Tips, Tricks & Trails: How to Skip the Crowds this Summer in Yosemite National Park
Millions of people visit the iconic Yosemite National Park each year, the majority between May and October. We can’t deny that summer is peak season for a reason—the weather is warm, the water is cool, and every corner is open for exploration. If you’re hoping to avoid long lines and highly trafficked trails, rest assured, it’s possible! Here’s how to be a little anti-social in Yosemite this summer:
Chase That Sunrise
Choosing to get an early morning start is the first step in avoiding the peak season rush. The dedicated adventurer will rise around 5 AM to watch the sun emerge from behind massive granite landmarks. It’s also when wildlife is most active in Yosemite—increasing your chances of a big-mammal sighting. If that’s too early, 6 AM through 8 AM will still offer glowing dawn light and prime photography conditions.
- Hike a short 2.3 miles from Tunnel View to Inspiration Point to watch the sunrise. Bring a hot coffee thermos and a blanket for a cozy, tranquil moment at the vista.
Half the Park is After Dark
Yosemite National Park is pure magic at night, and it becomes much easier to find what feels like a private experience. Lines at the entrance stations decrease significantly in the late evening and trails are no longer bustling with day visitors. A perfect time to explore after dark is during a full moon. The moonlight reflects off the granite walls, illuminating the mountains that encase Yosemite Valley. When the sun goes down, the sky comes alive. Don’t forget a red-light capable headlamp!
- Find a spot in El Capitan Meadow to take in the stars and look for climbers on the face of El Capitan.
- Head out on a night stroll to Lower Yosemite Fall to experience the rare moonbow phenomenon.
Opt for Mid-Week
While any day during peak season will draw crowds, a weekday trip is your best bet for reduced visitation. Consider starting your trip on a Monday or Tuesday when the weekend crowds depart.
Take it to the High Country
The Mist Trail and Mirror Lake Trail are popular routes during peak season. Consider a hike that takes you a little higher or a little deeper into the Yosemite wilderness. There are many trails off the Tioga Road that often see less visitors.
- Hike 2.3 miles roundtrip to May Lake
- Hike 8.5 miles roundtrip to Cathedral Lakes
- Choose your mileage along the John Muir Trail in Lyell Canyon
Take it to the Northwest Corner
Hetch Hetchy Valley is a peaceful oasis often overlooked by park visitors. A part of the Tuolumne River watershed, the deep blue reservoir rests at the base of stunning granite peaks. There’s no shortage of wildflowers, waterfalls, or views here!
- Experience Wapama Falls on a 5-mile trek along the shoreline of reservoir
Pack a Picnic
Come prepared to eat in nature! You’ll encounter consistent crowds in dining areas within the park.
Float the Merced River
Though you’ll certainly encounter fellow floaters in some areas, floating on the river offers many moments to feel alone in nature. Your trip on the water will feature stunning views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls. Bring your stand-up paddle board with you or rent a raft in Curry Village.
Cast a Line
The quieter the spot, the better the bite. Going fishing in the Tuolumne, Merced, or Lyell Fork can offer both serenity and adventure. Tenaya Lodge partners with Sierra Fly Fisher to take guests on custom trips to their favorite fishing locations in Yosemite—perfect for staying off the well-traveled path.