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.
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