So your sole purpose in visiting Yosemite National Park might be to spend long hours on the trail. But even dedicated hikers need a little downtime occasionally, and we’re here to help.
Yosemite Valley is one of the most frequently visited places in the park, with the most visitor facilities on offer. Thanks to the free shuttle service here, with relatively minimal effort you can give your legs a rest and explore educational cultural sights like the Yosemite Museum (by the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center), the Yosemite Cemetery across the street and the Nature Center at Happy Isles (though this one closes seasonally). A National Historic Landmark, Yosemite’s big high-end hotel, the Ahwahnee, dates to 1927. Even if you choose to spend the night elsewhere, it’s worth heading inside to enjoy lunch in the lovely Dining Room or a relaxing interlude by the fire in the Great Lounge.
Drive an hour south of Yosemite Valley when the roads are clear and you can shift your focus to mother nature. Spend some time gazing at big trees, aka giant sequoias, and don’t-miss Glacier Point overlook; it’s accessible via trails from the valley but if you’re not up for a steep hike, consider instead a drive to the top, with an easy walk to the edge for views of famous Yosemite National Park landmarks.
If you’re entering Yosemite via the southern entrance, Wawona makes for an obvious stop (and it’s only 4 miles from the sequoias). The Wawona Hotel is ranked a National Historic Landmark, and even if you’re not staying the night here it’s worth having a wander around to see the what’s what before continuing on to the Pioneer History Center less than a mile away. For more park culture, also detour through the Wawona Visitor Center, where exhibited art includes reproductions of artist Thomas Hill’s eloquent paintings.
And should you exhaust all of these possibilities, our advice is to relax. Go find a rocky perch in front of Bridal Veil Falls or El Capitan and peacefully observe falling water or climbers, not falling, respectively.