Take in the sights and sounds of the park with the wind in your hair—and skip the traffic, the lines, and the congestion.
By Chris Van Leuven
With 12 miles of paved paths, plus roads that connect seamlessly like a figure eight, there’s no better way to see Yosemite Valley than by bicycle. The place sees 4 million annual visitors and endless cars, so I prefer to park my car by El Cap meadow—away from the center of the Valley, Yosemite Village — where I unload bikes under the shadow of the most famous big wall in the world (El Capitan). I hop on Southside Drive and head east for ten minutes until it connects with the bike path near Swinging Bridge. Cross the bridge here, and you’re awarded with breathtaking views of the Cathedrals in the distance. Then cross back and follow the south side trail for a half mile as you gaze over to Yosemite Falls on your way to The Chapel. Be sure to hop on the nearby bridge for a perfect view of Half Dome.
By riding west to east, there’s a gradual rise to Yosemite Valley, a steady incline that leaves non-e-powered riders huffing and puffing as they wind past oaks, pines, and incense cedars to reach Mirror Lake. On an e-bike riders of all abilities can get around easily.
From the Chapel, continue east toward Housekeeping Camp and Curry Village. (For a shorter ride, cut left Stoneman Bridge and follow the path to Yosemite Village.) After Curry, a limited-access road leads to Happy Isles and Mirror Lake. Once at the seasonal lake, which is entirely sand during summer, have a picnic while directly under Half Dome and Tenaya Canyon.
From Mirror Lake, follow the road back west to the Ahwahnee Hotel, then stop inside to look at the soaring ceilings and grand windows. Continue west to Yosemite Village, past the historic cemetery, and to a stretch of path that goes close to Yosemite Falls. Lock your bike and hoof it to the footbridge at the base of the falls where during spring you can get blasted with spray.
Continue west toward Camp 4 and leave bikes next to the registration kiosk and camp bulletin board. Tuck into the woods on foot, catching the path above the parking lot that leads to El Capitan. Located above Camp 4, this path meanders past a cluster of boulders so famous to rock climbers that people come from all over the world to test themselves. Midnight Lightning, in the middle of Camp 4, is the most famous boulder problem in the world. From the kiosk, hop on Northside Drive to get back to El Cap meadow. This is where e-bikes shine again. With e-power, you’re back at your car in a flash.
E-biking Yosemite is far more fun—and better for the park—than dealing with your car. Photo by Chris Van Leuven