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Yosemite Outdoors

Classic Rock Climbing
Yosemite Outdoors
Filled with mountain peaks, granite monoliths, rivers, streams, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails, Yosemite’s vast wilderness offers abundant options for recreation, exploration, and adventure.
Photo by Keri Oberly/age fotostock
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    Classic Rock Climbing
    Classic Rock Climbing
    The giant rock walls of El Capitan and Half Dome are two of the world’s most coveted and difficult routes for climbing. Their granite rock and vertical reliefs are enough to lure even experienced climbers to embark on multi-night climbs. Other classic bouldering routes, like Midnight Lightning, can be found in the valley, and a number of multi-pitch options like West Crack and the Regular Route ascend the domes in Tuolumne. Although there are many climbing options, few are beginner level. There are, however, some climbing schools and experienced guides available for hire.
    Photo by Keri Oberly/age fotostock
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    Yosemite Waterfalls
    Yosemite Waterfalls
    A trip to Yosemite is not complete without getting close to at least one of its waterfalls. For the best experience, visit in spring, when the snowmelt is at its peak. Popular for its views, the Mist Trail is the signature waterfall route in the park. Hikers get wet from the spray of the Vernal and Nevada falls as they climb up the stair steps. There’s also a short and leisurely footpath that leads to a viewpoint at the base of Lower Yosemite Fall, but more adventurous hikers will want to continue on the trail to Upper Yosemite Fall. Additionally, Sentinel Falls, Bridalveil Fall, and a host of other waterfalls can be seen from roadside viewpoints throughout the park.
    Photo courtesy of Kenny Karst/DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Backpacking
    Backpacking
    Much of Yosemite National Park is designated wilderness, which means it’s free of development and ideal for backpacking. Try the 210-mile John Muir Trail, which starts in Yosemite Valley and travels through Tuolumne Meadows and Lyell Canyon before exiting the park and continuing on to Mount Whitney. There’s also the long-distance Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the California–Mexico border to the Washington–Canada border. It overlaps with the Muir Trail, but continues farther through the Northern Yosemite region. Backpackers should note that both these through-trails can be hiked in shorter sections within the park. With five locations in Yosemite, the High Sierra Camp huts are another option for overnight backcountry travel. Permits and proper food storage are required.
    Photo by Justin Bailie/age fotostock
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    Day Hikes
    Day Hikes
    Home to more than 800 miles of trails, Yosemite offers numerous options for hiking at various lengths and levels of difficulty. Each of the park’s major regions has trailheads and posted signs, though it’s best to also carry a map. For scenic views, the point-to-point Panorama Trail is hard to beat. It departs from Glacier Point and descends more than eight miles to Happy Isles. The out-and-back Glen Aulin Trail from Tuolumne Meadows leads hikers to White Cascade but, for a longer day, hikers can continue on to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne before turning back.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Fly-Fishing
    Fly-Fishing
    Yosemite National Park has several rivers that are ideal for fly-fishing. The smaller streams in the high country are home to brown, rainbow, and golden trout, while the Tuolumne River is a fantastic backcountry fishing location for those willing to walk a little to reach the best holes. Below the meadow, the water cascades over a granite riverbed into giant pools for casting. Here, you’ll also find the meandering, wide-open oxbows of the Lyell Fork, which are perfect for back-casting and picnicking along the river. The Merced River flows through Yosemite Valley and can also be a great place for fishing when the flows are just right. Wherever you go, a California fishing license is required.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Rafting and Kayaking
    Rafting and Kayaking
    A designated National Wild and Scenic River, the Merced is best experienced from a raft or kayak when the water is calm. In the hot summer months, it’s a great place to cool off and enjoy the scenery—just sit back, float, and relax. Depending on the water levels and temperature of the water, rafting is permitted between Stoneman Bridge (near Half Dome Village, formerly Curry Village) and Sentinel Beach Picnic Area, as well as on the South Fork below Swinging Bridge in Wawona. Bring your own watercraft, as rentals are available at only a few locations in the park.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Get Close to Nature
    Get Close to Nature
    There’s no better way to experience Yosemite’s great outdoors than by pitching a tent and sleeping under the stars. Build a campfire and barbecue at night, then wake up to the sunrise and a cup of coffee by a creek. There are 13 campgrounds located around the park, each offering different levels of amenities. Camp 4, in the valley, is most popular among climbers and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its role in the development of rock climbing. Along with Upper Pines, Wawona, and Hodgdon Meadow campgrounds, Camp 4 is open year-round. Nine campgrounds accommodate RVs. There are also group camps and horse sites available.
    Photo by Galyna Andrushko/age fotostock
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    Classic Mountain Summits
    Classic Mountain Summits
    The high points in Yosemite aren’t just for rock climbers. A few mountain summits are accessible by trails, and while the hikes can be strenuous, they demand far less skill than the big climbing walls. At the top of every Yosemite peak-bagger’s list is Half Dome. You’ll have to plan ahead, though, as a permit is required to hike to the base and climb up the cables. Less famous than Half Dome but just as spectacular is the Clouds Rest walk along the arête, a thin ridge overlooking Tenaya Creek. The polished dome of Mount Watkins is another great summit. The ascent is an easy cross-country hike from Olmsted Point and rewards hikers with an unobstructed view out onto Yosemite Valley.
    Photo by Michael Just/age fotostock
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    Winter Adventures
    Winter Adventures
    The winter season in Yosemite National Park brings a bevy of outdoor adventures. The valley boasts views of snowcapped peaks and meadows, while the higher elevations feature winter trails marked for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with the National Park Service offering ranger-led snowshoe tours. Visitors can also try the outdoor ice-skating rink at Half Dome Village, or cross-country ski to the historic Ostrander Hut for an overnight. You can even opt for downhill skiing and snowboarding at Northern California’s original ski resort, Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, which opened as Badger Pass in 1935.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Yosemite Stargazing
    Yosemite Stargazing
    One of the best parts about being in a wilderness area is the absence of city lights at night. Yosemite’s open meadows and unobstructed views at high elevation are great for stargazing. Amateur astronomers should head up to a scenic lookout with a telescope and star chart, or join an interpretive naturalist bus tour and enjoy an astronomy program under the stars. Astronomy walks and talks are scheduled regularly during peak tourist seasons in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, and Wawona. Also check out the guided moonlight bike rides or snowshoe tours. If you’re lucky enough, you might catch a moonbow (a lunar rainbow) when the moon and the mist from one of the waterfalls line up just right.
    Photo by Jamie Pham/age fotostock