Yosemite is known to be one of the most popular National Parks in the US. The awe-inspiring beauty, granite monoliths, gorgeous valleys and huge trees attract visitors from all over the world. Unfortunately, unlike Yellowstone with its attractions and sights spread out over more than 3,500 square miles, most visitors stick to Yosemite Valley which is only 6 square miles. Yosemite Valley also only has one entrance, so bottlenecks and traffic jams are commonplace.
We spoke to Fred Ackerman, a hiking and backpacking guide with Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides, to pick his brain one how to get off the beaten path and avoid crowds in this spectacular park. Fred has spent over 10 years leading hiking and backpacking trip in the Sierras and Yosemite. He was just the person to give us advice and here are Fred’s tips for getting the most out of your Yosemite National Park experience!
Avoid the Peak Summer Months
If you can, travel outside of the peak summer months. If you have children, this might be hard to avoid with summer vacation, but think about visiting the Park in late September or even October. Not only will there be less visitors to compete at the trailheads with, you will be able to catch the fall colors. Spring is also a good time to visit Yosemite, especially from the West side when Tioga Pass is closed. This limits access for many (good for you) and you can also catch the beginning of waterfall season.
Look outside the Valley
If you have some time, don’t spend all your time in Yosemite Valley. The Valley is about 6 sq. miles, where as the whole Park is almost 1,200 sq. miles. Take some time to see the Giant Sequoias of the Mariposa Grove, hit a trail in Tuolumne Meadows, take a horseback ride in Wawona or even view the Valley from Olmsted Point.
Use a Bike
There tends to be a lot of traffic in Yosemite Valley. Especially if you are traveling in an RV, why not bring (or rent) a bike. This way you can get around faster, not be confined by where the free shuttle stops and bypass a lot of traffic. If you don’t want to bring your personal bike, you can rent biked at many places in the Valley, including Curry Village. Bikes also get rid of need to find parking! Upgrade your rental to an electric bike and see even more!
Grab a Map and Explore
Fred told us that John Muir was once asked what where the best places to visit in Yosemite. Muir then stood still and started pointing to the asker. “That there looks nice” and “See under that tree in the shade, that is a good place” and “By the river there, that is perfect.” Fred used this story to let us know that really anywhere in the Park is worth taking time to explore. It’s not about seeing all the top hits and Instagram famous places. Its about looking at a map (or not) and finding your own best places.
If you want to book a trip to Yosemite, check out our Yosemite & Lake Tahoe or Ultimate Sierras Itineraries. In addition to other activities we can book for you, we can also book you a private guided hike or tour with Fred (through Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides), so he can show you his own personal Yosemite!