Seeing the Park in 1 or 2 Days
This is a park that begs for an extended visit, but those with a limited amount of time will also have an enjoyable experience, especially if they make use of the park's shuttle bus. The bus is free, easy to use, and operates year-round (though with fewer stops in winter). For that reason, we've included shuttle-bus stop numbers wherever possible throughout the valley sections in this guide. Bus stops are well marked and within easy walking distance of all parking lots.
You can get on and off the shuttles at any point, but be sure to stop in the Valley Visitor Center (shuttle-bus stop nos. 5 and 9) for an orientation on the forces that carved the valley.
If you're not interested in taking off and exploring alone, opt for one of the guided tours.
The base of Lower Yosemite Fall (shuttle-bus stop no. 6) is an easy walk from either Yosemite Village or Yosemite Lodge. From the base, you can see a portion of the magnificent water show. During peak runoff, it's not uncommon to get wet, as the force of the fall sends spray in every direction. In late winter and early spring, a huge snow cone caused by freezing water rises up to 200 feet from the base of this fall./p>
Happy Isles (shuttle-bus stop no. 16) is another major attraction. Located at the convergence of several inlets, the valley's nature center is an especially great stop for those traveling with kids, but the area gets most of its traffic because it is also the trail head for Vernal and Nevada falls, two picturesque staircase waterfalls that can be reached only by foot.
Next, we recommend a visit to Mirror Lake (shuttle-bus stop no. 17), a small lake named for the near-perfect way it reflects the surrounding scenery. It's slowly filling up with silt and is less dramatic and mirrorlike than it used to be, but its shore still offers a beautiful view of Half Dome.
If you still have more time to explore, choose anything that piques your interest from a variety of hikes and activities.
Seeing the Park by Car & Shuttle
In the eastern section of Yosemite Valley, two words pertain -- shuttle bus. The only reasons to use your private vehicle are to enter and to exit. There are also shuttles that run in Tuolumne Meadows, connecting Tuolumne Meadows Lodge with Tioga Pass and Olmsted Point (shuttles run approximately every 30 min. 7am-7pm), and a daily free shuttle to and from Wawona from Yosemite Valley (leaving Wawona at 8:30am and returning from the valley at 3:30pm). There's also a free shuttle from Wawona to Mariposa Grove. When the parking lot fills, the road closes, so the only way to get there is the shuttle.
Elsewhere in the park, however, a vehicle is more appropriate. If you want to see the view from Glacier Point or check out Hetch Hetchy, a car is a near necessity. However, you can always leave the driving to somebody else: Some organized tours are described below, or you can inquire at tour desks in Yosemite Village, the Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge, or Curry Village. Hiker's shuttles to Glacier Point and Tuolumne Meadows (tel] 209/372-4386; www.yosemitepark.com) are available for about $25 and $15, respectively.