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.
The sunrise over Yosemite National Park's most famous view.
The sunrise over Yosemite National Park's most famous view.

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.
A moonbow occurs when light from the moon refracts in the mist from a roaring waterfall.
A moonbow occurs when light from the moon refracts in the mist from a roaring waterfall.
How do you spot climbers on El Capitan in the dark? If it seems like there are stars on the granite face, you're seeing a climber! The headlamps can be seen from miles away.
How do you spot climbers on El Capitan in the dark? If it seems like there are stars on the granite face, you're seeing a climber! The headlamps can be seen from miles away.

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.

Views of Mount Hoffman can be seen from May Lake.
Views of Mount Hoffman can be seen from May Lake.
A high-sierra sunset reflected in the Tuolumne River in Lyell Canyon.
A high-sierra sunset reflected in the Tuolumne River 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
The O’Shaughnessy Dam that creates Hetch Hetchy reservoir supplies drinking water to millions of San Francisco Bay Area residents.
The O’Shaughnessy Dam that creates Hetch Hetchy reservoir supplies drinking water to millions of San Francisco Bay Area residents.

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.

Look closely! The Merced River is a gold-bearing river. You may notice small specks of gold in the water.
Look closely! The Merced River is a gold-bearing river. You may notice small specks of gold in the water.
Floating along the clear waters of the Merced River, near Housekeeping Camp beach.
Floating along the clear waters of the Merced River, near Housekeeping Camp beach.

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.

Rainbow, brook and brown trout are abundant in Yosemite rivers.
Rainbow, brook and brown trout are abundant in Yosemite rivers.

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