Last Updated on March 27, 2024

Yosemite National Park is famous for its gorgeous views. Whether it’s rocky cliffsides, towering waterfalls, or endless woods, it’s no wonder the park invites so many photographers and hikers every year, hungry for the sights it has to offer. After visiting Yosemite in all seasons, I can say there are a few spots I return to all the time for good reason. In winter or summer, spring or fall, these are the best, most scenic photo spots in Yosemite National Park that you  must see for yourself if you’re ever visiting.

Most people tend to visit Yosemite National Park at specific times, but did you know how beautiful the park is in seasons like winter and fall? Last week we looked at Yosemite in all the seasons, and we even talked about some of the scenes you’ll see later. Interested in finding out more? Check out the blog here!

Best, most scenic photo spots in Yosemite

Tunnel View

Woman standing in front of Tunnel View during the Fall in Yosemite National Park, California.
Tunnel View in the fall

One of the most popular tourist spots in the park, Tunnel View has a gorgeous view of many of Yosemite’s most famous rock structures towering over the vast sea of evergreens. You can see Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls, and El Capitan from this vista, and it’s a simple, straightforward spot to admire Yosemite. It’s just a drive out of the Wawona Tunnel and requires no hiking to access. 

Asya Olson, a traveler, staring out at Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park in California during the winter
Tunnel View in the winter

This location goes through all sorts of colors in the different seasons, but my most treasured time to drive up through the tunnel is during the winter. After snowfall, the vast stretch of trees gets clothed in white, expanding all across the horizon towards the distant rock formations. 

I still can’t believe I had the opportunity to witness it in person when I first trudged through the cold–this was the view that made me fall in love with Yosemite in the winter.

Artist’s Point

This spot is a true hidden gem for photography and a life hack for anyone wanting to enjoy the scenery of Tunnel View without the crowds. It is accessible via a 2-mile round-trip trail that starts right at Tunnel View and ascends 700 feet.

Artists Point in the Fall in Yosemite National Park, California. Photography by Asya Olson
Artist’s Point in the sunset

The view is especially breathtaking during the sunset. All the oranges and purples splash over the towering stone structures on the horizon, and the vast sky blankets the horizon in a warm glow. 

Yosemite Chapel

In the heart of Yosemite River is a quaint, historic chapel that has become an essential part of the romantic natural scenery all around it. The Yosemite Chapel stands just off the road of Southside Drive, and it’s strategically placed to have the most picturesque views of the Valley’s greatest landmarks just beyond its yard.

North of the Chapel, you’ll find the Merced River running along and branching towards the sky-piercing Yosemite Falls. Down south, you’ll see Sentinel Dome stretching across the horizon. All around this field, you’ll find nearby picnic areas, twisting hiking trails, and various lodges to stay in. It’s the oldest manmade building in Yosemite, and it’s built as if it’s in the middle of everything the park can give to thousands of wandering travelers every year.

Yosemite Chapel in fall and winter

I’ve visited the chapel several times in the year, and without a doubt, some of my favorite views of it were during the winter and fall. It’s surrounded by golden-leaved trees in the fall that shimmers against the dim sunlight, and a gentle breeze blows through the yard as the cold comes.

In the winter, a white blanket of snow cleanly covers the rooftop and the evergreen trees surrounding it. The chapel has a warm glow to it against all the snow, and it becomes all the more welcoming. 

Yosemite Falls

Not too far from Bridalveil and at the head of the Valley, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in the park and also its most iconic landmark. There are countless viewpoints you can find of the falls, all of them equally majestic. 

Need a relaxed, easy-to-access spot? You can see the falls at any point from Yosemite Valley. Interested in hiking? You can stretch up for a couple of hours to Columbia Rock, or even take a full 6-8 hour trip to the top of the falls. Want an up-close view of the falls from below? You can visit the Yosemite Falls Picnic Area and even walk along the bottom of the falls. There’s an endless amount of ways to enjoy this awe-inspiring view. 

Yosemite Falls in the summer

This colossal waterfall is split into three sections–Upper, Middle, and Lower Yosemite Falls. The Lower Yosemite Falls offers an easy 1.2-mile trail that takes less than an hour to complete and circles around the bottom half of the waterfall. There’s even a small bridge at the base to enjoy a cooling, refreshing stroll under the mists and fall sprays. 

Meanwhile, the Upper Yosemite Falls trails have a mind-blowing perspective of the park from above, hidden behind a challenging 6.5-mile hike up the cliffs. It’ll take around 5 hours to get there, and looking down from above the trees and roaring waters truly instills a sense of pride and accomplishment in you. 

Firefall at Horsetail Falls

While this phenomenon is quite spectacular, you’ll only be able to catch it sometime during February in the sunset. At this time, the cold weather and Horsetail’s gentle stream let warm light refract off the mists, and the entire waterfall appears as if it caught on fire. It’s a breathtaking event that thousands of people all over America gather around to see, so be sure to come up early before noon to get the best viewing spot.

I talk about Firefall and other things you can do in Yosemite’s winter here!

Firefall glowing at Horsetail Falls in Yosemite National Park.
Firefall at Horsetail Falls

Sentinel Bridge

The Sentinel Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in all of Yosemite National Park. Its stalwart stone structure remains sturdy even after many decades, overlooking the Merced River running below it and the great Half Dome from far beyond. Passing by this well-loved bridge, you’ll find great views of the stone structure from afar or even crystalline reflections of the bridge and its surroundings along the river. 

Sentinel Bridge in the winter with snow and Half Dome faraway
Firefall at Horsetail Falls

Glacier Point Road

Woman running down Glacier Point Road in Yosemite National Park, California.
Running down Glacier Point Road

Glacier Point Road reopened again just a year ago after two years without operating, and it has some of my favorite vistas in all of Yosemite National Park. It’ll normally be open from May to October, though it may remain open in November if the weather conditions allow it. The road leads to a lot of amazing spots for pictures and sightseeing, so we’ll talk about the main three ones to look out for. 

Glacier Point
Asya Olson, a traveler in a red dress, sitting over the stone railing of Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park during the fall
Glacier Point in fall

The Glacier Point is the main attraction of the road for most visitors. From the safety of the brick walls, you can see all of Yosemite Valley and even some of the higher land from a distance. There’s no hiking required, either, since most of the journey can be trekked up with a car. 

Taft Point
Asya Olson, traveler, lying on a rock while admiring the sunset on the horizon in Taft Point in Yosemite National Park during the fall season. The view overlooks many of the rock structures of the park.
Taft Point in the fall

Taft Point has a more direct and open shot of the park below, as the point has no walls or rails to separate hikers from the horizon. It’s a relatively easy 2.3-mile round trip up, and the view from so high up is quite literally breathtaking. Just remember to keep your headlights on when you come back down, as the slope is quite steep.

Sentinel Dome
Sentinel Dome with two people standing before the vista in Yosemite National Park.
Sentinel Dome

Within a similar 2.2-mile hike, the Sentinel Dome shows off a full panoramic view of the park. Here you get to see everything from the Valley to the canyons to even the far-off coastlines. If you’re planning on taking the trip, consider bringing a drone to capture the full majesty of the dome’s vantage point. 

The Mist Trail

Vernal Falls waterfall in Yosemite National Park. Photography by Asya Olson.
Vernal Fall in the spring

Climbing up to Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall, this trail gets its name from the shroud of mist that flows around the jagged rocks below these magnificent waterfalls. It’s one of the most popular hiking trails in the park, and spring is one of the best times to visit it. It takes around 8.5 miles to go around the trail, and the distance is worth it for the pictures you’ll get.

Nevada Falls in Yosemite National Park. Photography by Asya Olson.
Nevada Fall in the spring

The pair of waterfalls is the most majestic during the spring when the melting snow from winter rushes down through the streams once more. It gets quite damp during this time, so mind your step while walking over the cliffside pathways. Remember to pack waterproof bags and clothes to keep yourself and your camera dry!

Bridalveil Fall

If you head into Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Fall will likely be the first waterfall you see on your drive down the main roads. The stream is normally gentle and light in most seasons, giving the illusion of a thin white curtain falling over the rocks–like a bridal veil, so to speak. 

In the spring, however, Bridalveil rushes with energy that’s unique to the season. Since you don’t need to hike to admire the falls from Yosemite Valley, it’s an absolute must to admire it yourself if you come that time of year.

Some of the waterfalls I’ve mentioned may be familiar since I’ve talked about them in more detail in other articles. Which do you think is the most breathtaking? Find out in my blog post about the 10 best waterfalls in California!

Valley View

The Merced River rolls along Yosemite Valley, and it makes a great setpiece for the distant peaks and rock structures that loom over the surroundings. The Valley View is a little spot you can stop by while riding down Northside Drive just before you cross the Pohono Bridge. 

You get a magical angle of many of the Valley’s most famous rock formations, like Sentinel Rock and El Capitan, but you also get a good look at Cathedral Rock, which lies on the other end of El Capitan. It’s a uniquely shaped structure named after the similarities it has to old European churches. Its peaks carve upward like steeples and the steep curves form buttress-like shapes.

Asya Olson sitting by the river in Valley View in the fall Yosemite National Park.
Valley View

The view here is almost handcrafted to frame a brilliant picture, whether you’re walking along the stony banks or driving out of the Valley. Be sure to take a stop just as you’re leaving–it’s a fantastic way to end your journey in Yosemite National Park. 

Mirror Lake & Mirror Meadow

Some people may know Mirror Lake as “Mirror Meadow,” given how little water the ‘lake’ has for most of summer and fall. However, in winter and spring, snow melts into the lake and refills the basin. It takes around 8 miles to hike around the Mirror Lake, and hikers should mind bringing snow cleats while trekking down the icy pathways.

Once you do find yourself in this temporary lake, you’ll get to admire a still pool overlooked by great stone formations and evergreen trees. The clear and shallow waters perfectly reflect its surroundings without disturbance. It’s a bit as if the entire area is frozen in time, just like how many things tend to stay still in the winter.

Asya Olson walking around Mirror Lake during the winter in Yosemite National Park.
Mirror Lake in the winter

If you’re hiking in the summer or fall, Mirror Meadow grows luscious flora where the lake used to lie. It’s a calm reprieve to stop by while hiking along the park, and you get a great look at Half Dome from directly below. 

Mariposa Grove

Many of the views from this list take a look at the park from high above or in the meadows. Mariposa Grove is unique in how it’s instead centered around the towering trees that cloud the skies of the sequoia clusters. There are over 500 sequoia trees in this grove, all gathered in dense groups interspersed with hiking trails and some park facilities.

Mariposa Grove's Grizzly Giant tree in the winter with snow surrounding it in Yosemite National Park, California.
Mariposa Grove in the winter

Some of these sequoias have hollow or split trunks that allow for fantastic pictures under them. They’re also evergreen, so they remain bright and colorful even in the white snow of winter. Their sheer size is what makes the views of this grove especially scenic. Nothing makes you feel quite as small as a landscape surrounded by giants! 

You could probably live an entire lifetime in Yosemite and still find something new to see in this historic national park. It yawns over seven hundred thousand acres, and it’d be hard to fully encapsulate all its beauty in just one article. 

My visits to Yosemite have always had a note of adventure and yearning for the great outdoors, and I think that yearning is what truly makes the views in Yosemite so special. It’s a park dedicated to the splendor and diversity of California, and all the best views you can find are those discovered through exploration and curiosity.

So I’ll bring it back to you: what do you think are the most beautiful views you’ve seen in Yosemite? If you haven’t had the chance to visit, where will you head first? 

Are you looking for more California travel inspiration? Check out the Best Time to Visit Yosemite National Park

Do you love exploring in California? I created an interactive map just for you! Check out my California Travel Map with over 500 pins of the best spots and hidden gems for California Travel!