When it comes to national parks, Yosemite is naturally one of the top destinations–and the park lives up to the hype! (But really, is it possible to visit a national park and be disappointed?)
Though the park sees 75 percent of its annual visitors from May to October, Yosemite Valley is arguably the most striking in mid-to-late autumn, when the crowds are a little quieter, the mountain air is crisp and refreshing and the deciduous trees dotting the valley begin to show their fall colors. Plus, entry to the park is free November 11 & 12 for Veterans Day weekend!
If you’re looking for a place to go glamping, Yosemite Valley in summer is the place to be. But around this time of year, embrace the wintry, wild side of the park and book a campsite at Upper Pines, Lower Pines and North Pines campgrounds, which are all generally open until mid-November. Camp 4 is a first-come campground open year-round. (Don’t forget your wool socks and warm jackets!)
Yes, Half Dome is the icon of Yosemite, but by this time of year, the trail is already slick with ice and attempting that without cables (they’re removed at the end of the summer season) is a dangerous feat. So, opt to trek up to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America: Yosemite Falls. It’s a tough 8-mile trek, but one of my favorites. Several hours of switchbacks and and a steep 2,700-foot elevation gain later, you’ll find yourself peering over the granite rock-studded valley, a magnificent view in front of you and the roar of the falls (though admittedly not very full this time of year) drowning out the soft chatter of fellow hikers.
Short on time or want to experience the falls without the switchbacks? Hike to lower Yosemite Falls; it’s only one mile and still offers a great view.
The rest of the weekend, give your legs a break with shorter strolls around the valley such as walking the paved path to Mirror Lake, picnicking in Sentinel Meadow and taking the 1/2-mile trip to Bridalveil Fall.
Another amazing hike is Mist Trail to Vernal and Nevada falls. Vernal falls is likely to have more water flowing this time of year!
As you enter the valley, you’ll drive past Tunnel View on Yosemite Valley’s front porch. It’s one of the most iconic lookouts of the valley and is always a crowd favorite for sunrise. Glacier Point is another iconic view, but this vantage point usually closes in November after the first snowfall.
Keep in mind that conditions are variable depending on snowfall! You can stay abreast of road and trail closures at the NPS website here.
-The Wandering Alligator
There’s more national parks in California that are great in fall! Continue the fun at Pinnacles National Park.