Yosemite National Park photography guide
Our contributors have added 36 photo spots to this Yosemite National Park photo guide. Have you discovered an amazing new location in Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite has a long tradition of photography dating back to the early pioneers of photography such as Charles Weed, Carlton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, and George Fiske. Yosemite’s most famous photographer was Ansel Adams and his gallery still stands in the park today. You can join this tradition and create your own Yosemite masterpiece images!
Yosemite is a large national park encompassing nearly 1200 square miles in which you can find waterfalls, cliffs, glacial valleys, vast forests, tall mountains, lakes, rivers, sequoia trees and so much more! Only a small portion of the park is accessible by road and most of the approximately 4 million people that visit the park spend most of their time in the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley.
Each season brings a unique look to the park. Winter is spectacular if you are fortunate enough to catch Yosemite Valley in a fresh blanket of snow. Snow is common in the winter but is not a guaranteed sight. The valley sits at 4000 feet (1200m) in elevation and frequently is below the snow line, receiving only rain. Above 5,000 feet (1524 meters) snow is usually found all winter. Spring is the best time to see the waterfalls and they fill with snowmelt and flow their strongest. Summer tends to lead to a dry Yosemite Valley with little or no action in some of the most visible waterfalls, but is the prime time for visiting the higher elevations in the park such as Tuolumne Meadows and Glacier Point. Autumn brings golds, yellows and reds to the valley floor as the trees change and can bring light dustings of snow to the high country.
The roads have frequent turnouts and parking areas near the most scenic locations allowing for safe photography. Some locations require short walks and other locations can be reached with longer hikes. To see the park from more than just the typical tourist views prepare to do some walking.
This guide will give you information on obtaining the best images at all the popular stops as well as some tips to take hikes to see some of the hidden treasures of the park.
The park has three main roads, Highway 140, Highway 120 and Highway 41. Highway 140 enters the park from the west leading directly into Yosemite Valley from the Central Valley city of Merced, CA. Highway 120 enters from the west further north in the park from the Central Valley town of Manteca, CA, and transects the park to the east side where the only eastern entrance is found near the town of Lee Vining, CA. Highway 41 enters the park from the Southwest corner and is accessible from the Central Valley city of Fresno, CA
Most popular Yosemite National Park photo spots
Yosemite Valley is the main attraction in the park and home to the towering granite cliffs of El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, The Royal Arches and more. This is also where you see the tallest waterfalls Yosemite Falls, Ribbon Falls, Bridalveil Falls with the least amount of effort.
Glacier Point is a vantage point located approximately 3200 feet (980 meters) above Curry Village in Yosemite Valley giving you a bird’s eye view of the valley, a unique view of Half Dome and the Tenaya Canyon, and a great view into Yosemite’s high country wilderness.
The Giant Sequoia Trees located in three groves in the park, the largest and most popular being the Mariposa Grove at the south end of the park (closed until spring of 2017), The Tuolumne Grove (near Crane Flat Gas Station) and the Merced Grove (about 4 miles, 6.4 km west of Crane Flat gas station)
Tuolumne Meadows is a large subalpine meadow at 8600’ (2600 meters) known for it wildflowers, hiking trails, meandering river and granite domes.
The park is open year round but the roads in the higher elevations such as Highway 120, Tioga pass Road and the Glacier Point Rd close in winter after the first big snow. Highways 140 and 41 are open year round but subject to restrictions in the winter depending on weather. All roads are narrow and winding and need to be driven with care. As in any wild area travelers need to be aware of wildlife, rockslides and weather when driving through the park. All lodging fills way in advance so reservations are necessary for most campgrounds (there are a few first come first serve that fill quickly) and all hotel and cabin accommodations. Yosemite uses the U.S. standard 3-prong plug at 110 V. There are free shuttle buses in Yosemite Valley and limited bus service to other locations in the park based on the season.
Find a campsite in Yosemite
Yosemite Lodging reservations
National Park Service
Lewis Kemper Curator
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