Yosemite unveils $32M in upgrades and renovations as it gears up for summer, what visitors can expect:

Springwater tumbles over Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite National Park on April 23, 2024. (Yosemite Conservancy)

Yosemite National Park is gearing up for its busy summer tourist season, highlighting $32 million dollars in renovations and improvements aimed at improving the visitor experience. 

The most notable upgrade has been to the iconic Bridalveil Fall area, the iconic "first grand waterfall" that welcomes visitors entering the Yosemite Valley. 

After a nearly five-year closure, the main viewing location at the base of the fall has reopened, offering a front row view of the majestic 620-foot cascade.

Construction for the Bridalveil Fall Rehabilitation Project began in 2019 and included new, well-designated viewing spots designed to be safer and less crowded. 

(Yosemite Conservancy)

"The famous view of Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View is astounding, but until now the experience of visiting the fall up close has been less than ideal," said Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean. "The old, often crowded viewing platform was expanded nearly fourfold, providing visitors with options to pause, rest, and take in the stunning beauty of the fall plummeting from the Valley rim above."  

Bridalveil Fall restoration (Yosemite Conservancy)

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As part of the project, work crews also constructed new wider trails to make the approach to the falls easier to access.

"Many of these trails have elevated wooden boardwalks and seasonal stream channels to protect wetlands and riparian habitat, and an ADA-compliant loop trail and viewing platform offer improved access," the Yosemite Conservancy said.

There have also been upgrades to the bathrooms in the area, with the archaic non-flushing vault toilets being replaced with modern flushing ones. 

The $19 million project also led to the reconfiguration of the parking lot to help ease vehicle congestion. 

The Conservancy also highlighted the creation of a new Yosemite Valley Welcome Center that opened in the winter. Located adjacent to the central parking lot, National Park Service Rangers and volunteers are on-site to provide park information and to visitors. There’s also a bookstore and an outdoor plaza as well as new bathrooms. 

Welcome Center progress photos October 2023. (Yosemite Conservancy)

Another renovation project ready and open for visitors is the Yosemite Exploration Center, which now features a new science and history exhibit.

"This is the first time we have worked with the National Park Service to design a space that is meant to educate and engage, as well as showcase Conservancy merchandise, which helps raise money to continue funding park projects," said Yosemite Conservancy Chief of Yosemite Operations Adonia Ripple. "We’re excited to greet visitors."

The three projects totaled $32 million, according to the Yosemite Conservancy.

(Yosemite Conservancy)

This year, the non-profit said it will fund 60 new projects in the park, restoring trails and ecosystems, advancing scientific and historical research, protecting wildlife and facilitating positive visitor experiences.

On Tuesday, the conservation group announced $18 million more in funding for park projects.

The group said visitors can expect to enjoy upgrades that have been years in the making and said they can be ready to be extra-wowed this season. 

"After heavy snowfall this past winter, Bridalveil Fall and many other Yosemite waterfalls and ephemeral falls will be more spectacular than ever," conservatory officials said.  

Yosemite is among the most popular U.S. national parks, with some 4 million people visiting the historic Sierra Nevada site every year.

Those planning a trip to Yosemite should be prepared to make a reservation, as the park reinstated its reservation system this month.

Reservations are required for weekends and on holidays through June 30. 

From July 1 through Aug. 16, they're required daily, from 5 am to 4 pm.

The weekend and holiday reservation policy goes back into effect Aug. 17 through Oct. 27.