“No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite,” wrote John Muir. His crusading led to the creation of this National Park in 1890. Like Muir, the millions of people who flock to this granite wonderland every year gaze with starry eyes at both the force of nature and the undisputed beauty it produces.
Located in the northern section of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite is one of the most beautiful National Parks in the United States. Its U-shaped valley was carved by the Merced River and further widened by glacial action. This erosion can easily be seen with the rock formations of Half Dome (8,842 ft) and El Capitan (7,569 ft.) - both of which are very popular among climbers worldwide.
Yosemite is home to a number of waterfalls. None more impressive than the one that claims the park’s name. Yosemite Falls, at 2,425 feet, is actually made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 feet), the Middle Cascades (675 feet), and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 feet.) Bridalveil Fall (620 feet) is another popular one to see, and although not as high as the others, Vernal Fall (317 feet) makes up for its
lack of height in width and beauty.
The two most breathtaking views offered in Yosemite are at Glacier Point and Tunnel View. Both provide an excellent setup for taking pictures and also display a perfect vista of both Half Dome and El Capitan. Valley View also offers a scenic vista which includes the Merced River.
The Giant Sequoia is perhaps the largest living thing on Earth, and about 500 of these giant trees can be found in the Mariposa Grove. Located near the south entrance of the park, it is definitely worth a visit. That is, unless you plan on making your way south to the Sequoia National Park where you will find the largest trees of this species.
Most explorations of the park will likely start in the Yosemite Valley. From here, there are many ways of getting around. The top two being hiking and biking. If you are planning to spend the day on foot, be sure to take advantage of the free Valley Shuttle. It makes a continuous loop throughout the valley during the day all year round and stops at all lodging and camping sites as well as the major
eateries, shopping areas, popular attractions and trailheads.
Besides camping, there are a number of hotel options in and around Yosemite. The most elegant is the Ahwahnee which was completed and opened to the public in 1927. Its construction of granite, steel, and timber blend perfectly to highlight the natural surroundings. Be sure to book ahead when planning to spend the night in the park. A good base when visiting Yosemite is the small town of Mariposa. Less than 40 miles away, it offers much cheaper lodging, as well as some great restaurants. Mariposa got its start as a mining town, and offers a lot of history along with that warm small town charm.
Yosemite National Park is an area of enchantment and beauty. Whether visited in person, or simply read about in the works of John Muir and admired in the classic photography of Ansel Adams, its majesty becomes etched in the minds of both foreigners and Americans alike. It is truly a wonder worth protecting for the enjoyment of generations to come.
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