Traveling alone is a great opportunity to self-discover, reflect, and bond with the environment around you. Often, the thought of venturing out alone (especially if it’s the first time) may stir up anxiety about your safety. This may even increase when you plan to visit a destination as big and famous as Yosemite.
Is it safe to go to Yosemite alone? It is safe for all travelers to visit Yosemite alone, as the crime rate is very low. To stay safe from wildlife attacks, avoid getting lost, and keep off safety hazards, it’s necessary to follow the guidelines of the National Park Service.
In this article, I have explained everything concerning your safety if you are going alone to Yosemite. This includes aspects that make Yosemite safe, the places to avoid when you are alone, and safety in terms of the weather. I have also added general tips to help you keep safe when you are in Yosemite national park.
Is it Safe to Go to Yosemite Alone? How Safe is Yosemite?
Knowing how safe Yosemite is will go a long way in increasing your confidence to travel alone. Did you know that you can actually sleep in your car in Yosemite? I have looked at Yosemite’s safety in terms of the following aspects:
Wildlife in Yosemite
The most common animals in Yosemite National Park include foxes, bighorn sheep, mule deers, mountain lions, birds, and black bears. Most of them will keep away from humans. Bears, however, are likely to get attracted to you or your car if they can smell food. They can damage property, or cause injuries in the process.
Is it safe to go to Yosemite alone? Even with the bears? First of all, there has never been any human fatality related to bear attacks in Yosemite Valley. Secondly, other human-bear incidents have been reduced by 95% since 1998.
As long as you can keep a distance of 100 yards from all animals and keep all your food in the provided bear-proof lockers, you will be safe.
Crime in Yosemite
Are you afraid that you might be mugged or attacked in Yosemite? While you can’t really tell the character of the person exploring Yosemite next to you, you will be happy to learn that Yosemite is considered generally safe.
Most crimes are petty and may involve the theft of items from unlocked cars, or unattended luggage, and from campsites when no people are around. Yes, there were brutal murders connected to a serial killer at Yosemite 20 years ago but the incident was one of its kind. Over the years, no major crimes have been reported.
Getting lost in Yosemite
Yosemite extends over an area of 1169 square miles and notably, most of this is wilderness. What are the chances that you will get lost? It can be high if you don’t know what you are doing. Many people have gotten lost over the years.
Fortunately, the National Park Service knows this and has put great effort into helping you find your way around Yosemite. This is in the form of signage, markers, warnings, paved trails, and viewpoints among others. How good are you at following directives? Going into Yosemite and returning safely might depend on it.
It’s very important to take the above seriously!
Yosemite’s other Safety Hazards- Cliffs, Rocks, and Domes
The cliffs, rocks, and domes in Yosemite are some of the National Park’s best attractions, especially for rock climbers and hikers. Sadly, they are also a great danger to visitors. Falling/slipping is the number one cause of injuries and deaths in Yosemite.
To keep you safe, there are marked trails around cliffs and markers on areas that have been identified as potentially dangerous. Better yet, you can take a climbing class for all skill levels at Yosemite Mountaineering school or you can hire a guide. That said, you should not engage in dangerous activities at or near cliffs, rocks, and domes. For example, taking a selfie on the edge of a cliff would be a bad idea.
One of the most important assets, when you need help, is being able to call for assistance, right? Well, the reliability of cell phone reception in Yosemite depends on the cell service provider and your location.
Note: If you particularly want to play it safe, Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, Crane Flat, and El Portal have great reception for all cell service providers.
Can you Stay Safe in Yosemite all Year Long? Yosemite Weather
Yosemite experiences 4 seasons. Spring, summer, fall, and winter. If you choose your activities and places right, you can remain safe from the weather through all seasons. I have prepared brief highlights of what to expect below:
In spring (April-May), areas of lower elevation like Wawona and Yosemite Valley are comfortable and accessible. Temperatures are also getting warmer so you don’t have to worry about too much cold.
In summer (June to early September), the temperatures can reach up to 900F, which requires protection from the sun and set out earlier in the day before the midday heat. This also means that it is safer to explore higher grounds like hiking to the summit of Mount Lyell.
In Fall (early September-November), the temperature averages at around 500F. The weather can change drastically sometimes leading to rain and snow. Especially in higher elevations. Due to the unpredictable weather, staying safe highly depends on the weather forecast. Still, you can never go wrong with low elevation hikes like a hike to the Chilnualna Falls.
In Winter (December-March), the temperatures are cold. There are a few low elevation hiking trails that you can access at the Yosemite Valley. Also, you can ski and snowboard. If you are driving to Yosemite, make sure you carry tire chains for slippery road conditions.
Note: Lightening is a common hazard in Yosemite. Lightning comes with thunderstorms and unfortunately, they can happen at any time of the year. To avoid the likelihood of being struck by lightning, avoid thunderstorms by checking the weather forecast before heading out.
Some signs to be on the lookout for include dark clouds, increased wind, thunder, and lightening.
Related: A Complete US National Park List
Places to Stay Away from if you are Alone in Yosemite
So, it is safe to go to Yosemite alone? Definitely! Yosemite is huge, and given that most of the park lies on high ground, there are areas that are not the best for lone travelers. In particular, there are places where you need to climb big rocks and move through very steep or slippery ground.
Notably, some of these areas offer the best scenery and photography spots. However, if you were to fall or get injured, getting back to safety would be very difficult. This can further be compounded by not having anyone nearby to help you or call for assistance.
With that in mind, here are the Yosemite trails that you might want to avoid when alone:
- The Four Mile Trail to the Glacier Point: This trail passes through weak valley walls and tough slopes. To get to the last marker, you will also be required to do some rock climbing.
- Upper Yosemite Falls Hike: This hike takes you to the tallest waterfall in the US. It is a short hike (about 4.2 miles) but with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet. To get to the top, you will be exposed to the sun, go through several switchbacks, and slippery paths.
- The Mist Trail: This is one of the most popular hikes in Yosemite and has some of the best camping grounds. Check out my complete guide to camping in Yosemite. However, the 3 mile-long trail is most of the time wet and overgrown. It’s easy to slip, fall, and injure yourself.
- Half Dome: Though it’s one of the most iconic hikes in America, there have been 290 accidents and 12 deaths at Half Dome for the last 15 years. The trail is 14 miles long with a challenging climb. The elevation gain to the summit is about 5,000 feet and it’s up a very steep rock.
To make it through the above hikes, especially for beginners, you may need to hire a guide. If not, it’s highly recommended to make the trip with someone else. After all, there is strength in numbers!
How to Keep Safe When you go to Yosemite Alone (Tips)
Now that we have established that it is safe to go to Yosemite alone, the next thing you need to do is play your part in keeping safe.
These tips will point you in the right direction:
- Do prior research of the places that you will visit to gain some confidence and have an idea of what to expect
- Park extra food, water, clothing, and other supplies to cater for unforeseen events such as delays and weather changes
- Wear the right clothing for the right weather
- Carry the right gear for your adventure. Whether it is camping, mountain climbing, rock climbing, or hiking
- Alert someone about where you are going and how long you’ll be away for
- Carry emergency equipment such as a headlamp/flashlight, a whistle, a signal mirror, and waterproof matches
- Talk to people in your location to establish some social connection. You never know what kind of help you might need
- Don’t push yourself beyond limit in any activity
- If you decide to climb Half Dome, don’t take your hands off the cable.
- By all means, don’t climb Half Dome if it is raining or snowing; the cables and rocks are too slippery
- Avoid engaging or going near wildlife – keep 100 yards distance
- Take all warning, directives, and signage by the National Park Service seriously
- Carry a physical map and a compass and remember, you can’t rely on cell service or GPS in all areas of Yosemite
- Carry a small first-aid kit with handy items such as a disinfectant, antibiotic ointment, rubbing alcohol, bug repellant, and bandages
- Wear sunblock
With plenty of cooperation on your part, Yosemite is a safe place to go alone. Without fearing for your safety, all you need now is proper planning, timing, and finally, taking the much-awaited trip.