Yosemite National Park
Location and generalYosemite National Park (pronounced "yossémmitty") was founded in 1890, and extends over 1,190sq.miles/3,082sq.km in the center of eastern California. It covers a section of the Sierra Nevada rich in forests and lakes, the scenic highlight of which is the Yosemite Valley, measuring some 8mi/13km long and some 0.5-2mi/1-3km wide.
Official site: www.nps.gov/yose/
Address: Box 577, Yosemite, CA 95389-0577, United States
Entrance fee in USD: $10.00, Vehicle plus all occupants $20.00
Useful tips: Admission is good for 7 days. Visitors may experience traffic delays or periods of restricted access on Highway 140 inside the park due to road construction. See the El Portal Road Access Schedule for details.
Yosemite National Park Highlights
Yosemite Valley is located at the center of Yosemite National Park. The valley is a depression carved by glaciers during the last ice age. Granite domes and many powerful waterfalls attract thousands each year along with the desire to try some of the best hiking spots in the park. Upper Yosemite drops 1,430 feet at one point (equaling nine Niagaras). The falls are at their fullest in May and June when winter snows are melting.
Cathedral Spires (Bridal Veil Fall)
West of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite National Park you will come to the two slender Cathedral Spires (5,900ft/1,800m and 6,120ft/1,865m high), side by side with the imposing twinned Cathedral Rocks (6,630ft/2,021m) opposite the Capitán. Bridal Veil Fall (50-70ft/15-20m wide), cascades down for some 620ft/189m on the lower western slopes of these rocks. It is so called because, when the wind is blowing, the waters take on the appearance of a bridal veil. The Ahwahneechee Indians native to the Yosemite Valley named it Pohono, meaning roughly "spirit that blows the air". The wind blows round the waterfall, sometimes making it move sideways. In the summer months, however, it dries up completely.
Yosemite Falls are east of Eagle Peak, roughly in the middle of the valley. They are in three parts, with a total overall height of 2,425ft/739m: the Upper Fall, some 30ft/10m wide, plunges down 450ft/136m almost vertically; the Middle Cascade consists of a number of small cascades (totaling 680ft/206m, and the Lower Fall is 320ft/98m high. Yosemite Falls are among the highest in the world and in spring provide the most awe-inspiring sight in the National Park, but they disappear in summer and autumn. In winter a magnificent ice peak, up to 300ft/90m in height, forms on the Upper Fall.
Sentinel Dome and Rock
East of El Capitán rise the triple peaks of the Three Brothers, the highest of which, Eagle Peak (7,780ft/2,371m), provides a superb view of the valley and Yosemite Falls.
Vernal Fall (Nevada Fall)
Immediately to the west of El Capitán lies the 1,612ft/491m high Ribbon Fall in Ribbon Creek.
Royal Arches and Lost Arrow
East of the Upper Fall, on the end face of the Upper Yosemite Fall Cliff, stands a granite needle known as Lost Arrow. Still further east lies Indian Canyon, the soft stone of which shows more marked signs of erosion than that in the Yosemite valley. The rock-wall on the opposite side of the canyon gets its name of Royal Arches from its semi-circular hollows. On the west side will be found the Royal Arches Cascade, a waterfall about 1,000ft/ 300m high, which is normally almost dry but which swells considerably in spring and after heavy rain.
East of the Royal Arches, where the valley joins Tenaya Canyon, Washington Column towers above the valley floor. It is a granite tower measuring 1,930ft/585m, dwarfed however by the barren North Dome (7,545ft/2,299m).
Coming from Merced your first impressive view of Yosemite Valley is from Valley View Point at the western entrance to the valley. One of the most magnificent and arresting sights is that of the rock massif known as El Capitán (7,572ft/2,307m), dominating in bold relief the northwest corner of the valley. The impression made by this mighty monolith comes mainly from its dominant position, its majestic shape and its precipitous walls rising 300ft/100m above the floor of the valley. Its two end walls facing west and south meet almost at right angles; it is an arduous climb to the top.
At the southeast corner of the Yosemite Valley where it joins the Merced Canyon the rocky peak known as Glacier Point (7,217ft/2,199m) reaches towards the sky. This is without doubt the loveliest and most popular spot hereabouts from which to look down over the Yosemite Valley into the Merced Canyon with its waterfalls, and across the High Sierra.
Opposite the North Dome, and forming the east end of the Yosemite Valley, towers the Half Dome (8,850ft/2,695m) which, as the name suggests, is shaped like a vertically-halved dome. So far it has not been established whether it ever had the other half. It can be climbed from the far side (but only in the warm months of the year) the last stretch to the summit being by cable-car.
Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village
A wide range of events and functions awaits the visitor of Yosemite during the summer months. You should consult the park newspaper "Yosemite Guide" which appears weekly. In addition to the numerous ranger programs (lectures, etc.) and campfire talks, there are geology walks (guided tours with geological explanations), ecology float trips (accompanied trips floating down the Merced River with ecological commentaries) and mountaineering, riding and cycling tours (cassette recordings of tours available).AccommodationFor anyone visiting the Yosemite National Park in the high season, in spring and early autumn, and wishing to stay overnight it is essential to book accommodation in advance. For the hotels and motels inside the park there is a center which will take advance bookings for the Ahwahnee and Wawona Hotels as well as for Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village. If you have to spend the night outside the park you will have the long journey into the park each day.You can reach the Yosemite Waterfall in a few minutes if you get off the No. 7 bus at Yosemite Lodge.In 1899 David and Jenny Curry opened a tented camp so that visitors could enjoy the beauty of Yosemite for a modest price. They advertised "a good bed and clean napkin with every meal" for just $2 a day. Camp Curry still offers inexpensive lodging in the shadow of the spectacular Glacier Point and Half Dome.Yosemite Lodge is located where Fort Yosemite once housed the U. S. Army Cavalry while it protected and managed Yosemite National Park. Built in 1915 to accommodate the expected increase in park visitors as a result of San Francisco's Pan-Pacific Exposition.
At its east end the Yosemite Valley forks into two narrow valleys, Tenaya Creek (northeast) and Merced River (southeast). Between the square blocks of rock at the foot of the right-hand wall of the Tenaya Creek Canyon can be found the Indian Caves, where Indians once lived. About 1mi/2km upstream the reflection of the North Dome plays on the clear waters of the beautiful Mirror Lake. The best time to see this is during the still hours of morning and evening when the wind has dropped. Tenaya Creek brings great masses of gravel and mud into the lake, so there is a real threat that it may silt up. It dries up almost completely in late summer and does not fill up again until after the autumn storms. There is a 3mi/5km path leading round the lake.
The focus of tourism in the valley is Yosemite Village below the main falls. Here you will find the ranger's office, visitors' center, museum, information centers, accommodation, post-office, shops, riding stables and so forth. In a building west of the Visitor Center is an Indian Cultural Museum with a rich collection depicting Indian cultural history.
The surroundings of Yosemite National Park include the towns of Lee Vining and Fish Camp.
Yosemite Mountain-Sugar Pine Railroad, Fish Camp
The Yosemite Mountain-Sugar Pine Railroad in Fish Camp is a four mile narrow gauge with a steam engine. The train runs from March through October.
Yosemite Pioneer History Center
The Yosemite Pioneer History Center at Wawona has historic cabins and exhibits about the stagecoach days of Yosemite. Demonstrations are offered. Visitors can explore Yosemite's history in the blacksmith shop, bakery, Wells Fargo bank, jail and covered bridge.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
Tioga Pass Road
The first 12 miles of Tioga Pass Road include a two-lane paved road that ascends for nearly a mile and overlooks a vast canyon. The road traverses Tuolumne Meadows and descends to Tenaya Lake then continues to a junction with Big Oak Flat Road.
The Wawona Basin offers a recreation area for camping, riding, golf, swimming and tennis. A beautiful meadow lies 27 miles south of the Yosemite Valley near Mariposa Grove. Saddle and pack animals are available in summer.
Yosemite High Sierra Camps
The Tuolumne Grove contains 20 giant sequoia trees including the Dead Giant stump. A self-guided trail is available to visitors.
Washburn and Merced Lakes
The lakes are reached only by trail from Yosemite Valley, bordering the western slopes of the Sierra.
More Yosemite National Park Pictures