Blog The ‘Hidden’ Side of Yosemite
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Alex Silgalis | 02/01/2021 | Hiking, Photography, Seasons, Wildflowers, Wildlife |   

We’ve talked in past articles about the classic destinations to see in Yosemite, but when summer rolls around, the popularity of these places explodes. For most of us, the reason why we visit the National Parks is to see natural beauty but at the same time get away from it all. To hear the birds singing and furry critters playing. For those looking for that natural beauty that's a little more to themselves, these 5 attractions give you a bit of breathing room to still take in all the wonder.

Sentinel Dome

Although the road up to Glacier Point can get quite congested in the summer, there’s a hike right before it that many zip by without even noticing... and that’s to Sentinel Dome. It's home to arguably one of the best panoramic views in the park. You’ll get a birds eye view of El Capitan to the west, and Half Dome to the east, pretty much the entire valley. Consider starting the hike a bit earlier and combining it with a visit to Taft Point. From there, you could peer over the edge of a cliff overlooking the valley 3,500 feet below it.

Local’s tip: Head here for sunset. During typically busy summer months you’ll find the drive less stressful and parking at the trail head more accessible, and the scenes you'll see as the waning sunlight paints the granite valley walls in shifting shades of warming light will leave you awed. Don’t forget to bring a headlamp!

Hetch Hetchy Waterfalls

In the peaceful northwest corner of the park lies the glaciated valley of Hetch Hetchy. Considered by John Muir to be almost equal to Yosemite Valley in beauty, there you’ll find stunning peaks, hidden canyons, remote lakes, and water falls. Right along the reservoir are the easily accessible and well known cascades of Wapama Falls and Tueeulala Falls but if you explore little further, about 2.5 miles out the trail more-or-less along Rancheria Creek, you'll find Rancheria Falls. While they aren’t a massive thundering drop all at once, they more than make up for it in the length and series of cascades that happen within a tightly winding canyon. While spring is when the falls are roaring at their fullest and wildflowers are blooming, summer is still a great time to visit (Hetch Hetchy is known to have one of the longest hiking seasons of any area of the park).  For more insights into exploring Hetch Hetchy, checkout our Judi's Jaunts story here.

Local’s tip: It can get a little warm in Hetch Hetchy in the summer, so be sure to plan accordingly and visit earlier in the day. 

Olmsted Point

For those looking to get away from the heat of summer and still get amazing views of the region, head to the high country and make a pit stop at Olmsted Point. Named after the man who is considered the father of American landscape architecture Frederick Law Olmsted. He was one of the important early leaders that were instrumental in the initial establishment and protection of Yosemite. For more about Olmsted Point and other locations, check out our article: Yosemite Place Names: The Origin And History Of Names In Yosemite National Park. Right off Tioga Road and with a short ½ mile round-trip hike right nearby that allows you to explore close-up how the ancient glaciers scraped, scoured and polished the surrounding granite landscape, it’s the ultimate low-hanging fruit for seeing Tenaya Canyon, Clouds Rest, and off in the distance - Half Dome. If you are on Tioga Road heading up to see other unique attractions of Yosemite's High Country, this is a must! It typically opens around June and closes sometime in November (dependent on snowfall).

Valley Floor Loop Trail

The bulk of visitors descend upon Yosemite Valley and rightly so. There’re jaw-dropping views of iconic El Capitan and of course the roaring Yosemite Falls themselves. Tucked within this area is an old bridle path previously used for horses called the Valley Floor Loop Trail and can give you some solitude. Although some segments are near roads, the vast majority allows you to stroll through meadows, get up close to talus slopes at the base of granite cliffs, and even wander near the bubbling Merced River.

Nelder Grove

Although technically not IN Yosemite National Park, for those that want to see giant Sequoias in relative seclusion even in the busiest times, a trip to Nelder Grove is in order. Just south of the southern gate in the Sierra National Forest, it features a stand of around 100 mature sequoias including a couple that are among the 50 largest specimens in existence.  Two of note are the Bull Buck (246 feet tall, 100 feet around and with a  volume of 27,383 cubic feet) and the largest tree in the grove, the Nelder Tree.   It's numbers are pretty impressive; 266 feet tall and whopping 34,993 cu. ft. in volume which puts it currently as the 23rd largest Giant Sequoia in the world! For more about the grove and other off the beaten path attractions just outside of the park, check out our article: Four Hidden Gems in Madera County.

If you’ve been to Yosemite or need more elbow room, these attractions just off the beaten path will make sure that you do. And for those that love waterfalls, don’t forget to check out the 5 Lesser Known Waterfalls To See In Or Near Yosemite. Happy trails to you!


Like what you see? Save any of these pins to your travel planning board(s) to give you any easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other itineraries as well as blog posts for more ideas and pins!

Alex Silgalis

Alex founded® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.


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