Yosemite National Park Hiking Tours

Named a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite National Park is located in the pristine granite mountains of the Sierra Nevada. Consisting of 1,168 square miles, about 95% of the park is a designated wilderness. Here you can marvel at El Capitan, the largest known granite monolith in the world; Half Dome, the iconic and mesmerizing inspiration for The North Face logo; Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America at 2,425 feet, and more. Yosemite is home to 10 consistent waterfalls and countless others that appear with the rain and snowmelt. In uniform with Yosemite’s theme of “bigness”, it is also home to the largest known living organisms on the planet: The Giant Sequoias.

The Yosemite hiking trails are breathtaking, and the environment with its plentiful and clear springs, soft bed of pine needles, and refreshing breeze seems to welcome visitors with a smile. Yosemite offers many opportunities for hiking and backpacking trips from the Valley to the backcountry.

Below we give a brief overview of things to do in Yosemite National Park, a few of Yosemite’s best hikes in Yosemite, and the best viewpoints in the park. Our weekend Yosemite hiking trip offered through summer is a great opportunity to see all the highlights of Yosemite in three days.

Activities in Yosemite

With so many overlooks and magical places to visit, a traveler might get more out of their time by taking a guided hike in Yosemite. As you might imagine with a park this big, there is a wide array of options for all activity levels.

Bus Tours of Yosemite

For the less walking intensive, you can take a bus tour and enjoy an informative talk by a national park ranger.

  • The Green Dragon through the Valley for an interpretive talk from one of Yosemite’s park rangers.
  • NPS bus tours to Glacier Point and to Tuolumne Meadows.

Ranger Presentations

For those who want more fresh air and enjoy Yosemite Interp and lore, the rangers provide free evening presentations at small amphitheaters around the park. These occur almost every night and last about one hour. Don’t forget to bring your headlamp! The schedule can be found here or at the ranger stations.

The rangers in the Valley also go on a night hike called the “Night Prowl”. A naturalist will take up to 24 participants for 1-1.5 hr stroll through the woods and geek out about things like nocturnal wildlife, navigation at night, plant life, and the stars. It’s $10 per participant and tickets must be reserved in advance at any Yosemite Tour & Activity Desk or by calling 209-372-4386.

Professional Guided Hikes in Yosemite

Of course, you’re always invited to come have an adventure with AOA! Our Yosemite hiking and backpacking guides are specialists of the area, friendly, and know how to show you the very best of Yosemite.

For more news on the things to do in Yosemite check out the park’s 2018 Yosemite Guide.

Best Hikes in Yosemite Valley

Most people that go to Yosemite only visit Yosemite Valley, but luckily there are some really great day hikes beginning in Yosemite Valley that you can put together over a few days to create a great Yosemite hiking tour for yourself and your group.

1. Upper Yosemite Falls hike

7.6 miles round trip, 2600 ft elevation gain.

This hike begins at the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead. It is a challenging uphill hike that leads to incredible views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.

2. Four Mile Trail (Glacier Point hike)

9.6 miles round trip, 3,200 ft elevation gain.

Although you can drive to the Valley’s rim to see the view from Glacier Point, it’s much more rewarding after this strenuous hike up the Four Mile trail. If you have a friend or family member who is not interested in hiking, plan for them to drive around to the top and meet you there if you want to avoid the hike back down.

3. Mist Trail

3 miles to Vernal Falls (1000 ft elevation gain), or 7 miles round trip to Nevada Falls (1900 ft elevation gain).

One of Yosemite Valley’s most classic hikes, the Mist trail offers beautiful waterfall views and can be made into a loop by connecting into the famous John Muir Trail.

For a longer list of the best hikes in Yosemite, check out this blog.

Best Viewpoints in Yosemite National Park

When you visit Yosemite, there are so many gorgeous overlooks that it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some of the must-see viewpoints in Yosemite.

Tunnel View

You’ve undoubtedly seen this Ansel Adams classic on Instagram or on a Yosemite ad somewhere. El Cap on the left, Half Dome in the distance, and Bridalveil Falls on the right. When the Mariposa Battalion entered the Valley through this spot in 1864, they didn’t stop to admire it for fear of an Ahwahneechee ambush!

Glacier Point

One of the most awe-inspiring views in the park, it places the viewer at eye level with Half Dome. Here, you are looking down on most of the Valley and it’s waterfalls. There aren’t many views like this in the world that a person can drive to without hiking.

Tuolumne Grove

It is home to about 20 mature Giant Sequoias. Go see the largest known living organisms on the planet (dare we say, largest known in the universe!?!). These behemoths grow from a tiny seed 4-5 mm in length. The trail is only a 2.5 mile loop with about -/+ 400 feet of elevation, and is much less crowded than the Mariposa Grove.

Tuolumne Meadows

Only accessible when Tioga road is open from about May – late October, Tuolumne Meadows is a serene area in the Yosemite High Country with many granite domes to explore, wildflowers in the spring, gorgeous sunsets, and sits just north of the Cathedral Range.

Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge

While strolling around the Valley’s meadows, don’t miss the photographer’s favorite spot on Sentinel Bridge where Half Dome is in full view reflecting a mirror image in the Merced River.

Climber spotting from El Capitan Meadow

Grab your binoculars and head to the meadow. There is a large shoulder where you can park right in front of El Cap. Take one of the trails into the meadow (Save the butterflies! Don’t walk off trail!). More often than not, you will spot the tiny colorful dots of climbers along The Nose.