Looking for what to do in Yosemite?
There are a lifetime of things to do in Yosemite. The park is the size of Rhode Island, and encompasses many different ecosystems within its borders, so it can be hard to figure out what to do. However, here is a 5-day itinerary that hits the best must-do sights and activities in the park.
Day #1: Settle in and Local Exploration
Welcome to Yosemite! After a long travel day, your private home away from home awaits in Wawona. Get acquainted with your rental, settle in, and then when you’re ready head for a walk around town to stretch your legs after your trip. There is a lot to see right in Wawona. Stop in at the Visitor Center and learn about Yosemite painter, Thomas Hill. Wander through some of Yosemite’s historic buildings at the nearby Pioneer History Center. If you have the energy, this is a great time to scope out Swinging Bridge for possible swimming later in your trip as well.
Enjoy dinner in your cabin and get packed up for your big hiking day in Yosemite Valley.
Day #2: Yosemite’s best and brightest
When people think of iconic Yosemite landmarks, they are almost always thinking of Yosemite Valley. With majestic cliffs like Half Dome and El Capitan towering above and waterfalls plunging over cliffs into plumes of mist, you will want to spend more than a single day in this part of the park if you can.
There are many walks to choose from. Easy strolls take you to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls or out into one of the valley meadows, like Cook’s Meadow, with great views of the surrounding cliffs. Mirror Lake / Mirror Meadow is another popular easy hike with views straight up at Half Dome and across at Mount Watkins.
If you’re up for something more challenging, hike the Mist Trail. Although it’s steep, there are so many things to see along the way. By the time Vernal Fall first comes into view, you’ll already have passed views of Upper Yosemite Fall and Illilouette Fall (1.6 miles/2.6 km round trip). And if you have the energy, continue up through the mist of Vernal Fall to the top of the waterfall (a 2.4 mile/ 3.9 km round trip). Beyond that, the top of Nevada Fall is a 5.4-mile/8.7 km round trip.
On cool or cloudy days, the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls also beckons with promises of a warm, sun-filled hike.
Biking is another great activity to explore Yosemite Valley. Bike trails in the eastern end of the valley keep you out of the flow of traffic and allow you to cover more ground than you might on foot. But it’s still easy to stop at any point and admire the view without having to find a parking space. If you can’t bring your own, cruiser-style bikes are available for rent at Yosemite Valley Lodge and Curry Village. Or, you may want to rent a mountain bike at Pedal Forward in Oakhurst on your way in. You’ll find many uses for it during your visit.
Regardless of what you choose, be sure to leave plenty of time to appreciate the magical scenery and take photos.
Day #3: Walk Among the Giants
From Wawona, the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is only a short drive (or a long walk) from your cabin. When the shuttle buses aren’t running, there is a 2-mile/3.2 km walk one-way from the parking lot at the Welcome Plaza to the lower grove of Giant Sequoias. The trail winds peacefully through the forest along the Washburn Trail. Though you can see some giants from the Arrival Area in the lower grove, most people continue on to marvel at the Grizzly Giant and walk through the California Tunnel Tree. This is an additional 1.5 miles/2.4 km round-trip. If you have the energy, keep going to become acquainted with other named giants like the Faithful Couple tree or the Clothespin Tree.
If you have a bike, you can ride up the road all the way to the parking lot for the Grizzly Giant, and start your walk from there. It is uphill on the way in, so you’ll enjoy coasting down at the end of the day.
Day #4: Rest Day Activities: Ride Don’t Walk
After a few days of hiking, it may be time to give your legs a break. Fortunately, there are many options for this as well.
Option 1: See something new – outside the park
Saddle up for a real western experience and let your trusty steed do the walking. The team at Yosemite Trails provides a top-notch riding experience through the scenic national forest and across mountain streams.
Spending time on the water is a great way to stay cool and rest weary legs in general. Combine that horseback ride with Yosemite Trails with a trip to Bass Lake where you can rent anything from jet skis and wakesurf boats to kayaks and stand up paddleboards at Millers Landing Watersport Rentals (Guests of The Redwoods In Yosemite get 15% off.) But you don’t have to go far for some relaxing time in the water. Wawona itself is well-known for its local swimming holes.
Ride a Steam Train
On the way back to Wawona from Bass Lake, climb aboard a vintage steam engine with Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. The soulful song of the steam whistle will take you back in time to another era. The 1-hour narrated tour is a delight. Also, consider treating yourself to the Moonlight Special. Close the day with a delicious dinner, the narrated tour, and entertainment during a stop in Lewis Creek Canyon.
Option 2: Relax in Wawona and Yosemite Valley
No matter how much you did on Day 1, I guarantee there is more to see in Yosemite Valley. Here are just a few ideas for what to do.
Shop for Gifts
Not everyone got to visit Yosemite like you did. Let them know you’re thinking of them with a few presents from one of the gift shops.
Express Yourself with Art
Pause for a few quick sketches of Yosemite Valley. You’ll notice more beauty when you take the time to observe and record the environment around you. The Yosemite Conservancy offers daily art classes during the summer months for a nominal fee. While you’re in the mood, stop by The Ansel Adams Gallery where you can see amazing photography and artwork exhibits, and pick up a few things for friends.
Lunch at The Ahwahnee
The beautiful history and decor of The Ahwahnee make the lodge a destination on its own. Order lunch and enjoy it on the back lawn, and don’t forget to stroll through the public area. See how many animals you can find in the Mural Room, and reminisce about the old days with historic photos of Yosemite’s winter activities in the Winter Club Room. The magnificent dining room gives Hogwarts a run for its money.
Return to Wawona for your western horseback riding experience. The Wawona Stables offers guided tours around Wawona Meadow / the golf course on horses and sure-footed mules.
The River Beckons
Wrap up the day with a dip in the South Fork of the Merced River or one of the nearby creeks. Wawona is well-known for its many swimming holes, such as the one near Swinging Bridge. (Crossing the bridge, which unlike the one in Yosemite Valley actually does swing, is an extra bonus for this short walk.)
Day #5: A Birds-Eye-View from the Glacier Point Road
Glacier Point Road provides access to the South rim of Yosemite Valley and there are several gorgeous hikes to get the bird’s eye view of the valley below. (Drones are not allowed in Yosemite National Park, but you can get drone-like photos from the edge looking down into the valley.)
NOTE: The Glacier Point road is scheduled to close for construction and renovation work in 2022, so be sure to take advantage of this corner of the park while you can.
Taft Point and Sentinel Dome
Either of these destinations is a short roughly 1-mile (one-way) hike from the parking area along Glacier Point Road. Standing at the railing at Taft Point provides a dizzying view down to the valley below. Keep your eye open for fissures that hint at the geological process that resulted in the steep Yosemite cliffs. Standing on the summit of Sentinel Dome gives you a 360-degree view of Yosemite’s high sierra, as well as Half Dome and other iconic Yosemite cliffs. Connect the two with a trail along the rim of Yosemite Valley for more extraordinary views. The full loop is about 5.5 miles.
End the day with a visit to Glacier Point’s famous overlooks for sunset. The broad side of Half Dome and Cloud’s Rest catches the light from the setting sun and turns fiery oranges and reds as the sun goes down.
Bonus Day #6: High Country Sights
5 days in Yosemite, and you still haven’t seen one huge region of the park – Tuolumne Meadows! This area is the furthest away from your cabin in Wawona, and with so much to do nearby, it can be a hard sell. However, if you have the extra time, you might want to slide it in mid-itinerary as part of a rest day. It’s an incredibly scenic drive with many views worth stopping for along the way.
What to do:
- See the backside of Half Dome at Olmsted Point.
- Tenaya Lake is a jewel among granite domes. Stop for the view, and then take a swim or hang out on the sandy beach at the east end of the lake.
- Walk one of the trails through Tuolumne Meadows to admire Cathedral Peak and other huge granite domes.
- Check out the natural soda spring.
- A little internet research will lead you to a myriad of gorgeous hikes from the Tuolumne Meadows area.
Are you ready to get your group together again? There is nothing like meeting in person for making connections, celebrating achievements, or planning for the next big thing. It’s time to unplug, turn off your screens and make some real-world connections.
When you’re ready, you’ll want to bring your group to Yosemite. The list of things to do is endless, not to mention the promise and excitement of simply viewing Yosemite National Park’s iconic scenery. Then provide a space to gather, connect and reflect at The Redwoods In Yosemite. It’s an ideal location, and here’s why.
1. Convenient and Off The Beaten Path Location Inside Yosemite National Park
Host your group in style a range of cabins all located inside Yosemite National Park in Wawona. This puts your group inside the park gates. Forget about worrying about long lines at the entrance gates, or the possibility of the day-use reservations that would limit access to the park.
Plus, Wawona shines as a getaway’s getaway. The open meadows and sparkling rivers that run through the community allow you to relax and recharge. There are many things to do right here. The iconic views that make Yosemite famous are just around the corner, yet you’re also apart from the tourist frenzy of Yosemite Valley.
2. A Range of Comfortable Private Cabins Provides Something For Everyone
The large variety of rental cabins nearby allows families and groups to find the best lodging for them. The Redwoods In Yosemite manages the largest selection of rental cabins in the park. Choose a luxury log cabin perfect for a large extended family or a close-knit 12-person crew. Or settle into a cozy 1-bedroom home that gives couples or individuals a small place of their own.
3. A Well-Equipped Indoor/Outdoor Wedding and Event Center has everything you need.
The new Wedding and Event Center at The Redwoods In Yosemite is centrally located within Wawona. This makes it an easy and scenic stroll from most of the lodging units in the area.
There is some parking available at the Event Center. However, we recommend getting the blood flowing with a short morning stroll from your private cabin. The peaceful community, fresh air, and sunshine hold the promise of a new day. How is that for a morning commute?
The spacious Banquet Room at the Event Center brims with natural light. Open doorways lead out onto an expansive outdoor deck. This flexible space can be set up for event registration, presentations, or conference tables. Hold smaller conversations in the nearby Meeting Room. An adjoining catering kitchen makes it easy to host banquets or serve hors d’oeuvres.
Take advantage of the California sunshine and set up your meeting on the deck outside. Shade umbrellas and outdoor seating are available. Two magnificent stone fireplaces on the outside deck lend ambiance and keep things cozy. Outdoor electrical outlets make powering devices and/or extra lighting a cinch.
4. Rental Cabins Double as Informal Gathering Locations
For smaller groups or breakout groups in larger gatherings, many rental cabins provide even more options for meeting. Many cabins have outdoor decks with picnic tables. Indoor and outdoor dining areas can serve as impromptu meeting tables.
Some rental cabins lay claim to sizeable yards that could easily become an outdoor meeting area shaded with pines and boasting a view of the river.
5. Group Activities
There is no better place for your team to connect and build connections than on an excursion to one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Yosemite bursts with opportunities for exploration and adventure, and that naturally brings people closer together. Activities like hiking, mountain biking, or horseback riding are just minutes from your rental cabins in Wawona. There is even a golf course across the main road.
The Redwoods In Yosemite also provides Group Packages that include activities. Scavenger hunts, photo safaris, and guided tours help your group connect and get the most out of their visit to Yosemite.
6. Friendly and Helpful Events Department Staff
With so many options, getting started can be the hardest part. Fortunately, the dedicated team in the Events Department is here to help. They can help sort through details, and ensure your event goes smoothly. Whether you need assistance with planning or on-the-ground help during the event itself, on-site staff are ready to help you host a memorable event that people will be talking about for years.
For Group Booking Inquiries call 855-420-9234 or refer your Group and Event requests to [email protected]
Yosemite’s scenery is especially stunning during the winter months. You’ll find a halo of snow along the high peaks and clinging to ledges along the famous cliffs. The park is open, and in one of its most-quiet and majestic seasons. Even if you’ve visited before in another season, you’ll find winter in Yosemite to be a unique and magical experience.
On most days, getting around in winter is easy enough with just a little extra preparation. Let’s get into the details so you know exactly what you need to do for a fun and easy Yosemite winter adventure.
When and where are Chains Required?
When the roads start to get snowy, rangers set up chain control areas around the slippery sections to help you make sure you get where you are going safely.
Everyone entering a chain control area must have chains with them in their vehicle. That includes rental and four-wheel drive vehicles.
However, just because you need to have them with you, doesn’t mean you have to install them on your car. There are two factors that play into whether or not you will have to put chains on your vehicle. One is the current road condition, and the second is how much traction your vehicle has.
When to Bring Chains?
The park service strongly recommends having chains if you’re visiting between November and March. You might even need them as early as September or as late as May. The weather can change quickly in the mountains and even the best forecasts can be off. Be sure to check on weather conditions right before your trip.
Where to get Chains that Fit?
Chains are available at most automotive stores as you get close to Yosemite National Park. Look for a places like a NAPA Autoparts store or O’Reillys.
Diamond pattered chains, like the Quick Fit chains available from Les Schwab are more expensive, but provide excellent traction and are easy to put on. As of this writing, Les Schwab also has a policy that allows you to return unused chains for a full refund at any Les Schwab Tire Center with proof of purchase. Please double check this before you buy.
In order to get chains that fit your vehicle, you’ll need to know the size of your tires before you go into the store. These will be printed on the side of the tire. While you’re looking, this is a good time to confirm that your tires are Mud and Snow rated. If they are, you’ll see a M+S designation on the tire as well.
Where Can I Go In Yosemite Without Chains?
There aren’t any specific regions of the park that always require or don’t require chains in the winter. If it’s February, but the roads are dry and snow free, you won’t encounter any chain control areas. If it’s May, and a huge cold storm just rolled in, all roads within Yosemite National Park could have chain controls in place.
In general, you’re more likely to have chain controls at higher elevations and less likely to have them on lower elevation roads. For example, as one of the higher winter roads, the Badger Pass Road often has some level of chain control requirement in the winter.
What Are the Current Road Conditions & Chain Requirements?
Chain controls are not unique to Yosemite. You might also encounter chain controls on California Highways outside the park. You can get information about those road conditions outside the park on the Caltrans website, or by calling 1-800-427-7623.
The best way to find out the current road conditions inside Yosemite Park is to call the road conditions hotline. This is absolutely the most up-to-date information.
For current road conditions dial 209-372-0200, and then press 1 and 1 again.
How Will I Know When To Put My Chains On?
Plan ahead by calling the road conditions hotline, then look for the chain control signs.
You’ll find them located close to a wide pull-out that will allow you to pull safely out of the flow of traffic to put your chains on. Don’t pass this up! Not only can you get a citation for driving past these points, sometimes the conditions will deteriorate before you can get to the next safe place to pull off the road.
These signs will not only tell you where you need to put your chains on, but also whether you need to put chains on your vehicle.
R1, R2 and R3 Exemptions
There are three levels of chain controls. If your vehicle meets certain requirements you can leave your chains in your car without having to put them on.
R1 – Autos & Pickups Snow Tires OK. This the least restrictive level, cars and trucks (less than 6,000 pounds) with mud and snow rated tires don’t need to put chains on as long as the tread of the tires is 6/32 of an inch or deeper. If your tires are mud and snow rated, they will have something similar to M+S written on them.
R2 – 4W Drive with Snow Tires OK. If you satisfy the requirements for R1 and you have four-wheel or all-wheel drive engaged, you don’t need to put chains on. For this reason alone, if you are renting a car for your winter Yosemite trip, it may be worth it to upgrade to an AWD or 4WD vehicle.
R3 – No Exceptions. That’s clear, right? At this level everyone needs to put their chains on. Roads are rarely at R3. If the conditions are this slippery, the road is usually closed.
What about Rental Vehicles?
Rental companies often prohibit chains, and installing them on your rental vehicle violates the rental agreement and leaves you responsible for any damage that occurs. This is a tricky situation without a great solution.
Most damage from chains is due to improper installation. Your best protection against this is simply to make sure your chains are put on correctly. Take your time, follow the instructions carefully, drive slowly and you shouldn’t have any trouble.
It’s also yet another reason to upgrade to a 4WD or AWD rental vehicle, since usually you won’t need to put chains on except in the rare event of R3 conditions.
Tips on Snow Chain Installation
Once you know how to do it, it only takes a few minutes to stop and put your chains on when needed. Different cables and chains are installed differently, so it’s best to follow the instructions that come with your chains.
Still, here are a few general tips to make it as quick and easy as possible to get the chains on and get on your way.
- Practice ahead of time. If you take the time to practice installing your chains somewhere warm, comfortable and dry, it’s going to make it so much easier when you’re outside in the snow.
- Make sure the chains are attached on both sides of the tread. This is one of the most serious mistakes you can make when installing your chains, and it happens all the time to inexperienced chain installers. The cable or chain needs to have tension on the inside and outside of the tire. If you fail to fasten the inside cable, not only can you damage your vehicle, that part of the chain can become wound around your brake lines, and you’ll be well and truly stuck until you disentangle it.
- Chains go on the drive wheels. That means putting them on the front wheels for a front-wheel drive and on the back wheels for a rear-wheel drive. For a 4WD or AWD they can go on either the front or the rear, but you want them to be under the wheels that have the most weight so they can bite into the snow and ice.
- Roll back and forth to test the chains before pulling into traffic. If there is space, pulling ahead 10-15 feet and then backing up again will give your chains a chance to settle into place. Often that will allow you to tighten your chains up more and troubleshoot any problems before you leave the safety of the pull out. You can do this a couple of times until you’re sure the chains are as tight as they can be. This will save your chains and your vehicle. A tightly fitting chain will be easier to drive on and is less likely to break.
- Bring a few extras for ease and comfort.
- Plastic tarp or trash bag. Spread this out on the ground to protect you from the snow and keep you dry while you’re working.
- Tight-fitting gloves. Metal chains and cables will be cold, and it’s nice to have some protection for your hands while you work.
- A pair of pliers. These can be handy to grab and pull the cables tight.
- A headlamp. If you need to install your chains after dark you’ll appreciate having a hand-free light source.
- You can get special snow chain tensioner bungees with many hooks that will keep you chains snugged up tightly against your tires. You can get the same effect by pulling hard to get your chains tight, but this makes it easier.
General Tips for Driving in the Snow and With Chains
When it comes to winter driving, slow and steady wins the race. If you’ve done any driving in the snow, you’ll know that there are a few simple rules for driving on snowy surfaces.
- Tires matter. If you have relatively new all-weather tires the traction in snow is going to be noticeably better than if you’re driving around on street slicks or bald tires. That’s why the R1 designation includes the clause about a 6/32 inch tread depth required to skip putting on chains. Take a look at your tires before you drive to the park.
- Chains don’t make you invincible. If your chained front wheels stop but your rear wheels keep going, you can still end up in a situation you don’t want to be in. Stick to safe snow-driving practices even with chains on.
- Take it easy. Not too fast, but also not too slow. Generally speaking, the faster you’re going the harder it will be to stick to the corners. However, on banked turns you will want to maintain some speed or you run the risk of sliding down the bank into the other lane. The speed limit for all chain control areas is 25 mph, regardless of what the normally posted speed is.
- Hang back. Plan to leave considerably more space than usual between your car and the car in front of you. This is a good idea in the mountains anyway, when other vehicles might brake unexpectedly for animals or exceptional scenery, and especially important when you factor in snowy conditions. Note: AWD or 4WD are great in snow country because they make it easier for you to get going. However, that doesn’t actually increase your stopping power. All cars have four-wheel brakes.
- To get going, start out slowly. You want your tires (or chains) to bite into the snow below, and it is much easier for them to do that if you try to inch out rather than hitting the gas and set the wheels spinning. A spinning wheel is just going to dig you deeper into soft snow and/or wreck your chains. If your wheels are spinning, ease off the gas and try again slowly. Sometimes you can you can rock your way out of a dip in the snow by using the accelerator the way you would pump a swing.
- Ease gently to a stop. Modern braking systems include ABS to help keep you from locking up the tires. A locked up tire provides little stopping power and no control. Work with the ABS technology by planning ahead and slowing down gradually. Avoid situations where you would have to brake hard.
That’s It! Enjoy your winter Yosemite experience!
The Redwoods in Yosemite cabins are located in the small town of Wawona. Wawona is high enough to receive a healthy helping of snow during the winter months. There is enough snow that you’ll love looking out the windows of your cozy cabin to see snowflakes floating gently through the air, and you’re close to the grand winter beauty in the park. At the same time, Wawona is low enough to remain more manageable than higher elevations in terms of driving and shoveling.
We hope we’ll see you here at The Redwoods In Yosemite for your next winter trip to Yosemite.