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Glaciers carved out Yosemite Valley and water gave life to the wilderness. Yosemite attracts 4.5 to 5 million visitors a year. The National Park is constantly working on ways to find solutions to the crowding problems.

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 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.