Every year around 4 million people visit the fascinating landscape of Yosemite National Park. The area is famed for its impressive red sequoia trees, the iconic Bridalveil Falls, and the granite rock formations, Half Dome and El Capitan. The park itself is enormous, covering over 3,000 km² – you certainly can’t cover it in a day.
This makes Yosemite the ideal destination for a special road trip, so you can take your time appreciating this incredible national park.
What Type of Vehicle Do You Need?
The 450 miles of roads through Yosemite aren’t all smooth tarmac. However, they are generally well-kept, so you won’t need a specific off-road vehicle for your road trip. You should, however, make sure that your car is reliable and road-worthy, as there certainly aren’t a plethora of garages for repairs in Yosemite.
A well-equipped SUV like the Honda CR-V would be a good option, as it’s compact and dependable with good fuel economy. The seats are positioned for excellent visibility, so you can see the amazing vistas of the park as you drive through.
The Mercedes GLC is another good, reliable option for a comfortable road trip, as it’s designed with comfort on long-distance journeys in mind.
What Route should I take?
The Loop Valley Road is one of your best options once you’re in Yosemite Park – it takes you through some of the most iconic areas, including the Valley View, an ideal place for a very special picnic.
This area was formed by the Merced River, which gave Yosemite its unique landscape. You can actually spend several days exploring this section of the park, enjoying the calm and peacefulness. Taking the Loop Valley Road will also take you past the breathtaking Tunnel View – this area was captured by the legendary photographer, Ansel Adams.
Visiting the Falls
The most essential stops you should make on your road trip are Yosemite’s waterfalls. Vernal Falls is more than 300 feet high, and you can often see rainbows that appear to dance through the waters. This is a favorite spot for rock climbers. You can head up to the viewing platforms on either side of the falls, or if you’re brave enough, take the bridge between the two, straight over the rushing waters.
Bridalveil Falls is also a must-see – it’s one of the most iconic waterfalls in the park and easy to get to from State Route 41. It flows all year long and is famous for the incredible swirling mists that rise around it.
The Yosemite National Park is a unique and special place for a road trip. The landscape is incredibly diverse, breathtaking, and beautiful – you won’t want to drive back home again.
Other highlights include:
- Glacier Point Road - This winding mountain road leads to Glacier Point, with panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome.
- Mariposa Grove - Walk among some of the largest and oldest sequoia trees on earth, including the Grizzly Giant and Tunnel Tree.
- El Capitan - Gaze up at the massive 3,000-foot granite cliff, a world-class destination for rock climbers.
- Yosemite Village - Explore the shops, restaurants, museums, and historic buildings of Yosemite Valley's hub.
- Tuolumne Meadows - At 8,600 feet in elevation, this subalpine meadow offers stunning High Sierra scenery and hiking.
Tips for Your Yosemite Road Trip
- Visit in the spring or fall to avoid the biggest crowds. Summers can be very hot, especially in Yosemite Valley.
- Pack comfortable walking shoes, layers, rain jackets, and bug spray. Weather can vary greatly by location and season.
- Bring camping gear to stay overnight in one of Yosemite's scenic campgrounds. Reservations are recommended, especially in summer.
- Stop for photos at the many scenic viewpoints and pullouts along park roads. But be careful when exiting your vehicle.
- Check current road conditions and closures on the Yosemite National Park website before your trip. Some roads close seasonally due to snow.
A road trip through stunning Yosemite National Park will create memories to last a lifetime. From massive waterfalls to alpine meadows and granite cliffs, the park's diverse landscapes are best explored at your own pace on a memorable drive through this natural wonderland.