Yosemite summer holidays

The rugged heart of California

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Ronnie McCluskey

Ronnie McCluskey
HomeAway travel expert

YosemiteYou may find yourself at a loose end as to where to jet off to as the summer holiday season draws near. Anyone who feels that relaxing on a beach for seven days is far from their idea of bliss can often be  short of ideas, particularly if you’re on something of a budget. If this sounds like you, fear not. Book your flight, pack your strongest sun cream, throw on your hiking boots, and jet off to the mesmerising Yosemite National Park.

Situated in the easternmost quadrant of California, Yosemite is without question one of the most naturally spectacular places on Earth. The park is an almost 2,000 mile expanse of mountains, forests, waterfalls, lakes and sheer rugged wilderness that will truly take your breath away - both metaphorically and literally, should you embrace the hiking culture when you arrive. There are campsites, lodges and chalets dotted throughout the terrain, and HomeAway will help you to find perfect Yosemite accommodation for the duration of your trip. It is impossible to cram all of the park’s thousands of wonders into just one journey, but to help you plan here’s a handy guide to the essentials.



Top 5 Yosemite highlights


Vernal Fall Vernal Fall

One of the most popular and manageable hiking trails in Yosemite is the one that leads you to the top of this magnificent waterfall. The Mist Trail begins at the Happy Isles trailhead and leads you through three miles of largely uphill paths, punctuated the entire way by astonishing views of the mountainous valley. The toughest part of the trail mercifully takes you directly past the fall itself, so the scenery and photo opportunities should inspire you to keep ascending the frankly exhausting stone steps. If you do make it, try to resist the temptation to cool your blistering feet in the glistening Emerald Pool; but feel free to sun yourself on the surrounding rocks before your descent.

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Half Dome Half Dome

This mountain is perhaps the most instantly recognisable feature of the park, and as such has become the iconic image usually found on all brochures or postcards. Towering at just under 5000 feet tall, the Half Dome dominates the skyline from several different perspectives. It is possible to hike to the summit, but only if you’re up to the challenge: the fatiguing trek comes in at eight steep miles from top to bottom. Many climbers choose to break up their journey by camping halfway up, so this may be a wise option if you’re determined to witness the incredible views from the summit.

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Giant Sequoias Giant Sequoias

The scale of almost everything in Yosemite is fairly staggering, but the giant sequoias in particular are a sight to behold. These are the largest trees in the world, which may not sound all that exciting but when they’re looming over you it is a truly overwhelming experience. The largest grove of these magnificent trees is Mariposa, which boasts around 200, but a leisurely stroll through the forestry to Tuolumne Grove is just as agreeable an option. The mammoth trunks can typically grow to around 26 feet in diameter, but the larger ones have been recorded at an incomprehensible 56 feet.

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Glacier Point Glacier Point

The ultimate beauty spot, Glacier Point is rightly lauded as the best place to view the wonder of Yosemite in all its majesty. The appropriately named viewpoint (Yosemite Valley was formed thousands of years ago glacially) sits at an elevation of over 7000 feet, with a panoramic perspective over the valley, Half Dome, Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. Thankfully the Point is accessible by road, but if your legs are able to take the strain, the four mile hike is a challenging but ultimately rewarding venture.

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Bears Bears

Aside from the natural beauty of Yosemite, the name has understandably become synonymous with the array of wildlife the region boasts. Specifically bears. Even more specifically, black bears. There are approximately 400 of these beautiful creatures roaming the wilderness, so anyone who spots one should consider themselves extremely lucky. That said, please heed the multitude of signs scattered across the park advising you of how to avoid a close encounter of the frightening kind. Keep your eyes peeled for a mother and cub hidden amidst the trees, but be wary of leaving any food exposed or you may find yourself with an unwanted guest in your site!

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