Yosemite National Park
is always a breathtaking experience, but this year might be the best year on record to take a trip. After nearly five years of drought, 2017 saw record snowpacks and rainfall, making it the “wettest water year” on record. With 89.7 inches of rainfall this year, the Northern Sierra surpassed its previous 1982-1983 rainfall record of 88.5 inches. That means that the park’s many lakes, creeks, rivers, and waterfalls are full and flowing like never before. While May and June saw peak snowmelt, the waterfalls will still be roaring well into the winter months. Yosemite has more than 20 beautiful waterfalls, so it won’t be hard to find one that is stunning. The hard part will be choosing which viewpoints to squeeze into your trip. To help you decide, the Red Tail Ranch has picked our favorite, most photo-worthy spots in the park.
Glacier Point & Sentinel Dome
Glacier Point is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in the entire park, which also means it is one of the most popular. However, it is worth braving the crowds for a spot on this gorgeous point, which boasts striking views of half dome, three epic waterfalls, and a magnificent panorama of Yosemite’s beautiful granite walls. For a less crowded option, hike to the top of Sentinel Dome. The trailhead is approximately two miles before Glacier Point, and the 1.2 mile trail will perch you on top of the dome with a 360 degree view of Yosemite Valley and the High Country.
Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America and the fifth tallest waterfall in the world. It’s ten times taller than Niagara Falls and nearly twice as tall as the Empire State Building.The Lower Yosemite Falls hike takes you up close and personal with the Lower Falls, providing dramatic waterfall views at the beginning and the end of the journey. You can also take the more challenging 7.2 mile loop to the top of the falls, where you will see the full force of the waterfall as it cascades over the granite peak.
Vernal and Nevada Falls
If you would like to combine stunning waterfall views with a pleasant hike, check out the two-for-one Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall loop hike. This beautiful 6.5 mile hike along the Mist and John Muir Trails gives you spectacular access to two of the park’s trademark falls. Plus, you may find yourself sprayed with some of the runoff from beautiful Vernall Falls. What better way to cool down during the scorching summer months? (Vernal Falls courtesy of Carolyn T. Botell).
Bridalveil Falls from Tunnel View
Tunnel View is one of the most iconic spots in the park. Located at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along Highway 41, this viewpoint will give you unparalleled views of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall, along with a striking vista of the lush Yosemite Valley. You can also take the Bridalveil Hike to get even closer to these elegant falls. Stand at the base to feel a refreshing mist on your face.
If you would prefer to spend a day sunbathing, picnicking, and swimming instead of hiking and dodging heavy crowds, head to beautiful Tenaya Lake located off Tioga Road. This alpine lake is surrounded on three sides by Yosemite’s stunning granite peaks and domes. While you definitely won’t be isolated from other visitors, Tenaya Lake’s distance from the main entrance makes it less trafficked than other parts of the park. If you feel like being a bit more active, you can take an easy 2.5 mile like around the lake for equally breathtaking views.
This is only a snapshot of the many awe-inspiring waterfalls, viewpoints, and lakes you can experience during your time at Yosemite. You could spend weeks in the park and still only see half of its countless wonders. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can even try a white water rafting trip along the Merced or Tuolumne rivers with tour operator like ARTA River Trips
. However you chose to spend your time in Yosemite, this record-breaking year is the perfect time to plan a trip. But hurry: you only have four months left.