Yosemite National Park tourist attractions recommended by local expert

National & State Parks, Northern California

People who visit Yosemite National Park for the first time are usually overwhelmed by the amount of information that’s available about Yosemite. After all the reading many first time visitors to Yosemite still ask the basic questions: So what are the main tourist attractions in Yosemite National Park? What are the must-see places? Wouldn’t it be cool to talk to someone local to Yosemite and just ask him? That’s what I did! I had the privilege to ask Douglas Shaw this very questions: what are the main tourist attractions in Yosemite National Park? And he was very gracious to answer quite a few more questions. Read on to find out the best places to visit in Yosemite National Park.

Doug, I know The Yosemite Bug gets a lot of first time visitors to Yosemite National Park. What are some attractions or hikes in Yosemite that you recommend people see? How about attractions or hikes for families with children?

Frankly, I try to get guests to think about the amount of time they can possibly stay. 2 days, 3, 4 or 5? One day is too short to enjoy what Yosemite has to offer for any season for families or backpackers.

From there we recommend about a half day of sightseeing for camera moments, and at least three 1 to 3 hour small hikes for waterfalls, Sequoia trees and panoramic trails. That’s two days right there.

From there the we can talk about the High Sierra, winter sports, Hetch Hetchy and longer hikes. this doesn’t include activities like spring whitewater rafting or wildflower hikes or great swimming near the Bug.

Then you have museums in Yosemite and in gold town Mariposa to take it slow.

The Sierra Mountains and Yosemite Valley seen from the Yosemite Falls Trail.
The Sierra Mountains and Yosemite Valley seen from the Yosemite Falls Trail.
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Who is Doug Shaw and what is the Yosemite Bug?

Doug Shaw is the proud owner of the Yosemite Bug Mountain resort. He has been the owner and operator of the resort for 13 years. Before being a resort owner, Doug has worked in hotel management for 15 years.

Yosemite Bug is located on a large beautiful forested property 25 miles from the west end of Yosemite Valley off of highway 140. Tucked away on it’s own bend in the stream with a swimming hole, it has a magical feel perched under a grove of Black Oaks with a boy scout camp feel. Our guest tend to return, and are very international in mix. The Bug offers a relaxed and social atmosphere missing elsewhere, where families feel free and backpackers find welcome.

My favorite tourist attractions in Yosemite National Park

As I think about Doug’s answer to the most common Yosemite tourist question, some details come to mind. The sightseeing in the Yosemite Valley is pretty straightforward: just drive, stop, take pictures and repeat. All the main attractions are clearly indicated and there is usually plenty of parking.

However, when it comes to the small and not so small hikes Doug is referring to here are my favorites:

  • The Mist Trail going up to Vernal and Nevada Falls and then returning on the John Muir Trail back to the valley. This is probably the most popular hike in Yosemite and it’s popular for good reason. It’s just great and not too hard. It’s great for backpackers and families with children as well. Read my hiker’s guide for The Mist Trail in Yosemite.
  • Yosemite Fall trail leading to the top of Yosemite Falls. This hike is not an easy hike! So, you have to be careful. It is a steep hike that can take anywhere from 6 to 8 hours round trip. However, the views from the top are simply breathtaking and to get to see where Yosemite Falls starts is a definitely a unique experience. Read my hiker’s guide for Yosemite Falls Trail in Yosemite.
  • Mirror Lake trail is the easiest trail in Yosemite National Park. And when I mean easy, it is easy and short. However, it’s best to go in the late spring so that there will be plenty of water in Mirror Lake. Otherwise, Mirror Lake becomes a small stream of water that is not very exciting to see. Read my hiker’s guide to the Mirror Lake Trail in Yosemite.
  • Snow Creek Trail. Doug has told me that those who go up to Mirror Lake should go further up the canyon and up Snow Creek Trail for a beautiful experience.

Beautiful view of Yosemite mountain peaks reflected in Mirror Lake.
Beautiful view of Yosemite mountain peaks reflected in Mirror Lake
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Other things to see and do in Yosemite.

There are many other things to do in Yosemite. I’ll list a few of my favorite things that don’t involve hiking.

  • Drive to Glacier Point if you have time and if the road is open. Glacier Point gives you amazing views of the Yosemite Valley and all the major waterfalls. It’s worth the drive.
  • Drive and hike to Sentinel Dome. This is another destination that Doug is recommending. He likes it better than Glacier Point. I have not visited Sentinel Dome, but I’m sure it’s another great vista point high above the Yosemite Valley. Next time I visit Yosemite I’ll make sure to visit Sentinel Dome.
  • Visit the Sequoia Grove at the South Entrance of the park. Take time to hike a little bit through the Sequoia Grove and admire these giant trees. It’s a great little hike for families and children.
  • The Visitor Center has a great movie that they show for free. It’s called the Spirit of Yosemite and it lasts about 15 minutes. This movie contains lots of great footage from the park during different seasons. Kids will like this movie as well.
  • Yosemite is a great place to practice your photography simply because you have lots of great subjects. You can also take photography lessons in the park.

Amazing view of the Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point.
Amazing view of the Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point.
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Tourist resources for visiting Yosemite National Park

What do you think about Yosemite National Park?

Have you visited Yosemite lately? What are your favorite things to do in Yosemite? I would love to hear from you and learn what you like to do in this great National Park.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not affiliated in any way with the Yosemite Bug. I have personally stayed two times at the Yosemite Bug, both with my family and by myself. I have not been paid in any way to write this article by the Yosemite Bug or its affiliates.

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