This eight-mile-long, one-mile-wide valley, sliced down the middle by the Merced River, is the heart of Yosemite and by far the most-visited area of the park. Of the three entrances to the valley, none affords a more spectacular first view than the Tunnel Overlook on Highway 41, where the pine-clad valley floor gradually gives way to granite spires, with El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls in the foreground and Half Dome shining in the distance. If you’re entering the valley in the summer high season, you’ll have plenty of time to take in your surroundings—from your car, stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The valley is open all year, so do yourself a favor and time your visit to early spring, when the waterfalls are at their fullest, or autumn, when the days are still warm, the nights just a bit chilly, and the crowds, thankfully, nowhere to be found.
By Deb Hopewell, AFAR Contributor
One can do a lot of different things in the valley, from biking to swimming or rafting etc. I for one like to just walk and absorb the beauty of the place. It charges your battery. Like this view of Half Dome reflected in the Merced river.
A Fall Sunset in Yosemite
The off season of Yosemite is one of the most calming and beautiful times to view the valley. Late October to early November is my pick for a quiet getaway - the crowds are gone, the temperature has dropped, and you may well find yourself on a gorgeous hike without any company. While we all love the look out points on the drive into the valley on crystal clear days - don't bypass the view point if it's getting dark or stormy. The views may just be that much more impressive as the sun lights up unexpected rocks and the clouds encircle the highest peaks.
By Adina Marguerite Pease, AFAR Local Expert
Yosemite Valley, California, USA