From the giant sequoia trees in the valley to the granite peaks of El Capitan and Half Dome, Yosemite National Park is a mecca for adventure lovers and for those seeking to escape into the wilderness of California.
Yosemite National Park is a bucket-list worthy destination. Every year, thousands gravitate towards its awe-inspiring natural beauty. Since 1864, Yosemite has been protected by the government, allowing visitors to explore its undisturbed sequoia groves, granite mountains and waterfalls. While many come for the hiking, climbing and camping, there are more things to do in Yosemite than just explore the great outdoors.
Enjoy a classic Yosemite hike while feeling like you’ve been shrunk to the size of a bug by spending a morning weaving through the giant sequoia trees in Tuolumne Grove – which you can now do on Culture Trip’s action-packed seven-day Northern California trip, led by our Local Insider. Roughly two dozen fully grown giants stand up to 500ft (152m) tall and 30ft (9m) wide. The 2.4mi (4km) trail will take you downhill first and then back up a steep hill. Look out for the Tunnel Tree, it has a hole cut out of its base that you can walk through.
Add this spectacular viewpoint to your list of things to do in Yosemite immediately. This is where you can take in much of the valley floor, including the 1,097m (3,600ft) high El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome in one sweeping hit. The view hugely inspired American photographer Ansel Adams. Keep in mind as you take selfies, Half Dome is 87m years old and is the sheerest cliff in the United States.
This is one of the best hikes in Yosemite. The trail is 7.3mi (11.7km) long and follows the Merced River, starting at Happy Isles in Yosemite Valley, past Vernal Fall and Emerald Pool and on to Nevada Fall. It’ll take roughly between five and six hours. Be prepared for slippery footing and waterfall spray. There is a steep granite stairway of over 600 steps, but just as with all the Yosemite trails, the natural beauty makes the leg burn worth it.
If you want a short and sweet option, hike to Sentinel’s summit (2,475m/8,122ft). It may not sound easy but this 2.2mi (3.5km) hike offers huge rewards, especially at sunset, thanks to the 360 degree panorama of Yosemite National Park from the top of its granite dome. Sip a glass of champagne while you’re up there and pinch yourself.
This is an often overlooked but spectacular pocket of high country in Yosemite National Park. From the top of Pothole Dome, via the less-steep east side, you will enjoy expansive views across Tuolumne Meadows, while the lower section of the hike traverses a series of cascades in the Tuolumne River. The entire loop is only 2.4mi (4km) and a section of the trail has no marked path. You will be walking on slick rock, but that’s all part of the heady Cali adventure.
With plenty of scenic Yosemite hikes under your belt, a leisurely afternoon swim in the cool mountain waters of Tenaya Lake will ease your limbs. The glassy blue surface is flanked by pines and granite cliff faces, providing a dramatic backdrop to your dip. The lake was originally named Pywiack meaning Lake of Shining Rocks by Indigenous Americans as a nod to the polished granite domes surrounding it. Sound appealing? You can swim in Tenaya Lake on Culture Trip’s specially curated small-group Northern California adventure.
Few know about it, but original Ansel Adams prints are shown at Yosemite Valley’s Ansel Adams Gallery. The American landscape photographer and environmentalist is known for his black-and-white images of the American West. A number of walks and classes centring around his work are offered here, including the “In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams” guided tour that will take you along the Yosemite trails looking through Adams’ eyes (and lens).
Lunch at the Iron Door Saloon is a must on any trip to Yosemite National Park for a slice of history alone. It’s the longest continuously operating bar in California; it first opened in 1852 and was called the Granite Store. While it looks like a rickety old bar from a Western on the outside, inside, friendly staff mix seasonal cocktails (the Bloody Mary is a legendary mainstay) and serve delicious food, breakfast to dusk. The chicken fried steak is a hearty bite of America.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
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