Yosemite is one of the most famous National Parks in the US, and for good reason. As John Muir said, “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” As a native Californian, I have made my fair share of trips to Yosemite. Here are some insights I have gained.
Any time spent in Yosemite is a good time. Go for a day, a week, a weekend, whatever you can manage.
If possible, try to go in the spring. That is when the waterfalls are at their finest.
If you want to camp in the park, plan WAY in advance. Campsites are released in incriments, and they sell out fast. More information is available here http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camping.htm
You don’t NEED to camp in the park. If you are a last minute traveler (like me), there are other options. Try camping just outside the park in the bordering Forest Service land. The beauty of Yosemite doesn’t stop with a park boundary.
Do at least one hike, even if it is a small one. A lot of the sights can be seen from your car, but that doesn’t mean that is the best way to do it. A like of easy beginner hikes can be found here.
Park your car and leave it. Use the shuttles to get around rather than driving or better yet, bring a bike. Traffic in Yosemite can get crazy, parking is minimal, and all those car fumes aren’t doing anyone any favors.
Take time to enjoy it. Don’t just snap some pictures and move on. Stop, sit, and soak it up.
Bring your own food. There is food available in the valley, but it is much easier/cheaper/faster to bring your own sandwiches or other easier camping meals. Make sure you are bear aware and keep everything out of their reach (or the reach of any other wildlife).
Make the drive to Glacier Point.Yes the road is windy. Yes it takes some time. Yes it is absolutely worth it.
Explore outside the valley. While it is the most famous part of Yosemite for a reason, there are still outrageously gorgeous places elsewhere in the 1,190 square mile park. These places also have significantly less people.