Yosemite National Park, and especially Yosemite Valley, are natural wonders of the world. The words “breathtaking,” “astonishing,” “phenomenal,” and “awesome,” are heard repeatedly, particularly when you enter the Valley -- and for good reasons. There is nothing like Yosemite’s intense granitic beauty, and that is just the beginning of what Yosemite has to offer. Beautiful waterfalls, terrific hikes, vast wilderness areas, diverse animals and plants (including sequoias), great camping and backpacking, lovely lakes, stunning vistas and more make every part of Yosemite special.
Yosemite is, indeed, crowded in the summer, so if it is possible to visit the park in the spring, fall, or even winter, this is preferable. However, even in the summer you can find solitude or less crowded conditions in the wilderness areas, or by starting popular hikes very early.
With over 750 miles of trails, everyone has their favorites, including REI and All Trails. Among the truly amazing hikes are: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall Trails, Four Mile Trail, Yosemite Falls Trail, Bridalveil Fall Trail, Panorama Trail, Ten Lakes Trail, Cathedral Lakes Trail, Sentinel Dome Trail, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias Trail, and the very strenuous Half Dome via Mist Trail.
With more than 300 species of vertebrates, always be prepared for exciting watchable wildlife opportunities, including bears, bobcats, and even the Yosemite toad.
The most popular public land area among my UCSB Public land students, Yosemite deserves to be on everyone’s bucket list.
Highway 41 North into Yosemite
National Park Service
Backpacking, Biking, Birdwatching, Camping, Hiking, Historic/Cultural Interest, Horseback Riding, Other Recreational Activities (Rock Climbing), Picnicking, Relaxing, Swimming (in rivers and lakes), Viewing, Walking, Watchable Wildlife
Yosemite became a National Park in 1890, the third in the nation (after Yellowstone and Sequoia). Almost 95% of Yosemite is designated Wilderness. The history and culture of Yosemite is foundational to the conservation movement.
Important, not fun, Facts: Indigenous peoples lived in Yosemite for at least 8,000 years, including the Ahwahnechee and the Southern Miwuk peoples. Their treatment by settlers and the government was often brutal, and they were killed or removed from the Park. While visiting Yosemite, it is critical to understand their story and legacy, and what it means to them, our nation and this park – past, present and future.
Camping reservations are required for most campsites, and it is important to reserve early. For backpacking, a wilderness permit is needed, which is easy to obtain, but the most accessible areas are booked early.
To help you plan your trip and learn more about Yosemite, the National Park Service offers many on-line videos and podcasts. The official park map is also on line and a very useful reference for organizing your trip.
The Park Service and others offer comprehensive check lists of the remarkable plants and animals in Yosemite.