If you've been to Yosemite National Park on a summer weekend, then you know how nasty things can get here. Traffic jams, pollution, crowds, noise, mosquitoes, heat, ..., ugh! This place is supposed to be one of California's most prized nature retreats?
Well, the reality of the situation is that California is one of the most populous states in the country and it's also world famous for its waterfalls as well as awesome granite formations (among other things). So it's natural to expect crowds since we're all generally there for the same reasons!
But going to Yosemite doesn't mean you have to put up with crowds. In fact, we've been there often enough to figure out just how to avoid them or at least not have it adversely affect your trip more than it should. So let's get to it...
First off, if you've never been to Yosemite Valley before, try your best to avoid going there on a Summer weekend. Why? Because school's out and lots of families like to go there when parents don't have to take vacation days off. If you can, try to go to the Valley in April or May (except Memorial Day weekend). That's because the waterfalls are pumping, school's not out yet, and the weather's generally benign though every once in a while you do get the occasional late Winter storm.
If you go on a weekday, then it gets even quieter. But at least the weekends should be more tolerable. And if you visit well outside the busy period (between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend), it gets even quieter still! In fact, we once went to the Valley in February and we were able to hear our shouts echo as the sound bounced within the towering Valley walls! Imagine that!
If you must visit the park in Summer, here's a suggestion. Check out the other parts of the park! In particular, you could check out the Southern section of the park near Wawona (though Spring time is an excellent time to visit this part as well) as well as the High Country when the snow is cleared up and the Tioga Road is open. As a matter of fact, we were able to do hikes in the High Country on a July 4th weekend where it was relatively quiet compared to the chaos of the Valley. Plus, on a dry year, we were able to explore the Glen Aulin/Waterwheel Falls trail on a Memorial Day weekend!
And if you really want quiet, you could show up to the park in the Autumn as well as the early Winter. Although this time isn't good for waterfalls and you do have to pay more attention to the weather, it is good for one thing that we all want - peace in Nature!