Yosemite National Park is one of the most breathtaking places on Earth. Traffic comes to a crawl at Tunnel View (called the Inspiration Point for a reason) mere miles before the valley. Everybody wants to take a picture of the majestic crown jewels of California: El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome nestled quite cozy next to each other, fitting right into the width of your lens. It is the spot where the first non-native Americans supposedly discovered the valley. From now on you will only go down, descend to the valley floor, to admire the granite giants from the lowest point possible.
But you don’t have to. Forget the Yosemite Valley and head for the sky or some of the many viewing points. One of the favorites is Glacier Point. About 35 miles from Yosemite Valley, you will embark on a 45-minute serpentine drive through the forest, until it clears out and you will be in awe. Yosemite Valley, Half Dome a Vernal Falls will greet you with their familiar silhouettes and you will be amazed. For your convenience, there is a parking lot, a small souvenir store and restrooms, and the vista point is wheelchair accessible. The only downsize is that Glacier Point, just like many easily accessible spots in Yosemite, is in the summer often crowded more than a mall, especially on weekends.
If you would like to beat the crowds and enjoy a relative solitude while soaking in the breathtaking views, head over to the Taft Point. It’s not as easy to get to, and you have to walk approximately a mile through a dense forest, but it’s so worth it. You will reach it after a short, five minute drive from Glacier Point. Taft Point will greet you by a windy plateau and not surprising lack of barriers between you and the steep way down, so be careful. This spot offers great views of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls and El Capitan.
At the end of your trip, when your head will be spinning, try to catch your groove back in Groveland. Iron Door Saloon is the oldest saloon in California (or better said, oldest continuously operated drinking establishment) and if you would like to make this truly a trip to remember, enjoy their signature tradition – pin a dollar bill to the ceiling. The “thousand-dollar view” will be a nice match to the million-dollar view that you have just left behind.