Situated in Northern California, Yosemite National Park is one of the best U.S. National Parks. It’s known for its fantastic hiking and rock climbing opportunities, but one of the most incredible – and overlooked – parts of this park are the viewpoints!
Between the towering cliff faces, ancient giant sequoias, cascading waterfalls, and more, there’s so much to see! And of course, the ideal places to see these natural sites are from the best viewpoints in Yosemite National Park.
*Pro Tip: Like all national parks in the United States, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee to visit Yosemite National Park. If you plan on visiting a few different national parks during your trip, you may want to consider buying the America the Beautiful Annual National Park Pass instead.
Valley View is one of the most popular viewpoints in Yosemite National Park, especially for sunrise. Located in Yosemite Valley, this particular viewpoint lets visitors see the beautiful sunrise along with famous sites like El Capitan and the Twin Cathedral Rocks and Spires.
Not far from Valley View is Tunnel View, another fantastic Yosemite viewpoint. Tunnel View offers amazing views of many of the best sites in Yosemite National Park, including Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Fall. Add the towering trees and the majestic mountains to the mix, and you’ll be snapping more pictures than your phone or camera can hold!
Washburn Point is another fantastic viewpoint in Yosemite Valley – and it’s one that you can easily drive up to. From this spot, you’ll get an unobstructed view of Half Dome, one of Yosmite’s most famous sites!
To make Washburn Point even better, it’s one of the few viewpoints in Yosemite National Park that isn’t frequently plagued by crowds. So spend some time taking in the jaw-dropping views, snapping a couple of pictures, and enjoying this little slice of stunning nature.
Right around the corner from Washburn Point lies Glacier Point, another drive-up viewpoint. Since the two are rather close to each other, it should come as no surprise to find out that the views are very similar. Both feature incredible views of Half Dome.
While the sights from Washburn Point and Glacier Point are similar, Glacier Point has a couple of added bonuses. First, there’s the Glacier Point Trailside Museum, which shares little nuggets of information about the Glacier Point’s geology. Then, there’s the Glacier Point Amphitheatre, which hosts educational evening nature talks.
The one downside to all of these amazing things to see at Glacier Point is that this viewpoint it’s usually quite crowded. Be prepared to wait quite a bit before finding a parking space, especially during peak season.
While you may have gotten spoiled by the drive-up spots, many of the best viewpoints in Yosemite National Park require a little bit of hiking, just like Taft Point.
Although you have to hike about 3.5 kilometres to get there, the view from Taft Point is more than worth it. The trail itself is filled with blooming wildflowers, beautiful trees, and captivating wildlife. But the real highlight is the view at the end of the trail, also known as Taft Point.
From this point, you’ll get to see the vast majority of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. In other words, it’s stunning. To make things even better, you can see all this incredible landscape under the golden glow of sunset if you time it right.
El Capitan Meadow
El Capitan Meadow is one of the most unique viewpoints in Yosemite, in that it’s amazing both during the day and at night.
During the day, El Capitan Meadow is a fantastic place to take in the views of El Capitan. This natural landmark may literally make your jaw drop. To make things even better, you can even watch rock climbers try to tackle the 2,308-metre climb to the top!
Then, at night, El Capitan Meadow becomes an incredible spot for stargazing. As you look up, you’ll see hundreds of sparkling stars in the sky! It’s absolutely breathtaking. Plus, El Capitan will still be in view too. While this may seem like a negative thing, it’s really not. The star-filled sky is an interesting contrast to this striking cliffside. It makes you realise just how many stars light up the night sky.
*Pro Tip: If you keep your eyes peeled, you might be able to spot climbers setting up for their night on El Capitan.
Like many of the other viewpoints on this list, Olmsted Point offers wonderful views of Yosemite Valley. But unlike the rest, this particular viewpoint offers a completely different angle.
For example, while the main feature of Olmsted Point is the view of Half Dome, you may not even recognize this iconic natural landmark! With the beautiful Tenaya Canyon and Lake, it looks like a completely different landscape.
It is important to note that Tioga Road – the road to Olmsted Point – is only open from late May/early June to November, due to weather conditions.
If you visit Olmsted Point, you might as well visit Tenaya Lake too. After all, these two Yosemite viewpoints are just 10 minutes apart. But while Olmsted Point is a drive-up viewpoint, you’ll have to do a little bit of hiking to reach the sparkling Tenaya Lake.
Tenaya Lake is absolutely stunning. The clear water in varying shades of blue is just picture-perfect. And the mountain in the background is the cherry on top!
While you could simply take a peek at Tenaya Lake and then head on your way, we highly recommend sticking around for a little longer. Have a picnic at the lake, go for a swim, do a little canoeing, or tackle a couple of fantastic hikes.
Since Tioga Road is the only road to Tenaya Lake, this Yosemite viewpoint is only accessible from late May/early June to November.
The Grizzly Giant
Of course, the towering trees of the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias deserve a spot on this list as well! And while there are loads of great places to see these towering trees – including the unique California Tree Tunnel – the base of the 3,000-year-old Grizzly Giant may be the awe-inspiring picturesque viewpoint in Mariposa Grove.
As you can probably tell, the base of the Grizzly Giant isn’t your typical viewpoint. There aren’t any sweeping landscapes or distant mountains. But it’s still certainly a sight worth seeing. While the Grizzly Giant is most famous for its old age, its 64-metre-tall trunk isn’t too shabby either.
The Sentinel Bridge viewpoint in Yosemite National Park is one-of-a-kind. Like many others on this list, it features the famous Half Dome. But unlike the rest, Sentinel Bridge has something special.
The Sentinel Bridge runs over the calming Merced River. So when you take in the views, you may be able to see the reflection of Half Dome in the water too (assuming the weather conditions are right). It’s a pretty magical sight to see, and it’s definitely worth a stop during your time in Yosemite National Park.
Clouds Rest is one of the most underrated viewpoints in Yosemite National Park. But part of the reason that most people don’t venture to Clouds Rest is because it takes quite a bit of effort to get there.
To reach this stunning Yosemite viewpoint, you’ll have to hike about 11.3 kilometres one-way! So round trip, this trek is a whopping 22.5 kilometres. And it’s definitely not a flat trail. To hike the Clouds Rest Trail, you’ll have to hike 550 metres of elevation gain, putting you at a 3,025-metre altitude at the summit. Simply put, this Clouds Rest viewpoint is not for the faint of heart.
That said, if you manage to make it all the way to the top, you won’t be disappointed. This incredible spot looks out over so many of Yosemite’s most famous sites, including Half Dome, Tenaya Lake, Sentinel Dome, and so much more.
Half Dome Summit
To round out this list of the best viewpoints in Yosemite National Park, we’re ending with the most challenging – but worthwhile – viewpoint of all: the Half Dome Summit.
Like Clouds Rest, you shouldn’t attempt to climb Half Dome unless you’re an experienced hiker. For the end portion of this 23-kilometre hike, you’ll actually have to grasp onto cables to make your way up this steep path! It’s definitely one of the hardest hikes in Yosemite.
Along the way, the views are already stunning. Vernal Falls, Liberty Falls, and Liberty Cap are all cool landmarks to see along the way. And when you reach the summit, you’ll get to enjoy fantastic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra Mountains.
It is important to note that you need a permit to hike to the Half Dome Summit.
And that’s a wrap on the best viewpoints in Yosemite National Park! Are there any that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking to plan a bigger trip around Yosemite? Check out our guide to how to spend two days in Yosemite here!