Yosemite's 13 Must-See Attractions

Spanning an amazing 761,000 acres, Yosemite National Park is an outdoors lover’s dream. Discover the best overlooks, rock-climbing mountains, day-hike trails and trees — more than 3,000 years old!

By: Lisa Singh

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Steve Dunleavy, Wikimedia Commons

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Thinkstock

Photo By: Ava Weintraub, flickr

Photo By: Bala Sivakumar, flickr

Photo By: Steve Dunleavy, flickr

Photo By: Matt Haughey, flickr

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Photo By: Getty Images

Yosemite Falls

Discover the highest waterfall in North America and the sixth largest in the world: Yosemite Falls. At 2,424 feet, the waterfall is a major attraction in the park, located in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range of California. It’s best viewed in late spring when snowmelt flows most vigorously.

Half Dome

The granite dome in the background is Yosemite’s most popular rock formation: Half Dome. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 feet above the valley floor and hikers can ascend it with the use of cables.

Tuolumne Meadows

Discover this meadowy section of Yosemite along the Tuolumne River. Wild, wonderful plant and tree species to explore include Ross’s sedge, Lodgepole Pine and dwarf bilberry. The area also offers day-hike and camping opportunities (the park service campground is open July through late September).

El Capitan

Rock climbers will find few vertical rock formations as challenging as El Capitan (left, background). At one time "El Cap," which stretches roughly 3,000 feet from base to top, was considered impossible to climb. Today, the most popular route to tackle is The Nose, which follows the rock’s huge projecting front.

Valley View

Thank the 145-mile-long Merced River: It’s responsible for carving out the glacial valley known as Yosemite Valley. The valley is about eight miles long and a mile deep, with an amazing vantage point offered at Valley View. This turnout is located near the park exit, traveling west on Northside Drive.

Lembert Dome

Got three hours to spare? Take a short hike (2.8 miles roundtrip) up the granite rock formation of Lembert Dome, which rises 800 feet above Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows. Then bask in the satisfaction of knowing you hiked up a real mountain.

Tunnel View

Journey along State Route 41 and you’re in for a treat: The viewpoint known as Tunnel View offers a breathtaking snapshot of Yosemite Valley and several of its attractions — El Capitan, Half Dome and the waterfall Bridalveil Fall (pictured, right).

Cathedral Peak

The Cathedral Range of mountains stretch through Yosemite — and Cathedral Peak is their star attraction. At a height of 10,911 feet, the granite peak was first scaled in 1869 by naturalist John Muir — perhaps the first person to undertake a class-four climb anywhere in the Sierra Nevada range (of which Cathedral is a sub-range).

Bridalveil Fall

Looking to meet someone special? Head to Yosemite’s Bridalveil Fall. The 617-foot waterfall owes its name to a legend from the Ahwahneechee Native American tribe: They believed that inhaling the mist of the waterfall would improve one’s chances of getting married.

Glacier Point

One of Yosemite’s best viewpoints is Glacier Point. Located on the south wall of Yosemite Valley, the overlook rises to an elevation of 7, 214 feet with great views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Fall (a 317-foot waterfall) and Nevada Fall (594 feet).

Vernal Fall

After an afternoon hike, cool off with the gentle mist sprays from a nearby waterfall. That’s what you’ll experience when you take a two- to five-hour hike near Vernal Fall. The hike starts at the Happy Isles trailhead and reaches the base of the waterfall.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Visitors look up at one of the largest living things on Earth: A giant sequoia. It’s also one of the oldest. Within Yosemite’s mariposa grove of 500 giant sequoias, visitors will find trees more than 3,000 years old.

Nevada Fall

Within a small glacial valley (Little Yosemite Valley), you’ll find Nevada Fall. The 594-foot waterfall owes its name to its location — it’s the nearest waterfall to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Meanwhile, the Native American name for it is Yo-wy-we, meaning "wormy" water, signifying the twists of the falling water.

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