Yosemite National Park


California > Yosemite National Park
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Half Dome
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Cathedral Lake
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Illilouette Fall
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Tunnel Tree
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Tuolumne River
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Granite fissure

Yosemite National Park covers a huge area of the western Sierra Nevada mountains in central California and has innumerable lakes, meadows, forests and granite summits with endless unspoilt Alpine scenery. At the center is Yosemite Valley, a half-mile deep depression carved by glaciers during the last ice age, which now has soaring 3,000 foot high domes and many powerful waterfalls, including three of the world's highest. The area received national park status in 1880, as a result of the efforts of the pioneering Scottish naturalist John Muir, and has grown in popularity ever since. The Merced River runs through Yosemite Valley, and is followed either side by two scenic drives, allowing easy access to many viewpoints, picnic areas and trails.

Elsewhere in Yosemite National Park are vast areas of unspoilt and sometimes inaccessible scenic wilderness, as is the case with Kings Canyon and Sequoia, the other national parks in the Sierras. One of two main routes into the backcountry is the road to Glacier Point, a 16 mile drive leading to several excellent overlooks of the main valley, and many footpaths. The other is the Tioga Road (CA 120), along which is a second park visitor center at Tuolumne Meadows - a beautiful region with many small lakes, stark granite peaks, clear mountain streams, waterfalls and meadows with colorful summer wildflowers. An extensive network of trails allow for relatively easy exploration of this splendid landscape.

There are three groves of giant sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park, two near Crane Flat (the Merced and Tuolumne groves) but the most famous is the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees in the southwest corner, near the private village of Wawona. More than 400 huge sequoias grow over the sheltered hillsides; the largest is the Grizzly Giant, estimated to be nearly 3,000 years old.

The remote northern half of the park is served only by the Hetch Hetchy road, leading to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. This was formed in 1923 by construction of a dam to provide drinking water for the people of San Francisco. The dam caused flooding of the lower reaches of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River - said by John Muir and many others to be as magnificent as Yosemite Valley.


Access


Yosemite National Park is 200 miles east of San Francisco; three state roads (CA 120, CA 140 and CA 41) approach from the west and converge on the lower end of the valley. CA 120 continues east across the Sierras via the Tioga Pass, a route that is often blocked by snow until June. No roads cross the mountains south of here for 140 miles. At the western end of the valley where the mountains at either side come close together, the roads become narrow, cut precariously into the cliffsides, and pass through several tunnels - these open to reveal an astonishing vista of vertical cliffs and green woodland, fading into the hazy distance; this is Yosemite Valley, central attraction of the park.

Featured Yosemite Trails


Bennettsville Mine
Bennettsville Mine
★★★★★
1.4 miles, 100 feet
Abandoned mine with interesting relics; near Tioga Pass, just east of the national park
Cathedral Lakes
Cathedral Lakes
★★★★★
3.5 miles, 1340 feet
Two of the prettiest lakes anywhere in the national park, surrounded by smooth granite slickrock and floral meadows
Chilnualna Falls
Chilnualna Falls
★★★★
4.1 miles, 2000 feet
Lightly used path to the highest Yosemite waterfall outside the main valley. Upstream are pools, deep channels and other cascades
Clouds Rest
Clouds Rest
★★★★★
2 miles, 850 feet
Clouds Rest is a rounded granite summit, 1,090 feet higher than the more well known Half Dome but offering similar, if not better, views of Yosemite Valley and countless square miles of the backcountry
Dog Lake and Lembert Dome
Dog Lake and Lembert Dome
★★★★
2 miles, 850 feet
Popular trail that ascends through thick pine forest beneath a large granite dome, then levels out and continues north, to the edge of Dog Lake
Elizabeth Lake
Elizabeth Lake
★★★★★
2.4 miles, 850 feet
This glacial lake is ringed by grassy meadows and is a good destination for a half day hike
Gaylor Lakes
Gaylor Lakes
★★★★
2 miles, 860 feet
Interesting path that encounters sharp reddish peaks, two lakes and an old mine
Glen Aulin
Glen Aulin
★★★★★
5.3 miles, 600 feet
Path that follows the Tuolumne River into a granite gorge, past many deep pools and several waterfalls
Lower Yosemite Fall
Lower Yosemite Fall
★★★★★
0.5 miles, 50 feet
Probably the most used path in the park is the easy walk to the base of Lower Yosemite Fall
Lower Gaylor Lake
Lower Gaylor Lake
★★★★★
2.5 miles, 800 feet
This less-used path leads ends by the southern shore of Lower Gaylor Lake, surrounded by high granite peaks
Lukens Lake
Lukens Lake
★★★★★
1 miles, 160 feet
This easy but not too interesting path leads northwards, across a saddle and on to Lukens Lake and its adjoining meadow
May Lake
May Lake
★★★★
1.2 miles, 300 feet
Short path to a scenic lake, attractively situated beneath steep granite slopes
Mirror Lake and Mirror Meadow
Mirror Lake and Mirror Meadow
★★★★★
3 miles, 140 feet (loop)
Path to a seasonal lake that reflects the vertical cliffs above, then on to a moist, long grass meadow
Mono Meadow
Mono Meadow
★★★★★
5 miles, 800 feet
Passing over varied terrain of thick forest, open slopes, rivers and meadows, with frequent views over distant granite mountains, the Mono Meadow Trail is a pleasant if little used route
Mono Pass
Mono Pass
★★★★
4 miles, 1000 feet
Woodland, marshy meadows and several streams are encountered on this tranquil trail that climbs steadily to a pass on the Sierra crest
Mount Dana
Mount Dana
★★★★★
3 miles, 3100 feet
The steep trail to the summit of Mount Dana, Yosemite's second highest peak, is unofficial but well used and easy to follow
Murphy Creek
Murphy Creek
★★★★
6.8 miles, 440 feet
Wooded path that passes close to several lakes
Nevada Fall
Nevada Fall
★★★★
3 miles, 1840 feet
Somewhat difficult but still popular trail along the Merced River to a 594 foot waterfall
Panorama Trail
Panorama Trail
★★★★★
4 miles, 1200 feet
Spectacular hike descending steadily from Glacier Point to the rim of a beautiful hidden waterfall (Illilouette Fall), then along the edge of a cliff, which gives views many Yosemite landmarks
Sentinel Dome
Sentinel Dome
★★★★★
1.1 miles, 400 feet
Sentinel Dome is a typical Yosemite summit of bare, rounded granite, rising above the trees near the end of the road to Glacier Point
Sunrise Lakes
Sunrise Lakes
★★★★
3.5 miles, 1160 feet
Three small but pretty lakes on the north side of Sunrise Mountain
Taft Point
Taft Point
★★★★
1.1 miles, 240 feet
Offering an alternative to the often overly busy Glacier Point, Taft Point has equally good views over Yosemite Valley, 3,500 feet below, and of some nearby rock formations known as the Fissures
Tuolumne Grove
Tuolumne Grove
★★★★★
1.1 miles, 400 feet
Old vehicle track to a small grove of giant sequoia
Yosemite Falls
Yosemite Falls
★★★★★
3.6 miles, 2600 feet
This strenuous but well used path climbs the cliffs at the north side of Yosemite Valley, passing over 100 switchbacks, to the top of the highest waterfall in North America
Vernal Fall
Vernal Fall
★★★★
1.5 miles, 1000 feet
Wide, busy path that follows the Merced River, past many pools and small cascades, then climbs steeply to the top of a dramatic waterfall
Young Lakes
Young Lakes
★★★★
5 miles, 1280 feet
Three beautiful lakes around 10,000 feet elevation, beneath stark granite slopes

Yosemite Area Hotels


Outside the national park there are various towns providing lodging and other visitor facilities. One of the closest hotels is Best Western Yosemite Gateway Inn, in the middle of the small but busy town of Oakhurst (15 miles south of the Wawona entrance); this well reviewed hotel has a pleasant setting amidst pine and oak woodland, along CA 41 half a mile north of the junction with CA 49. The 122 rooms are divided into several blocks surrounded by gardens (with waterfall) and trees, close to various shops and restaurants along the main road through Oakhurst.
Best Western Yosemite Gateway Inn
Best Western Yosemite Gateway Inn

Check rates at the Best Western Yosemite Gateway Inn

Nearby towns with hotels, with distances from the park boundary, include Oakhurst (15 miles), Mariposa (38 miles) & Merced (63 miles), and in the east, Mammoth Lakes (36 miles). Follow the links for hotel descriptions and photographs.

Overcrowding


As Yosemite is the preferred destination of three million visitors each year, many of whom do little more than drive around the roads of the main valley and stop to take photographs, this area has become quite congested, and some parts have become spoilt by badly-planned developments, overcrowding & commercialism. In January 1997 severe flooding destroyed half the campsites and one third of the buildings, so it was decided that many would not be rebuilt, and instead the land would be returned to nature. Other improvement measures include a reduction in the number of roads available to private cars and increased use of shuttle buses, as is the case, for example, with Zion Canyon in Utah and the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Still, even in the heart of Yosemite Valley, perfect solitude is only a 30 minute walk away along one of the many trails leading into the wilderness, and despite the overcrowding, the scenic drive along the Merced River is a must for any visitor to California.

Highlights: Most famous and most visited section of California's Sierra Nevada mountains, containing huge glaciated peaks and valleys, centered on beautiful Yosemite Valley, location of several spectacular waterfalls. The high elevation Tuolumne Meadows area is much more peaceful, and has many trails, to lakes and summits
Nearest city with hotels: Oakhurst, 15 miles
Management: NPS
Location: 37.740, -119.574 (Yosemite Valley) 37.875, -119.355 (Tuolumne Meadows)
Seasons: Yosemite Valley and Wawona are open all year. Glacier Point Road is generally accessible from late May to November, and the Tioga Road/Tuolumne Meadows from early June to November
Weather:

Yosemite National Park - Regions



Yosemite Valley
Central attraction of the national park, with many trails, viewpoints and facilities. Trail descriptions
Tuolumne Meadows and the Tioga Road
The high elevation backcountry, a beautiful land of lakes, mountains and canyons. Trail descriptions
Glacier Point Road
Forested highway leading to a spectacular viewpoint 3,200 feet above Yosemite Valley. Trail descriptions
Wawona and Mariposa Grove
Southwest section of the park, featuring giant sequoia trees and a few gentle paths. Trail descriptions
Park Map - map of Yosemite National Park

Yosemite - Photography



  • All Yosemite photographs
  • QTVR panoramas; Chilnualna Falls, Clouds Rest, Elizabeth Lake, Glen Aulin Trail, Lower Gaylor Lake, May Lake, Mount Dana, Polly Dome Lake, Ragged Peak, Tenaya Lake, Tuolumne River, Yosemite Valley from Taft Point
  • Videos: Chilnualna Falls, Tuolumne River
  • Yosemite is part of the Sierra Nevada itinerary
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