One of the most pleasant ways to experience Yosemite Valley is to hop on your bike and follow one of the winding bike trails. If you did not bring your own bike you can rent one from the many rental places at Yosemite or outside of Yosemite.
Note: For some unknown reason bikes rented from Yosemite outfitters are not allowed on Lower Yosemite and Mirror Lake trails.
On one of my bike trips, I started from Camp-4 – next to Yosemite Lodge (Yosemite Valley Lodge) and headed towards Yosemite Falls. A nice paved road takes you around the lodge and very close to the falls. You can park your bike and go on a short hike to the waterfall.
Keep going towards the Ahwanee Hotel (Majestic Yosemite Hotel). You can admire the architecture from outside in passing or you can walk in for a more intimate tour.
After passing the Ahwanee continue due east to Mirror Lake. This is the longest stretch of this bike ride – some if it is going to be uphill. If you brought your own bike you can continue all way to the lake - but rented bikes have to be parked at the trailhead.
It is called Mirror Lake because at its peak – in spring time – you can see reflections of Half Dome in the clear waters. During summer it might be disappointing.
After spending some time at the lake take the south fork of the bike trail towards Happy. You will be able to stop at the Isles nature center or take a hike on the Mist Trail.
The next stop on your route is Curry Village (Half Dome Village). At the recreation center, you can rent a raft and spend an hour or two drifting down the river. At the bottom of the 3-mile rafting route, you can ride a free tram back to the rental place. Best times for rafting the Merced River are May to July.
After your leisurely break, hop back on the bike and continue your ride towards the Chapel. At the chapel, you can either cross the bridge and head back to Yosemite Lodge or you can continue to the swinging bridge before turning towards your starting point.
This bike trip could take you between 4 hours and a full day depending on your breaks and stops. It is almost guaranteed that you will be stopping a lot to take in the wonderful views along the way and to take lots of photos.
Tip: Due to a 2016 concessionaire switch, many iconic places at Yosemite have new names. Here are a few important ones:
Curry Village is now – Half Dome Village
Yosemite Lodge at the Falls is now – Yosemite Valley Lodge
Badger Pass Ski Area is now – Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area
Ahwahnee Hotel is now - Majestic Yosemite Hotel
The Wawona Hotel is now – Big Trees Lodge