The Most Beautiful Places in Yosemite National Park, USA

The edge of Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park is a picturesque place for a pit stop
The edge of Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park is a picturesque place for a pit stop | © imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alexia Wulff
3 September 2021

Yosemite National Park is home to an abundance of beautiful places and hiking spots. If you find yourself in the middle of this expansive natural wonder, then follow our guide to making the most of your nature experience – from waterfalls and meadows to rock formations and pristine lakes.

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El Capitan

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature
Map View
© Hotaik Sung / Alamy Stock Photo
El Capitan is a rock climber’s favorite and a must-see for any Yosemite visitor. Standing at 3,000ft (914m) from the base to the summit, this granite monolith is the king of rock formations. Sitting to the left of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, it’s a breathtaking representation of the natural beauty here. It’s best seen from Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View, Bridalveil Fall and El Capitan Meadow.

Vernal Fall

Natural Feature
Map View
© Simon Dannhauer / Alamy Stock Photo
Vernal Fall is 317ft (97m) high and one of the most popular hiking routes in Yosemite. You can either take the John Muir Trail or the Mist Trails to reach the view at the footbridge. Opt for the Mist Trails for a close-up view of the two falls, Merced River and Yosemite Valley. During the spring and early summer, the Mist Trails can be slippery from the mist, so caution is advised. For those headed here in the winter, keep in mind that sections of the routes are closed.

Glacier Point

Natural Feature, Park
Map View
© Christian Beier/CBpictures / Alamy Stock Photo
Glacier Point, a viewpoint in the southern part of Yosemite Valley, provides some of the most memorable views in the area. At an elevation of 7,214 feet (2,199m), it has some of the best views of Half Dome and the High Sierra. Glacier Point is accessible by car in the warmer months, making it easy for the inexperienced hiker to take part in the beauty of Yosemite without having to break a sweat; cross-county skiers can head here during the winter.

Mirror Lake

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature
Map View
© Gabbro / Alamy Stock Photo
Mirror Lake offers stunning views of Tenaya Canyon, Mount Watkins and the Washington Column and gives hikers a different perspective of Half Dome, looking directly up at it. Plus, the lake offers beautiful mirrored views of the surrounding cliffs. The trail is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during spring and early summer when the lake is filled by the flowing Tenaya Creek.

Mariposa Grove

Forest, Park
Map View
© Michele Falzone / Alamy Stock Photo
Mariposa Grove is on most must-see in Yosemite lists. The park is home to more than 500 mature sequoias, and the area is protected by a piece of legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864. There are also several hikes here, ranging from the simple Big Trees Loop, which takes around 45 minutes to complete, to the 7mi (11km) Mariposa Grove Trail, which takes up to six hours to finish.

Tuolumne Meadows

Natural Feature
Map View
© Adam Burton / Alamy Stock Photo

Tuolumne Meadows is one of the most picturesque areas in Yosemite, with 2mi (3km) of blooming fields, the winding Tuolumne River and a backdrop of rising peaks. You can catch unique views of Cathedral Peak, Pothole Dome and Lembert Dome alongside the Tuolumne River Bridge and Tuolumne pools. Be sure to head here in the spring when the grasses are green and full.

Tunnel View

Natural Feature
Map View
© Frank Fell / Alamy Stock Photo

Tunnel View has been the most photographed, drawn and painted scene in Yosemite since opening in 1933. It provides an unrivalled view of the Yosemite Valley, with El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the center and Bridalveil Fall on the right. It’s the first view drivers get upon entering Yosemite Valley, making for a striking first impression.

Cathedral Peak

Natural Feature
Map View
© Chris LaBasco / Alamy Stock Photo
Cathedral Peak, a granite pinnacle rising high from the Cathedral Range, is an offshoot of the Sierras, located in the Tuolumne Meadows. This peak, formed by glaciers, is stunning to look at from all angles. And, as a famous climbing spot – John Muir was the first to ascend in 1869 – it makes for the perfect destination for the active climber.

Yosemite Falls

Hiking Trail, Natural Feature
Map View
© David Wall / Alamy Stock Photo
Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest in the world, comprising three waterfalls: Upper Yosemite Fall at 1,430ft (436m), Middle Cascades at 675ft (206m) and Lower Yosemite Fall at 320ft (98m). For the best view, hike a 1mi (1.6km) trail that loops around the base of the lower falls; experienced hikers can opt for an all-day hike to the top of the falls.

Three Brothers

Natural Feature
Map View
© Russ Bishop / Alamy Stock Photo
Three Brothers – Eagle Peak, Middle Brother and Lower Brother – is just east of El Capitan. See the trio from the Cathedral Beach Picnic Area, but for the best perspective, hike Eagle Peak, the Valley Floor Loop or the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail.
These recommendations were updated on September 3, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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