Living close to Yosemite National Park has its perks, and Sierra Mac river guides get to know the Park and local area intimately. Rafting trip guests are often curious about local secrets on how to best experience Yosemite and the surrounding area – especially during peak summer season.
During spring and summer, Yosemite attracts visitors from around the world, and it’s easy to see why. From late April through September the Sierra Nevada is an incredibly welcoming destination. The typically mild temperatures and natural beauty combine to create perfect conditions for viewing and experiencing this awe inspiring place.
A walk through a high-country meadow or through an ancient redwood grove during the summer is an experience not to be missed. Although the Park can be very busy during the summer months, there are ways to escape the crowds. In fact, with a little effort, it can sometimes feel like you have the place all to yourself.
We polled our guides and came up with this list of tips and advice for summer travelers to Yosemite.
Plan Ahead & Stay a While
Plan on staying a few days – more if you can – and if possible, make your summer visits in midweek when the Park is less crowded. Yosemite is just too big to be experienced in a day (or 100). There is just so much to see and explore. Staying for multiple days and nights in or near the Park lets you experience the region’s beauty as it changes from day to day and from day to night.
Make hotel and camping reservations well in advance of your trip. Consider lodging outside the Park. There are several first-come, first-served campgrounds in and near the Park, as well as nearby hotels and other accommodations.
Just Have one Day? Park & Walk
Yosemite Valley is the main destination for summer tourists, and it shouldn’t be missed. If you arrive in your own vehicle, we recommend getting into the Park and finding a parking spot early in the day.
Parking near the Valley’s exit route in the area around Yosemite Lodge will make it easier to depart for other Park destinations later in the day. Pack a day-bag, leave your vehicle behind, and walk or take the Valley free shuttles to your favorite destinations.
Take the Bus
Bringing a vehicle into Yosemite can be a headache. Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) provides regularly scheduled bus service into Yosemite and gateway communities along its routes in modern, bike-friendly buses. YARTS buses travel all of the main Park corridors with routes from Sonora, Merced, Fresno, and Mammoth Lakes.
Instead of looking for a parking space, you can view the Parks wonders from the window of your air-conditioned coach, which drops off visitors at the Valley Visitor Center. From there you can walk, bike, or take Park Shuttles to other Valley locations. Visit the YARTS website for detailed schedules and reservation information. YARTS riders also save on paying the $30 Park admission fee.
The Road Less Traveled
Spend day one viewing the big drawing cards: Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil & Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and the Tunnel View. Then use day 2 (3,4,5,….) to explore the lesser known corners of the Park and whatever else captures your imagination. Visit Wawona, Tuolumne Meadows, or follow Tenaya Canyon above Mirror Lake.
Don’t limit yourself to Yosemite’s boundaries when looking for places to spend your time. The areas just outside the Park are also part of the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests and offer a range of options for exploration. Find your own way off the beaten path. You’ll see fewer people and be able to better appreciate the sounds, smells, and hidden sites of this amazing place.
Just do it. There are myriad ways to actively engage with Yosemite. Day hikes range from easy strolls through the Valley to strenuous hikes to the top of the rim. Bring your own or rent bikes from the Bike Shop at Yosemite Lodge and Half-Dome Village. Find a nice (safe) swimming spot on the river. Try your hand at fly fishing with a Yosemite Fly Fishing guide.
Go climb a rock with the expert guides at the Yosemite Mountaineering School. Find the perfect flat boulder to lay your yoga mat and relax. Pack a picnic and go fly a kite out in the meadow. Stroll the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias which has reopened. Outdoor activities take you out of yourself and let Yosemite seep in.
Well, I guess we are a little biased here. In summer you can rent rafts in Half-Dome Village and float a leisurely section of river as it flows through the Valley. Or even better, enjoy a single or multi-day rafting trip on the Merced, Main Tuolumne, or Cherry Creek-Upper Tuolumne Rivers.
Escape the crowds while our guides lead you through some of California’s best whitewater in a remote, Wild & Scenic river canyon. Multi-day trips include delicious, freshly prepared meals, and instead of paying for a hotel room, you can sleep like a log under a star-filled sky. We even rent tents, comfy pads, and sleeping bags!