This is a must do, even if there is traffic. The views are amazing and there are plenty of parking along side the road if there is a view you would like to see a little longer.Coming into the valley, the southside drive is one way into the valley and the north side drive is one way out. In most place in this area the road is two lanes But be careful if you pull off the side of the road. The cars that are still drive are also looking at the views and may not be paying 100% attention to the road.
I've driven into the valley early in the morning and in the afternoon and I have never had a problem finding parking. There is a great shuttle system on the canyon floor to see all without worrying about parking.
Our visit to Yosemite was toward the end of October which was really a great time to visit. There were not very many people at all the major park attractions and if you walked just a little ways away from the main waterfalls you could almost feel that you had the entire park to yourself.
From what I've read the summer months are a mass of people on vacation and I know that I really wouldn't enjoy the supposedly bumper to bumper traffic on the main Yosemite roads. For us we didn't even have to wait at the parks entrance to get in. We just paid our $20, got the park information and away we went. Since it was so uncrowded we probably saw as much in our 1 1/2 days in a couple of sections of the park then most people during the summer could see in twice as much time.
Words themselves and even the pictures you see don't do the park justice. I will post mine here for you to see a glimpse of the magnificence, but if you really want to be awed obviously you must go there go for yourself and immerse all your senses in viewing, hearing, touching, smelling and feeling the park.
After a morning hiking the Mist Trail, we were in the mood for a sit down. My wife has a special soft spot for anything to do with bears and so when we saw this ranger activity, during our initial planning of the holiday, it was quickly put down as a thing to do when we were in Yosemite.
The hour and a half ranger talk was quite fun and the ranger told all the stories of the bears activities in the campground and park, and how important it was to keep food in the proper containers and to also dispose of rubbish correctly. I suppose the the safety aspects of the talk is mainly aimed at people camping in the park, but they were helpful to us nonetheless. The pictures he showed us of bears in cars and bins were also quite funny.
"Bear" in mind that the ranger told us that he once saw a bear on a Geology Stroll and landslide on a Bear Stroll.
I really enjoyed this tour. You catch the tour bus at the Lodge at Yosemite. Our guide was excellent. He knew a lot about the park and he was funny. We made several stops for photographs and to walk around a little bit. This would be a great way start your vacation and get orientated with the park. The only downside is it doesn't take you to Half Dome. But overall I highly recommend this tour.
This is a mouthwatering drive to do, I say drive because like many people I would love to walk it but there are far too many cars out there. Perhaps one day it'll become like Zion N.P. and you could leave your car at certain strategic points and then walk or take the shuttle. With El Capitan ,a sheer rock face rising up to around 1000 metres on one side and Bridal Veil falls on the other it is a wonderful spot.
The Yosemite Valley has been hosting visitors for more than a hundred years. It is seven miles long and nearly one mile wide, 3,000 feet deep and holds some of the most intriguing rock formations in the world! Here are some interesting statistics...
Some of its more familiar formations are:
Half Dome--8,842 feet,the youngest creation
Sentinel Rock--7,038 feet
El Capitan--3,593 feet
Mt. Lyell--13,114 feet, the tallest peak
Mt. Gibbs--12, 764 feet
Glacier Point-sits 3,214 above the valley floor
Glaciers helped to carve out this wondrous place, but it was "plutonic" rocks which cooled millions of years ago below the earth's surface that created the material. *Geologists think the last glacier departed Yosemite 15,000 years ago.
*For more information see: The Geologic Story of Yosemite Valley by N.King Huber
Yosemite Village happened along at an opportune moment, just as that gnawing feeling in our stomachs was growing!
Here you'll find the Yosemite Lodge or pick up the road to the Ahwahnee Hotel. You'll also find a walkway leading to Yosemite Falls (see my tip).
A large food court provides various food options:
Degnan's Cafe-baked goods, smoothies
Degnan's Deli-sandwiches, fresh salads
Degnan's Loft-pizza, salad, soups and appetizers
Serving at 12 noon-10pm daily (Spring-Fall)
Village Grill-cheeseburgers, salmon burgers, veggie burgers, fries, milkshakes
Serving 11am-5pm daily (Spring-Fall)
I was dreaming of Pizza and a few minutes later had it in my hungry little hands. My husband and grandson wanted something from the grill and this line took a while longer. There was no problem finding a table, although most were filled.
FYI: The food court has restrooms on the side of its building, but those off the lobby at the Yosemite Lodge check-in area seemed to be cleaner.
The meadows of Yosemite Valley are former lakes of the lazy Merced river. Overtime, the lakes silted up, and then grasses began to thrive in the wetland areas. Over longer periods of time, the forests move in and cover the meadows. During unusually stormy winter rains, flooding and erosion serve to knock down some trees, and as was documented by the 1996 rock slide near Happy Isles, trees are also felled by brief stronger than hurricane force gusts of wind. Naturally, thunderstorm started fires can also reduce a forest, returning the soil to a state where winter rains can wash out and create a new lake. For the most part though, the meadows remain a constant within the valley, being dormant during winter, having a brief bloom of colorful wildflowers, and then staying mostly green during the summer months. See my tips for local customs about how to appreciate meadows, but basically hikers and picnickers are not welcome to wander through the meadows. Enjoy them from a distance, and hope to see wildlife grazing there. Most of the meadows are under restoration after many years of being trampled by tourists, but conditions have improved considerably over the past decade or so.
Yosemite Valley is the heart of the park. Drained by the Merced River, this valley is just seven miles long and one mile wide, but is flanked by some of the world's tallest waterfalls alongside towering granite peaks. The valley was formed by molten magma that solidified below the surface then was lifted and carved by glacial activity.
The following waterfalls enter the valley: Yosemite Falls (2,425 ft drop), Snow Creek Falls (2,140 ft), Sentinel Falls (1,920 ft), Ribbon Fall (1,612 ft), Royal Arch Cascade (1,250 ft), Lehamite Falls (1,180 ft), Staircase Falls (1,020 ft), Bridalveil Fall (620 ft). (Bridalveil Creek), and Silver Strand Falls (574 ft).
The main mountainous features along the valley include El Capitan (7569 feet above sea level), Cathedral Rocks, Sentinel Rock, Three Brothers, North Dome, Glacier Point (7,214 feet), Half Dome, and Cloud's Rest (9926 feet).
For visitors the valley offers various camp grounds, cabins, hotels, restaurants, and shops. We stayed in the Upper Pines campground and hiked the nearby Happy Isles trail entrance, shopped and showered at Camp Curry, and stopped by the Ahwahnee Hotel for drinks one evening.
Perhaps you've worn yourself out on the Yosemite Falls or Vernal/Nevada Falls hikes. Or maybe you're looking for something a little easier, without the ardous climbing. Yosemite Valley offers some fine hikes along the valley floor. The views of the canyon walls are superb.
Yosemite National Park was established by an act of Congress on the 1st of October 1890, and has since become one of the best-known parks in the world. Yosemite Valley is the heart of the National Park and is a kind of a natural sculpture at a very large scale. The Valley was formed during 6 key geologic stages that took place over the span of millions of years.
Ever since the middle of the 19th century, when the first non-indians came here, everybody stands in awe for the shown beauty. We did enjoy a show of colours during the fall and the brilliant mountain light. We could also imagine the fields of flowers in the spring or summer. It's open all year.
Along the Northside Drive, past El Capitan Meadow, we found a turnout that looks back to El Capitan. This serene spot, besides the Merced River, offers one of the most picturesque views of El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Yosemite Valley.
What better way to enjoy the beauty of Yosemite National Park than on footh? Whether you're interested in an easy stroll or a challenging hike, there's always a trail to hike. During our visit at Yosemite National Park we did hike on Tuolumne Meadows and the Sequoia Grove. But everytime after our hikes we ended up in Yosemite Valley and we can state that if you haven't been to Yosemite Valley, you haven't been to Yosemite National Park. Therefore it's not strange that it is the most visited section of Yosemite National Park.
This valley is only 11 km long and is 3079 km2 large, but right here you'll see the famous sights of Yosemite like El Capitan, Glacier Point and Upper Yosemite Fall. We also witnessed the Half Dome. The Half Dome is Ysemite's most distinctive monument, as it dominates most Valley views. A must visit!
You can take a moonlight tour along the Valley, which will go up to Inspiration point. It is a lovely way to feel the park, as well as seeing the climbers sleeping in their enclosed tents (cocoons) hanging onto the towering cliffs. Some climbers actually take up to 8 days to climb to the top.
The air is crisp (wear warm clothes) and clean and you can hear the wolves crying in the night.
It is a lovely way to spend an evening with family or friends. Or a great way to meet new people.
So take a moonlight guided tour and enjoy the park in a new light.
Tons of parking and a free shuttle bus around the village will clue you in to just how busy this place must get. The Village has almost anything you need - several stores for both gifts and groceries, restaurants, a visitor center and a museum. Stock up on supplies here for a picnic lunch, or pick up pre-made sandwiches and snacks. If you're there off peak season, you should be able to park right next to the Village store rather than needing to take the buses. Gather what you need and head back out to the sights. If you're lucky, you may also catch a view of some wildlife around the area.
I'm not absolutely sure about the name of this place (it wasn't labeled on any park maps), but I believe it is called El Capitan Meadow. Which makes a lot of sense, considering that it's right under El Capitan; walk out into the meadow (sandwiched between the Merced River and Northside Drive) to view the giant El Capitan and see climbers on the Nose route; there's also a good view here across to Cathedral Spires, which from here seem very dominating. If anyone can affirm the name of this meadow, or knows the actual name, please inform me so I can make any necessary corrections to this tip.