You can park overnight in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park - Best Photo Spots and Hikes

Yosemite National Park is Moritz ’favorite national park and not without reason. The national park offers a huge selection of hiking opportunities and many easily accessible photo spots. Yosemite National Park was the first stop on our road trip and one of the most beautiful places we saw. We want to share our experiences with you so that you don't miss anything on your trip!


Tunnel view

The Tunnel View is one of the most famous viewpoints in Yosemite National Park. The viewpoint is a little higher with a view over the Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. The lookout point is easy to get to. It's on Wawona Road. You should definitely make a stop here when visiting Yosemite Valley. It is very beautiful here at sunrise or sunset. After it has rained or in autumn, beautiful clouds of fog often form over the valley, which make for an even more interesting picture.

Glacier Point with circular hike

Glacier Point is high above the Yosemite Valley with panoramic views over the valley, Half Dome and the whole area. The Glacier Point Road leads up to Glacier Point from which one has a very nice view of the Yosemite Valley. It takes about an hour to get there by car from Yosemite Valley. There are also several hiking trails that lead up from the valley. We present you a circular hike that leads from Yosemite Valley via Nevada Falls and the John Muir Trail up to Glacier Point and then back down into the valley via the Four Mile Trail.

Due to its length, we started the tour very early in the morning. The tour starts at the Happy Isles bus stop at the end of the valley, which can be easily reached with the park bus. From there you first follow the Mist Trail that leads to Vernal Falls. Here you can already follow the John Muir Trail at the junction, which leads in a few switchbacks to Clark Point and meets the route suggested here further up. Our tour follows the steep steps up to the origin of Vernal Falls. Once at the top you have a beautiful view of the Nevada Falls. Here you cross the river and follow the path towards Nevada Falls. There it gets a little steeper again until you reach the height of the Nevada Falls. This is where the Mist Trail meets the John Muir Trail. We follow the John Muir Trail to the right and cross the Merced River on the bridge over the Nevada Falls. After a short time you will come across the aforementioned junction of the John Muir Trail. It goes uphill over many stone steps. After a while you get the first beautiful views over the Yosemite Valley. All the way to Glacier Point you now have a beautiful view. Arrived at Glacier Point you can enjoy the well-deserved view of Half Dome, the waterfalls and the Liberty Cap. Here you can take a snack break and take a lot of photos with the famous rock tongue.

Back down into Yosemite Valley, take the Four Mile Trail. It's a lot shorter but of course also steeper than the way up. It leads downhill over numerous serpentines with beautiful views in the other direction of the Yosemite Valley. The path mostly leads steeply downhill through sparse forest. Once at the bottom you can take the park bus back to the campsite.

Yosemite Falls

The Yosemite Valley is famous for its waterfalls. Especially for the Yosemite Falls. Several hiking trails lead to Lower and Upper Yosemite Falls. The hike to Upper Yosemite Fall is a little longer and steeper and starts at Camp 4. Lower Yosemite Fall can be reached via a hiking trail from the Lower Yosemite Falls bus stop. The hiking trail to the waterfall is very short and wide. In summer and autumn (from July to October) the waterfalls may run out of water and therefore not exist. We were there in September and unfortunately couldn't see them.

Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls

Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls can be reached via the Mist Trail from the Happy Isles bus stop. The hike to Glacier Point described above also passes these two waterfalls. The trail leads uphill first along the Merced River. After a while you cross the Merced River over the Vernal Falls Bridge. From here, continue uphill on the other side of the river to Vernal Falls. The waterfall usually doesn't have much water in late summer and autumn, but is still beautiful. Stone steps lead further up to the origin of the waterfall. From up there you can already see the Nevada Falls. If you follow the river a little further you can take nice photos of the Nevada Falls with the Merced River. In the late afternoon, the waterfalls have particularly beautiful light.

The Yosemite Valley

In Yosemite Valley itself there are some nice photo spots along the Merced River. In some places you get a nice reflection of the Half Dome. At one spot that I really liked, there are beautiful round stones that are scattered all over the river and make a great foreground for the photo. You can usually find deer along the river and if you are lucky you can also meet bears in the valley.

Sequoia Groves

There are many giant Sequoia trees in Yosemite. You can usually see them on short hikes. Another way to see Sequoias is to stroll through one of the Sequoia Tree Groves. There are two groves in Yosemite, the Touloumne Grove on Tioga Road and the Merced Grove on Big Oak Flat Road. Both groves can be reached on a short hike and with information boards lead past huge sequoia trees. If you continue on the Tioga ROad, it is advisable to make a short stop at the Toulumne Grove.

Olmsted Point

Yosemite National Park is not only beautiful in the Valley. There are some beautiful viewpoints along Tioga Road, including Olmsted Point. From there mine has a beautiful view of the landscape in Yosemite. The tree that seems to grow directly on the large flat stones is particularly interesting.

Tenaya Lake

If you follow Tioga Road further you will come to Tenaya Lake after a short time. It is a large lake with beautiful round stones on the shore. The lake is best known as Mac Io's wallpaper. You can take very nice photos here at sunset. Especially when the surrounding mountains are perfectly reflected in the lake on a calm day.

Lower and Upper Cathedral Lake

Another beautiful hike in Yosemite National Park leads to the two Cathedral Lakes. The trail begins at a parking lot on Tioaga Road just past Tenaya Lake. From there, the hiking trail leads through the forest with a relatively small difference in altitude. The first lake to be reached is Lower Cathedral Lake. A circular path leads around the lake with a great view of the peaks all around. On a calm day, Cathedral Peak can be so beautifully reflected in the lake. To get to the second lake, Upper Cathedral Lake, follow the hiking trail that continues uphill in an arc with a slight incline. Upper Cathedral Lake is very similar to its brother below. So if you prefer to do a short hike, you can just hike to the lower Cathedral Lake and back again.

Tioga Lake and Ellery Lake

At the end of Tioga Road there are two other beautiful lakes, Tioga Lake and Ellery Lake. There is a wonderful campsite at Tioga Lake (for us one of the nicest on our whole trip). Even if you are not staying here you should make a little stop to enjoy the view. Here we also had one of the most beautiful night skies on our trip. ON Tioga Road, already outside of Yosemite National Park, you pass a few other lakes, of which we found Ellery Lake to be the most beautiful, because the mountains are simply perfectly mirrored there. If you follow the road here, you will come to Mono Lake and Death Valley National Park, the next stop on our road trip. If you want to find out more about the whole road trip, have a look at our post here.

📌 Remember on Pinterest: