What to Know Before Visiting Yosemite National Park

Last updated 16th May 2018

Why Go?

Yosemite is the most famous of California’s eight national parks and rightly so; with plunging waterfalls, dramatic granite cliffs and a good location (just a few hours east of San Francisco) it’s the perfect natural highlight on a West Coast trip.    

Who is it good for? Adventurous families who want a vacation that’s free from modern distractions and full of natural beauty. 


Ways to connect with nature are plentiful at Yosemite. Try stargazing, freshwater swimming, hiking, biking, and horseback riding. To really get to grips with nature, and make new friends, children should join Yosemite’s kids’ clubs. Both Little Clubs (3-6 year olds) and Junior Rangers (7-13) are designed to foster environmental awareness by teaching kids all about the black bears, coyotes and other animals who call the park home.

Don’t miss: Yosemite Falls. This cascade is the fifth highest waterfall in the world. Visit in spring to see the water sparkle with the spectacular “moonbow” lunar rainbow. 

The Lowdown

How to get there: Take in the city delights of San Francisco before driving to the park. Or, you can take Amtrak from the city to Merced where the YARTS bus will take you to the park. Once at Yosemite, you can also take the free shuttle bus offered from attraction to attraction.

Travel time: It’s takes roughly three and half hours to drive or take the train from San Francisco.

Best time to go? May-September is the hottest and busiest time at Yosemite, but if you want to see the best of the waterfalls visit during spring, when the temperature is still a pleasant 70°F. 

Where to stay: Yosemite offers a spectrum of accommodations to suit all visitors. Adventurous campers can choose from the array of purpose-built sites, but advanced booking is recommended, especially in the busy summer season. If you want a campsite feel, without sleeping under canvas, opt for a cabin in Curry Village, or make your stay a real treat by checking into the Ahwahnee, the luxury on-site hotel crafted from granite.