I'm not going to get into tiny detail about the park because so many other people have written about it but here are just a few things to bear in mind:
1) Coming to California and NOT going to Yosemite would be a huge mistake. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth. You can camp out but you don't have to. You can hike but you don't have to. Yosemite has something for everyone and every level of physical ability.
2) Don't miss it because you think you don't have enough time. You can go to Yosemite for a week and still not see everything but you CAN do it justice in one day. **Get there early** so it's quieter and the traffic is much more manageable. You can get a lot more done that way. If you arrive not long after sun up and leave late in the afternoon, you'll have time to see the highlights and enjoy the magnificence of the place.
3) Don't think you can't go just because you didn't make reservations 1 year in advance. If you want to stay in the park, yes, you need to make reservations waaaaay in advance (it's ridiculous really) but you don't have to stay in the park. In 2011, when they announced that because of the huge amount of snowfall we had over the winter the Spring waterfalls were more spectacular than they'd ever been, I decided to go. (That's the problem with making reservations so far in advance - you never know what the situation will be like a year later.) Knowing I was just going to see the waterfalls and not hiking or camping, I made a reservation at a hotel in Fresno for a very low rate just 2 days before I left to drive up there. I drove up to Fresno one day, the next day drove to the park and went back to Fresno that night, and then the next day drove home.
Now, granted it's a lot easier for me, as a Californian, to do something like that. Coming from out of state or even out of the country, making reservations, especially on the spur-of-the-moment, is hard, but do your research and it can be done. It's worth the effort to see it because to miss it would be a real shame. The overwhelming rock formations, the beautiful waterfalls, the serene meadows, the wildlife, the wildflowers, the trees: it's all gorgeous.
Yellowstone was the nation's first national park; but Yosemite followed close behind it attaining national park status 18 years later in 1890. Yosemite is one of the best parks to visit with a variety of interesting things to see, lots of facilities and lots of special activities. Start at one of the visitor centers to get maps of the parks, informative brochures and to consult a ranger about recommendations on how to best enjoy the park. This is one park where you can spend a few weeks and not get bored.
There is ample evidence of human habitation in this area for at least 9000 years. One place I found very interesting is Ahwahnee a reconstructed Yosemite Indian Village from the 1870s.
There are a variety of beautiful landscapes to see in the park. One of the most famous is Yosemite Falls. There is also a wide variety of wildlife that live in the park. Be advised though that the tourist season here is limited due to the high altitude. Access to much of the park is limited by heavy snowfall November to May.
For more information see my Yosemite National Park Page.
Yosemite National Park joins perhaps only Yellowstone in pedigree when it comes to US National Parks. Part of the young nation's psyche from their inception in the late 1800s, they were grand proof that new ideas about democracy could lead to enlightened perception when it came to land as something not only precious monetarily but also for the soul and thus in need of preservation. As hard as it is to fathom today, these were new ideas and quite possibly will be looked back on as the United States greatest contribution to society.
Yosemite's popularity is unsurprisingly as grandiose as its lineage. Few one-word names conjure such powerful images and even in an increasingly information driven society, it calls boldly for all to come and enjoy the great outdoors, leaving the mundane behind. Couple this draw with the park's proximity to a large population and it spells the word crowded just as loudly. With a huge tract of the Sierra Nevada range as its spine, a verdant old growth forest, and numerous spectacular waterfalls for dazzle, it's not hard to see what all the fuss is about. Accordingly, it is quite possibly the most developed wilderness in the world with an extensive network of trails criss-crossing its 1200 square miles and a reservation system on a par with Disney World. Some would argue that it is overrun with people but the truth is people have always been drawn here, from Native Americans to Gold Rush settlers, to early park pioneers who founded a National Park ideology around it.
So, what can you do to enjoy Yosemite in a little of the solitude that John Muir found over a 100 years ago? You can go to spots not quite as famous, not quite as popular. Hike high and deep just as he did. Only 5% of the park is accessible by road so there's a lot of room to get lost. But after you do get lost, you should come back to the masses and enjoy that camaraderie too. It is after all a place to share. It is part of an American heritage that hopefully will never die. To understand that as a people will help raise our awareness to preserve not only these parks but our planet as well.
Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias lie in an oft-overlooked corner of the park, nestled in the forested Chowchilla Mountains. Wawona is the history center of the park, where you can find both the Wawona Hotel and the Pioneer Yosemite History Center. The history center is an outdoor exhibit that details the early settlement of the Yosemite Park area (giving very little mention to the original Native Americans). However, its free and still worth a look.
At the south entrance, a road leads uphill to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, a 250-acre grove of the largest living things on earth. While Mariposa Grove can barely challenge Sequoia National Park's Giant Forest, it still has quite an impressive collection of trees. These include the behemoth Grizzly Giant and the mutilated California Giant in the lower grove, and Galen Clark, Columbia Tree, and Fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree in the upper grove. The two groves are connected by a trail of about 1.5 miles. The Mariposa Grove Museum is at the upper grove. From the upper grove, you can walk up to the open view at Wawona Point, where you can see a view of the surrounding mountains at 6810 feet above sea level.
While often neglected by most tourists, the High Sierra is the most exciting and beautiful part of Yosemite and it is easily accessible by Tioga Road. From Crane Flat, the Hwy 120 winds eastward, passing small waterfalls, forest, and granite. Eventually the road opens up near Olmsted Point, where there is a sweeping panorama of Tenaya Canyon and the peaks of the Sierra Crest. The road continues to Pywiack (Tenaya Lake), a beautiful gem-like blue lake. The road continues to Tuolumne Meadows, where most visitor facilities are located. The next section of the road is the most beautiful; the road follows the Tuolumne River up towards Tioga Pass, eventually passing Dana Meadows and reaching the pass and leaving the park.
Since my visit was during late June in a rather snowy year, I wasn't able to do any hiking near Tioga Road. Trails to places like Dog Lake, Elizabeth Lake, and Cathedral Lakes were mostly snowcovered, and the visitor center and even restrooms weren't even operating (the road opened only a week before we drove it). Generally, Tioga Road opens by Memorial Day, but during 2006, it didn't open until June 17.
The High Sierra is most of Yosemite- the eastern part of the park that encompasses high granite peaks, alpine lakes, small glaciers, and the famous High Sierra Trail that makes its way down to Mt. Whitney. I hope to return to Yosemite during the next few years to explore more of this area.
See my Yosemite National Park page for more details.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, in the Tuolumne River Canyon, used to be one of the most spectacular places in Yosemite (or so it was said). However, despite a desperate campaign by John Muir and the Sierra Club, the O'Shaugnessy Dam was built and the Hetch Hetchy Valley, which Muir once called "a rival to Yosemite," was flooded. Today you can still visit and use your imagination to see what the valley might originally have been like.
The prominent features of the valley are Kolana Rock and Hetch Hetchy Dome. There are also two major waterfalls in the valley: the free-leaping Tueeulala Fall, and the strong torrent of Wapama Fall. The 5 mile round trip hike to Wapama Fall is very worthwhile- you get to hike to the base of what is possibly the most powerful waterfall in the entire park.
The Hetch Hetchy area is at a lower elevation than Yosemite Valley and is therefore hotter. Also, ticks and snakes are common in the area.
See my Yosemite National Park page for more.
Yosemite Valley is a deep, 7-square mile canyon that is the centerpiece of Yosemite National Park and is considered one of the beautiful places in the world. The valley was carved by glaciers and today is almost 5,000 feet deep in places. The most well-known granite monuments in the park are Half Dome and El Capitan; others include the sharp, pointed Sentinel, the Cathedral Rocks, Clouds Rest, Sentinel Dome, North and Basket Domes, the Three Brothers, and Mt. Watkins. Yosemite Valley is also home to some of the tallest and most spectacular waterfalls in North America (and the world). Yosemite Falls is the most impressive at 2,425 feet tall. Other waterfalls in the valley include Silver Strand, Sentinel, Staircase, Ribbon, Vernal, Nevada, Illilouette, and Bridalveil. Trails abound in the valley; the most popular trails lead to the top of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, while other easier hikes lead to Nevada Fall, Mirror Lake, and various meadows.
The valley also has no shortage of beautiful meadows, some of which are Ahwahnee, Cooks, Stoneman, Sentinel, and El Capitan. There are four main lodging areas in the valley- Yosemite Lodge, Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, and Housekeeping Camp.
An hour's drive from Yosemite Valley takes you to Glacier Point, which is over 3,000 feet above the valley floor. From this elevation, there are views of the valley and the distant Sierra Crest. One of the best hikes in Yosemite National Park is very nearby- the Taft Point- Sentinel Dome loop. This loop trail, just over 5 miles long, offers some of the best views in the entire park.
For more information on Yosemite Valley, see my Yosemite National Park page.
in July 1979, with two other bicycle riding
companions, came over the crest of the rim
and saw this view. This was with
a telephoto lens. Rock dome is Half Dome,
and rock column on
left is El Capitan
In Mid morning, July 4th
Spectacular views can be seen throughout YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK. I especially loved the grandeur of EL CAPITAN. This massive granite monolith stands 3593 feet from base to summit. Tunnel view is one of the most photographed vistas in the world. It provides a beautiful view of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks and Bridalview Falls.
We did the valley first, and it was very pretty, if a bit crowded and touristy.
We then drove up to the top Glacier Point. It's only when I got there that I thought "Wow! - I actually get it now!"
You get a birds eye view of the valley - you can see the waterfalls in much more detail and the view is absolutely stunning.
Don't get all the way to Yosemite without going to Glacier Point!
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