Hidden Hikes and Natural Wonders: The Less-Travelled Side of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, famous for its iconic granite monoliths and rushing waterfalls, has a quieter, less crowded side. A significant 95% of visitors only see 5% of the park, which has over 750,000 acres of outstanding scenery and bucket-list worthy hikes to be explored. Over half of Yosemite is in Tuolumne County, where there’s plenty of room to roam away from the crowd, making it a perfect destination for summer visitation. 

Until September 30, advance reservations will be required to enter and drive through Yosemite National Park for under €2.50. See below for a list of unforgettable sights travellers can experience – with or without a reservation. 

Natural Wonders

Head through the Big Oak Flat entrance of the park and enjoy a hike to the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. The smallest of the park’s sequoia groves, Tuolumne’s home to about two dozen mature giant sequoias. Growing only on the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada, these giant trees can live for more than 3,000 years and are immense, majestic trees that have inspired travellers for decades. Reservation needed. 

Even in the height of summer when Yosemite is being explored by visitors from around the world, Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is an oasis of calm. Yosemite Valley’s slightly smaller twin is off the beaten track and offers spectacular scenery of granite monoliths. The water hides an additional 300 feet of granite cliffs and provides fresh drinking water for the San Francisco area. Tip – arrive early as parking is limited. No reservation needed. 

Hetch Hetchy Valley, Yosemite.

Visit the incomparable open scenery of Tuolumne Meadows, a spectacular subalpine meadow surrounded by granite domes and cliffs. One of the largest high-elevation meadows in the Sierra Nevada, Tuolumne Meadows offers scenic views, hiking opportunities, ranger programmes and campgrounds for those looking to truly escape into nature. Reservation needed. 

Hidden Hikes 

Hike along the Tuolumne River to scenic Carlon Falls to enjoy the perfect place to cool off and have a picnic. Carlon is a nine metre-high waterfall with a pool at its base that’s perfect for cooling off on a warm summer day. The trailhead starts in the Stanislaus National Forest, meaning this hike is ideal for those who just missed a park reservation. No reservation needed. 

Marvel at some of the park’s tallest waterfalls – Tueeulala, Wapama and Rancheria. One of the most popular hikes, the five-mile  Wapama Falls Rancheria Falls Trail offers spectacular views of all three waterfalls and the stunning valley that links them together. Reservation needed. 

Getting there: The easiest way to get into the park is by booking a ticket on public transportation. The Yosemite Area Regional Transit System (YARTS) includes entrance into the park with a ticket, so a park reservation is not needed for a park reservation. Or book a guided tour operator, which not only allows you entrance into the park, but a local expert who will be able to guide you through. No reservation needed. 

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