One enjoyable way to see Yosemite Valley is to ride a bike beneath its lofty granite monoliths. The eastern valley has 12 miles of paved, flat bicycle paths across meadows and through woods, with bike racks at convenient stopping points. For a greater challenge but at no small risk, you can ride on 196 miles of paved park roads—but bicycles are not allowed on hiking trails or in the backcountry. Kids under 18 must wear a helmet.

Tours and Outfitters

Yosemite bike rentals. You can arrange for rentals from Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village bike stands. Bikes with child trailers, baby-jogger strollers, and wheelchairs are also available. The cost for bikes is $12 per hour, or $34 a day. Yosemite Lodge or Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, California, 95389. 209/372–4386; Apr.–Oct..


More than 250 bird species have been spotted in the park, including the sage sparrow, pygmy owl, blue grouse, and mountain bluebird. Park rangers lead free bird-watching walks in Yosemite Valley a few days each week in summer; check at a visitor center or information station for times and locations. Binoculars sometimes are available for loan.


Birding seminars. The Yosemite Conservancy organizes day- and weekend-long seminars for beginner and intermediate birders, as well as bird walks a few times a week. They can also arrange private naturalist-led walks any time of year. Yosemite National Park, California. 209/379–2321; From $99.


Wawona Golf course is one of the country's few organic golf courses; it's also an Audubon Cooperative sanctuary for birds. You can play a round or take a lesson from the pro here.

Wawona Golf Course. This 9-hole course, one of only a few organic golf courses in the country, has two sets of tee positions per hole to provide an 18-hole course. Rte. 41, Wawona, California, 95389. 209/375–4386; $25.50 for 9 holes; $41.50 for 18 holes. Mid-Apr.–Oct..


Tours and Outfitters

Wilderness Center. This facility provides free wilderness permits, which are required for overnight camping (advance reservations are available for $5 per person plus $5 per reservation and are highly recommended for popular trailheads in summer and on weekends). The staff here also provides maps and advice to hikers heading into the backcountry, and rents and sells bear-resistant canisters, which are required if you don't have your own. Between the Ansel Adams Gallery and the post office, Yosemite Village, California, 95389. 209/372–0308. May–Oct., daily 8–5; permits at Valley Visitor's Center Nov.–Apr..

Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service. From April to November, you can learn to climb, hire a guide, or join a two-hour to full-day trek with Yosemite Mountaineering School. They also rent gear and lead backpacking and overnight excursions. Reservations are recommended. In winter, cross-country ski programs are available at Badger Pass. Yosemite Mountain Shop, Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, California, 95389. 209/372–8344;


"A Changing Yosemite" Interpretive Trail. Take this 1-mile, wheelchair-accessible, looped path around Cook's Meadow to see and learn the basics about Yosemite Valley's past, present, and future. A self-guiding trail guide (available at a kiosk just outside the entrance) explains how to tell oaks, cedars, and pines apart; how fires help keep the forest floor healthy; and how pollution poses significant challenges to the park's inhabitants. Easy. Yosemite National Park, California, 95389.

Yosemite Falls Trail. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. The upper fall (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet), and the lower fall (320 feet) combine for a total of 2,425 feet, and when viewed from the valley appear as a single waterfall. The ¼-mile trail leads from the parking lot to the base of the falls. Upper Yosemite Fall Trail, a strenuous 7.2-mile round-trip climb rising 2,700 feet, takes you above the top of the falls. Lower trail: Easy. Upper trail: Difficult. Yosemite National Park, California, 95389.


Mist Trail. Except for Lower Yosemite Fall, more visitors take this trail (or portions of it) than any other in the park. The trek up to and back from Vernal Fall is 3 miles. Add another 4 miles total by continuing up to 594-foot Nevada Fall; the trail becomes quite steep and slippery in its final stages. The elevation gain to Vernal Fall is 1,000 feet, and to Nevada Fall an additional 1,000 feet. The Merced River tumbles down both falls on its way to a tranquil flow through the Valley. Moderate. Yosemite National Park, California, 95389.

Panorama Trail. Few hikes come with the visual punch that this 8½-mile trail provides. It starts from Glacier Point and descends to Yosemite Valley. The star attraction is Half Dome, visible from many intriguing angles, but you also see three waterfalls up close and walk through a manzanita grove. If you take the last bus from the valley floor to Glacier Point before starting your hike, you might run out of daylight before you finish. Moderate. Yosemite National Park, California, 95389.


Chilnualna Falls Trail. This Wawona-area trail runs 4 miles one-way to the top of the falls, then leads into the backcountry, connecting with miles of other trails. This is one of the park's most inspiring and secluded—albeit strenuous—trails. Past the tumbling cascade, and up through forests, you'll emerge before a panoramic vista at the top. Difficult. Wawona, California, 95389.

Four-Mile Trail. If you decide to hike up Four-Mile Trail and back down again, allow about six hours for the challenging 9½-mile round-trip. (The original 4-mile-long trail, Yosemite's first, has been lengthened to make it less steep.) The trailhead is on Southside Drive near Sentinel Beach, and the elevation change is 3,220 feet. For a considerably less strenuous experience, you can take the morning hiker's bus up to Glacier Point and enjoy a one-way downhill hike. Difficult. Yosemite National Park, California, 95389.

John Muir Trail to Half Dome. Ardent and courageous trekkers continue on from Nevada Fall to the top of Half Dome. Some hikers attempt this entire 10- to 12-hour, 16¾-mile round-trip trek in one day; if you're planning to do this, remember that the 4,800-foot elevation gain and the 8,842-foot altitude will cause shortness of breath. Another option is to hike to a campground in Little Yosemite Valley near the top of Nevada Fall the first day, then climb to the top of Half Dome and hike out the next day. Get your wilderness permit (required for a one-day hike to Half Dome, too) at least a month in advance. Be sure to wear hiking boots and bring gloves. The last pitch up the back of Half Dome is very steep—the only way to climb this sheer rock face is to pull yourself up using the steel cable handrails, which are in place only from late spring to early fall. Those who brave the ascent will be rewarded with an unbeatable view of Yosemite Valley below and the high country beyond. Only 300 hikers per day are allowed atop Half Dome, and they all must have permits, which are distributed by lottery, one in the spring before the season starts and another two days before the climb. Contact for details. Difficult. Yosemite National Park, California, 95389.

Horseback Riding

Reservations for guided trail rides must be made in advance at the hotel tour desks or by phone. Scenic trail rides range from two hours to a half day; four- and six-day High Sierra saddle trips are also available.

Tours and Outfitters

Wawona Stables. Two-hour rides at these stables start at $65, and half-day rides are $88.50. Reservations are recommended. Rte. 41, Wawona, California, 95389. 209/375–6502. From $65.


Rafting is permitted only on designated areas of the Middle and South Forks of the Merced River. Check with the Valley Visitor Center for closures and other restrictions.


Curry Village Recreation Center. The per-person rental fee ($31) at Curry Village Recreation Center covers the four- to six-person raft, two paddles, and life jackets, plus a return shuttle at the end of your trip. South side of Southside Dr., Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, California, 95389. 209/372–4386; From $31. Late May–July.

Rock Climbing

The granite canyon walls of Yosemite Valley are world-renowned for rock climbing. El Capitan, with its 3,593-foot vertical face, is the most famous, but there are many other options here for all skill levels.

Tours and Outfitters

Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service. The one-day basic lesson at Yosemite Mountaineering School and Guide Service includes some bouldering and rappelling, and three or four 60-foot climbs. Climbers must be at least 10 years old and in reasonably good physical condition. Intermediate and advanced classes include instruction in first aid, anchor building, multi-pitch climbing, summer snow climbing, and big-wall climbing. There's a nordic program in the winter. Yosemite Mountain Shop, Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, California, 95389. 209/372–8344; From $148. Apr.–Nov..

Winter Sports

The beauty of Yosemite under a blanket of snow has long inspired poets and artists, as well as ordinary folks. Skiing and snowshoeing activities in the park center on Badger Pass Ski Area, California's oldest snow-sports resort, which is about 40 minutes away from the valley on Glacier Point Road. Here you can rent equipment, take a lesson, have lunch, join a guided excursion, and take the free shuttle back to the valley after a drink in the lounge.


Curry Village Ice Rink. Winter visitors have skated at this outdoor rink for decades, and there's no mystery why: it's a kick to glide across the ice while soaking up views of Half Dome and Glacier Point. South side of Southside Dr., Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, California, 95389. 209/372–8319. $10.50 per session, $4 skate rental. Mid-Nov.–early Mar., hrs vary.

Skiing and Snowshoeing

Badger Pass Ski Area. California's first ski resort has five lifts and 10 downhill runs, as well as 90 miles of groomed cross-country trails. Free shuttle buses from Yosemite Valley operate between December and the end of March, weather permitting. Lessons, backcountry guiding, and cross-country and snowshoeing tours are also available. You can rent downhill, telemark, and cross-country skis, plus snowshoes and snowboards. Facilities: 10 trails; 90 acres; 800-foot vertical drop; 5 lifts. Yosemite National Park, California, 95389. 209/372–8430; Lift ticket: from $48.50.

Yosemite Cross-Country Ski School. The highlight of Yosemite's cross-country skiing center is a 21-mile loop from Badger Pass to Glacier Point. You can rent cross-country skis for $25 per day at the Cross-Country Ski School, which also rents snowshoes ($24 per day) and telemarking equipment ($29.50). California. 209/372–8444;

Yosemite Mountaineering School. This branch of the Yosemite Mountaineering School, open at the Badger Pass Ski Area during ski season only, conducts snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, telemarking, and skate-skiing classes starting at $35.50. Badger Pass Ski Area, Yosemite National Park, California, 93589. 209/372–8444;

Yosemite Ski School. The gentle slopes of Badger Pass make Yosemite Ski School an ideal spot for children and beginners to learn downhill skiing or snowboarding for as little as $47 for a group lesson. California. 209/372–8430;

Boating and Rafting


Bass Lake Water Sports and Marina. This outfit on Bass Lake Reservoir, 3 miles north and 6 miles east of Oakhurst, rents ski boats, patio boats, fishing boats, canoes, tubes, and other things that float. The folks here also conduct guided fishing and scenic tours. In summer the noisy reservoir is packed shortly after it opens at 8 am (off-season hours are from 9 to 5). There's also a shop with snacks and gifts. 54406 Marina Dr., Bass Lake, California, 93604. 559/642–3200;

Zephyr Whitewater Expeditions. This outfitter conducts half-day to three-day white-water trips on the Tuolumne, Merced, and American rivers for paddlers of all experience levels. California. 800/431–3636; 209/532–6249; From $109.

Multisport Adventures

Southern Yosemite Mountain Guides. Choose among day-long and multiday adventure trips throughout the park, including rock-climbing workshops, backpacking trips into the High Sierra backcountry, and many other offerings. California. 559/459–8735; 800/231–4575; From $365 for 1 to 6 persons with 1 private guide.


Mammoth Mountain. One of the nation's premier ski resorts, Mammoth Mountain offers more than 3,500 acres of skiable boulevards, canyons, and bowls. Ski season starts in November and can run through June. There's a ski school, cross-country trails, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and dogsledding. The resort has extensive lodging, dining, and shopping options. Facilities: 150 trails; 3,500 acres; 3,100-foot vertical drop; 28 lifts. Rte. 203, off U.S. 395, Mammoth Lakes, California, 93546. 800/626–6684; Lift ticket: $89.