Top 10 Things to do Adventurous in Yosemite National Park, Yosemite National Park

May 16, 2022 Renato Branum

Tucked into the mountains of California, Yosemite National Park is renowned for its granite cliffs and waterfalls. Half Dome and El Capitan are two of the formations made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. The valley is open year-round for camping, hiking, and climbing. Traffic is congested during peak season and park rangers encourage visitors to use the free shuttle system. For upscale visits, the Ahwahnee Hotel, built in 1927, is chic and luxurious.   

1. El Capitan

Yosemite National Park, CA http://gotosocal.com/el-capitan/
Excellent
79%
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19%
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5.0 based on 1,363 reviews

El Capitan

Challenging, popular rock to climb in Yosemite.

Reviewed By thomh235 - Sulphur, United States

Years ago I enjoyed skydiving. Then we started our family and I bought diapers instead of Lift Tickets! One of my good friends who I jumped with told me how he base jumped off of El Capitan. I was always intrigued and vowed to visit Yosemite one day. If you're in a hurry, you're in the wrong place and should try your luck in the subways of New York. But...if you love the outdoors and enjoy spectacular scenery, this park is a MUST SEE! Between ElCapitan and all the Waterfalls, you'll take home memories that will last a lifetime AND make your neighbors jealous! Safe Travels!

2. Glacier Point

Yosemite Lodge Resort origin, Yosemite National Park, CA +1 888-413-8869 http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/glacierpoint.htm
Excellent
90%
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5.0 based on 4,561 reviews

Glacier Point

This rustic geological formation is most famous for the magnificent sunsets that can be viewed from its top.

Reviewed By W6633PYpauls - Costa Mesa, United States

It's been probably 20 years since I was last at Glacier Point and it's as amazing as I remember it. I was last here "pre-kids" with my wife when we were first married and finally got around to bringing the boys to see Yosemite National and, of course, Glacier Point. This is a well reviewed attraction so, instead, here's some logistical items that might make the visit more enjoyable: 1. Depending upon where you're coming from, this will be a long drive - check your GPS and plan accordingly. 2. Services are minimal. Get gas for your car before you start. Bring snacks and drinks. I would turn this into a picnic location. 3. Take your time and make the journey part of the adventure. Yosemite has much to see and don't race around from point to point. Stop along the way and enjoy this trip. FWIW, I would use this as your first stop and then work your way through other stops on your way back to your base camp. 4. Camera/Phone is a MUST. Definitely take panoramic photos. The view here is awesome.

3. Wildland Trekking

Excellent
98%
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5.0 based on 105 reviews

Wildland Trekking

The Wildland Trekking Company provides exceptional Yosemite hiking tours and backpacking trips in Yosemite National Park and to the amazing Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Our Yosemite hiking tours range from day hikes to all-inclusive, multi-day Yosemite backpacking trips in Yosemite National Park and Sequoia and Kings Canyon. We also offer inn-based and basecamp Yosemite hiking tours!

4. Half Dome

Yosemite National Park, CA https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/halfdome.htm
Excellent
86%
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5.0 based on 1,474 reviews

Half Dome

Major rock formation in Yosemite.

Reviewed By C1431LKnancyt

After failing to summit 2 years ago (ear infection caused severe vertigo on sub-dome) I chose to have a guided tour on my second attempt (Aug 2019) so that I didn't have to navigate the ridiculously complicated process of getting wilderness permits and half dome permits again. (Hello Silicon Valley! Can you not help our gov't improve this system!?) I chose the DiscoveryTreks.com company for their reasonable price and doable 3 night backpack itinerary. Having someone to cook and clean up after all the meals was really appealing, and our guide Jason did not disappoint! He was wonderful in both his calm and encouraging demeanor (not easy to keep everyone happy in a group with varying opinions and expectations haha!) We had two people with us who had never backpacked before, and all of us had our challenges with fitness and knee issues, so Jason really was awesome in how he managed all of our anxieties and fitness issues and still got us to the dome with a great attitude. Unless you are extremely fit, I do NOT recommend attempting half dome without at least one night in the Little Yosemite Camp site. Doing it in one day is dangerous unless you are very fit and very prepared. I highly recommend #DiscoveryTreks.com if you want to climb half dome but don't want the hassle of figuring out all the logistics on your own. These guys will get you there safely and will take a lot of the burden out of the trip. We started the hike via Mono Meadows after spending our first night at North Pine backpackers campsite in the valley floor. We woke up early to catch a tour bus (you must have tickets) to Glacier Point, and then hopped back on same bus to Mono Meadows trailhead. It was a nice bonus to get a tour of Glacier Point and our bus driver Colette (I think?) was hysterical! From Mono Meadows we had an easy 3 hr hike to our campsite on the Illilouette creek where we swam and relaxed in virtual solitude. I recommend water proof hiking shoes by the way, as we had a very wet meadow crossing at one point. From there the next morning we hiked into Little Yosemite Valley via the Panorama Trail and John Muir Trail, which afforded amazingly beautiful views without the steep climb of the mist trail. Arriving before lunch we had time to swim in the Merced and rest before eating lunch (Jason is a great cook!) and then preparing for the Half Dome climb. We started out before 2pm and arrived at the cables about 3.5hrs later. Lots of breaks on the way up due to high heat and just our fitness levels. The sub-dome was particularly challenging for me because it is steep and does not have railings. Not recommended for folks with vertigo! It was not a long ascent though, and we reached the cables within maybe 30 minutes. The cable route is very steep and way scarier than I imagined, but thankfully there were very few hikers on it that late in the afternoon. We arrived at cables around 5:30 I think. I was not going to attempt them until the ranger there said they aren't as bad as they look. He was wrong, haha, but by the time I started going up there was no turning back. Having the cable on each side of your body is reassuring, especially with good gloves and hiking shoes gripping well, but there are sections where you are walking up very steep slick rock with a cliff on each side of you and it is not for the faint of heart. They have wood planks to stop on every 10 or 15 feet, which helps you get some rest and feel more secure on the cliff. It takes around 30 mins to climb if you don't have others holding you up on the cables, but it is definitely hard on your arms and back since you are pulling your weight up equally between your arms and legs. I advise ascending the cables without looking to either side of you as you are definitely close to the cliff at several points. Arriving at the top was so worth all of the pain and fright though! It is otherworldly on top, with stunning 360 degree views. So peaceful that time of day too. The sun was starting to set so that the light was gorgeous on the valley. Coming down the cables was also quite frightening, but maybe not as bad as going up since you knew what to expect and had gravity helping you. There are a few rock shelves to step down and these are quite disconcerting if you are short since you have to reach up higher to the cable in these sections, but overall the descent is quick if no one is holding up the line. Going down the sub-dome was way easier for me than up, and we were on the main trail home in no time. However, the trail back to LYV camp is long and it is critical to carry extra water and snacks and MOST IMPORTANT a light! We were at our campsite before dark, but not much before it. We saw several people coming up on our way down who did not have water or headlamps and we heard later that one of them had to be helped by others on the trail. Don't be a burden to others and make sure you prepare properly for this hike! It is not cool to assume you are so special you don't need water or headlamps to attempt the dome. The next morning we broke camp and headed back to the valley floor via the John Muir trail. It took around 3.5hrs. Lots of switchbacks and sore knees but well worth the effort. We chose to splurge on a final night at the Ahwahnee with a dinner reservation planned in advance. A great end to a fantastic adventure! Thanks to Jason and DiscoveryTreks!

5. Mist Trail

Happy Isles, Yosemite National Park, CA http://www.yosemitehikes.com/yosemite-valley/mist-trail/mist-trail.htm
Excellent
81%
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5.0 based on 1,020 reviews

Mist Trail

Eminently accessible and popular, the Mist Trail takes hikers through Yosemite National Park to Vernal Fall Bridge, the best place to watch the waterfall.

Reviewed By val0rih - Brainerd, United States

Our family with two kids (6&7) did his hike at the end of August and we had a great experience and views. It was not smoky at all. The trail gets very busy so an early start is recommended!! I am in decent shape so this may be why I think this but I thought down was harder on the body than up!! We went down the John Muir trail and my knees and toes hurt quite a bit. Bring enough water as we didn’t and was quite parched by the time we reached the water refill station. We brought a picnic lunch and had one lunch on top of Vernal falls in the rocks by emerald pool and then another lunch on top of Nevada Falls....some of the best picnic spots I’ve ever experienced. It’s such a great feeling reaching the top of Nevada Falls and knowing what was accomplished to get there!!! Awesome, rewarding hike. Take your time and just do it... we took many breaks and took us 6 hours roundtrip!

6. Sentinel Dome

Glacier Point Road, Yosemite National Park, CA http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/glacierhikes.htm
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88%
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5.0 based on 731 reviews

Sentinel Dome

At 4,150 feet high, this peak offers an extensive view.

Reviewed By ElaineMI

We hiked up here for sunset, with a pizza for dinner (which we packed out--always take your trash with you!) Fantastic 360 degree view with a guide--there is a rock with a plate on the top that tells you all that you are seeing. We neglected to bring headlamps, which frustrated the photographer, as the best light on Half Dome was actually a bit after sunset given the elevation. Leave lots of time to drive up here as the road is winding and the hike isn't substantial except for a steep dome ascent. A highlight of a place of superlatives.

7. YExplore Yosemite Adventures - Day Tours

Excellent
96%
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5.0 based on 338 reviews

YExplore Yosemite Adventures - Day Tours

The only Yosemite Tour Company offering custom guided Yosemite experiences (Adventure Hikes, Half Dome Hikes, Multi Day Backpack Trips, Nature Walks, Birding Walks, Wildflower Walks, Snowshoe Hikes and Photography Workshops) 12 months a year. We guarantee smaller group sizes for a more personalized experience with our professional guides who are all local to Yosemite. We are a socially responsible company providing educational services that follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize our impact in nature to ensure that the ecology of the park will not be compromised. Custom Adventures, Workshops and Family Activities are available to Individuals and Groups of all ages and experience levels in every season.

8. Lasting Adventures

Excellent
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5.0 based on 943 reviews

Lasting Adventures

Lasting Adventures is the top rated guide service in Yosemite National Park and is a recognized 501 (c)(3) public benefit nonprofit with a mission to provide positive youth development and educational opportunities to the general public through safe outdoor experiences. We specialize in Yosemite backpacking trips, Yosemite day hikes, and outdoor youth summer camps. Since 1997, our program has introduced thousands of youth to nature and the wilderness experience through Adventure Based Programming. Our top-rated guide service features Yosemite backpacking trips and day hikes which help fund our outdoor youth programs. By choosing Lasting Adventures for your next Yosemite backpacking or hiking adventure, not only do you get our competitive rates, experienced and credentialed guides, all meals, and equipment, but also the satisfaction of knowing that all profits we gain from your participation goes towards our cause of helping more youth benefit from our outdoor summer camps in Yosemite.

9. Nevada Falls Loop

Yosemite National Park, CA http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/valleyhikes.htm
Excellent
88%
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5.0 based on 347 reviews

Nevada Falls Loop

Reviewed By MoranTravels - Palatine, United States

We thoroughly enjoyed this memorable hike. Please read through a number of previous reviewers with great tips...they helped us immensely in preparing for a great hike. The keys: Leave extra early (it really pays off). If there is a decent waterfall during the time of year you go, pack hooded rain jackets to put on for the slippery steps area up to Vernal Falls. A picnic lunch at the top of the first set of Falls is a great treat. Many people do not continue on to Nevada Falls, as it's very steep and takes endurance after making the first trek...but oh so worth it. And I too, highly recommend taking the John Muir trail on the way back down for great views you don't get on the way up the other two trails. This hike will definitely be one of the best in our lifetime!

10. Panorama Trail

Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, CA http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/glacierhikes.htm
Excellent
88%
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5.0 based on 290 reviews

Panorama Trail

Reviewed By robinhW6199DC - Cincinnati, United States

The Panorama Trail, when you start at the top of Glacier Point and hike down to the valley is a rigorous trail with a mix of terrain, grade, exposure and most of all beauty! It took us about 6 hours and by the end, our calves were sore. We opted to take the John Muir Trail rather than the Mist Trail and stopped for a breather at Nevada Falls. Don't miss this one.

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