If you are looking to enjoy the best views in Yosemite National Park, you are in the right place. Yosemite National Park, the crown jewel of California’s Sierra Nevada is one of the bucket list destinations for many people traveling in California.

As per the words of the famed California conservationist John Muir “It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” These words about the surreal beauty of Yosemite National Park are true even to this day.

You cannot visit Yosemite National Park and be met with bad views at all. Yosemite is a photographer’s dream, a paradise for nature lovers, and a treasure land of adventures for daredevils, hikers, and outdoor-loving travelers.

No matter what type of traveler you are or whether you are visiting Yosemite for a day or for a week, you will be looking to enjoy the best Yosemite views during different times of the day at different places for photography on your phone or for epic Instagram pictures.

Although the best photo spots in Yosemite include the most famous landmarks, there are many hidden gems offering stunning Yosemite views.

In this post, I bring to you the 30 beautiful places to witness the best views in Yosemite National Park, useful tips, how to get there, and more.

HOW TO REACH YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK?

Yosemite National Park is located in the Sierra Mountains range in the eastern part of California. The nearest city to Yosemite is Sacramento, about 3 hours away.

By flight – Depending on your departure destination, you can fly to the closest airports, although you will need a rental car to get to Yosemite from any of these.

Best views in Yosemite

You can fly into San Jose, Oakland and San Franciso airports, and from any of these, it takes about 4 hours to arrive at Yosemite.

By road – Many people include a trip to Yosemite National Park as a weekend getaway or a part of many possible road trips in this part of California. Yosemite National Park can be entered through Highways 120, 140, or 41.

Recommended for you: The Best Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary Ideas You Should Check

Alternatively, you can plan a day trip to Yosemite, which is the best option to cover the top attractions, including witnessing a Yosemite sunset.

NOTE – As of 2022, there is a reservation system for park entry. If you are visiting between late May and the end of September and planning on driving into or through the park between 6 am and 4 pm you will need to have a reservation. Find out more and make your reservations online here.

WHERE TO STAY IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK?

With about five entrances and a distance of over 2.5 hours between a few of them, you can imagine the massive size of Yosemite National Park, which has loads of places to stay.

Best views in Yosemite

You can choose between lodges, campgrounds, and glamping sites if you plan to stay in the park. 

If you are visiting Yosemite for the first time and plan to include watching a sunset or a sunrise, I would recommend staying in the Yosemite valley as it is centrally located, giving access to many of the spots for sunsets in Yosemite.

PLACES TO STAY IN THE YOSEMITE VALLEY

Since Yosemite Valley is the most popular area, you have plenty of options to choose to stay.

My favourite pick is The Ahwahnee, a stunning luxury hotel with fine dining, gorgeous views and many amenities for a relaxing stay.

Another comfortable place to stay in the valley is Yosemite Valley Lodge in Yosemite village.

Places to stay outside the Yosemite Valley
Best views in Yosemite

El Portal is the nearest town to the park boundaries and is only a 20-minute drive from Yosemite Valley. There are plenty of accommodation options in this town, which you can check here.

Click here to check for the current availability and prices of places to stay near Yosemite National Park.

Rush Creek Lodge is a beautiful, luxury lodge outside the Big Oak Flat entrance, which is about 1 hour from Yosemite Valley

Tenaya Lodge  – If you want an amazing stay and do not mind spending a few extra bucks, I would highly recommend Tenaya Lodge located in Fish Camp, south of Wawona. 

It takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes from here to reach Yosemite Valley, but this is one of my favourite stops for all the place offers, which is totally worth the money. Check prices to book here.

TOP SPOTS FOR THE BEST VIEWS IN YOSEMITE VALLEY

TUNNEL VIEW

Best season: Year-round

Best time: Sunrise or sunset

Hike difficulty: Easy 

The best views in Yosemite National Park can be seen from Tunnel View at the western entrance, making it the most popular photography spot in Yosemite.

Although there are plenty of Yosemite photo spots, Tunnel View is one of the most recognisable views as it is the site of some of the most famous Yosemite photographs.

Best views in Yosemite

It is no surprise given that you can get complete views of the gorgeous Yosemite Valley from here, comprising the magnificent granite landscapes, the gorgeous Yosemite Falls, Ponderosa pines, Bridalveil Falls, Cathedral Rocks and the entire valley.

These splendid postcard views from Tunnel View were one of the iconic captures of the legendary photographer Ansel Adam’s Yosemite collections, which you can find at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley.

It is also one of the famous views in Yosemite on Instagram, as you can capture amazing shots with the El Capitan rock formation and Half Dome forming gorgeous backdrops.

Tunnel View is also one of the best places to watch the sunset in Yosemite Valley.

best views in yosemite
Best views in Yosemite

During sunset, you can see the towering El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls above Yosemite Valley, Cathedral Rocks and Half Dome in the back as they reflect and shine when the colours change from bright oranges, yellows and reds to purple.

It is one of the most beautiful sunsets you can enjoy across Yosemite Valley’s iconic landmarks.

No matter what time of year you plan your Yosemite trip, it is best to head to Tunnel View in the late afternoon for the spectacles of sunset, which is the most popular time to be at Tunnel View.

But the parking gets filled quickly and so do the best spots to watch the views in Yosemite from here, so you will need to be there at least 2 to 3 hours before.

HOW TO REACH TUNNEL VIEW?

best views in yosemite

You can access Tunnel View from Yosemite Valley or through the Wawona Tunnel, and I recommend the second as it offers richer views.

Head southwards on Highway 41 towards Wawona if coming through Wawona Tunnel. You will find the parking area on the right side just before reaching the tunnel.

EL CAPITAN MEADOW

Best season: Year-round 

Best time: Evening or afternoon 

Hike difficulty: Easy

The El Capitan is a granite monolith, the world’s largest granite monolith to be precise, towering at over 3593 feet in Yosemite National Park. 

Located in the middle of Yosemite Valley, El Capitan Meadow offers the best view of El Capitan.

best viewpoints in yosemite

Formed by the volcanoes thousands of years ago, El Capitan is a mecca for rock climbing in America. Climbers from all over the world come to Yosemite to try and scale this massive wall, which may take many days to be successful. 

But you do not have to climb to enjoy stunning views of El Capitan set against the backdrop of the Yosemite Valley. Do bring your binoculars to try to spot climbers here.

You can take in the massive El Capitan from a distance at El Capitan Meadow in Yosemite Valley, where you can appreciate the sheer size of the world’s largest granite and take splendid wide-angle shots.

best views of Yosemite

Or you can also get up close and personal on the El Capitan bridge. This meadow sits directly across from the rock, offering different coloured landscapes during other times of the year, from golden brown in winter and fall to lush green adorned with wildflowers in summer and spring.

HOW TO REACH?

You can drive to the El Capitan Picnic area, one of the closest spots to the meadow for parking, or the Cathedral Beach Picnic Area.

VALLEY VIEW

Best season: All year 

Best time: Sunset 

Hike difficulty: Easy    

Although there are many places to take a photo of El Capitan, there are few spots where this magnificent monolith takes centre stage. 

yosemite national park views

One of such unique spots for the best views in Yosemite National Park is Valley View, where you can witness the beautiful reflection of El Capitan can be seen on the Merced River.

Located between Bridalveil Creek trailhead and Pohono Bridge, Valley Views gives you views from Tunnel View but at the ground level, opening up to a vast expanse, giving different perspectives.

Add the forests dominated by El Capitan rocks reflecting on the Merced River. It is one of the best spots to watch an epic Yosemite sunrise, and you can also watch the imposing Cathedral Rocks and Spires on the opposite end.

yosemite national park views

Sunset here is stunning, too, as you can watch different vibrant shades in the sky casting unique reflections in the River. If you are here to watch the sunset, make sure to get early.

Winter is also a fabulous time for the best views in Yosemite in Valley as you will witness the snow-blanketed landscapes everywhere.

HOW TO REACH?

best views in Yosemite
best views in Yosemite

Drive from Yosemite Valley to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Wawona near the South Entrance. At this roadside lookout along one-way Northside Drive right before you reach Pohono Bridge. 

BRIDALVEIL FALLS

Best season: Spring 

Best time: Late afternoon 

Hike difficulty: Easy 

One of the best views in Yosemite National Park that you can enjoy is that of Bridalveil Falls, one of the most stunning waterfalls in the national park. It is one of the top Yosemite Photography spots that you can witness from different areas on your trip, including Tunnel View. 

best views in Yosemite

This stunning 620-foot high waterfall is the first waterfall that you’ll see when arriving in the valley and gets its name because of the way the winds swing and sways water as it falls to the valley floor.

You can get up close to the waterfalls and enjoy the full splendour during the spring and early summer when it plunges with vigour although the water flows throughout the year and it almost never dries up.

Note that the waterfall is crowded always as it’s one of the first major landmarks once you enter the valley.

best views in Yosemite

HOW TO REACH?

Bridalveil Falls can be accessed via the Bridalveil Falls path, which is an easy 5-minute hike from the parking lot.

INSPIRATION POINT

Best season: All Year

Best time: Sunset

Hike difficulty: Moderate 

Inspiration Point is not far from Tunnel View and is a good alternative if you want to enjoy beautiful views similar to Tunnel View if you want to get away from putting effort to secure a spot with the crowds.

best views in Yosemite

Like the other Yosemite sunset spots, you can witness beautiful views of the Yosemite valley comprising Half Dome and El Capitan, thanks to its higher elevation, offering some of the best views in Yosemite at Inspiration Point.

But what makes it a fantastic spot is the absence of crowds that will allow you to capture the shots without being hurried.

HOW TO REACH?

best views in Yosemite

Follow the exact driving directions to arrive at Tunnel View. Here, a trailhead leads to two points, Inspiration Point and Artist Point. You will find two parking lots when you reach Tunnel view. 

The trail to the points starts from the one away from the Tunnel View viewpoint.

It is not an easy hike but not too challenging either. It goes uphill through the forest, but watch out as the path can be rocky and slippery at some parts.

Get a good headlamp or a torch as you will need it while coming back descending.

valley view Yosemite

If you want a shorter trail, note the diversion that leads to Artist Point that appears sometime after you begin your hike.

The trail is open all year round. However, in winter, there may be a lot of snow on the ground which would make the hike more difficult.

YOSEMITE FALLS

Best time: Morning

Best season: Spring

Difficulty type: Easy

What better than enjoying the best views in Yosemite than that of its tallest waterfall at 2,425 feet? 

Witnessing the splendour of the plunging Yosemite Falls is one of the top bucket list things to do on your trip.

sunset Yosemite valley

The falls cascade down through Upper Yosemite Falls and then Lower Yosemite Falls, two other falls that you can access differently. 

It is a prominent tourist spot due to its sheer size and beauty, making it a popular location for photographers.

From spring to early Summer is the best time to witness the gorgeous beauty as the falls crash in full force, fueled by snowmelt.

So it is gushing in spring and starts to dry up in early summer. So if you want to capture the full vigour of Yosemite Falls, plan your trip between April and June, when the water flow is the highest.

best views in Yosemite

You can watch Yosemite Falls throughout Yosemite Valley from viewpoints near Yosemite Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge.

Most visitors choose to view Yosemite Falls from the Lower Yosemite Falls Viewpoint.

If you are up for a challenging trek, take the strenuous 7-mile trail up to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls.

HOW TO REACH?

Lower Yosemite Falls

To capture the shots of the Lower Falls, head along the walkway surrounded by trees that will lead you to the stunning Falls in the middle of the frame beautifully.

As you walk through, you will hear the thunderous sound of Lower Yosemite Falls and the sight of Yosemite Creek next to you. The trail will lead you to Vista Point, where you can see the falls.

Upper Yosemite Falls

best views in Yosemite

You can view the Upper Yosemite Falls close-up after hiking to Columbia Rock through the Yosemite Falls Trail. This challenging 3-mile trek takes anywhere between 6 to 8 hours, including switchbacks and steep terrain changes. 

Parking near the trailhead can get filled quickly, so I recommend getting there early to park at the Yosemite Falls Parking Lot. 

COLUMBIA ROCK

One of the places you can add for the best views in Yosemite is Columbia Rock which you will come across on your hike to the Upper Yosemite Falls Trail.

It’s a 1-mile moderate level uphill hike (one way) that you can access from the Upper Yosemite trail.

best views in Yosemite by car

From Columbia Rock, you can enjoy the stunning unobstructed views of Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, and the magnificent Yosemite Valley.

It is suitable for beginners and although it’s just a 2-mile hike, expect to gain 1,000 feet quickly, which is best done slowly.

HOW TO REACH?

The Upper Yosemite Falls trailhead is located at Camp 4, where you can walk from the Lodge or arrive by taking the shuttle bus.

VERNAL AND NEVADA FALLS

If you want to enjoy the best views in Yosemite, how about checking out two of its stunning waterfalls, Nevada and Vernal Falls? 

Both waterfalls are among the national park’s top landmarks and favourites of photographers and waterfall lovers.

best view of el capitan

Both waterfalls can be accessed via a single trail. Vernal Falls is the first on the way, and if you are up for a further trek, you will be rewarded with the stunning views of Nevada Falls.

Although the hike to the waterfalls is strenuous with an elevation gain of up to 2000 feet, I would recommend you go to both the waterfalls if you are an experienced hiker.

Thanks to its splendid beauty, the trail gets quite busy during the peak months, but it is worth your time.

The first part of the trail leading to Vernal Falls is known as Mist Trail due to the mist formations from the waterfall and the winds. It creates beautiful rainbow formations that you can enjoy if you are here around noon.

cathedral beach picnic

At the top of Vernal Falls is a giant lake Emerald Pool offering dramatic views and photography opportunities.

If you continue further past Vernal Falls for more than two miles, you will come across the gorgeous views of Nevada Falls. The trails can be slippery due to the proximity of the waterfalls, so it is best to wear good hiking shoes. 

Also, as you approach Nevada Falls, take care of some steep switchbacks on the way. Although it takes at least 4 to 6 hours to complete this over 11 miles, you can carry food and water and make it a leisurely day trip.

HOW TO REACH

The trail starts and ends at Happy Isles Trailhead. May and June are the best months to visit after the snow melts, leading to flourishing waterfalls.  

The trail is closed from December to March in the winter due to ice and snow. 

COOK’S MEADOW

Best season: Between spring and fall  

Best time: Late afternoon and sunset

Hike difficulty: Easy  

If you have witnessed the panoramas from all the famous spots and want some best views in Yosemite Park, head to the Cook’s Meadows located in the Yosemite Valley. 

Cook’s Meadow, located near Sentinel Bridge parking lot, is the place to see both the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls together. 

best sunrise spots in Yosemite
best sunrise spots in Yosemite

Easily accessible by a short walk, you can witness different and beautiful views of Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, and Glacier Point from the Cook’s Meadows. 

Since the trail in the meadow also crosses the trailhead to Lower Yosemite Falls, you may combine them.

sunset at Yosemite

You can enjoy the sweeping views of the waterfalls surrounded by lush green meadows in the spring and summer or its golden and bright yellow versions during the fall.

Unlike the other spots offering birdviews, you can watch the spectacles of the setting sun from the valley floor, surrounded by lush forests, without any crowds.

best views of half dome

HOW TO REACH?

You can drive or walk to head to the start of the trail for the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail or get to the parking lot for Sentinel Bridge, both places from where it is a quick walk to Cook’s Meadow in the Yosemite Valley.

MERCED RIVER

Best season: All year

Best time: Anytime

Hike difficulty: Easy 

How about a gorgeous sunset in Yosemite over a magnificent river without hiking or driving along a windy road? 

After a couple of amazing Yosemite mountain-top Panoramas, head to the beautiful Merced River for some of the best views in Yosemite in the Valley.

best views in Yosemite

The Merced River flows through the High Sierras, down through Yosemite Valley, and out of the Park for nearly 150 miles, flowing beautifully through the entire Valley.

It is possible to see the river along the entire Valley, offering many viewpoints, including Sentinel Bridge, Swinging Bridge, Cooks Meadow, and Valley View.

Although this allows you to catch a sunset at many places, the most popular spot for sunset in Yosemite along Merced river is along the riverbank near Cathedral Beach.

This spot is famous because from here, you can witness the views of El Capitan and the Three Brothers. 

tunnel view Yosemite sunrise

Before the setting sun casts the Alpine glow on the walls, you can see before the colour turns bright orange and red.

If you time it right and you get lucky, you can catch the reflections of El Capitan and the Three Brothers in the Merced River.

HOW TO REACH?

Drive to Cathedral Beach in the Yosemite Valley, an easy drive.

HALF DOME

Best season: All year

Best time: Before sunset  

Hike difficulty: Difficult    

One of the famous landmarks in Yosemite National Park is Half Dome, known for unique and stunning unusual formations due to melting glaciers and erosion of rocks.

Hiking to the Half Dome is one of the top things to do in the Park as it offers some stunning views of Yosemite Park.

viewpoints Yosemite

Note that hiking to the top of Half Dome requires a permit. Many hikers take the journey to the summit every year on a challenging and strenuous hike, an 8-mile round trip that can take up to 10 hours. 

You need to use the cables that provide a route along the steep granite slope, which is best recommended only for seasoned hikers.

HOW TO REACH?

Those who may not want to hike to the summit can get a fantastic view of Half Dome in various locations throughout Yosemite. 

You can enjoy the beautiful views of Half Dome from Glacier Point Road. Watching it from here is a better option than hiking for photographing Half Dome than watching it.

You need to park at Glacier Point car park and walk five minutes uphill.

As you approach the bend on the road, you will get the first fantastic views of Half Dome.

Another spot to enjoy an unobstructed view of Half Dome is from the beautiful meadow alongside Northside Drive. You can also get fantastic views from Olmstead Point and Glacier Point.

Off the side of Big Oak Flat Road, there is a turnout called Half Dome View, from where you can enjoy its best views, along with El Capitan in the background.

The ideal time to enjoy the best views in Yosemite of that of Half Dome is around sunrise, as the colours reflect beautifully on the granite rock.

But note that Glacier Point Road closes in winter, generally around November and reopens in late May.

SENTINEL BRIDGE

Best season: Fall

Best time: Throughout the year

Hike difficulty: Easy

Sentinel Bridge, located in the centre of Yosemite Valley, is one of the easily accessible spots for witnessing beautiful views in Yosemite, especially the sunrise and the sunset.

You can also see the view of Half Dome from Sentinel Bridge built across the Merced River, where you can see its reflection, which is also one of the reasons why this bridge is a popular stop.

Yosemite viewpoints

The views around the sunset are surreal as you can witness the views of Half Dome and its reflection in the calm Merced River as the sky gets painted with shades of pink, red, and purple.

I like watching the sunset from the bridge, especially during the Fall, although it is beautiful during any time of the year

In the Fall, the foliage of the dense jungles adds to the dramatic colours creating picture-perfect postcard sunset in Yosemite, which I love admiring.

best sunset spots in Yosemite

Do not be surprised to see hundreds of travelers, especially photographers, lined up with their cameras and tripods occupying the best spots. If you want a good place, it is best to be an early bird.

HOW TO REACH?

Drive to the Sentinel Bridge, or better, park your car at one of the spots and take a short walk amidst the meadows to arrive here.

You can park right beside Sentinel Bridge in the small designated parking area if you drive, but since it is a famous spot, the parking lot gets full quite early. 

YOSEMITE CHAPEL

Best season: All year

Best time: Anytime

Hike difficulty: Easy 

One of the best views in Yosemite National Park you should not miss is the oldest building on the premises, the pretty Yosemite Chapel.

Yosemite Chapel, constructed in 1879, sits amidst a beautiful valley surrounded by granite cliffs, vibrant meadows, and waterfalls, offering some of the most beautiful panoramas in the Park.

Merced river canyon

The chapel is a part of Yosemite Village that existed once in the Park.

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and along with being a place of worship, the 140+ years old Yosemite Chapel is also a popular wedding venue.

MIRROR LAKE

Best season: Spring and summer 

Best time: Early morning

Hike difficulty: Easy    

Among the popular lakes offering the best views in Yosemite is Mirror Lake, easily accessed by a hike on the Mirror Lake Trail in the Yosemite Valley.

 The best place to watch the sunrise in Yosemite

Right after the snow melting weeks the start of the spring is the best time to plan your trip to Mirror Lake as freshwater flowing from the High Sierras plunges as waterfalls before collecting in Mirror Lake.

You can either hike to the entry point of the lake which is a flat-trail hike of about a mile or circle around Mirror Lake completely. 

In the summer and fall months, the lake dries up transforming into a meadow.

The best time to enjoy beautiful views in Yosemite from Mirror Lake is right after sunrise when the rising sun forms stunning colours along with creating fantastic reflections of the forests surrounding the lake.

Yosemite national park sunset

HOW TO REACH?

You need to hike the Mirror Lake Trail which is an easy and beautiful hike offering stunning views of Tenaya Creek, Washington Column, and Half Dome on the way. 

Walk the paved trail for views of the Half Dome reflections on Mirror Lake, especially in the winter. For views of North Dome and Washington Column, walk the unpaved trail. 

SWINGING BRIDGE (NEAR YOSEMITE FALLS)

Best Season: Spring to early Summer

Best time: Sunset

Hike difficulty: Easy

Among the top attractions of the national park is Yosemite Falls, the magnificent Fall that is the highest in the park visible from almost anywhere.

If you want to witness the best views in Yosemite involving these huge waterfalls, head to the Swinging Bridge across the Merced River.

Yosemite viewpoint

You will see bright orange, golden, and yellow hues around the cliffs from where Yosemite falls plunges during the sunset, creating magical sights to enjoy and capture with your lenses.

HOW TO REACH?

You’ll come across Swinging Bridge as you drive into Yosemite Valley along Southside Drive, entering the loop between Yosemite Chapel and the Sentinel Beach Picnic Area.

THE BEST VIEWS IN YOSEMITE ALONG GLACIER POINT ROAD

Glacier Point Road is one of the most famous roads in Yosemite National Park that is packed with many viewpoints offering beautiful views along the way.

Below is the list of the places along Glacier Point Road that offers the best views in Yosemite National Park.

GLACIER POINT

If you love panoramic views from high up, you will love the gorgeous views that you can see from Glacier Point.

One of the reasons it is so famous is that you can overlook Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Clouds Rest, and the High Sierras.

Yosemite half dome sunset

Also, one of the top places for watching the sunset and sunrise in Yosemite is Glacier Point, known for its incredible views and its excellent location overlooking some fantastic geological wonders.

You need to get on the Glacier Point road that takes you high above Yosemite Valley, leading to Glacier Point for some of the best views in Yosemite. 

Carry a light wind jacket when you are visiting Glacier Point as it gets chilly during sunrise and around and after sunset, no matter what time of the year.

HOW TO REACH GLACIER POINT?

valley view Yosemite national park

You can either drive or hike to Glacier Point for enjoying the views. Glacier Point is located on the southwest edge of Yosemite Valley, an hour’s drive away, at the very end of Glacier Point Road.  

If you are driving in Yosemite for the first time, note that the roads are windy and steep. Hence drive carefully on this road. Once you park, it’s an easy and short walk to the viewpoint. 

Note Glacier Point Road is closed beyond the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area from November until late May or early June.

It is possible to hike to Glacier Point from the Yosemite Valley amidst thick snow blankets, which is about 4 miles round trip. If you are up for a strenuous hike in the snow in Yosemite, you can sign up for this adventure.

Yosemite national park viewpoints

The parking lot gets filled up most of the day during the peak months, so if you plan to watch the fabulous sunset from here, prepare to be here at least a few hours before.

If you do not want to use or get your car, you can avail the shuttle from the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area that runs every 20 minutes from 10 AM and 5:30 PM.

TAFT POINT

Best season: Late spring and mid-fall 

Best time: Sunset 

Hike difficulty: Moderate 

If you plan to hike, one of the best spots in Yosemite for sunset would be heading to Taft Point. 

I would highly recommend adding Taft Point as one of the best spots to witness the best views in Yosemite around the golden hours on Glacier Point Road.

One of the best things about Taft point is that the observation point extends out over Yosemite Valley, over a 2,000-foot drop to the valley floor that gives you splendid views of the panorama. 

Even if you are not here for a sunset, it is worth heading to Taft point for these fantastic bird views. The evening is a dance of colours in the sky as the horizon is painted orange, golden, yellow, and purple.

Do not miss the beautiful views of the Merced River running along the valley floor and the fantastic views of El Capitan, Yosemite Valley, and Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite national park best views

If you are afraid of heights as I am, this viewpoint will feel scary, but you can still get to enjoy the views and take photos while keeping your safe distance from the ledge.

Also, don’t forget to bring a headlamp, as you’ll be hiking in the dark after watching the sunset.

HOW TO REACH TAFT POINT?

Drive for an hour from Yosemite Valley to the Taft Point parking area to get to Taft Point. 

Since this is a very famous spot, you will not be able to find a parking spot easily most of the time, especially during the peak months. The parking lot is also shared with those visiting nearby Sentinel Dome. 

In that cases, get to any of the places close to the trailhead where you have options to park.

Best views in Yosemite

The hike to Taft Point starts along Glacier Point Road at the Sentinel Dome trailhead that passes through meadows and a forest. Follow the 1-mile trail that leads to a stunning cliff drop-off carefully, which takes about 2 hours.

Be careful not to stand too close to the edge as many have fallen the 3,500 ft. fall to their deaths.

SENTINEL DOME

Best season: Late spring and mid-fall 

Best time: Sunset 

Hike difficulty: Easy

Sentinel Dome is one of Yosemite’s beautiful and unique geological wonders that comprise granite formations eroded into an amphitheatre shape.

Yosemite vista point

Many travelers consider the Sentinel Dome among the top spots for the best views in Yosemite National Park, especially during the sunset, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

What makes the sunset at Sentinel Dome the best place for sunset in Yosemite is that you can witness the spectacle in a dome, taking in surreal 360° views of the magic of Yosemite, comprising Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, the Merced River canyon and Half Dome.

You can also observe Nevada Falls, Clouds Rest, and some of the High Sierra peaks to the East.

best views in Yosemite

It is no exaggeration to say that any amount of pictures can’t do it justice as it’s incredible with every turn offering new views.

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Unlike the other viewpoints for watching Yosemite sunsets, at the Sentinel Dome, you are rewarded with miles of unobstructed views in every direction.

You see Half Dome and the splendid panoramas adjoining with the high country lurking close by on one side of the dome.

Most people choose to combine Sentinel Dome into a loop with Taft Point for over a 2.2-mile round trip hike. If you start a few hours before the sunset, you can make the most of your hikes.

HOW TO REACH?

best views in Yosemite

It’s an easy 1-mile hike to get to the best place for sunset in Yosemite.

The hike to Sentinel Dome, which begins at the same point as the trail to Taft Point, is also easy to follow except for the last stretch, where it gets slightly strenuous when you arrive at the dome’s base and climb to the top.

WASHBURN POINT

Best season: Late spring and mid-fall 

Best time: sunrise & sunset

Hike difficulty: Easy

Another viewpoint right on Glacier Point Road that offers the best views of Yosemite is Washburn Point. Although not as popular as others on this road, it provides splendid birdviews of Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and Illilouette Falls.

best views in Yosemite

Washburn Point is also among the places where you can enjoy the best views in Yosemite with the least effort, just 20 stairs away from the parking lot.

You’ll also see the edge of the Half Dome, a different view at 7,500 feet.

PANORAMA TRAIL

Best season: Spring to Fall

Best time: Sunrise

Hiking difficulty: Easy

Also located at the top of Glacier Point Road is the Panorama Trail, which is located at a higher elevation offering stunning views of the sunrise in Yosemite National Park.

best views in Yosemite

Although it is a long drive along the windy road, you will be rewarded with stunning views of the distinct angles of Yosemite Valley everywhere.

VISTA POINT

Vista Point, located on Big Oak Flat Road, is one of the offbeat spots to watch a stunning sunrise in Yosemite National Park. 

Vista Point is worth checking out if you are looking for the best Yosemite views at sunrise.

best views in Yosemite

Although the views may not be as enriching and dramatic as the others on this list, it is worth stopping by as you can still witness the various hues of the sun at dawn from Vista Point.

It is a steep winding road, and the journey is as significant to reach the point with many panoramic views of the Valley.

HOW TO REACH?

Look for Big Oak Flat Road Vista Point on Google Maps, a continuation of Highway 120 from the west, unlike Vista Point on Highway 140. 

Unless you specifically mention Big Oak Flat Road, Google Maps will show this one, so make sure not to get lost.

You can park at the roadside before a tunnel once you reach it. 

BEST YOSEMITE VIEWS ALONG TIOGA PASS ROAD

Tioga Road is the next popular stop for many after Glacier Point Road. Nothing beats a drive along high-altitude Tioga Road to Tioga Pass, which is about a two-hour drive from the Yosemite Valley for incredible doses of scenic beauty.

Tioga Road offers views from the opposite side of the park that can be enjoyed on a drive along the winding and elevated road packed with gorgeous views. Almost every bend in the road brings you another splendid view that will you stop counting as it gets better and better.

CLOUD’S REST

Best season: Late spring and mid-fall 

Best time: sunrise & sunset 

Hike difficulty: Difficult  

If you are looking to enjoy the best views in Yosemite National Park along Tioga Pass road, one of the spots is Clouds Rest, which offers spectacular views of the Yosemite valley floor.

You can also witness the famous landmarks of Half Dome and El Capitan from here.

best views in Yosemite

But unlike the other ones on this list, the beautiful Yosemite views from Cloud’s Rest can be enjoyed by undertaking one of the most challenging hikes in the park. 

The trail to the Cloud’s Rest viewpoint covers 14.5 miles roundtrip and climbs 1,775 feet, which means it is not for beginners. You will also need to keep one full day to complete this hike.

But if you are an experienced hiker, I would highly recommend doing this trek as the fantastic rewards at the end is definitely one of the best views in Yosemite.

best hikes in Yosemite

At the top of the 9,926-foot summit, you will enjoy spectacular 360-degrees views including the stunning Yosemite landmarks such as Tenaya Lake, Sentinel Dome, North Dome, and Mt. Hoffman. Also, look down to see Half Dome’s summit. 

Note that this trail is only accessible from late spring to early fall, so plan your trip accordingly.

HOW TO REACH?

The Cloud’s Rest trailhead, Sunrise Lakes trailhead, is off Tioga Road at the west end of Tenaya Lake.

Although the best time to plan a hike to Clouds Rest is to be there for sunrise when the views are magical, it also means you will need to hike in the dark and plan your trip very early. 

Yosemite national park best views

There are sharp drop-offs near the summit at some places, so use extreme caution.

If not just around sunset is also a great time, but for either of these times, do get your headlamp, and a wind jacket since it gets cold.

TENAYA LAKE

Best season: Late spring and mid-fall 

Best time: sunrise & sunset 

Hike difficulty: Easy  

Tenaya Lake is one of the most accessible lakes in Yosemite National Park, but surprisingly, it is one of the relatively less-visited lakes although it is also located near the Tioga Pass entrance.

best views in Yosemite

Tenaya Lake basin, which was formed by glaciers, is the largest high country alpine lake in Yosemite. Not only is it gorgeous with its turquoise colours but it is also located in a beautiful spot surrounded by dense forests and granite rocky cliffs offering stunning backdrops.

Tenaya Lake at an elevation of 8,150 feet also offers a large surface area with long beaches and spacious shores ideal for summer activities like swimming, picnicking, and canoeing.

You can also go hiking around Tenaya Lake with the trailheads leading to Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Cathedral Lakes, and down to the Yosemite Valley. 

best views in Yosemite

HOW TO REACH?

Drive to Tioga Pass Road and look for parking. You need to take a short walk to reach the lake. Note that Like Glacier Point Road, this road is also closed during the winter due to huge amounts of snowfall. 

OLMSTED POINT

Best season: Late spring and mid-fall 

Best time: sunrise & sunset 

Hike difficulty: Easy  

Olmsted Point is the first viewpoint to check out on Tioga Road, easily accessible and offering some of the best views in Yosemite National Park. If you are not in the mood for a hike, take a drive to Olmsted Point for spectacular views.

It is an off-the-beaten spot for watching splendid Yosemite sunsets, from where you can see the vast expanse of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, including the north side of Half Dome, Clouds Rest, Tenaya Canyon, and the gorgeous Tenaya Lake.

You can combine a visit to Tuolumne Meadows as Olmsted Point is also located on Tioga Pass Road for witnessing some of the best views in Yosemite.

If you are a serious photographer, this is one of the Yosemite photography spots you should not miss. 

When the sun begins to set, the sky comes alive with a myriad of colours from this viewpoint.

HOW TO REACH?

You can arrive at Olmsted Point by driving to Tioga Pass Road. The parking lot can sometimes be crowded, so you may have to wait for someone to leave.

There’s a short walk of about a quarter-mile to the viewpoint, but it is at a high elevation of 8,400 feet. So take it slowly as the altitude can get you when you don’t expect it.

Tioga Pass Road is only open from late spring to mid Fall as it will be blocked for the rest of the months due to snowfall, so if you plan to stop at Olmsted Point or Tuolumne Meadows, keep this in mind.

TUOLUMNE MEADOWS

Best season: Late spring and mid-fall 

Best time: Sunset 

Hike difficulty: Easy

One of the underrated places to witness a beautiful sunset in Yosemite is Tuolumne Meadows, located along Tioga Pass Road, north of the Yosemite valley. 

If you are looking for the best views in Yosemite Park for sunsets minus the crowds or a challenging hike, Tuolumne Meadows, a vast high-elevation meadow 8,600 feet high near the Tuolumne River, should be a must-visit on your Yosemite weekend trip.

Yosemite cliff

It is of the best Yosemite photography spots for many reasons. Clear alpine lakes, grassy fields home to wildlife and easy options for camping make it worth checking out.

You can do several day hikes, including a quick but steep hike up the Lembert Dome, a stunning granite dome that’s 800 feet high above Tuolumne Meadows and the Tuolumne River.  

OTHER BEST VIEWS IN YOSEMITE

THREE BROTHERS

Best season: Late spring and mid-fall 

Best time: Sunset

Hike difficulty: Easy

You can witness the stunning Three Brothers at many points throughout the National Park when walking or driving around, but if you are looking to capture the best views in Yosemite including them, head to Cathedral Picnic Area, which has stunning vistas.

Best views in Yosemite

For the unknown, the Three Brothers are three towering granite peaks that sit beautiful east of El Capitan. The three peaks have individual names – Eagle Peak, the tallest of the three, Middle Brother, and Lower Brother. 

You can see their beautiful reflection on the Merced River at the Cathedral Picnic Area. Sunset is the favourite time thanks to the colours that form a spectacle in the sky and reflect on the Merced River, making it magical.

The next best view of the Three Brothers rock formation can be seen on the Valley Loop Trail, one of the famous Yosemite views for photographers in the Valley area.

Best views in Yosemite

You can also have a picnic during the summer afternoons, an excellent place to stop by for lunch and relax after hiking and driving around.

HOW TO REACH?

The Cathedral Picnic Area is located on Southside Drive, the first before driving into Yosemite Valley. It is best to stop here first if you are entering the Valley.

MARIPOSA GROVE

Best season: Spring to Fall

Best time: Early Morning

Difficulty type: Easy

If you want some different views of Yosemite National Park that do not involve granite mountains, rich valleys and waterfalls, head to Mariposa Grove to enjoy the best views in Yosemite, comprising some giant redwood sequoia trees.

Did you know? Yosemite is home to some of the world’s oldest and largest trees located at the southern Wawona entrance to the park.

There are over 500 giant trees here, some as old as 2,400 years. The best way to explore the grove is on the Big Trees Trail, a short quarter-mile loop.

Plan your hike during the first half of the day, especially when the light conditions are perfect in the early morning. You can easily spend half a day enjoying the views of these giants in the forests.

HETCH HETCHY VALLEY

One of the best views in Yosemite you can enjoy is in the national park but away from the famous Yosemite Valley, Tioga Pass Road, or Glacier Point Road. 

Add a visit to Hetch Hetchy, a water reservoir and a valley 3,900 feet high, surrounded by beautiful mountains offering stunning views and loads of hiking opportunities. 

You can enjoy the beautiful views on the Lookout Point Trail on a 2-mile round trip.

HOW TO REACH?

Start at the Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station for this quick but moderate hike.

Apart from the Lookout Point trail, there’s The O’Shaughnessy Dam, 3 impressive falls – the Tueeulala Falls, Wapama Falls, Rancheria Falls, and a peak to explore. 

The O’Shaughnessy Dam is the primary source of drinking water for the Bay Area people and supplies hydroelectric power from two nearby plants. 

Start at the O’Shaughnessy Dam and hike for 2.5 miles to reach the Wapama Falls. You’ll also see the Tueeulala Falls on this trail.

If you walk for another 4.2 miles, you will reach the pretty Rancheria Falls.

If you plan to do all the waterfalls, you will need at least 8 hours to carry food and water.

You can also hike to the highest point in Hetch Hetchy, Smith Peak, at 7,751 feet height that two different trails can access.

EL PORTAL VIEW

One of the best offbeat places to enjoy the best views in Yosemite National Park in El Portal, which translates to the front door in Spanish.

Located on the western edge of the park, you can enjoy the beautiful views of Yosemite Valley.

HOW TO REACH?

Drive on Central Yosemite Highway to reach Yosemite View Lodge to reach El Portal.

TIPS FOR ENJOYING THE BEST VIEWS IN YOSEMITE

  • Check if the trails are open when you visit – Although the Park may be open to visitors, many sections and roads are closed as they are seasonal. Some routes to sunset spots in Yosemite, like the Sentinel Dome trail located on Glacier Road, is closed when the road closes due to snow or repairs. So check the park website for road closure details and the latest updates.
  • Check the weather – Before planning your trip and once you arrive, keep tracking for any weather changes to watch the Yosemite sunset. Haze, fog, and winds mean that it is not worth waiting for the evening. Do not hike if the weather is bad as in if there are storms or high winds.
  • Look up sunset times before you go – To time for the best photos and shots, make sure to look up the sunset timings at the specific location you plan to be. Although these spots are in the same Park, the sunset times at each are different, so look up before going to any of them.
  • Intermittent or no cell service – Many parts of the National Park have limited or no cell service, so plan your trip accordingly.
  • Download all maps – Before you enter the Park, download all the details you need, including all the attractions, maps to all the spots, parking lots and other things on to your phone as there is limited cell service. You can download Google maps for Yosemite, the surrounding areas, and AllTrails.
  • Carry a Headlamp – Bring a headlamp or flashlight as you will hike back after sunset, and it will be dark. You will need it for places like Taft Point, where the trail can be rocky apart from the dark.
  • Check Yosemite’s website – The required permits, entry timings, the opening and closing of many hiking trails, roads, and activities keep often changing due to events like the wildfires. So keep checking the official website to see that there are no last-minute changes and surprises. 
  • Arrive Early for Sunsets – Although I have stressed this one for each sunset spot in Yosemite, I need to state again that being late means you will look for parking and make way through the crowds, which will take away many minutes of the golden hours.

You need to be there at least 2 hours before, especially in popular locations like Glacier Point, Taft Point, and Tunnel View. 

Plan to book well in advance, even on off-seasons – Whether you are going to go camping or stay in lodges, hotels or apartments, you need to book in advance while planning your Yosemite trip.

Lodge reservations are released a year before, and within a few weeks, they tend to get filled for the peak months. You need to check the timings and book at least more than six months before.

The same goes for campgrounds, for which the reservations are released six months before. You need to book your accommodation for a summer trip at the start of the year, and you can make all reservations via Recreation.Gov.

Beware of wildlife – Although most of the time it is not dangerous, sometimes encountering bears, snakes, and other wild animals can prove dangerous. So do not wander off the designated trails.

MAP OF THE BEST VIEWS IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BEST VIEWS IN YOSEMITE

Where is the best place to see the sunset in Yosemite?

There are many places where you can witness stunning sunsets in Yosemite National Park, including the views of Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Sentinel Dome.

Can you enter Yosemite at night?

Since Yosemite National Park is open 24 hours a day, yes, you can enter Yosemite at night. However, note that not all entry gates are open. 

If you are driving into the park between 6 am–4 pm, you will need to buy tickets and a parking fee.

How many days do you need in Yosemite?

Ideally, you will want at least 5 to 6 days to experience the most popular places inside Yosemite National Park, although the more time you have the better.

When is the best time to visit Yosemite National Park?

Summer months are the most popular since you have loads of activities that you can enjoy in Yosemite. But Spring and Fall are also fantastic months for the foliage and fewer tourists.

PIN THE BEST VIEWS IN YOSEMITE FOR LATER

TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Below is the list of the travel resources you can use to organize your travel – from flights to insurance and everything. These are the resources I use myself, which is why I recommend you for a hassle-free travel planning experience and fantastic trips.

Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Jet Radar, Kiwior 12go.Asia (for Asia planning). Book and fly mid-week, taking red-eyes flights or those in the early mornings for better deals and lower prices. Avoid check-in bags on a budget airline.

Booking Trains: The best websites for booking trains anywhere in Europe are Rail Europe and TrainLine. Both are easy to manage online and track your journeys.

Booking Cars: For the best prices and easy handling of renting a car for road trips and day trips, I’d recommend Discover Cars or Rental Cars, available throughout the world.

Accommodations: I typically use HotelsCombined or Booking.com to book hotels. There are special getaway deals with amazing discounts(over 50%!) for this year on Booking.com, and you can find them here.

I use Hostelworld and Agoda to book hostels as the deposit is low, easy change/cancellation is available and reviews are excellent on both. Depending on the destination, I love staying in VRBOs/homestays.

Travel Insurance: No matter whether it is a short trip or longer trips abroad, I strongly recommend buying travel insurance for international trips. I recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance.

Tours: Being a solo traveler, one of the best ways to optimize my time, budget, and super importantly, meet amazing people from all over the world is by joining tours, especially food tours, walking tours, day trips, culture, and history tours.
You will get a local’s perspective, the best opportunities to experience places and people closely. I book using GetYourGuideKlookViatorand Voyagin.

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Reshma Narasing

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