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(Last Updated On: January 6, 2022)

Yosemite in the Fall has become my favorite time of year to visit. Honestly, mostly because you can actually find parking and get views without swarms of people. But, truthfully, I think the views are better too.

The contrast of the blue-hued mountain faces with the yellows and oranges of Fall foliage in Yosemite is something that should not be missed. In this post, I’ll be breaking down EVERYTHING you need to know to find the best views and have the best time.

Fall in Yosemite really is better for so many reasons. Get the best photos with less crowds - all in my complete guide here! I break down when to go, where to go, and all the details in between.

Land Acknowledgement: Me-Wuk Find what Native Land you are visiting by using the app Native Land! I encourage you to read the history and culture of the Indigenous people who’s land you are visiting as well as donating and financially supporting if you are able.

Photos in Collaboration with Blaine Scinta unless credited otherwise

Why You Should Plan Your Trip to Yosemite in the Fall

There are many reasons why visiting Yosemite National Park in the Fall is better. Let me convince you:

Less Crowds in the National Park

I’ve heard the horror stories of summer trips to Yosemite NP and honestly, no thank you. You can end up waiting in lines for hours to find parking or maybe you didn’t get lucky enough to score a reservation into the park.

Even with the reservation system in place, Yosemite is crazy busy and detracts from the enjoyment of visiting.

Perk of Visiting Yosemite in the Fall:

Starting October 1st, Day Use Reservations are NOT REQUIRED. This makes planning your trip to Yosemite a heck of a lot easier in the Fall.

If you’re going before October 1st, reserve your day pass HERE. Each week, a new month block of reservations is released. Ex. May 14th at 8 am Pacific Time releases May 21st. For more information visit the Need To Know Tab on the Recreation.gov website HERE.

No Reservations Required

As mentioned above, no reservations are required beginning October 1st. This allows you to plan your trip without the fear of potentially not getting a day pass. So, book those flights, or AirBnbs or whatever you need to get here!

Note: You will still need to pay the entrance fee of $35 per vehicle or use your America the Beautiful National Park Pass ($80 for the year)

Better Photography

Visiting Yosemite in the Fall. Check. out my complete guide to find the best views for fall foliage in Yosemite.
Film shot by me. Learn how to shoot film HERE

This could be debated, but in my opinion, Yosemite just looks prettier in the Fall. We got blessed with a nice light cloud cover throughout the day that allowed us to take photos all day without harsh light. The yellow foliage was popping against the blue tones of the mountains and my goodness it was beautiful.

More Availability to Stay Nearby Yosemite National Park in the Fall

Because of fewer crowds during the Autumn months in Yosemite, you’ll have a lot more options to stay at hotels, airbnbs, and camping areas. In the summer months, you can count on these being booked out and reserved at the beginning of the year if you don’t plan ahead.

Score a Permit to Climb Half Dome this Fall in Yosemite

If climbing Half Dome is on your bucketlist, you know that getting a permit to do so is rather challenging during the busy months. You have a way higher chance of scoring a day of permit to climb during the Fall months due to less crowds.

The last day to use the cables to climb Half Dome is the day after the second Monday in October. For year 2021, that means October 12th is your last chance to climb.

Getting a Permit to Climb Half Dome in Yosemite:

There are 225 permits PER DAY to climb Half Dome, but most of these are already called for from the pre-season lottery that takes place from March 1st- March 31st. Apply for the Pre-Season Permits HERE.

Day of Permits:

Remaining permits are available based on a rate of use and cancellation of permits. Daily lotteries also have an application period two days prior to the hiking date with a notification late the night you applied.

It is $10 to apply for the permit. Upon receiving a permit it is an additional $10 per person. For more information and to apply for a reservation visit Recreation.gov HERE.

What Weather To Expect in Yosemite in the Fall

Summers in Yosemite can be blazing hot. The highest recorded temperature in Yosemite was 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fall in Yosemite: Average Autumn Temperatures

  • September: 84 degrees F (28° C) / 50 degrees F (10° C)
  • October: 72 degrees F (22° C) / 41 degrees F (5° C)
  • November: 57 degrees F (13° C) / 32 degrees F (0° C)

Best Photo Spots for Fall Colors and Foliage in Yosemite NP

If you have never been to Yosemite before, the park consists of Yosemite Valley, with views looking up to Half Dome, El Capitan, etc; and it also has roads going up the surrounding areas to views looking down into the valley. I’m going to break down the best spots in the Valley and then surrounding areas to make it easier to plan your trip!

Fall in Yosemite Valley

Fall in Yosemite Valley is truly magical. Don't miss out on these location tips in my complete guide!

Sentinel Meadow/Cook’s Meadow Loop

  • 2.3 miles round trip Loop Trail
  • 91 ft elevation gain
  • Rated: Easy

This short and sweet hike takes you to some of the best views in the valley. It takes you by the falls (if they are still running at this time of year), and has a nice boardwalk going out towards the views. We saw deer on this trail when we went!

Sentinel Beach Picnic Area

  • Drive up spot
  • Short walk from parking area

This drive up area takes you right to the Merced River. A short walk from the parking area makes this spot very accessible and has lots of potential for fall color with the trees lining the river bed and the mountains behind it.

Swinging Bridge Trail/Picnic Area

  • 1.2 miles round trip Out and Back Trail
  • 59 ft elevation gain
  • Rated: Easy

Sure enough, this trail has a bridge! This short hike takes you across the Merced river with plenty of views.

Yosemite Valley View

Misty Fall mornings in Yosemite Valley are something you don't want to miss! Beat the crowds and score the best Fall photos with my complete guide.
photo in collaboration with Brenna Buckwalter
  • Parking lot
  • No hiking needed for view

This lookout spot was a happy accident for me. I was parking at each pull off to check out the views and landed here! It’s a pretty incredible line up of the rock formations of Half Dome and El Capitan with the Merced River flowing through.

Other Scenic Fall Views in Yosemite You Don’t Want to Miss!

Tunnel View

Yosemite with a fresh dusting of snow on film. Check out my complete guide
film shot by me
  • Drive up Spot
  • No Hiking Needed for Views

This is a CLASSIC view of the valley from a slightly higher vantage point than being in the valley. My first time here, it happened to be a super moon and photographers from around the world gathered to photograph it.

  • Find this view by searching ‘Tunnel View’ on google! It will lead you right there.
  • TIP: There is pretty decent cell service in most of the park, but it is not a bad idea to download google maps for offline use!

Washburn Point

Fall in Yosemite really is better for so many reasons. Get the best photos with less crowds - all in my complete guide here!
  • Drive up spot
  • Parking Lot

I had breakfast here in the van we were traveling in, and I cannot recommend it enough. The views of Half Dome are truly spectacular. It’s a pretty small parking lot, but most people are going past it to get to Glacier Point and Taft Point.

Glacier Point Curve View

Glacier Point Curve during Fall in Yosemite. 10 scenic locations you don't want to miss!
sunrise at Glacier Point Curve
  • Drive up spot
  • No Hiking Needed

This view is one that will take your breath away. Be aware that Wawona Road to Glacier point road can close if there is snow and often closes between late October- late November depending on snowfall. I went the first week of November and had no issues.

Glacier Point Trail

  • 0.6 miles Round Trip Loop Trail
  • 167 ft elevation gain
  • Wheelchair friendly

Take a lovely stroll down a paved walkway and prepare for some of the most incredible views. I highly recommend visiting here in the morning to have some of these views to yourself, as this is a very popular spot when the roads are open.

Note: There are no shuttles that go to this point from the Valley. To get here without your own vehicle, you may need to book a tour (summer only) or consider renting a vehicle.

Taft Point Trail

Taft Point in Yosemite in the Fall. Catch sunset at the most scenic Fall spots in Yosemite National Park using my guide!
  • 2.3 mile out and back trail
  • 374 ft elevation gain
  • Rated: Easy

Take the Taft Point and The Fissures trail for the most direct route to get to the viewpoint. If you’re afraid of heights, these views may raise your blood pressure. This is a crowded trail, but there are lots of areas to see incredible views here. It is absolutely stunning for sunset and looks straight down to Yosemite Valley.

Watch Our Yosemite Vlog!

Getting to Yosemite in the Fall

Airports Near Yosemite

  • Merced Regional Airport : 2 hour drive
  • Fresno-Yosemite International Airport : 2.5 hour drive
  • Sacramento International Airport : 3.5 hour drive
  • San Francisco International Airport : 4 hour drive
  • Reno-Tahoe International Airport : 4.5 hour drive

Transportation to Yosemite NP in Autumn

I’ll be honest, it’s just a LOT easier if you have a vehicle to visit this park if you are planning to see all these views. If you are planning on staying in the Valley and not checking out any surrounding views, then it is totally doable without a car, as there are tour companies and buses that can get you there.

Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) provides year round transportation to the park! There are also options through Amtrak. More information HERE.

If you’re interested in a tour – I recommend checking out tours by GetYourGuide.com HERE

What Park Entrance to Get to Yosemite in the Fall?

There are 4 entrances to get to Yosemite.

  • Highway 41 – from the West – open year round
  • Highway 140 – West – open year round
  • CA Highway 120 from the west – requires snow tires/tire chains in snow
  • Highway 120 from the east – closes around November

I have entered through the El Portal Entrance both times I’ve visited with no issues and left via highway 41 West to go down to Sequoia National Park.

Entrance Fees

It is $35 per vehicle (non commercial) and they accept debit/credit cards only.

If you haven’t already, consider purchasing a year long National Park pass good for all National Parks and even some other federal parks as well as discounts on camping at times. The America the Beautiful Park Pass is $80 for the year and can be bought HERE or at the National Park entrance.

Know Before You Go!

Fall in Yosemite really is better for so many reasons. Get the best photos with less crowds - all in my complete guide here!

Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls..

Haha, but really, if you came to Yosemite for the waterfalls – Fall is not the season to visit. Most of the waterfalls dry up to a trickle around August with the peak water run off being around May or June if you want to see them in full force.

Prepare for All Kinds of Weather

The Fall in Yosemite can be a bit unpredictable. You may experience rain, snow or possibly high temps! Because of this, you should prepare for the worst weather just in case. If you’re going up to some of the higher elevation viewpoints, prepare for chilly weather. Dressing in layers is always best practice in these situations.

Where to Stay When Visiting Yosemite in Autumn

Campervan rentals for Yosemite in the Fall! Complete guide

So, where to stay? This will depend on what is comfortable to you and the weather when you plan to go! Here are some options:

Camping in Yosemite in the Fall/Winter

During winter, four campgrounds remain open in Yosemite:

  • Upper Pines (Yosemite Valley)
  • Camp 4 (Yosemite Valley)
    • There is no first come first served availability for this campground. So, you can click on the link and follow the instructions to enter into the lottery the day before or after September 30th.
  • Hodgdon Meadow (45 minutes northwest of Yosemite Valley)
    • These sites are available on a first come first served basis for $18 after Mid October (but $26 per night before)
  • Wawona (45 minutes south of Yosemite Valley).
    • First come first serve and reservations available HERE

Lodging in and near Yosemite

  • The Ahwahnee : $589 per night, in Yosemite Valley, upscale hotel built in the 1920’s.
  • Yosemite Valley Lodge: $278 per night, in Yosemite Valley, close to popular sights and landmarks
  • Wawona Hotel: $150-250 per night, 27 miles outside of Yosemite Valley. Open through November 29th, Victorian charm
  • Curry Village: $150-260 per night, in Yosemite Valley. Heated canvas tents and wooden cabins
  • Hotels in El Portal: $130+ per night, located 30 minutes outside of Yosemite Valley.

AirBnb’s near Yosemite

Find more on airbnb.com

If you’re a first time Airbnb user, use my link to sign up and get up to $65 off your first booking! *This is not sponsored. I would receive a small credit towards my next stay with Airbnb.

Rent a Van!

And I’ll preface this by saying you will still need to find a camping spot as parking overnight in the national park is not allowed!

  • GoMoterra – This is what I used while staying in Yosemite and it was LUXURIOUS. I picked up in San Francisco and drove the 4 hours to Yosemite. Will run you around $340 per night with a 5 night minimum.
  • Escape Campervans– $30-200 per night

What to Pack!

  • Puffer Jacket
  • Merino Wool layers
  • Warm Socks
  • Hiking Boots/Shoes
  • Rain Coat
  • Gloves/Hat/Scarf
  • Water Bottle
  • Camera
  • Blanket
  • Backpack
  • National Park Pass
  • Headlamp/flashlight
  • Snacks (Food is available in the park)

Read what I like to pack on Road Trips HERE

Nearby Destinations

Fall in Yosemite really is better for so many reasons. Get the best photos with less crowds - all in my complete guide here!

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8 Comments

  1. Shelley on October 2, 2021 at 11:28 am

    your van is epic! i never thouhght about renting a van for a trip like this, but it 100% makes sense… someone just turned me on to the iOverlander app, so between that & your suggestion about the van rental, i feel like i just might be confident enough for my first van trip 🚐💨(also, GORGEOUS photos! i’ll be trying to recreate some for sure)

  2. Wellness Travel Diaries on October 2, 2021 at 11:40 am

    I absolutely love Yosemite in the fall, it is one of my favorite times to visit the park! I love all the photo spots you gave us, they are truly some of the great spots the park has to offer. I would also absolutely recommend Taft Point, its an easy hike with unparalleled views of Yosemite Valley from above.

  3. Megan on October 2, 2021 at 11:47 am

    I agree that having a car is better! You get to see so much. At the same time, there’s so much to see, that I could see how walking would be beautiful and easy too in the same area.

  4. Krista on October 3, 2021 at 12:14 am

    I haven’t been to this national park before but I love the idea of renting a campervan to tour around it in! The fall colours from some of those view points are incredible.

  5. Michelle on October 3, 2021 at 5:43 am

    Yosemite is one of the National Parks that I have yet to visit. I want to though! Thank you for the perfect information to help me plan my trip!

  6. Linda (LD Holland) on October 3, 2021 at 9:18 am

    You have me convinced that we need to head back and visit Yosemite in the fall. We wanted to go back in the spring when the spring thaw would make the waterfall stunning. But fall colours and less crowds would make a fall visit great.

  7. […] Check out my Yosemite Guide Here […]

  8. Mercedes on April 27, 2024 at 3:40 pm

    Beautiful photos! How do you get to the couch view point?

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