1: Visit in Spring (April, May, June)
I’ve been to Yosemite in winter, summer, and spring and so far I’ve noticed that spring is the best time to visit. The waterfalls are at their peak at this time so have your waterproof camera and jacket ready. The only downside that I can think of is if you choose to visit in April some of the trails and roads may still be closed due to the snow. So make sure to check the road conditions on their website beforehand.
DO NOT go there during the holidays or weekends. Unless you’re planning to get stuck in traffic inside the park or waiting in long lines to ride the shuttle bus or restrooms, then your best chance of getting the most out of your trip will be to go during the weekdays (if possible).
Tip #2: Get there early
My days off are usually in the middle of the week so if I want to go somewhere I’d have to leave before or after the rush hour traffic. I usually leave the house around 4 A.M. and it takes me about 3.5 hours (without traffic) to get to the park. In my experience, if I arrive early enough, I can skip the park entrance fee because there’s usually no one there at that time to collect it. I’m not sure if this applies to everybody but leaving late around 6 P.M. also guarantees that they will not check if you already paid or not. The park entrance fee is $35 per vehicle. If you’re a frequent visitor like me, I encourage you to get an annual pass, which costs $70. With the annual pass, you have an unlimited access to any U.S. National Parks for a year.
Getting there early also gives you a chance to choose where to park. Finding parking can be a challenge if you arrive later in the day especially during summer. I like parking at the visitor center and using the free shuttle bus to get around.
Tip #3: Use the free shuttle bus
Park your car somewhere and hop on the bus! Not only is it eco-friendly but also convenient. Don’t forget to grab a map at the gate entrance or the visitor center. For someone like me who sucks at navigating, this is a no-brainer. The shuttle bus schedule varies depending on the season.
Tip #4: Bring your own food and water
It goes for every tourist destination, if you want to save money you should bring your own food and water. If you’re planning to spend a whole day in the park you will need to stay hydrated. You can also bring a reusable water bottle. The park has some water bottle filling stations.
Tip #5: Go for a hike
It doesn’t have to be a hard one. There are a lot of trails to choose from. I like to use AllTrails app to find information about a trail (Check out my AllTrails profile). This way you can enjoy the park even more. They say that “the best view comes after the hardest climb.” A lot of the beautiful spots can only be reached by foot.
My personal favorite is Vernal and Nevada Falls via Mist Trail. This trail is approximately 6.4 miles loop with an elevation gain of 2,191 ft and rated as moderate. We went on this trail in mid-July. I underestimated this trail when I read that you WILL get wet on the way up to Vernal Falls. Lots of wet and narrow stairs! By the time we reached Vernal Falls I felt like I was in the middle of a storm. I was completely soaked from head to toe. Gear up and wear waterproof everything or at least wear something that dries up quickly. It took us five hours to complete the trail with plenty of time to rest at the top.