As a photographer and outdoor enthusiast, Yosemite National Park was an absolute dream destination of mine. One of the most scenic destinations in the United States, Yosemite is 750,000 acres of mostly unbridled wilderness.
With swoon-worthy rock formations, beautiful waterfalls, peaceful meadows, and crystal-clear streams, Yosemite has no shortage of mind-blowing and iconic photo locations. Here are the top photo locations in Yosemite National Park!
The Best Photo Locations in Yosemite National Park
What is perhaps the most iconic photography location in all of Yosemite, Tunnel View is composed of El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the center, Cathedral Rocks (including Bridalveil Falls) on the right, and an expanse of trees below.
While the spot can be crowded, getting to it is super easy with the location being just east of the tunnel on Wawona Road and lots of parking available.
El Capitan Meadow
El Capitan Meadow offers a softer landscape compared to some of the more dramatic locations on this list, but that’s not to say it’s any less worth it. With the expansive meadow, towering trees dotting the landscape, and El Capitan and Cathedral Peak hanging out in the background, El Capitan Meadow is the perfect photography location for more ethereal shots.
Glacier Point is another extremely popular photography spot, and for good reason. The location rests 3,000 feet above the valley floor, and the viewpoint includes a sweeping vista of Yosemite Valley – including clear shots of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome. As the railing at Glacier Point faces west, come to this spot at sunset; you’ll be practically guaranteed colorful, dramatic photos.
However, note that the road to Glacier Point isn’t plowed in winter, so heading there is a warm-weather only activity. Additionally, while there is a bus that will take you there, I recommend driving, as the views getting to Glacier Point are just as beautiful as the summit itself.
Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Yosemite National Park
Speaking of Glacier Point Road, Sentinel Dome is one stop on this trek that just cannot be missed. Offering shots of all the classic Yosemite landmarks, Sentinel Dome can be accessed by driving along Glacier Point Road for about 14 miles until you come to the dome’s parking area. From there, there is a 1.2-mile hike of moderate difficulty.
Overlooking the majesty of the valley, Taft Point offers an excellent shot of El Capitan across the dip, a landscape of unearthly rock fissures, and a vertigo-inducing 3,500 foot drop into Yosemite Valley below. Be sure to be extra careful approaching the ledges here!
Another location based off Glacier Point Road, you can get to Taft Point by turning off at the Taft Point trailhead, which uses the same parking lot as the trail to Sentinel Dome. Enter the trail, and after around 100 feet when the trail diverges, take the left path to Taft Point. From here, the hike is a little over a mile.
Comprised of Upper falls, Middle falls (not visible from the ground) and Lower falls, Yosemite falls are an iconic photography location that is best photographed in spring, when the flow is most powerful.
While hiking up to Upper Falls will not disappoint, one of the best views of the Lower Falls is from the Lower Yosemite Falls Bridge. Note however that this area does get quite crowded with people, so try and time your visit outside of the peak early-afternoon hours.
Read more: The Best Cameras for Hiking and Backpacking in 2018
If you’re keen on a mid-level hike that will take you through gorgeous Yosemite woods and to one of the most magnificent photography spots in the park, then look no further than heading to North Dome.
The hike to North Dome will take roughly 5 hours and, at the end, you’ll get a great view of Half Dome and Clouds Rest.
Located near the west entrance of Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Falls is easily accessible via Bridalveil Falls Trail. However, for the best views of the grandeur, I’d recommend shooting them not from up close, but from a vantage point such as from the trail leading into the area or from the aforementioned Tunnel View.
For one of the best shots of Half Dome in Yosemite, head over to Mirror Lake once the snow melts in the springtime. As its name suggests, the glassy sheen of the lake reflects Half Dome, giving a split view shot of the iconic rock.
One of the most powerful falls in Yosemite, Vernal Falls is a 317 foot tall waterfall along the Merced River that thunders down below. For an excellent location to photograph Vernal Falls, hike either the John Muir Trail or the Mist Trail in early spring when the waterfall flow is heaviest.
Additionally, there is a lake at the top of Vernal Falls called Emerald Pool, which, if you’re into hiking up there, will offer awesome views.
About a mile and a half down Mist Trail from Vernal Falls sits its 594 foot sister, Nevada Falls. Note that the trail to both of these falls can get quite wet as the trail name suggests so sure to be very careful when climbing over the rocks, and make sure to bring the appropriate gear to keep your camera equipment dry.
Read more: The Ultimate Packing Checklist for Campers
Yosemite Photo Gear Packing Essentials
Camera Protection: Given that so many of the locations on this list include water, it’s a good idea to guard against the elements with a backpack rain cover, rain sleeve, microfiber lens cloths, and a lens pen.
Camera Bag: Some of my favorite camera bags include the ONA Bowery Camera Bag, the Kattee Fashion Canvas Camera Backpack, and the PacSafe Anti-Theft Camera & Shoulder Bag.
Compact Tripod: A compact tripod is absolutely essential for waterfall and low light shots.
GoPro: If you plan on getting out on the water or shooting in places you don’t trust your professional camera to go, I highly recommend the GoPro Hero 6.
Intervalometer: For selfies, wildlife shots, and the like, an intervalometer will come in handy.
Read more: The Ultimate Packing Guide for Travel Photographers
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