33 BEST Yosemite National Park Viewpoints: By Car & Hike

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Yosemite National Park is a UNESCO site nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range and one of the top 10 most-visited national parks in the US. It’s not difficult to see why! This Northern California park is always camera-ready.

You must check out as many iconic Yosemite National Park viewpoints during your trip as possible!

Yosemite is home to over 25 dramatic waterfalls including the tallest waterfall in North America. You’ll also find ancient, Giant Sequoia trees, other types of diverse fauna, and impressive sheer granite rock. Many of the epic views are visible from one of the 282 hiking trails, but some of the best photo spots are easily accessible from the side of the road.

There are many Yosemite National Park viewpoints so it’s easy to become overwhelmed with choices. This guide lists only the best viewpoints including exactly what you can see, where to park, and how to get there.

There are also some essential tips listed at the end if it’s your first time visiting Yosemite National Park so you can have the best family trip and see as many incredible views as possible!

family at the Yosemite National Park sign in CaliforniaPin

So, What Are THE Most Iconic Yosemite National Park Viewpoints?

Some Yosemite National Park viewpoints are just the MOST impressive and iconic. You really cannot visit this national park for the first time without checking them out. Here is the “Too Long; Don’t Read” of everyone’s favorite spots in Yosemite:

  • Tunnel View
  • Glacier Point
  • Valley View
  • Yosemite Falls
  • El Capitan Meadow
  • Mariposa Grove

Luckily, most of these spectacular views are accessible from the road, so you can visit them with kids of all ages. They’re not all open year-round, however, so keep reading to find all the information you need.

family at Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaPin
Tunnel View is one of the most famous/popular Yosemite National Park viewpoints…you can see why!

Yosemite National Park Viewpoints Interactive Map

I’ve created this interactive map to help you see where all of these viewpoints are in relation to each other, so you can better plan your itinerary…

How to use this map: Click on any of the viewpoints marked with the binoculars icon in this color. A popup will open discussing the viewpoint in greater detail.

Clicking the star next to the name of the map will save the map to your google account. To access it later on a computer or your smartphone, open google maps and select “Your Places”.

Best Yosemite National Park Viewpoints: Near Road/By Car

1. Glacier Point

  • Parking Area: Glacier Point Parking Lot
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls

Glacier Point is a peak, a hike, and also one of the best Yosemite National Park viewpoints. Many claim it’s one of the best views in the world!

Located in the ‘High Country’ part of the park, this viewpoint is only around a quarter of a mile from the car park. Its side-view of the Half Dome rock and Yosemite Falls, the tallest waterfall in North America, is unbeatable from Glacier Point.

walk to Glacier Point; Yosemite National Parks viewpointsPin
trailhead for walk to Glacier Point | Mike McBey, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Because it’s a view of the entire valley, Glacier Point is a one and a half hour’s drive from the visitor center. You’ll find this vista at the end of Glacier Point Road which is usually closed from November to May over the winter season. All the viewpoints at the end of this road are at a much higher elevation than the rest of the park so they get a lot more snow.

It’s easily accessible to families with young kids and those with limited mobility. There are public bathrooms in the parking lot too.

Glacier Point looking at Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaPin
Beautiful view of Half Dome from Glacier Point

2. Washburn Point

  • Parking Area: Washburn Point Parking Lot
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls

Washburn Point is also located at the end of Glacier Point Road though not quite as far along. You can see similar views as Glacier Point but from a different angle. Although the view of Half Dome isn’t as good, you can see Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls better from here.

Plus, if you’re going up to Glacier Point anyway then you might as well stop by Washburn Point too!

There are steps and a slope to reach Washburn Point from the parking lot so it’s accessible to all and the closest bathrooms are at Glacier Point. Note that this spot is also generally inaccessible from November to May.

Yosemite National Park viewpoints: Washburn PointPin
Washburn Point

3. Tunnel View

  • Parking Area: Two Parking Lots at the East End of Wawona Tunnel
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, and Cathedral Rocks

This is one of the most famous Yosemite National Park viewpoints for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a phenomenal view of the valley floor and includes all the most scenic spots in the park. Second, Tunnel View is at a lower elevation on the valley floor so it’s usually open year-round.

Yosemite National Park viewpoints: Tunnel ViewPin
Tunnel View with Bridalveil Falls on right

And third, it’s only a 15-minute drive from Yosemite Village along Wawona Road! It gets its name from the tunnel directly next to the viewpoint and it’s the perfect place to get family photos in Yosemite.

All of the incredible scenery is visible right from the parking lot. It’s a great place to enjoy Yosemite National Park viewpoints for those with limited mobility or kids in strollers. There are no public bathrooms here but there are at Bridalveil Falls Trailhead which isn’t far away.

sign at Tunnel viewPin
NPS sign at Tunnel View

4. El Capitan Meadow

  • Parking Area: Devil’s Elbow Parking Area on Northside Drive
  • What To Spot: El Capitan and Cathedral Rocks

Views of El Capitan are plentiful around the park, but El Capitan Meadow is one of the best Yosemite National Park viewpoints to see it up close.

El Capitan from El Capitan MeadowPin
El Capitan from El Capitan meadow

El Capitan is a vertical granite rock formation and one of the best sights in the entire part. The Dawn Wall, a sheer side of the rock, is popular with professional rock climbers. It’s famous for its appearance in the National Geographic climbing movie Free Solo (2018) which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

From the meadows, you can get a completely unobstructed view of this impressive landmark of the national park. This is also a great spot to see Cathedral Rocks in the opposite direction.

Cathedral Rocks from meadow, Yosemite ValleyPin
Cathedral Rocks

There aren’t too many parking spaces here and no bathrooms, but there is a path directly from the lot to El Capitan Meadow. This is the perfect place to visit on your way out of Yosemite National Park along the one-way Northside Drive road.

El Capitan from El Capitan meadow area Yosemite ValleyPin
El Capitan from the meadows, closer to the base

5. Yosemite Valley Chapel

  • Parking Area: Yosemite Village Parking or Yosemite Valley Chapel
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Falls

One of the cutest and most unique Yosemite National Park viewpoints is in the heart of Yosemite Valley. The quaint Yosemite Valley Chapel is the oldest building in the town.

It dates back to the 1870s and has been incredibly well-preserved. If you stand right next to the chapel, you can clearly see the top of Yosemite Falls and watch it flow into the trees below.

The Yosemite Valley Chapel parking lot is the best place to park but it’s small. If you can’t find space, head to the Yosemite Village Parking lot and take the trail across the Sentinel Bridge. There are no public bathrooms at either parking area but there are some in the Village Store close by.

Yosemite Valley Chapel in the snowPin
Yosemite Valley Chapel

6. Yosemite Valley View

  • Parking Area: Yosemite Valley View/El Capitan Viewpoint
  • What To Spot: El Capitan, Yosemite Valley Floor, and Merced River

This is another of those beautiful Yosemite National Park viewpoints that takes very little effort to reach! Lots of bang for very little buck. This picnic area has views across El Capitan and the lower valley that reflect into the Merced River when the water is high and still.

three kids sitting on logs at Yosemite Valley ViewPin
This is a great place to snap a family photo – this became our own Christmas card one year!

It’s a pretty small parking lot with no public bathrooms (the closest are at Bridalveil Falls Trailhead) but Yosemite Valley View is so peaceful. You’ll love being able to let your smaller kids wander as there are no huge drop-offs.

Yosemite Valley ViewPin
Yosemite Valley View

7. Bridalveil Fall

  • Parking Area: Bridalveil Falls Trailhead
  • What To Spot: Bridalveil Fall

Second only to Yosemite Falls, the scenic view of Bridalveil Fall is still one of the top Yosemite National Park Viewpoints. It’s a 617 ft one-drop waterfall that flows into a plunge pool and flows along the Bridalveil River. This is often the first waterfall that visitors see as it’s located en route to Yosemite Valley.

It’s so easy to reach before the viewpoint is a very short distance from the parking area, which also has public bathrooms. The best time of year to see the falls is in late spring/early summer when rainfall is at its highest but the snow has cleared.

bridalveil falls yosemite NPPin
Bridalveil Falls

8. Olmstead Point

  • Parking Area: Olmstead Point Overlook Parking Area on Tioga Road
  • What To Spot: Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon

Olmstead Point is one of the best Yosemite National Park viewpoints across the valley from the east. You’ll find it just off Tioga Road which stretches across the northern edge of the national park. It’s an incredible view and you may not even recognize Half Dome from this angle in the distance!

Like Glacier Point Road, parts of Tioga Road close in November and don’t reopen until late May or early June. Specifically, the eastern end of Tioga Pass Road. The best time to check out Olmstead Point is during the summer months when the roads are open and clear.

Olmstead Viewpoint, Yosemite, CAPin
Olmstead Point

9. Tenaya Lake

  • Parking Area: Sunrise Lakes Trailhead, Tenaya Lake Picnic Area, or Murphy Creek Trailhead
  • What To Spot: Tenaya Lake

Another of the top Yosemite National Park Viewpoints in the North Valley off Tioga Road is Tenaya Lake. This deep blue, serene lake is surrounded by mountains and is a gorgeous place to pull over and take in the peaceful air.

Since parts of Tioga Point Road are closed from November until the early summer months, it’s best to visit Tenaya Lake when it’s warm. There are no less than two picnic areas here so you can enjoy your lunch with a view!

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite NPPin
Tenaya Lake

10. O’Shaughnessy Dam

  • Parking Area: Hetch Hetchy, Wapama, and Rancheria Fall Trailhead
  • What To Spot: Hetch Hetchy Reservoir,

One of the most northerly Yosemite National Park viewpoints, the O’Shaughnessy Dam is unlike any other vistas in the park. For starters, it’s an incredibly huge dam! It controls water flow between the Tuolumne River and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which this dam overlooks.

It’s one of the lesser-visited overlooks but there is a campsite nearby with amenities as the Hetch Hetchy Valley is popular with backpackers.

If you know anything about John Muir, you may recall that Hetch Hetchy Valley was a place which he campaigned to save from the fate which it finally faced in 1923, being flooded to create the reservoir for the dam which you can now see today.

O'Shaughnessy Dam Hetch Hetchy Yosemite National ParkPin
O’Shaughnessy Dam, Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park

11. Cook’s Meadow

  • Parking Area: Yosemite Falls Vantage Point Parking Lot or Yosemite Village Parking Lot
  • What To Spot: Sentinel Rock and Black Elm Tree

This probably wouldn’t be one of the best Yosemite National Park viewpoints if it weren’t for Ansel Adams. He was a famous photographer from San Francisco who adored taking shots of this meadow. There’s a black elm tree that is featured in many of his works and you can see Sentinel Rock in the background too.

You don’t have to go out of your way to see this beautiful landscape as it’s in Yosemite Village. There are many parking lots to choose from and a public bathroom near Yosemite Creek Bridge. All the meadows are ideal viewpoints for young kids as there are no deep drop-offs, plus Cook’s Meadow Loop is a short hike suitable for all ages.

panoramic view of Cook's Meadow at duskPin
panoramic view of Cook’s Meadow

12. Cathedral Beach

  • Parking Area: Cathedral Beach Picnic Area or Devil’s Elbow Parking Lot
  • What To Spot: El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks East, and Merced River

Another scenic place to eat lunch with a view, Cathedral Beach (not a real beach!) has views of El Capitan to the north and Cathedral Rocks to the south. There’s a very small parking area here from Southside Road but you can also walk here from Devil’s Elbow too.

It has a ‘pebble’ beach which will keep your littlest kids entertained to no end. And there are some trees if you need shade in the summer months. The nearest public bathroom is at the El Capitan picnic area or Bridalveil Falls Trailhead.

Cathedral "Beach" area of Yosemite with El Capitan looming in backgroundPin
El Capitan from Cathedral Beach

13. Pohono Bridge

  • Parking Area: Yosemite Valley View/El Capitan Viewpoint
  • What To Spot: Merced River

Some of the best Yosemite National Park viewpoints are from the many bridges that cross the Merced River. Pohono Bridge is one of them and it’s super close to Yosemite Valley View that it’s only a couple of minutes round-trip to the parking lot.

You can even walk into the woodland next to the bridge to head down to the river banks. Perfect if you want to take off your shoes and take a paddle on a super hot day!

pohono bridge yosemite national parkPin
Pohono Bridge

14. Sentinel Bridge

  • Parking Area: Yosemite Falls Vantage Point or Yosemite Village Parking Lot
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Falls, Merced River, and Half Dome

Visiting Sentinel Bridge is a no-brainer if you’re seeking out viewpoints close to the main Yosemite Village parking lot anyway. It offers a completely unobstructed view of the Half Dome, which perfectly reflects in the Merced River on a bright, calm day. This bridge is a must-visit for photography lovers!

Don’t forget to check out the views from Yosemite Valley Chapel, Cook’s Meadow, and Superintendent’s Bridge while you’re in the area.

Sentinel Bridge over Merced River with Half Dome in backgroundPin
Sentinel Bridge over Merced River with Half Dome in background | Grogan, Brian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

15. Horsetail Fall

  • Parking Area: Yosemite Village or Curry Village and take the free shuttle
  • What To Spot: Horsetail Fall February Sunset Glow

While winter is not the best time of year to visit Yosemite National Park for many viewpoints, February is the ideal time for Horsetail Fall. It’s a small waterfall that usually only flows in the snowy season, but what’s really special about this waterfall is the sunset glow.

horsetail falls, Yosemite National Park during the dayPin
Horsetail Falls during the day

In mid to late February, this waterfall turns into ‘Fire Falls’ and can appear to glow orange on a clear day at sunset due to the sun being in the prime position. This phenomenon attracts so many visitors that you need to make a reservation to enter Yosemite during this period.

Bring the best camera you can and pack for icy cold winter weather if you want to visit this Yosemite National Park viewpoint!

Famous "fire falls" view of Horsetail Falls, Yosemite National Park in FebruaryPin
Fire Fall phenomenon seen at Horsetail Falls in February

16. Swinging Bridge

  • Parking Area: Swinging Bridge Picnic Area Parking Lot
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Falls and Merced River

Swinging Bridge offers visitors a beautiful landscape no matter what time of year you visit, but it comes alive in the spring. When the Merced River is high and Yosemite Falls is flowing, you can see the famous waterfall reflected in the river!

With the tall trees and post-card perfect wooden bridge, it’s an underrated spot. Even during the summer months, the Merced River retreats to reveal beach-like terrain perfect for kids. There is a public restroom and picnic tables here so it’s an ideal lunch spot.

Sidebar: Don’t tell the kids the name of this bridge in advance, or they’ll be pretty bummed when they see that it doesn’t actually swing.

17. Stoneman Meadow

  • Parking Area: Curry Village Parking Lot
  • What To Spot: Half Dome and Royal Arches

Although you can see Half Dome from several Yosemite National Park viewpoints, Stoneman Meadow might have the best. It’s a complete view with no trees in the way and you really feel like the rock is looming over you here!

Half Dome from Stoneman Meadow near Curry VillagePin
Half Dome looming down from Stoneman Meadow

Plus, the parking lots are super close to the meadow so it’s ideal for little kids and people with low mobility. There are public bathrooms next to the Nature Center at Happy Isles. And there’s ice cream in Curry Village…just sayin’.

18. Ahwahnee Meadow

  • Parking Area: Curry Village Parking Lot or Ahwahnee Drive Parking Lot
  • What To Spot: Royal Arches, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls

This is one of the lesser-visited meadows, but it’s one of the best spots to see the Royal Arches. These aren’t arch-shaped rock formations you can see somewhere like Arches National Park, they are arch-shaped patterns. A type of erosion called ‘exfoliation’ caused this natural feature in one of the granite rocks that you can see from Ahwahnee Meadow.

Royal Arches from Stoneman Meadow in Yosemite National ParkPin
Royal Arches on the rock face

It’s just a short walk along the sidewalk from the Curry Village parking lot, where there are also public bathrooms. Or, you can park much closer at The Ahwahnee, a hotel in front of the Royal Arches where there is usually room for guests and visitors.

19. Superintendent’s Bridge

  • Parking Area: Yosemite Falls Vantage Point, Yosemite Valley Chapel, or Yosemite Village Parking
  • What To Spot: Sentinel Dome and Merced River

Like Swinging Bridge and Sentinel Bridge, Superintendent’s Bridge is an easy-to-access bridge with beautiful views across the Merced River and perfectly frames Sentinel Dome. The wooden footbridge itself is beautiful too!

You could visit this vista when you visit Cook’s Meadow, Lower Yosemite Falls, and other picturesque Yosemite National Park viewpoints in the area. It’s one of the best places to watch the sunset over Sentinel Dome, which is perfectly framed by the trees.

dusk with beautiful skies in Cook's Meadow, Yosemite National ParkPin
Not taken on the Superintendent’s Bridge, but very close-by in Cook’s Meadow area

20. El Portal View

  • Parking Area: Side of the Glacier Point Road
  • What To Spot: Merced River Canyon and the Coast Ranges

This viewpoint is a little difficult to find, but worth it on a clear night if you’re interested in astrophotography. El Portal View is down Wawona Road which you should drive along if you enter Yosemite National Park via the South Entrance. But before you get to the Wawona Tunnel, turn off onto Glacier Point Road near Chinquapin.

You only need to drive a short distance until you reach a place that overlooks the Yosemite Valley where you can pull in. Creeks, the Merced River Canyon, and even the Coast Ranges in the distance are all visible on a clear day.

Best Yosemite National Park Viewpoints: By Hike

Those listed with an asterisk* – while great viewpoints, are not recommended for families with kiddos due to steep climbs, long and/or strenuous hikes, or sheer cliff faces/drops that would give most parents heartburn ;).

21. Taft Point*

  • Parking Area: Taft Point Trailhead
  • Hiking Trail: Pohono Trail
  • What To Spot: El Capitan and Merced River

This is one of the most popular Yosemite National Park viewpoints as the payoff is worth the short, easy hike. Taft Point is another viewpoint found at the end of Glacier Point Road so the elevation gain means incredible views across the entire Yosemite Valley.

You can clearly see El Capitan as well as other cool granite rock formations and the Merced River meandering across the valley floor. Although it’s one of the easier hikes in Yosemite National Park, it might not suit children. It’s a sheer cliff edge (yikes!) which can be anxiety-inducing even without kids in tow!

view of Taft Point in Yosemite National ParkPin
Taft Point is the rocky point on the left in the image above

22. Roosevelt Point*

  • Parking Area: Glacier Point Parking Lot and Taft Point Trailhead
  • Hiking Trail: Pohono Trail or Sentinel Dome Trail
  • What To Spot: Sentinel Dome and Sentinel Fall

There’s a lot of presidential recognition in Yosemite National Park viewpoints! Taft Point was named after the 27th president, and Roosevelt Point was named after the 26th. Theodore Roosevelt famously went camping with John Muir, the Father of the National Parks, in this area in May 1903.

Like Taft Point, Roosevelt Point is a cliff-edge viewpoint off the Pohono Trail but it’s a much more strenuous climb! You can see the valley floor like you can at Taft Point but the Sentinel Dome and Sentinel Fall are much more prominent from this angle.

23. Sentinel Dome

  • Parking Area: Glacier Point Parking Lot
  • Hiking Trail: Sentinel Trail
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Nevada Fall, Half Dome, and Clouds Rest

Looking for an easier hike to witness the incredible viewpoints available up Glacier Point Road? The hike to Sentinel Dome is less than three miles in length and only the last section of the trail (where you’re kind of scrambling up the rocky dome) makes it moderately difficult.

Like Taft Point and Roosevelt Point, it’s not ideal for younger kids but it may be suitable for teenagers. There are public bathrooms at the Glacier Point parking lot.

Sentinel Dome Yosemite National ParkPin
Sentinel Dome

24. Mirror Lake

  • Parking Area: Curry Village Parking Lot
  • Hiking Trail: Mirror Lake Trail
  • What To Spot: Mirror Lake and Half Dome

Mirror Lake is a great place to hike to with your kids, as there’s little to no elevation change and it’s a fairly short walk. However, it’s essential to manage your expectations! While there used to be a huge reservoir here that reflected a view of Half Dome, it’s much more modest these days.

Luckily, you can always see Half Dome from this viewpoint whatever the weather. And during the rainy season, this rock face reflects beautifully in the water that remains.

25. Lower Yosemite Falls

  • Parking Area: Camp 4 Campground and Yosemite Falls Trailhead
  • Hiking Trail: Valley Loop Trail/Lower Yosemite Falls Trail
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Falls

Only a stone’s throw from Yosemite Village is one of the best spots to admire North America’s tallest waterfall! There are plenty of Yosemite National Park viewpoints of the falls, but this is the perfect place to park to see the Lower Yosemite Falls up close. It’s a short round-trip trail perfect for young kids.

While there are usually enough parking spots at the Yosemite Falls Trailhead (there are two and they’re big!), Yosemite Valley Lodge and Camp 4 Campground are other options.

The Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead is a short walk from any of these and the Vista Point isn’t far along this trail. There is a restroom along the short trail from the Yosemite Falls Trailhead to the Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead.

lower yosemite falls as seen from the short trail on the valley floorPin
Lower Yosemite Falls

26. Upper Yosemite Falls*

  • Parking Area: Camp 4 Campground and Yosemite Falls Trailhead
  • Hiking Trail: Yosemite Falls Trail
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Falls and Columbia Rock

Although Yosemite Falls Trail begins at the same trailhead as the Lower Falls Trail, these Yosemite National Park viewpoints and hikes could not be more different!

To reach the Upper Falls Viewpoint, you need to climb a steep and strenuous path that takes a full day. It’s 100% not suitable for young children.

upper Yosemite Falls seen from the Cooks Meadow area on the valley floorPin
Here’s a viewpoint of Upper Yosemite Falls from the safe, secure valley floor, near Cooks Meadow. I personally prefer this view since it doesn’t require a strenuous (read: scary) full day trek to the top of that waterfall!

This viewpoint is from directly above Yosemite Falls. You can literally watch the water gushing beneath you and it’s an incredible, unique experience (for able-bodied adults ;). Personally, I prefer the safe look from the valley floor :).

YouTube video
Some interesting statistics about Yosemite Falls explained by our park ranger during the free Valley Floor Tour offered at Yosemite by the NPS.

27. Columbia Rock*

  • Parking Area: Camp 4 Campground and Yosemite Falls Trailhead
  • Hiking Trail: Yosemite Falls Trail
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock

If you don’t want to walk as far as the Upper Yosemite Falls viewpoint, you can stop at Cathedral Rock, which is a stop 2 miles (round-trip) into the 7.2 mile (round-tirp) hike to the top of Yosemite Falls. The climb to Columbia Rock is 1-mile, much of it steep switchbacks.

You can see out to Half Dome and Sentinel Rock but it has one of the best views of Yosemite Village as this viewpoint is directly north with no obstructions.

It’s a slightly better viewpoint for those with vertigo as there is a barrier, but it’s still fairly high up with a strenuous hike to reach this point, so it’s not necessarily the best option for families.

signage for Yosemite Falls trailPin
Yosemite Falls Trail – a strenuous hike; Columbia Rock is 1-mile up, and 1-mile back via switchbacks | Natecation, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

28. Old Inspiration Point*

  • Parking Area: Tunnel View Parking Lot
  • Hiking Trail: Pohono Trail
  • What To Spot: Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Sentinel Rock

Driving up Glacier Point Road isn’t the only way to see incredible panoramic views of Yosemite’s valley floor. If you don’t mind a challenging hike with a 500 ft elevation gain, you can hike up to Inspiration Point.

It’s a pleasant, shaded woodland hike that would be too difficult for younger kids but potentially not for teenagers. You can see many of Yosemite’s most iconic landmarks from this viewpoint. To me, this view is similar to Tunnel View, minus the hike…so if you don’t want to hike, just hit Tunnel View.

view from Inspiration Point, YosemitePin
Richard Wood, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

29. Vernal Falls

  • Parking Area: Curry Village Parking Lot (Mist Trail & John Muir Trail Trailhead)
  • Hiking Trail: John Muir and Mist Trail
  • What To Spot: Vernal Falls and Happy Isles

There are some fantastic Yosemite National Park viewpoints just east of Yosemite Village in the Curry Village area too. One is of Vernal Falls, just another of the absolutely stunning waterfalls you can find in Yosemite!

You can find it along the Mist Trail, which is a moderate hike yet not too long so it’s suitable for older kids. Vernal Falls is visible from the Vernal Footbridge but you can also get close up to hear the roar of the water. There are public toilets at the trailhead.

Vernal Falls with a rainbow, Yosemite NPPin
Vernal Falls

30. Nevada Falls

  • Parking Area: Curry Village Parking Lot (Mist Trail & John Muir Trail Trailhead)
  • Hiking Trail: Mist and John Muir Trail
  • What To Spot: Nevada Falls

The John Muir and Mist trails begin at the same trailhead. If you continue further down the Mist Trail from Vernal Falls or turn off onto the John Muir Trail, you can see yet another stunning waterfall! Nevada Falls is 594 ft tall so it’s much larger than Vernal Falls which measures 317 ft.

The rest of the trail has the same level of difficulty so if your kids can manage the trek to Vernal, they can probably continue to Nevada Falls. There are public bathrooms at the trailhead and at the Trail Junction Outhouse near Nevada Falls.

Nevada Fall, Yosemite NPPin
Nevada Falls

31. Mariposa Grove

  • Parking Area: Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza Parking Lot
  • Hiking Trail: Grizzle Giant Trailhead
  • What To Spot: Giant Sequoia Trees (Grizzly Giant, Faithful Couple, Fallen Monarch, etc.)

Another one of the most unique Yosemite National Park viewpoints is Mariposa Grove. You’ll think that you’ve accidentally driven to Sequoia National Park but nope, you’re in Yosemite!

Mariposa Grove is full of ancient, giant sequoia trees that you absolutely cannot miss when visiting Yosemite National Park for the first time. They are the largest trees on earth by volume and it’s impossible to comprehend their size without seeing them up close.

entrance sign for Mariposa Grove of Sequoias in Yosemite National Park with three childrenPin
Expect to do a good amount of walking on the day you go to visit the Mariposa Grove, and possibly have a bit of a stiff neck at the end of the day from looking up…WAY up at these magnificent trees!

And yes, there are special trees you need to check out in the Mariposa Grove! The Grizzly Giant is the most famous as it’s the 26th largest tree in the world. Others are Fallen Monarch (an unrooted tree) and Faithful Couple (a pair of almost identical trees growing next to each other).

Grizzly Giant is one of the most famous seqouia trees in this grove in YosemitePin
Grizzly Giant is the thickest tree in this image with the large fire scar in the base of the tree

Mariposa Grove is close to Yosemite’s South Entrance so it’s a good idea to make this your first stop in the national park. It’s popular, so arrive early! There are public bathrooms en route to the grove and note that the road to the grove closes during the winter season.

32. Tuolumne Meadows Footbridge

  • Parking Area: Tuolumne Meadows Visitors Center
  • Hiking Trail: Old Tioga Road Trail
  • What To Spot: Tuolumne River, Tuolumne Meadows, Pothole Dome and Lembert Dome

Meadows often provide the best family-friendly Yosemite National Park viewpoints and the best vistas off the Tioga Road in the northern valley are no different. Tuolumne Meadows has lots of beautiful, paved trails that provide incredible landscape views.

Tuolumne Meadows footbridgePin
footbridge in Tuolumne Meadows

Walk up the Old Tioga Road Trail to the Tuolumne Meadows Footbridge for views across the mountains nearby, including the Lembert Dome. You’re also not far from a section of the famous Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike here.

Tuolumne Meadows has lots of beautiful, paved trails that provide incredible landscape views.Pin
Tuolumne Meadows

33. Top of Half Dome*

  • Parking Area: Curry Village Parking Lot
  • Hiking Trail: John Muir, Half Dome, and Sub Dome Trails
  • What To Spot: Yosemite Valley

Let’s be honest, the Top of Half Dome viewpoint is one that very few people will get to see. Not only does it take hours to reach, but you can only read it via a cable path up a soberingly steep granite rock. But, it’s a bucket list hike for many and does have an incredible view of Yosemite Valley at the top!

Most people who attempt this trail will start at Curry Village and will first walk on the John Muir Trail. Then, turn off onto the Half Dome Trail before scaling the Sub Dome Trail with the cables to help you climb. You will find other resources where hikers have taken their kids, but for 99.9% of parents (including me!), this will be a complete non-starter.

Most people climb up to this viewpoint just to say that they have!

crowd of people ascending the cable section of the trail to Half Dome, Yosemite NPPin
The trail to Half Dome gets very crowded, and is NOT for the faint of heart (or families, in my opinion) this section of the trail is a 400′ vertical climb at a steep 45 degree-angle | Unclekyky, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Tips for Visiting/Photographing Yosemite National Park Viewpoints

  • Visit in Spring for Waterfalls: To take the best photographs of Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls, and any of the other waterfalls in the national park, plan your trip in spring. Yosemite receives 75% of its total annual precipitation between November – March, but in winter this means heavy snow. March to May is the best time to visit for gushing, picturesque waterfalls.
  • Don’t Walk on the Meadows: While it’s tempting to move around the grass to find the best angle for your photographs, don’t! Stick to the boardwalks when available. They’re there to protect the grass from the heavy foot traffic Yosemite National Park receives every day.
  • Some Trails and Roads Close for Winter: Another reason not to check out the Yosemite National Park viewpoints in the winter season is the road and trail closures. Tioga Road and Glacier Point Road are usually closed from November to March. This means Glacier Point, Taft Point, El Portal View, and Washburn Point are inaccessible in winter.
  • Visit Early Morning and Late Afternoon: Every photographer knows this, but the best lighting for photos is during one of the two Golden Hours. This is the hour right after sunrise and the hour right before sunset. Parking spots will fill up and so will a prime spot in the viewing area, so arrive early for the most popular places!
  • Take the Yosemite Valley Shuttle Bus: Visiting in peak season and don’t want to spend half of your trip circling parking lots? Hop on the free Yosemite shuttle bus instead! Buses depart from 7 am until 10 pm every 12 to 22 minutes. Check out the timetable at the welcome center.

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33 incredibly iconic Yosemite National Park viewpoints to access via car or hike on your family trip to this California national park! Don't miss these spots! #yosemitenationalpark #familytravelPin
happy trails, heatherPin
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About Heather Thibodeau

Heather Thibodeau is the founder and mom behind nationalparksmom.com.

She and her husband Dave (AKA Tib) are on a mission to travel to as many US national parks with their three kids in tow as they possibly can, doing their best to keep the little ones out in nature and off of screens in an increasingly digital world.

Heather has earned degrees in biology & chemistry from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies), and holds master's and doctorate degrees in physical therapy from Duke University (Go Blue Devils).

Heather is also the creative force behind The Heathered Nest where she shares her love of all things DIY and home decor.

Her work has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping, This Old House, Today.com, The Washington Post, Boston Globe, and more.

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