Ever taken a road trip and noticed the “Scenic View Point Ahead” signs on the side of the road? Ever stopped to take a picture or check them out? Sometimes they’re worth it, sometimes maybe not. Yosemite National Park has some of the best viewpoints that you can hike and drive to. Our Yosemite backpacking guides spend a lot of time exploring Yosemite and they’ve created this list of the best scenic views in Yosemite so you know which ones are worth stopping for or hiking to while visiting this incredible National Park.
If you’re ready to test your courage, and how much vertigo you can handle, then climbing the cables to get to the larger than life vistas on the top of Half Dome (8,842 feet) should definitely be on your bucket list. The cable ascent of Half Dome’s steep granite face is not for the feint of heart but the view at the top is unsurpassed and worth the challenge. If you really like to live life on the edge (pun intended), daredevils pose for photos sitting on the “Diving Board” with feet dangling off the edge. Hiking to the top of Half Dome requires a permit. If you think this extreme hike is for you, make sure you plan ahead. We offer a guided backpacking trip which includes summitting Half Dome.
For panoramic views you can get to without climbing cables (like Half Dome), venture to Cloud’s Rest. But wait, just because there isn’t cable climbing on this hike does not mean it is easy. The Cloud’s Rest Trail is a 14-mile roundtrip hike ascending 1,800 feet. At the top of the 9,926 foot summit, there are stunning views in every direction. You’ll be able to see Yosemite landmarks such as Tenaya Lake, Sentinel Dome, North Dome, Mt. Hoffman, and if you look down 1,000 feet below you’ll see Half Dome’s summit. The Cloud’s Rest trailhead is off Tioga Road at the west end of Tenaya Lake.
The hike to Taft Point is much easier than the climb up Half Dome or the long hike to Cloud’s Rest. Begin at the Sentinel Dome trailhead and enjoy meandering through pine forests and among granite boulders on your way to the picturesque overlook. The outcropping at Taft Point is a famous photo spot. Join a guided hike to get the best experience on your way to Taft Point.
You can find other spectacular views while hiking in Yosemite along the Panorama Trail, in Tuolumne Meadows, below and at the precipice of all the waterfalls, Cathedral Peak, and even walking through Mariposa Grove with your head turned upwards toward the giant Sequoia trees above. As you can tell, the views in Yosemite National Park are in every direction, be sure to do your research when planning to hike to Yosemite’s viewpoints.
To get to Glacier Point you can either drive or take one of the free shuttles that run throughout the park. The overlook at Glacier Point is at 7,214 feet in elevation, and boasts a full-view of Half Dome, Nevada Falls, Vernal Falls, Yosemite Falls, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range that stretches on beyond Yosemite. It may be crowded, but it’s an incredible view and easy to get to so you won’t want to miss it on your trip to Yosemite.
Offering expansive views of the massive Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, crisp mountain air, alpine terrain, and incredible reflections on the lake on a clear day, this is one of the most picturesque views in Yosemite and one you can’t miss if you are traveling through the park’s high country. Take the pullout just east of Olmsted Point, looking toward Mt. Conness.
This view is quite easy to get to as you head out of Yosemite Valley, as it’s just along Northside Drive before Pohono Bridge. From the floor of Yosemite Valley, you have a peaceful, portrait-like view as you stand before the Merced River and look up at the skyscraper-sized peaks like El Capitan.
Save the best for last! Tunnel View is found at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along Wawona Road (Highway 41), a 30 minute drive south from Yosemite Village. It is one of the most famous views in Yosemite Valley because you’ll get to see many of Yosemite’s highlights- El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome in the background.
Though many visitors to the park plan their visit as a short drive through the park, we recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy each of these scenic views, particularly those that require a hike!