This past year the US National Park System reached a milestone and celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Every year millions of visitors visit and explore these protected natural sanctuaries, including one of the most popular National Parks in the world, Yosemite. Located in California along the Eastern border with Nevada, Yosemite National Park is just a few hours away from San Francisco Bay Area, although the closest airport can be found in Fresno, CA.

While the park itself is massive, it is Yosemite Valley that often draws the biggest crowds. Considering all that it has to offer, this isn’t even a little bit surprising!

Recommended Gear

Yosemite Valley offers a wide variety of scenes to photograph, but more times then not I find myself using either a mid range zoom (24-70) or a telephoto lens (70-200) inside the park. Often times you will not be alone when photographing from many of the parks best locations and

using one of these zoom lenses allow you to easily remove the crowds from your shots.

In addition to these two lenses, you will want to bring a good tripod with you. I recommend either a light weight/portable option (Induro CLT 104) to reach some of the more challenging hikes or a taller and more sturdy option (Induro GIT304 Stealth Carbon Fiber tripod) to help you rise above everyone at a given scene.

Tunnel View

One of the most iconic views of Yosemite Valley can be found along Route 40 from Mariposa Grove. There is a parking lot and viewpoint immediately after the tunnel along this road, which has given this lookout point its name. At the right time of day and with the right weather conditions, you can not only see El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls, but all the way down the valley to Half Dome as well. It is truly worth a visit!

Bridalveil Fall

Sitting at an impressive 188 meters (617ft) Bridalveil Fall is one of the most prominent waterfalls in the park. While you can see and photograph the waterfall from numerous spots around the west side of Yosemite Valley, my favorite spot to photograph it from is Tunnel View.

The view of Bridalveil Falls from the Tunnel View lookout point

Yosemite Falls

The highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park happens to be Yosemite Falls, whish stands a total of 2,425 ft (739m). This impressive height includes the upper, middle and lower falls, which is interesting in its own right considering most visitors think it only consists of a single waterfall.

One of the best viewpoints for Lower Yosemite Falls happens to be right along the walking path for the foot trail that takes you right up to the falls itself.

If you visit in Spring (April – May), water flow will be at its peak, giving you the best chance to photograph the waterfall while it looks the most impressive.

There are multiple great locations to photograph Yosemite Falls from, so be sure to explore the surrounding area for the best vantage points.


From the opposite side of the valley, not to far from the Swing Bridge, you will find the best telephoto viewpoints of Yosemite Falls.

El Capitan

Also known as “The Chief”, El Capitan is a massive 3,000 ft (900 m) granite monolith that rises out of the Yosemite Valley floor. Its commanding size and unique formation makes it a favorite for both photographers and rock climbers alike.

Half Dome from Tunnel View

If you happen to visit Yosemite in the Spring time, you will find a small, but impressive waterfall (Ribbon Falls) just to the west of El Capitan. Catch it in the afternoon sunlight and you will be in for a treat!

Half Dome

Thanks to Ansel Adams, Half Dome has become the most iconic feature of Yosemite National Park over the years. Rising more then 4,737 ft (1,444 m), this granite spectacle is truly an impressive sight to see. Millions of years ago a glacier sheered off a large portion of this rock formation while leaving most of the rest of it intact. No matter what season or what time of day you see Half Dome, it is always an impressive sight to see.

Glacier Point

The highest point in Yosemite Valley was turned into an overlook point years ago named Glacier Point. Standing at an elevation of 7,214 ft (2,199 m) along the South wall of the valley, the views from Glacier Point are jaw dropping. It is popular place to be at sunset, so get here early to get a good spot to photograph Half Dome and the Valley Floor.

Glacier Point is often only open for the late Spring and Summer months because of snow

Merced River

While the Merced River runs for over 145 miles(233 km), it is the steep portion that runs through Yosemite Valley that helps give it the most attention. You can often find abundant wildlife and visitors enjoying various aspects of the river, especially in the Summer months in the park when the weather is the warmest.

If you visit Yosemite in Spring, you might find Dogwoods in bloom along the Merced River

Yosemite Awaits

No matter what time of year you choose to visit and explore Yosemite, there is an adventure that awaits!

Colby Brown’s Recommended Gear: