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  • Writer's pictureSharon To

Planning a hike at Yosemite National Park this summer? Here's what you should know

View of rushing water over large boulders
View from the Vernal Fall Foot Bridge

It's finally summer! The days are warm and full of opportunity! So where are you heading first?

If you're planning a trip to Yosemite National Park (like practically everybody else) you should know, this year might be quite a bit different! In case you haven't heard, we experienced a record snowpack in 2023 thanks to all the rainfall during the winter season, which means the rivers in Yosemite are running wild. But what that also means is that swarths of people who may not have really had a real summer break since the quarantine years are just so excited to be out and about.

I went this past July 4th weekend and the crowds are no joke, so come prepared! And if you follow these tips, you'll give yourself the best chance at having a great time!


Tip #1: Arrive early

In late June 2023, entrance lines to the park were up to 4-5 hours long. All parking lots in the park would close at around 8:30am - 9:00am, and cars would get turned away. You don't want to make your trip all the way there just to turn back around!

Half Dome in Yosemite National Park on top, road for pedestrian and oncoming car on the bottom with grass field on both sides
Half Dome in Yosemite National Park

I recommend arriving before 6:00am. The ticket booth is closed at that time so there won't be any delays getting in, and you'll pay for your fee on the way out. Coming from the Bay Area, we left around 2:00am and arrived at the park entrance around 5:40am with no issues and little to no traffic. By the time we were leaving the park, the roads and parking lots were so full, people were parking illegally just to get a spot and it was just very crowded.

Plus, it helps to get an early start to a long hike. The warm dry weather can be rather draining, so take advantage of the cooler morning weather.

Tip #2: Do not rely on the shuttle service

You may have seen that the park has a free shuttle service that will bring you to different parts of the park. During busy season, the buses will be packed and they won't necessarily be on time either. Instead of planning to use the shuttles to get to different trails, I would plan your day around how much you're willing walk to the different parts you want to visit. If you only want to visit one trail, park as close to that trail as possible. And if you happen to run into a bus that has room, rejoice!

We had originally planned on not using the shuttles because of the crowds, but after our hike we were so tired we tried waiting for it. The shuttle schedule says it arrives every 12-22 minutes, but after waiting 30 minutes we just gave up and walked the remaining 2 miles back to our car. However, if you are willing to wait they do come eventually.

Tip #3: Bring bug repellant

This tip is especially helpful if you're going to be there in the morning. The second we arrived and got out of the car, there were mosquitos all over the place. They continued to pester us all the way through our trek to the Mist Trail and for a decent amount of the hike as well. By the time we made our way down, however, it was much warmer and much more crowded, and mosquitos were nowhere to be found (so that was nice at least)

The mosquitos were pretty aggressive and did bite through thinner clothing, so beware.

Tip #4: Be prepared to get DRENCHED

Large waterfall to the top right. Large green trees to the top left. Rocks below
View of Vernal Fall from the Mist Trail

This is only true if you plan to hike the Mist Trail. Maybe in previous seasons it was indeed a mist trail, but this year (because of the immense amount of water) it is a pouring rain trail. In the midst of the Mist Trail hike where the water and wind is at its most powerful, there was water pelting me in the eye, water was running down the steps creating its own mini waterfall at my feet, and the wind was so strong I felt like I could barely breathe. I was not prepared for the trail to be this wet. We wore ponchos and waterproof hiking boots, but we were still drenched by the time we reached the top. I'd even go so far as to say goggles may not be such a bad idea. Nothing like hiking up some steep steps next to a raging waterfall with one eye closed.

Tip #5: Bring extra clothes & essentials

This may be helpful only if you're taking a day trip. After a long day spent hiking (and especially if you're going to be doing the Mist Trail), it feels particularly refreshing to change into a fresh set of clothing for the long drive back home. Even if you're okay remaining in your clothes, it doesn't hurt to bring some extra supplies for those "just in case" moments.


What To Pack For Your Hike

Here's a list of the items we brought with us for our day trip to the park.

  • Food

    • Breakfast

    • Lunch

    • Snacks - granola bars, chips, etc.

    • Water - lots of water

  • Clothing

    • Light layer clothing

    • Poncho

    • Hat

    • Hiking boots

    • Extra clothes & socks (for after the hike)

  • Electronics

    • Portable battery

    • Charging cables

    • Camera w/ extra batteries

  • Miscellaneous

    • Bug repellant lotion

    • Sunglasses

    • First aid supplies

    • Allergy medication

Final Thoughts

Brown sign to the left reading "Clark Point". Half Dome toward the center. Nevada Fall to the right
Clark Point view of Half Dome and Nevada Fall. Accessible through John Muir Trail

This trip was my first every trip to Yosemite National Park. I truly was amazed at all of the formations that I saw and experienced, and I'm so glad I got to see it!

If you plan to visit, please also remember that nature should be respected. We can't visit beautiful places like these if we don't do our part to keep it safe and keep it clean.


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