As a lover of Yosemite and of reading, I couldn’t help but create a page featuring my reviews of Yosemite books. If you’re looking for a Yosemite National Park book for trip planning or just general information, read on. I’ve reviewed some of my top choices below, along with direct links to Amazon so you can find them. You can also return to the Yosemite maps page.
If you’ve ever been on one of Bob Roney’s ranger programs, you know he’s a fascinating guy. So it’s no surprise that his Road Guide to Yosemite mixes in his incredible knowledge of the park’s history, wildlife, botany, and geology in a very practical format easy for those to digest who are just visiting the park for a short time. This isn’t a book aimed at those staying multiple weeks exploring every trail, but a book to accompany and enhance the trip of anyone seeing the park by road.
I kind of hate that I’m about to recommend this book, yet here I am. If you’re planning to hike Half Dome while you’re in Yosemite, this One Best Hike: Yosemite’ Half Dome is your best one-stop-shop to everything about the trail. Why do I hate to recommend it? Because there are so many more trails to Yosemite that have way fewer people and much better views. Yet, I understand everyone’s attraction to wanting to hike Half Dome. So if you’re willing to deal with the crowds and can make the effort to apply for the Half Dome permit lottery, this book is definitely your best guide.
The Top Trails: Yosemite hiking guide book is the most detailed and comprehensive hiking guide to the Yosemite trails that I have ever found. It has a number of suggested routes and loops that I haven’t seen in other books; I always appreciate a creative approach rather than just listing the same hikes as everyone else. One caution: the author has some slightly oddball geologic hypotheses that are unsupported by mainstream geological science. He seems like a rather quirky dude, but I’m happy to skim past his occasionally-strange explanations since his actual hike descriptions are so good.
Yosemite history books
Without question, The Yosemite by John Muir is the absolute classic. You can’t visit Yosemite without first reading Muir’s account. When you go to Yosemite today, it can be hard to image what it was like before all the buildings, hotels, campgrounds, etc. John Muir gives you that firsthand experience of what you would have seen 100+ years ago. Sure, Muir at times is a little overly-detailed with some of his descriptions, getting into some unnecessarily flowery language, but that’s always been part of the charm for me. Reading this is an absolute must! You might even be able to grab it as a free download on your Kindle.
Similarly, John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra is his other Yosemite classic. This one is a bit more biographical than The Yosemite above; instead of giving an overview of the different places to visit, Muir writes instead about his personal experience visiting Yosemite and the Sierra for the first time. Personally I like this one a bit more, although I tend to see The Yosemite more widely available. There’s something to me a bit more special about John Muir telling me about his first ever experience in such a magical place.
Other Yosemite books
One of the most fascinating and unusual books about Yosemite is Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite. Surprisingly, this is probably the most educational book about wilderness safety that I have ever read. At first glance it seems rather morbid, but what better way to learn how to stay safe than to learn from the mistakes of others? It’s also a fascinating glimpse into the history of the park, as you’ll learn about abandoned trails and activities that are no longer permitted inside the park. I can’t recommend this one enough!
If you still want more drama in your Yosemite reading, then Shattered Air is going to fill your quota. While Off the Wall has considerable detail about all the fatal incidents in Yosemite, this entire book focuses on just one: the 1985 lightning strike on Half Dome. I was skeptical – how can an entire book about just one incident hold my attention? – but I’m happy to report it was quite a page-turner. If you’re planning to hike Half Dome on your visit, I’d recommend reading this first, as it’ll give you a new perspective when you’re on the summit.
Return to the Yosemite maps page.