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Yosemite National Park has been renowned as one of the most beautiful and historic parks in the United States. The park is located in Mariposa County, California and is located in between Santislaus National Forest and Sierra National Forest. During your visit to Yosemite, whether you are staying several days or just driving through it, you will be in awe of the natural beauty of everything inside. The best part about visiting Yosemite is that it is explored easily on your own or with a tour guide. No matter which way you decide to embark on your adventure, you will not be disappointed. There are endless mountain ranges, hikes, trails, waterfalls, camping, and adventure that will entice any person seeking breathtaking views and unimaginable beauty.
The main visitation region for tourists is the Yosemite Valley. It is considered the park’s main attraction area where you can find the visitation/information center, merchandise stores, restaurants, souvenir shopping, and of course, it is the main starting point for several hikes and leisurely walks on its flat trails. Many families with young children or elderly prefer to stay in Yosemite Valley because it is easy for people who do not have much hiking or climbing experience to still explore and soak in the natural beauty of the land. Also, the valley still has plenty of beauty and adventure to experience, no matter where you decide to start walking or take a random left turn to immerse yourself into the massive Sequoia Trees and Redwoods. Marked trails are scattered throughout Yosemite valley and many of them have a particular focus destination, such as a lookout point or spectacular waterfall. Aside from the beauty and simplicity of Yosemite Valley, there are many iconic hikes and trails that are a must-do when visiting Yosemite National Park.
Here is a short list of easy and breathtaking walks to enjoy with family:
- Yosemite Valley Loop Trail: 11.5 miles total through meadows and surrounded by spectacular cliffs.
- Sentinel/Cooks Meadow Loop: Quick and easy 2.5 mile trail through the meadows to spectacular views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome.
- Mirror Lake Trail: Easy to moderate 2.5 miles leading through a lake and views of granite cliffs.
Below are a few iconic must-see wonders of Yosemite:
If you are looking for a longer and more strenuous walk then look no further! The Yosemite Falls hike is a steep 7.2 mile incline as you make your way to one of the tallest waterfalls in the world, 2,425 feet to be exact! Keep in mind that this hike may take at least 7 hours so the key is to begin earlier in the day. The assent is 2,700 feet up and features breathtaking views of Sequoias and Redwoods throughout. The best part about this hike is not only a great accomplishment and a breath of fresh crisp air but once you are at the top, Yosemite Point and it’s viewpoint are just a short 1.6 mile hike to the east. It is worth hiking the extra mile to get an even closer view of Half Dome. Make sure to bring plenty of water and snacks during this hike as it is very easy to become dehydrated quickly during your incline.
In order to hike this iconic trail, you must hold a wilderness permit AND Half Dome permit, which may be obtained on the National Park Service website (www.nps.gov). Wilderness permits will be quite easy to obtain, however the Half Dome permit is distributed via lottery system due to its popularity. This hike in particular will be an all day event so be prepared to begin early in the morning. This hike is notably dangerous and park officials introduce cables each year to lead climbers up the trail. However, you are not attached to these cables so there are some risks for injury or death. Keep in mind that the only time of the year this hike is open is a week before Memorial Day and a week after Columbus day. You will want to do your research as some dates may change from year to year. All in all, if you are an avid hiker then this is definitely the hike for you!
One of the shorter and more moderate trails located near Yosemite Valley will take you to Cathedral Lakes. There is a Lower and Upper portion totaling 8 miles round trip to see both. Lower Cathedral Fall is considered one of the most impressive views of the High Sierra lakes. This trail is perfect for a number of reasons including the option of horses to use the trail as well as the beautiful green scenery you are surrounded by. Keep in mind that the first 1.5 miles you will experience mostly incline but will flatten out thereafter.
Other Amazing Hikes/Climbs
- El Capitan: perfect for very experienced rock climbers – also made headlines in 2017 when Alex Honnold became the first person to free climb it without a rope.
- Vernal Falls: Located on the famous Mist Trail
- Bridalveil Falls: Also located on the Mist Trail
- Tuolomne Meadows: Located on Tioga Road; less popular because it is a drive away from Yosemite Valley but just as gorgeous
- Tenaya Lake: Also located on Tioga Road
Fun Facts about Yosemite National Park:
- It is the third National Park in the United States (Yellowstone was the first)
- The cascading granite rock formations “glow like fire” during sunset. You definitely do not want to miss out on a sight like this.
- The park is home to more than 400 different species of wildlife, some are common and many are very rare.
- Yosemite is one of the few places you are able to see a rainbow at night.
- It sees three-fourths of it’s visitors during May through October.
Things to remember before traveling to Yosemite National Park.
- You MUST plan ahead; All campsites and lodging can be booked up to 6 months in advance.
- Check road conditions before traveling; the pass is often closed due to ice or snow.
- Fill up your gas tank BEFORE you enter the park; there are only a few gas stations inside the park that are extremely more expensive.
- The best time to visit is between March and October.
- Wear proper clothing; check the weather and bring proper gear for that weather.
- Plan your days in advance, this includes hikes and stops; you do not want to be stuck on a hike after the sun sets.
- Write out your plans on paper and give it to someone in case of an emergency.
- Bring plenty of water! It is incredibly easy to become dehydrated very quickly, especially at high altitudes.