15 Tips for Visiting Yosemite National Park

View of Yosemite's Half Dome through the tree and mountains

So you’ve decided on visiting Yosemite National Park? You’ve already made one good decision so far, so I’m proud of you. Planning your Yosemite trip is going to be a blast, and I can help get you started with my 3 day itinerary. But there are definitely a few things I wish I knew beforehand that would have helped with some of the planning, so I’m here to provide you with those so your trip can be a breeze. So, let’s get into these 15 tips for visiting Yosemite National Park.

15 Travel Tips for Visiting Yosemite

Shot from Tunnel View during sunrise with smoke from a controlled burn in Yosemite

1 – Parking for the key hikes and viewpoints is no joke

The best way to get from place to place in Yosemite is definitely by car, but because of this that means… yes… there’s a lot of traffic. Yosemite Valley specifically is a bit of a nightmare to be honest. If you’re headed to any of the popular hikes (think like, Mist Trail, for example) there are lots but they’re also very full. So in order to optimize your day visiting Yosemite, plan to visit the spots you anticipate to be the most popular as early as possible.

2 – You Need Reservations to Get In During Popular Months

Headed to Yosemite from May to September? You’re going to need reservations. You can purchase those on the Recreation.gov site and your reservation you make is good for three consecutive days. They’re also very strict, so you 100% need to a your reservation to get in. You will not sweet talk your way in no matter how charming you are.

3 – Get in Early to Beat the Crowds

This is a tip for really any national park, but to guarantee parking in key areas and have trails or popular spots to yourselves, get there as early as you can. Most of my tips for visiting Yosemite are somehow related to or improved by getting there early. Also, I love a good national park sunrise (I mean, Badlands and Great Sand Dunes helloooo) and it also ensures you basically have 4-5 hours of calm park.

4 – Map Out Your Days Before You Arrive

Don’t try to wing it. The park is huge and with all the traffic if you don’t have a plan for your day you’re going to spend way more time in the car than you want, or miss out on things you want to see.

5 – Traffic Does Kind of Suck

I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but traffic can be kind of a nightmare there. So have stuff ready to entertain yourself in the car because you’ll probably be in it a little more than you plan to if you are switching between locations or areas of the park throughout a single day.


6 – Keep an Eye on Road and Trail Closures

Yosemite is absolutely huge and deals with a ton. When we were there for example, it snowed one day and there was a controlled burn in a certain part of the park the next. So due to weather, and due to the burns, trails and roads were closed. You can look at the Yosemite site to find out what parts of the park are closed. And for trails, take a look at the trails you plan to do on AllTrails the day before to make sure they’re still open.

7 – The Popular Trails are Super Busy

Yosemite had some of the busiest trails of any national park I’ve been to, so like I said before just go early and avoid the crowds. You can also find out what trails are going to be more busy by how many reviews they have on AllTrails, so pick the busy ones for early in the day and some of the slower ones for later.

8 – Bring a Headlamp or Lantern

It’s a big park, and if you stay anywhere for sunset or aren’t quite done hiking when it gets dark you’ll really want to have a headlamp or lantern. When we were there we saw a bunch of people who were lost after sunset, so definitely have a light source to keep safe. Want recommendations? I LOVE this LuminAID solar lantern, and here is the headlamp I use because it’s super bright.

As a heads up, I may receive commission if you make a purchase from some of the links in this list. However I promise I would never recommend something to you that I didn’t personally love. So these items are all vetted through yours truly.

9 – Have Your Necessary App Content Available Offline

If you’ve got hikes saved in AllTrails, the Google Map of the park, the map in the NPS app saved, whatever it is, make it available offline. You need to download all of those things before getting to the park. You will not have service, so downloading these ahead of time is imperative to make sure you don’t get lost!

10 – Organize Your Trip Itinerary by Sections of the Park

Yosemite is definitely way bigger than you think, and like I’ve mentioned 631x at this point, traffic sucks. So you’ll want to pick a section of the park for each day you’re there and stick to it. For example, one day stick to Yosemite Valley area and another head up to Glacier and Tioga Road (if they’re open). Check my 3 day Yosemite itinerary for how I organized my trip!


11 – Bring Portable and Car Chargers

This isn’t just one of my tips for visiting Yosemite, it’s really a tip for every national park. Have a way to charge your phone in your car and even in your hiking pack if you can as well. If worst comes to worst and you need to (and have the service available) call someone, you don’t want a dead device.

12 – Pack Food and Snacks For the Car

There are a couple places to eat in the park, but I’m a fan of just having things to snack on all day and devote my time to hiking and exploring vs. park restaurants. You already have to deal with traffic and parking for trails and overlooks, do you really want to fight restaurant parking as well?

13 – Get a Parks Pass

I will die recommending the America the Beautiful National Parks Pass.

14 – Go to Tunnel View for Sunrise

This is the iconic view of Yosemite you’ll see if you Google the park. Like, absolutely iconic. Like, on the brochure iconic. Did I say iconic? Well, it is! Coming for sunrise means you get to see the first light of the sun start to light up the park and it’s truly gorgeous.

15 – Hike Sentinel Dome for Sunset

This is one of the coolest sunsets I’ve ever seen. Find out why.

El Capitan rock formation seen through the needles of some pine trees

So there you go, my top 15 travel tips for visiting Yosemite National Park. This is one of the most beloved national parks in America and for good reason, it’s truly gorgeous. You’re going to love it if/when you visit, and hopefully these tips make it a little bit easier to plan for! As always, reach out if you have any questions or concerns. And check out my Yosemite story highlight for some literal boots on the ground views of this gorgeous park.


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3 thoughts on “15 Tips for Visiting Yosemite National Park

  1. Wow I didn’t realise how busy the park would get during the summer season. Great to know to get the pass first and getting there early. It would be well worth it to hike or climb there.

  2. Yes, yes, and yes. We visited last summer and absolutely loved it. But yes, it is good to get there early especially to avoid the long lines at the entrance.

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