There's a lot of of activities during this time of year and the park is very popular so it's advised to get as early a start as possible.
To reach Yosemite from the Visitors Bureau: From our parking lot turn right and go northbound on Hwy 41. The Yosemite Park south entrance is 14 miles straight ahead. Continue on Highway 41, which becomes Wawona Road inside the park, all the way to Yosemite Valley (about 1 hour from the south entrance).
The park entry fee is $30 per car, good for 7 days. If you are 62 or older and a US citizen or permanent resident, you can obtain a Senior Pass for $10, good for life for all National Parks. The drive from the South Entrance to stop at Tunnel View is doable in 1 hour, traveling safely at a speed of 35 mph. Be considerate of others by pulling over at turnouts to let vehicles go by. (The law: You must pull over at the first opportunity if there are four or more vehicles behind you.) Watch for animals darting into the roadway.
From the Visitors Bureau, below is the “logical progression” of stops. If traffic is too, heavy or if you get a late start, consider seeing it all the reverse order.
Viewpoint 1: WAWONA – HISTORICAL CENTER OF PARK
Things to see and do:
+ Visit the Wawona Hotel and walk among history
+ See the Pioneer History Center – great place for children to run off some energy
+ Walk the Meadow Loop (easy, 3.5 mile loop, flat) – only trail in the park where dogs are allowed
+ Hike Chilnualna Falls (moderate to first cascade – 2 mile round trip) (strenuous to upper cascades, 8 mi round trip, 2,400 ft. elevation gain)
+ Play golf
+ Have dinner in the Wawona Hotel and listen to Tom Bopp (long-time Yosemite musician and historian) Tues. through Sat. 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Viewpoint 2: GLACIER POINT
Between 10 a.m. & 6 p.m. take the free shuttle from Badger Pass to Glacier Point. No personal vehicles will be allowed during those hours except those with accessible placards, valid wilderness permits for a trailhead along Glacier Point Road or those camping at Bridalveil Creek campground. Stops will be made at Sentinel Dome/Taft Point and Washburn Point. Optional stops will be made at other trailheads upon request.
+ Hike McGurk Meadow – spectacular wildflowers in late summer – easy 2 miles round-trip.
+ Hike to Dewey Point – moderate, 8 miles round trip
+ Hike to Sentinel Dome – moderate, 2.2 miles round trip, best 360 degree views of valley and high country. PHOTO OPP
+ Continue the Sentinel Dome Hike on a 5-mile loop to include Taft Point and the Fissures.
+ View Nevada, Vernal and Illilouette Fall from Washburn Point and Glacier Point. PHOTO OPP Birds’-eye view of Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Falls from 3,200 ft. above valley floor
+ Views of Mt Hoffman (approximate geographical center of the park), Cathedral Peak, Mt Starr King, Mt Clark and other landmarks of the Yosemite high country.
+ Glacier Point is well known for the beauty of its sunsets and full moons. PHOTO OPP
Viewpoint 3: TUNNEL VIEW - from Glacier Point, turn right on Wawona Road; continue down to Yosemite Valley. You will go through a mile-long tunnel. Immediately after exiting the tunnel, park on right or left. Watch for traffic! Spectacular view of Bridalveil Fall, Half Come, Clouds Rest, El Capitan. PHOTO OPP
+ BRIDALVEIL FALL – Walk ¼ miles one-way to base of waterfall.
Viewpoint 4: YOSEMITE CHAPEL - Oldest building still in continuous use in Yosemite Valley, date from 1879, and a spectacular view of Yosemite Falls from outside the chapel. PHOTO OPP
Viewpoint 5: SENTINEL BRIDGE - from Yosemite Chapel continue to Sentinel Bridge (the first stop sign you’ll come to in Yosemite Valley). Turn left over Sentinel Bridge and park at Shuttle Stop 11. Walk back to middle of bridge. This is a quintessential PHOTO OPP of Half Dome over the Merced River.
DAY PARKING: Continue to next stop sign, turn right and follow signs to the Day Parking area or the new parking area west of Yosemite Lodge. Leave your car for the rest of your visit to Yosemite Valley, until you’re ready to depart.
Take the free Yosemite Valley shuttle to all the major spots in the valley. The shuttle runs every 10 to 20 minutes from 7 am to 10 pm.
Start your adventure at Shuttle Stop 1 (makes it easy to remember where you parked). The Yosemite Valley Lodge Day Use parking is Shuttle Stop 7.
Shuttle Stop 6 – Yosemite Falls – ½ mile (one-way) walk to base of Yosemite Falls
Shuttle Stop 5/9 – Valley Visitor Center.
+ Visitor Center & Bookstore – watch “Spirit of Yosemite” and “A Gathering of Spirit” film iin Yosemite Valley Theatre.
+ Ansel Adams Gallery Indian Museum and Village – be sure to observe cultural demonstration in the museum.
+ Evening presentations in Yosemite Valley Theatre; 7 pm nightly.
Shuttle Stop 3 – The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (Ahwahnee Hotel) – great for LUNCH – 209/372-1489 for dinner reservations. Allow about 2 hours for lunch. (Less expensive, no dress code for lunch, great views out of the 34-foot-high windows)
Shuttle Stop 8 – Yosemite Valley Lodge – Bike rentals here, in season. Valley/Glacier Point tours depart from here – info and reservations for Yosemite tours, call 209/372-4386
Shuttle Stop 13a – Half Dome Village (Curry Village) Bike & Raft rentals in summer, ice skating rentals in winter.
Shuttle Stop 14 – Half Dome Village (Curry Village) dining, shops and lodging
Shuttle Stop 16 – Happy Isles - See the Fen and the Happy Isles Nature Center – great for kids!
+ Hike to Vernal Falls Footbridge - .8 mile uphill “both ways” PHOTO OPP
+ Hike to Nevada Falls – 1 mile to top of Vernal Falls (very steep stone steps, you will get quite wet in spring/early summer) – another 2 miles to top of Nevada Fall
Shuttle Stop 18 – Yosemite Valley Stables – Horseback riding (seasonal) – stables
Those are just a few of the adventures you can have in Yosemite Valley. One more awaits you as you're leaving the valley on Northside Drive:
Viewpoint 6: VALLEY VIEW - Watch for the big pullout on the left as you approach the Pohono Bridge. You’ll often find tour buses there. This view from here is a panorama of Yosemite Valley from a different perspective. PHOTO OPP