Yosemite Valley Floor Tour: Everything you need to know before you go

While William & I typically prefer to chart our own course and embrace the spirit of adventure, our perspective on tours shifted during our time living and working in Yosemite. As a former valley floor tour driver, we now recognize the true value of guided experiences.

For those seeking an enjoyable and effortless introduction to the wonders of Yosemite Valley, the Valley Floor Tour proves to be an exceptional choice, whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned explorer. Its carefully crafted itinerary ensures that individuals of all ages and physical abilities can participate and fully immerse themselves in Yosemite’s awe-inspiring beauty.

As of 2024 you need reservations to get into Yosemite National Park during peak hours. To learn more about the permit system & get your permits click HERE.

Family enjoying the views on the Valley Floor Tour in Yosemite National Park

Basic Information for the valley floor tour:

To ensure a spot on the Valley Floor Tour, booking in advance is essential, as daily tours have limited seats that fill up rapidly, especially during summer. Moreover, in winter, you might get a close-to-VIP experience due to the lack of visitors. Tickets can be obtained through the link HERE.

The tour starts at Yosemite Valley Lodge. So, it’s recommended to arrive 15-20 minutes early to pick up your physical tickets, fill up water bottles, and use the restroom. Keep in mind that only one pit toilet is available for the entire 2-hour tour, so it’s best to use it beforehand.

During summer, the tram tour offers five different time slots, each led by Park Rangers for a unique adventure. In contrast, in winter, experienced bus drivers guide the tours from an enclosed bus.

The captivating 2-hour journey passes famous spots like El Capitan, Valley View, and Tunnel View in Yosemite Valley. Along the way, expect stunning photo opportunities and wildlife sightings. Additionally, your Ranger will share valuable park history, diverse flora, fauna, and engaging personal anecdotes to keep the tour exciting.

Don’t be too surprised if you end up on a bus tour. Even during the summer they might put you on a bus rather than the tram in cases of bad weather, hazardous air quality due to smoke, etc. You might be disappointed initially but don’t worry, there are some definite advantages to a bus over the tram. Some of these advantages include:

  • Air Conditioning!!
  • More stops. Instead of the normal 2 you’re likely to get more like 4-5 stops
  • More comfortable seats
  • Easier to hear the tour guide since the sound is more enclosed

Sights you’ll see on the valley floor tour:

El Capitan

El Capitan, the iconic towering granite monolith in Yosemite, commands attention with its sheer vertical face, standing at over 3,000 feet tall. This rock formation appears as a masterpiece sculpted by nature itself, attracting climbers from around the world to its challenging vertical walls, adding a sense of awe and admiration to its allure.

If you’re lucky enough, you may even witness climbers scaling El Capitan. Climbing is more prevalent during the Spring or Fall, as Summer temperatures make the rock surface too hot for climbing.

El Capitan gained additional fame through Alex Honnold, the first person to Free-Solo El Capitan. If your ranger does not mention him, be sure to ask about his incredible story, as it is truly amazing!

Valley View

Valley view: stop on the Valley Floor Tour in Yosemite National Park

Not to be confused by Tunnel View, this view of the valley is right along the Merced River. It is the first stop of the tour and the only stop with a bathroom (aka smelly pit toilet).

This scenic viewpoint provides a picturesque panorama that showcases some of the park’s most iconic features. From this vantage point, you can marvel at the amazing granite cliffs of El Capitan and the beautiful Bridalveil Fall, both framed by the lush greenery of the valley floor. This stop is beautiful all seasons of the year and doesn’t disappoint.

Meadows

Wet meadows as seen from the Valley Floor Tour in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite’s meadows play an essential role in the park’s diverse ecosystem and contribute to its charm. The park protects and preserves these meadows as delicate ecosystems. Park authorities encourage visitors to stay on designated trails and respect the delicate flora and fauna that call these meadows home.

The indigenous Ahwahneechee people thrived in the valley long before the park’s establishment, relying on these meadows for their livelihood. An interesting topic for the rangers to talk about is the exploration of the history of these beautiful meadows and their use by the indigenous people, as well as how early settlers utilized them.

Tunnel View

This is the iconic Ansel Adams view of Yosemite, the view that has become synonymous with the park. The photos never do the locations justice. If you’d like a view of tunnel view without the crowd after your tour here are a few tips:

  • Get there early (before sunrise)
  • Hike to either Inspiration Point or Artist Point for the views without the crowds

Preparing for the valley floor tour:

The valley floor tour is very easy to enjoy but here are a few things you can bring or do to make the tour better:

  • Use the restroom ahead of time
  • Bring a light jacket and a hat (it gets windy and there can be weird weather (the hat will keep you cooler in the summer months)
  • Eat first because there’s no food allowed on the Yosemite Valley Floor Tour
  • BRING YOUR CAMERA
  • Bring a small tripod if you want to take photos other than selfies
  • Bring a water bottle, especially during the hot summer months. If you forget, don’t worry, the tram has a water jug on board with ice cold water.
  • Don’t forget sunscreen. The open air tram during the summer is unshaded and hot. Sunscreen will help keep you from burning.

In conclusion, the Valley Floor Tour in Yosemite National Park offers an unforgettable experience that should not be missed. Whether you visit during the vibrant summer months or the serene winter season, the Valley Floor Tour is a fantastic way to get to know the park.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned explorer there’s always something new to learn on the Valley Floor Tour.

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