Yosemite National Park – Great Way To Vacation In California!
Everyone enjoys traveling to the beautiful places that this world has to offer. Some of the more popular holiday destinations include: the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and anywhere along the coast. However, none of these places can match the variety of amazing natural sights that you’ll witness at Yosemite National Park. There is so much natural beauty in this park that one could spend weeks trying to see it all, much less take any time to enjoy it.
What are some of the best features of Yosemite National Park and what should you see on your vacation? Let’s take a look at some of what Yosemite National Park has to offer.
Yosemite National Park is separated into three sections; the high country to the north at Tuolumne, the Valley in the middle and the high country to the south at Glacier Point & Wawona. Forethought should be given to what portions of the park you would like to visit and how long you plan on staying. If you plan on visiting all three regions, you will need at least a week if not more.
Probably the most recognizable feature of Yosemite National Park is Yosemite Valley. You’ve probably seen it on television several times as well as in movies. Its unique rock formations and unbelievable waterfalls make it a one-of-a-kind place to witness on your trip to Yosemite National Park. This will probably be the most memorable feature of your entire trip and presents ample photo opps throughout. No trip to Yosemite is complete without witnessing this incredible beauty.
Tuolumne is located in the northern high country and accessed by Highway 120 (Tioga Road). Tuolumne is known for its open meadows, granite domes, cooler high-altitude temperatures and seclusion as compared to the rest of the park. There are no hotels, restaurants or other modern conveniences. Accommodations include a large campground and Tuolumne Meadows Lodge. The campground has flush toilets but no showers. A general store, snack stand, gas station, RV dump station and mountaineering store are nearby. Just down the road is Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, which consists of several large tent cabins and a central cafeteria. Showers are available for those staying at the lodge.
Directly across the road from the campground are Tuolumne Meadows and most of Tuolumne’s attractions including Lembert Dome, Soda Springs, Parson’s Lodge, McCauley’s Cabin, stables and several hiking trails of varying degrees of difficulty. The stables offer the opportunity for visitors to explore the Tuolumne Meadows region on horseback. Heading west from Tuolumne along Highway 120 you’ll pass Tenaya Lake. This is one of Yosemite National Park’s largest lakes and offers sandy beaches for swimming. And just a little further from there is Olmstead Point, which provides a different perspective with its panoramic views that include looking across a plateau of undulating granite from which Yosemite Valley was carved by glaciers. Tioga Road closes down at first snowfall making Tuolumne inaccessible during winter.
Entering Yosemite Valley can be awe-inspiring. The most impressive way to enter the Valley is via Highway 41 from the south through the Wawona Tunnel. At the exit of the tunnel is a parking lot with a viewing area where you’ll have an unimpeded view of the Valley. From there, you’ll see El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Dome, the Three Sisters, Bridalveil Falls and the lush pine forest that blankets the Valley. The Valley is the hub of Yosemite National Park with hotels, shops, restaurants, tours and so much more. Roads and bike paths weave through the meadows and forests of the Valley connecting all there is to see. An army of buses shuttles visitors back and forth to all the attractions in the Valley including popular hiking trails.
Activities in the Valley include hiking, biking, horseback riding, swimming, fishing, inner-tubing in the Merced River and ice skating during the winter. Most equipment rentals, such as bikes and inner-tubes, are available in Curry Village at the far end of the Valley. The Yosemite Lodge also rents bikes. Accommodation choices include the very upscale and exclusive Ahwahnee Hotel and the more affordable Yosemite Lodge. Or, you can reserve a tent cabin in Curry Village, a housekeeping cabin, or a campsite at one of several campgrounds. Restaurants, cafeterias and eateries are located in Curry Village, Yosemite Village and the Yosemite Lodge.
Groceries, supplies and fishing tackle are available at the general stores in Yosemite National Park and Curry Villages. There are no gas stations for public use in Yosemite Valley, so fill up before entering. Showers are available in Curry Village for those staying in the tent cabins and adjacent campgrounds. Laundry and shower facilities are available at Housekeeping Camp. An RV dump station is available at the entrance to Upper Pines Campground near Curry Village. Many popular hikes start from the Valley floor, some being wheelchair accessible, including Yosemite Falls, Bridalveil Falls and Mirror Lake. Horseback riding tours start from the stables next to North Pines Campground in Curry Village. The outdoor ice rink in Curry Village is our top pick for most beautiful rink in all of California and is only available in the winter.
South of Yosemite Valley and another 3,000+ feet in elevation is Glacier Point. Take Glacier Point Road from Highway 41 for approximately 18 miles. Along the way are Bridalveil Creek Campground and several popular hiking trails to very unique destinations. Stand on an overhanging rock at Taft Point and dare a look straight down into the Valley over 3,000 feet below. On the way to Taft Point are The Fissures, where one wrong step could instantly plunge you several hundred feet. Head the other direction on the trail and climb to the top of Sentinel Dome for the best views of Half Dome and the entire Valley.
Another amazing place within Yosemite National Park is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. This is one of the most unbelievable parts of the park as you will witness the largest and oldest things anywhere on earth. Some of these trees have been found to be over 4,600 years old. In addition to that they tower over you with authority. These trees are big enough to drive your car through the base. In fact you can go through one such tree in the park called the California Tunnel Tree. You can witness about 500 mature Sequoias in this park, which has a concentration of the species.
Possibly the single most scenic point in all of Yosemite National Park can be found at Glacier Point. From high above the rest of the park, you can see the Yosemite Valley, High Sierra, and Half Dome. If you’re scared of heights, you might not want to visit this spot as it is pretty high up there. However, if you’re not afraid of the altitude, it will present some of the best views you’ll find in the world. This is definitely a must-see portion of your trip to Yosemite National Park. This area is only easily accessible for about five months out of the year in June through October. The rest of the time, you’ll have to get there by snowmobile or snow skis.
One of the lesser known gems of the Yosemite National Park is Hetch Hetchy. The trademark of this area is the beautiful reservoir that holds millions of gallons of fresh water. This is actually the spot where much of the San Fransisco Bay’s drinking water originates. Like the Yosemite Valley, this area holds some amazingly scenic spots along the way. It is a popular destination for hikers as well. Some of the best trails you’ll find anywhere start out in Hetch Hetchy.
If you’re not really the hiking type, the park also offers some great views from inside your car as well. The Tioga road is one of those places as it is a scenic road that winds for almost 40 miles through the park. Just sit back, relax, enjoy the air conditioning and take in the amazing scenery. You might not find a better drive in the United States. If you enjoy traffic jams, smog, and honking horns this probably isn’t the trip for you. However, anyone else will love it.
Another cool area in the park is the Wawona area. This is the site of the historic Wawona hotel that was built in the 19th century. The hotel is still open today and is a great place to stay if you enjoy a relaxing atmosphere. It really makes you feel like you’re in the “good ol’ days” while visiting the hotel. It is situated between a forest of jSequoias and the Yosemite Valley, presenting great views from every angle. You can relax outside with a cocktail or quickly get to the ski slopes in the winter. You can also find the Pioneer Yosemite History Center here. This will present you with a great look at the rich history and culture of the park. See how it used to look and what people of different generations did in the park.
In the winter, Badger Pass Ski Resort opens up offering downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and lots of other snow play. Continue to the end of the road to Glacier Point where you’ll find some of the best views in the park. To the north you’ll see El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, North Dome and beyond. You can’t miss Half Dome to the east and Vernal & Nevada Falls cascading down the granite cliffs below. Glacier Point provides restrooms and a small deli restaurant to visitors. Glacier Point Road is closed in the winter other than to the ski resort.
Further south on Highway 41 is Wawona. There you will find a campground, hotel, cabins, history center, general store and Yosemite’s only golf course. The campground is situated next to the South Fork Merced River and offers opportunities for fishing and swimming. Across the road from the campground and a short distance south is the Wawona Hotel & Restaurant. This historic hotel was built in 1879 and possesses much charm and sophistication. A trail leads directly from the hotel to the golf course across the road. The golf course is a magnet for local deer and other wildlife where it’s not uncommon to see bucks with 10-point antlers.
Next to the hotel is the general store that provides supplies, groceries, snacks, souvenirs, fishing tackle and a gas station. Follow the road back from the store to the Pioneer History Center which documents Yosemite National Park’s early days and contains a buggy collection, covered bridge and early structures such as homes, a bakery and jail. Stables provide the opportunity for exploring Wawona on a guided horseback tour. An RV dump station and cabins are accessible off the nearby service roads, just north of the general store. Back at the general store is a shuttle stop where you can catch a ride further south to one of Yosemite National Park’s most treasured attractions.
Further south on Highway 41 and at the southern entrance to the park is the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. This sheltered forest contains some of California’s largest specimens of Giant Sequoias. Choose to take a one-hour tram ride through the grove or hike more than 3 miles of self-guided trails. At the top of the trail is a historic cabin turned museum and Visitor Center that also sells souvenirs. This a great place to find shade and cooler temperatures on hot summer days. The parking lot is small, so we recommend catching the shuttle from in front of the Wawona general store.
California Revealed is comprised of Californians who have spent a lifetime traveling and exploring California. We can give you local insight on popular destinations, but also let you know about the obscure, less traveled destinations that only locals of this state would know about. This is not the most extensive listing of California destinations but instead, an extensive listing of places and adventures that are sure to please you. Simply put, we want you to have a fantastic, unforgettable time in California.
Overall, Yosemite National Park is a fantastic place to visit for the whole family. Regardless of what type of things you enjoy, you will undoubtedly find something that interests you right here in Yosemite. Try to hit as many of these stops along the way as you can.
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