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For years I’ve been trying to figure out how to visit National Parks and avoid the crowds. From the Grand Canyon to Yellowstone and Bryce and Zion (all my favorite national parks), I’m zoning in on one park and 4 tips to help you enjoy your vacation. 

Yosemite National Park attracts 4.5 to 5 million visitors a year so how do you avoid the crowds? The National Park is constantly working on ways to find solutions to the crowding problems. It is one of my favorite parks but only off season and with advance planning to avoid the crowds. 

Although Yosemite boasts 1,200 square miles of wilderness, most visitors end up in the 8-square mile valley, home to stair-step waterfalls, green meadows, vertical granite cliffs, towering El Capitan and the valley’s most famous landmark: Half Dome. 

Here are 4 ways to beat the crowds:

  • The secret is timing. Visit the park mid-week and off-season. June, July and August and holidays are the busiest times in the park.
  • Book accommodations in the park so you can  hike and tour in the early morning and late afternoon. 
  • If you are driving in for a day visit from Oakhurst or Groveland, the best times to visit are early morning or evening. 
  • Most visitors make their reservations six to 12 months in advance. Remain flexible with your dates. 

This year, to celebrate our anniversary, my husband and I decided to return to Yosemite, the location of our first camping trip together and where we climbed Half Dome before our wedding.

Every morning I checked the Yosemite website for openings at a lodge. I called the reservations desk numerous times too. (888-413-8869). On the phone, we found available dates that weren’t posted on the website. Be prepared for a long wait time on the phone. With some patience and persistence, I netted a room with mountain views for one night, midweek, at the The Ahwahnee Hotel. This 90-year-old grande dame of National Park lodges has welcomed presidents, royalty and celebrities as guests. 

This article appeared in TravelGirl Magazine and in an edited version in The Ark Newspaper.