Yosemite National Park is perhaps one of the most beautiful parks in America. I visited the park often as a child, and have wonderful memories of the sweet smell of redwoods and the peaceful rumble of waterfalls. Here are some of the places that are a must-see in Yosemite.
Yosemite is located in central California, and you must get there either by bus or car. Once you arrive, you can travel through the park either in your own car, on a bike or on one of the public busses available to you. You can enter the park from the South on Highway 41 from Fresno. Highway 120 takes you into the park from Modesto, Manteca and Lee Vining. There is an entrance from Merced on Highway 140, but a massive rockslide early in the year closed the road indefinitely, and when the road will be reopened is unknown at this time. It currently costs twenty dollars to enter the park, but your ticket lasts for seven days. Veterans and people with disabilities receive a discount on the entrance fee.
When you enter the park, be sure you receive a park map, which will ensure you are able to see all of the highlights during your stay. If you plan to see everything in the park, you will need at least two days, so be prepared. The park offers several places for visitors to stay inside the park, including camping locations, RV hookups, rental cabins, and even a hotel. In the surrounding towns there are several hotels and cabins as well.
There are many highlights of a trip to Yosemite National Park. The park is famous for some of the tallest waterfalls in the country. If you want to see active waterfalls, you should visit the park in the spring or early fall. During the summer and winter the falls tend to dry up. The famous waterfalls are located in Yosemite Valley. If you enter the park from the south entrance, follow the signs towards the Valley Floor. You will wind your way through beautiful trees, and see some spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Eventually you will come to a long tunnel that has been dug literally through the side of a mountain. When you exit the tunnel, be prepared! The view that awaits you is absolutely stunning! Pull off to your left, and get out of your car. From this view, you can see some of the trademarks of the park. You will have a breathtaking view of Bridalveil Falls, one of Yosemite’s most famous waterfalls. Look ahead to the pass between two of Yosemite’s most famous rock formations, El Capitan and Half-dome. El Capitan rises 3,000 feet from the valley floor, and many rock climbers enjoy the challenge of this practically vertical climb. Half-dome gets its name from the fact that it looks like a dome that was cut in half. Geologists believe that glacial activity took away the missing half of the domed rock.
After enjoying the view, continue your descent down into the valley. Eventually you will come to a sign for Bridalveil Falls. There is a short walking path that takes you to the base of the falls. If you visit during peak falls season, you may want to take an umbrella, because Bridalveil cascades 600 feet, and creates quite a spray! Continue your journey towards the valley. As you reach the floor, you will see Yosemite Falls to your left.
During the spring, Yosemite Falls is so powerful that its roar can be heard throughout the valley. Yosemite Falls is actually two falls, Upper Yosemite Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls. To truly appreciate the falls, take the valley from the floor that will take you to the base of the falls. Together, the two falls drop 2,425 feet!
When you reach the valley floor, take some time to explore the Valley Store and Lodge. Yosemite is truly a little community. The valley has its own hairdressers for the employees of the park. As you head back up from the Valley, you will see much of the same scenery you saw on your way down, but it is no less stunning!
After a trip to the Valley, take a quick trip up to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. This is the largest grove of the giant Redwood trees in the park. The trees tower to heights of over 200 feet. Take a tram ride through the grove to see some of the most amazing trees in the grove. Rangers here enforce the rules strictly, as these ancient giants are extremely fragile.
A visit to Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove will take the good part of your day. But that is only half of the fun! A visit to Yosemite is not complete without a trip to Wawona, a community located inside the park in the valley. There is a covered bridge there, and you can explore the Merced River, Wawona Dome formation, and Chilnualna Falls. In Wawona you can stay at the Victorian hotel that boasts its own golf course. Imagine playing a round of golf with El Capitan towering above you! There is a post office, two grocery stores, a library, and a gas station in the town. Wawona is off the beaten path, so if you are looking to get away from the crowds that come to Yosemite, this is a great escape!
One of the most awe-inspiring views in Yosemite is from Glacier Point. You can reach the Point by car during most of the year, and via snowshoes in the winter. From Glacier Point you can gaze 3,000 feet down into the Yosemite Valley. The Point offers stunning views of Half-Dome and El Capitan. Two more waterfalls can be seen from the Point, Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls. If you visit in the winter, be sure to stop at the Badger Pass ski area and do some skiing.
All seasons offer visitors different things to see in the park. Spring is the most popular season to visit, as this is when the waterfalls are flowing. But in the summer, you can enjoy the near-perfect weather that the mountains offer. The changing of the leaves in the fall is a beautiful scene. The winter brings snow, and skiing, sledding, and building snowmen are all popular activities for the winter visitors. No matter what time you visit, there will be exciting experiences for you at Yosemite.
Throughout the park you will find hundreds of mountain trails to walk or hike. Mountain climbers can enjoy some of the most exciting climbs in the world. If you have children with you, grab a Junior Ranger Program booklet, and help your kids earn their Junior Ranger Badge by participating in the activities in the book. All around you, you will smell the sweet smell of pine trees and nature. A trip to Yosemite is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.