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Best Books to Read Before You Visit Yosemite

From granite monoliths to towering waterfalls, the majesty, wildness, and adventurous spirit of Yosemite is on full display in the countless books written about it. Field guides and travel logs abound for America's 3rd oldest national park, but I've found surprisingly little fiction. If you have any favorite fiction book featuring Yosemite National Park, please share in the comments!

Fiction Books Set in the Yosemite National Park

High Country

By Nevada Barr

After four park employees mysteriously disappear, park ranger Anna Pigeon goes undercover as a waitress at Yosemite's historic Ahwahnee Hotel to crack the case. A moody chef, seedy campers, and Anna's troubled roommates appear to be hiding something. Could they all be involved, or is something bigger happening in Yosemite? A hike into the snowy heights of the park proves even more dangerous than anticipated and puts Anna's survival skills to the test. High Country is loosely based on true events and is book 12 in the Anna Pigeon series and written by former park ranger Nevada Barr.

Call Me Floy

By Joanne Cooke

This quick, historical fiction read will leave you longing for the majesty of Yosemite. In 1876, eleven-year-old Floy Hutchings can't wait to escape the confines of San Francisco and return to the freedom of Yosemite, where she was born. Strong-willed and adventurous, Floy secretly dreams of climbing Half Dome and struggles with the expectations of becoming a young lady in the 19th Century. Based on the actual Hutchings family and other real people from the era, the novel gives you a glimpse at a historical moment in Yosemite's time. Recommended for ages 8-12, in addition to adults.

Non-Fiction Books About the Park & the Sierras

Big Walls, Swift Waters: Epic Stories from Yosemite Search and Rescue

By Charles R. "Butch" Farabee

This winner of the 2017 National Outdoor Book Awards in the Instructional Category is a must-read for Yosemite day hikers and big wall climbers alike. Former NPS ranger and superintendent Charles Farabee shares the history of YOSAR, stories from the field, and tips for enjoying the outdoors safely. From icy waters to towering cliffs, there are numerous ways to die or become injured in Yosemite for even the most seasoned adventurers.

Alone on the Wall

By Alex Honnold

You can't escape this book in the park as you'll find it in just about every general store and resort shop you visit. Having seen the documentary Free Solo, I shied away from this obvious read but was glad to have given the audiobook a shot. Climbing is king in Yosemite, and the experiences of Alex Honnold, the first person to free solo El Capitan, provide a first-hand look at the sport. Seasoned climbers will understand the jargon a bit more than most, but as a climbing newbie, I enjoyed learning how the pros approach and describe what they do.

Shattered Air

By Bob Madgic

In 1985, five hikers summited Half Dome during a massive thunderstorm resulting in two deaths, multiple injuries, and a daring rescue mission. This true story is an excellent reminder that, as EMT Linda Crozier states, "our natural world can at one moment be beautiful and serene, and in the next violent and terrifying." Those who act irresponsibly in the great outdoors are "risking the lives of those who have to rescue them." A must-read for Half Dome hikers and admirers. See the National Parks Service and the National Weather Service for lightning safety tips all outdoor enthusiasts should know.

The Yosemite

By John Muir

Who better a tour guide than the father of National Parks himself? Try the audiobook narrated by Nick McArdle (available for free from hoopla through your local library or via Audible) and prepare to be lulled by the singsong tone of Muir's words in his native Scottish accent. Muir's infectious enthusiasm for all things wild and his wonder of the natural world is so captivating you'll be left aching to wander the Sierras yourself. Consider bringing a paperback with you when in Yosemite! Nothing beats reading Muir's words while taking in the real deal's sights, sounds, and smells.

The High Sierra: A Love Story

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Lovers of backcountry beauty and the mesmerizing peaks of the Sierra should look no further than Robinson's loving and educational ode to "the best mountains on earth for hiking and camping." In addition to sharing his adventures and life-changing experiences in the Sierra, Robinson introduces the area's unique geology, history, and traces left behind by the indigenous peoples who called it home for thousands of years. You'll never view the backcountry, let alone the Sierras, the same again, and you'll be left itching to escape to the wild. A must-read for hikers, campers, geology buffs, and history buffs.

The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures

Selected By Lee Stetson

The perfect choice if you're looking for a quick introduction to John Muir's adventures and writing. Stetson's collection includes short stories from Muir's works, including his tale of climbing a cone of ice up Lower Yosemite Falls, experiencing an earthquake in the Valley, and exploring Tenaya Canyon in winter, to name a few. I took the paperback along on a backpacking trip to Laurel Lake in Hetch Hetchy, and it was worth the added weight!

Looking for books while in the park? The Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Village, tucked between the Degnan's Deli and the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, is my favorite bookstore in Yosemite and features both local favorites and adventure stories from across the globe. The original photographs and art prints on display shouldn't be missed either!

More Recommendations to Read or Watch

What are your favorite Yosemite books?

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