6 Adventure Activities in Yosemite National Park To Take Up in Your Gap Year
The staple of almost every great American road trip and the motherlode of American National Parks, Yosemite stands tall as a mighty head-turner of North American flora and fauna. Tucked in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite’s towering rock structures and iconic vistas has led it to become a revered UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beyond its panoramic beauty, Yosemite has become a popular adventure arena with thousands of adventurers, gappers and backpackers from all over the world flocking to the National Park every year. From mountain biking for beginners, moderate level hiking to advanced level rock climbing up the meanest and biggest piece of rock, El Capitan-- Yosemite hits all the sweet spots for all kinds of adventure lovers!
Jonesing for some thrill-inducing adventures on your gap year? Here are 6 great adventure experiences that you can get ticked off your bucket list while exploring the mighty Yosemite!
1. Climbing the gigantic granite walls
Considered one of the greatest climbing areas of the world, Yosemite’s rocks were truly ‘Born to Rock’! Yosemite’s massive vertical walls and towering cliffs in the valley have somewhat become Mecca for rock climbers all around the world. Climbers have a chance to scale sustained cracks on the Merced River Canyon or go for the challenging multi-day climb on the big granite walls of the valley. The colossal El Capitan stands tall as one of the most challenging feat when it comes to rock climbing in Yosemite, and in the same spirit, it is one of the most popular amongst expert climbers too. Climbing novices need not worry given the fact that there are multiple training centers and climb school instructors to help find your footing! It would certainly be a skill gain on your gap year abroad.
2. Hiking the amazing park trails
From gemstone lakes to waterfall drenched granite walls-- Yosemite’s natural beauty is truly something else and the best way to experience all of it is Hiking. There are various trails all around the park for hiking and it is really a tough choice to pick one because all lead up to some great views of the park. The Half Dome hike with its North Face standing at a sheer height of 2000ft is considered to be the ultimate Yosemite hike and a must do for your gap year bucket list experience. Basically, a two-day hike if you do not want to avoid too much exertion, the Half-dome trail leads up to amazing 360-degree views of the park. Apart from Half-Dome, the trails of Cathedral Lake, Glacier Point Road, Hetch Hetchy, Tuolumne Meadows, Mariposa Grove etc. are some of the many amazing hikes to experience this awe-inspiring National Park.
3. Biking on the paved park roads
1200 square miles of incredible scenery, giant ancient sequoias, roaring waterfalls and the sprawling wilderness- Yosemite’s biking trails are your chance to explore the park in a relaxed way. The 12 miles trail has paved roads and mostly flat trails, so if you’re into a relaxed two-wheel ride in the park, this should be your choice. But who wants to relax and be laid back on their gap year abroad right? If a more challenging trail is what you seek, the 196 miles of paved park road can also be used for Biking all around the park. Remember, only foot traffic is allowed in hiking trails and there are basically no Mountain Biking trails inside the park per se. There are other biking gates, like in the south of the park where you can find Mountain biking trails through Bass Lake, Oakhurst in the Sierra National Forest. So strap on your helmets and let’s go!
4. Horseback Riding through scenic trails
Saddle up and gallop through magnificent groves of ancient sequoia trees and jaw-dropping natural beauty in the Yosemite National Park. Explore the amazing backcountry of Yosemite on horseback and enjoy the vast wilderness of the park. Feel yourself at the top of the world as you climb up granite staircases and travel up to breathtaking mountain trails or drenching mists of the waterfall on a horse. From two-hour day ride from Wawona Stable through the Mariposa Grove to an overnight saddle and pack trips from Tuolumne Meadows-- the sprawling national park is the perfect place for you to horse around (no pun intended)!
5. Yosemite Whitewater Rafting
From roaring whitewater rapids to quaint waters, rafting on the Merced while traveling through Yosemite is a must-do activity to enjoy the many aspects of the National Park. If you’re a rafting newbie, Merced would be the perfect place for you to test the waters, literally, and embark on a rafting adventure in Yosemite. The rafting in Yosemite is a highly seasonal activity, and depending on water conditions and weather, a category II rafting trip can even become a category IV trip at peak snowmelt season with waves, rapids, and quick descent. Excited much? The Tuolumne river also offers a chance for category IV+ rafting, with cascading rapids. Invariably, these are two of the best rafting choices near Yosemite Valley! Trust us, your gap year rafting stories will be A-MA-Zing!
6. Snowshoe walking during winters
The winter months when the ground goes powdery white with the snow sticking to the ground is the perfect time for taking up some great winter adventure activities like skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Amongst them, snowshoeing is an absolute favorite of many visitors and a definite highlight of any winter trips in Yosemite. Opt for a snowshoeing day hike up to the Dewey Point and feast your eyes on the fantastic icons like El Capitan, Half Dome, Clark Range etc. The Full Moon Snowshoe Walk is yet another experience for the books. For a few days of the month when the moon shines brightest and fullest, Full moon walks are offered and the sight of bright moonlight reflecting off the white snow makes it feel like something out of a dream.
And when you’re done tasting the thrill of adventure, camp out under a wide canopy of stars and rehash some of the best moments of your gap year yet. We’re sure these adventure activities will come up with them. Now that you’re done with Yosemite, how about heading towards the Grand Canyon?
Hop aboard one of our American Road Trips on your gap year and see it all, do it all!