Yosemite: A Solo Traveler’s Guide

When it comes to a budget solo adventure, North America and Yosemite national park probably don’t spring to mind. It’s one of the last places you’d associate with an affordable solo destination. However, if you’re looking for an immersion into nature with no distractions and a sense of gratitude toward life. In that case, Yosemite is an excellent place to recharge and disconnect from it all. 

Majestic is the only word you could use to summarize the park, with towering pines, lush Crayola greens, and torrents of water pouring through cracks in magnificent granite faces that loom imposingly over you. You truly feel small in the park. 

Whatsmore, you can do fantastic hikes without commitment to four-day-long expeditions; various day hikes offer a tremendous scope of the park, with views you won’t find elsewhere. Let’s discover how you can visit Yosemite solo and tap into these beautiful bucket list destinations for an affordable price.

Table of Contents

Park Info

Getting To The Park

Yosemite has two main gates and can be accessed via North or South depending on where you are coming from. If you are coming to the park via Southern California (LA and San Deigo), you’ll use highway 99 and then route 41 once you pass Fresno. 

From the north (San Francisco), you’ll enter the north gate via the 120 through Groveland. 

Although, as a solo traveler on a budget, you may be more inclined to hop on a bus to get to Yosemite, I highly recommend hiring a car from your respective starting city. Although it is possible to bus it to Yosemite, you won’t have the flexibility to head to a different part of the park, and if, like me, you were too late to book a camp spot, you’re pretty much limited to accommodations outside the park. 

For this, a car is essential. You can hire cheap cars via Kayak or any of the major car rental providers, and although it costs more than the bus, it’s more than worth it for the flexibility.  

Best Time Of Year 

As cliche as it is, Yosemite offers fantastic experiences all year round. 

Summer – Hot and dry, where most waterfalls are dry and not much more than a trickle of its former torrent. However, sunny skies and high temps make this a great time of year for camping. 

Fall – calling all photogs. The colors at this time of year, as the summer fade into the cold dark months, you’ll get rewarded with insane colors at this time of year, Oranges, yellows, and reds for the most insta-worthy images you could ever hope to get. 

Winter – Snowfall and freezing temps make winter more difficult to visit, with road closures due to ice and higher altitude roads closed due to snow. However, you can ski and witness majestic scenes with snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes. 

Spring – My favorite time to visit the park. Due to the snow melt, waterfalls are at their most prominent at this time of year. Vast torrents of gushing water exploded from the granite. Time it with a bright sunny day, and you have the makings for an unforgettable trip to the park. 

Yosemite’s Best Day Hikes  

As you know, Yosemite has some of the better day hikes you’ll find anywhere on the planet. Here are three of the best. During my visit, I hiked Upper Yosemite and Mirror lake by myself, and even though I was happy by myself, as a self-proclaimed introvert, I met many people along the way. It was always nice to stop for the occasional chat with other hikers. 

Upper Yosemite Falls 

While incredible. Upper Yosmeite is no joke. It’s incredibly strenuous, and if you’re not super fit, as in not exercising every day, I wouldn’t recommend the hike. The hike starts next t camp four and doesn’t mess around. The trail leads you up a steep incline and doesn’t flatten out until you reach the top of lower Yosemite falls. From here, the views are fricking epic but watch out; the spray from the falls during spring can have you soaking wet before you’ve even started the upper falls section of the hike,

The upper section is then a series of short but extremely steep switchbacks to the left of the falls as you look up the face. As you climb, the granite faces and waterfall next to you are so imposing you really do feel small. Nature is boss here, and you feel that way as you walk. 

Keep pushing to the top, and you’ll eventually reach a forested area with a stream that feeds the top of the falls. The place is surreal, and you’ll likely have it to yourself if you go early. 

From the top, you’ll have views, albeit with a chilly breeze on your face, across Yosemite valley! Remember to bring water, snacks and a change of clothes; if you’ve got a wet top with that wind, you’ll get cold very quickly. And you’ll certainly need the energy for the long way back down… 


Half Dome

To hike half dome, you need to book way in advance. We’re talking almost a year or so before you intend to walk. The number of people allowed to climb the famous half dome stairs is limited to keep it in good stead. 

If you get accepted for hiking half dome, you’re in for a treat. IUts truly one of those out-of-this-world types of experience, and climbing the infamous chained stairs is as scary as it is wondrous. You’ll have views across all of Yosemite and the higher Sierra Nevada mountains. 

Mirror Lake

On the other hand, you can embark on a relatively easy walk, as it’s mostly flat. While a bus takes you from the valley to Mirror lake, the walk is leisurely and pleasant and takes you through pine trees and trails. 

At mirror lake, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views across the lake (while the lake is more of a large pond, it is almost directly below the half dome, and you’ll stand there in awe, looking at the half dome looming above you. 

One thing to note is that because the trail is so easy, the place is packed with families and bicycles if you go after 9 am, so if you want to enjoy the lakes’ spoils on your own, head there early. 

Mariposa Grove

No trip to Yosemite is complete without a visit to the giant Sequoias. They are truly magnificent. When I visited Mariposa, the road to the central part of the park, where the biggest trees are, was closed, which meant walking a long way along the road, which, compared to Yosemite’s other walks, is relatively dull. 

The trees are massive, however, and once you’re there, you can spend an hour or two gawking at hundreds of years old trees. 

Where To Stay (For Solo Travelers) 

To secure a campground at the sites within the national park, you need to book early. I only decided I could afford to visit the park a month or so before I traveled, so all the spots were booked out. 

However, if you know well in advance when you plan to go, you’ll have more chances of securing a spot. The campgrounds are located in the valley, so you can access the hikes from the site. Just remember to bring enough food and camping supplies for your stay; otherwise, you’ll pay over the odds for gear at the Yosemite store. Handy for essentials, but don’t rely on it. 

As a solo traveler, staying in the campground is a great way to mingle with fellow campers and is an excellent opportunity to chat, make small talk, and even make friends while at your campsite. 

If, like me, you were too late to reserve a spot at the campgrounds, check out Yosemite International Hostel; although the name suggests otherwise, the place is super tiny and has everything you need for a stay, just a 30-minute drive outside of the park. 

It’s not fancy, and to be honest, it’s expensive for what it is, but the showers are hot, and the town has places to grab a feed. You’ll be sharing a room with other travelers like you! 

Yosemite For Solo Travelers - Summary 

In summary, Yosemite is a great place to head to alone. While you may not meet a whole load of new people, more just friendly chats with other hikers before going separate ways. If you want to immerse yourself in nature in one of the world’s most stunning national parks, Yosemite is the place for it. You can stay there at a campsite or a hostel, a drive from any major city in California. 

Dan Harmon

Dan Harmon

Hello! My name's Dan Harmon and I am a full time content creator and copywriter working freelance as I travel and surf my way around the globe. This blog is where I show you how to do the same.