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 Yosemite National Park
 Main Attractions: Places to Visit and Things to See

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Main Attractions:  Places to Visit and Things to See


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
     
  Yosemite Valley
Mariposa Sequoias
Wawona
Glacier Point
Crane Flat
Tioga Road
Tuolumne Meadows
Hetch Hetchy Valley
Waterfalls
Rock Formations
Giant Sequoias
Vistas
Wildlife
Wildflowers
Museums & History

Lakes and Rivers
Sunset & Sunrise
More

Yosemite
Photography
by
Russ Finley

 
  Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley is world famous for its impressive waterfalls, meadows, cliffs, and unusual rock formations. Yosemite Valley is accessible by car all year.
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Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
The Mariposa Grove is located 36 miles (one hour) south of Yosemite Valley, near the park's South Entrance. The Mariposa Grove is the largest stand of giant sequoias (also known as Sierra redwoods or big trees) in Yosemite. The road to the Mariposa Grove is not plowed in winter and is often closed from sometime in November through March.
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Wawona
Wawona is the home to the historic Wawona Hotel, dating from the late nineteenth century. The Pioneer Yosemite History Center, a collection of historic buildings, is located just over the covered bridge from the hotel. Wawona is accessible by car year-round.
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Glacier Point & Badger Pass
Glacier Point, an overlook with a commanding view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and the High Sierra is located 30 miles (one hour) from Yosemite Valley. The road ends at Glacier Point and it is a short walk to the viewpoint. The road is closed from sometime in November through early May or late June. From mid-December through early April the road is plowed only as far as the Badger Pass ski area and Glacier Point can be reached via skis or snowshoes only. Both downhill and cross-country skiing are available at Badger Pass from mid-December through early April.
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Crane Flat
Crane Flat is a pleasant forest and meadow area located 16 miles (30 minutes) from Yosemite Valley. Nearby are the Tuolumne and Merced Groves of Giant Sequoias, which are only accessible by foot. Crane Flat is accessible by car all year.
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Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows
The Tioga Road (Highway 120 East), is generally open to vehicles from late May or early June through sometime in November. It offers a 39 mile scenic drive between Crane Flat and Tuolumne Meadows through forests and past meadows, lakes, and granite domes. Many turnouts offer broad and beautiful vistas. The self-guiding auto tour booklet, The Yosemite Road Guide, is helpful along this route.

Tuolumne Meadows is a large, open sub-alpine meadow graced by the winding Tuolumne River and surrounded by majestic peaks and domes. From sometime in November through late May or early June, this area is only accessible by cross-country skis or snowshoes.
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Hetch Hetchy Valley
Hetch Hetchy, a lesser known twin to Yosemite Valley (perhaps because its river has been dammed), is home to spectacular scenery and is the starting point for many less-used wilderness trails. Although the road to Hetch Hetchy is open year-round, it may close periodically due to snow in winter and spring.
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Waterfalls
Yosemite is home to countless waterfalls. The best time to see waterfalls in in the spring. Peak runoff typically occurs in May or June, with some waterfalls (including Yosemite Falls) often only a trickle or completely dry by August.The most famous among them are:

  • Yosemite Falls (2,425 ft)
    flows from winter through early to mid-summer. It is usually dry by sometime in August. Look for the ice cone at the base of the upper fall during winter and for roaring peak runoff in May or June. Yosemite Falls, the world's fifth tallest, is actually made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 ft), the middle cascades (675 ft), and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 ft).
  • Bridalveil Fall (620 ft).
    flows all year and is often the first waterfall seen by visitors entering the park. In spring it thunders; during the rest of the year look for its characteristic light, swaying flow. The hike is a few minutes walk.
  • Vernal Fall (317 ft)
    flows all year, though by mid- to late summer it narrows and separates into one, two, or three falls as water flows decrease. It is best seen from Glacier Point or by hiking up alongside it via the Mist Trail.
  • Nevada Fall (594 ft)
    flows all year and is best seen from Glacier Point or by hiking up alongside it. Nevada Fall is located above Vernal Fall in an area known as the "giant staircase."
  • Ribbon Fall (1,612 ft)
    flows during the spring only. It is located just west of El Capitan and is best seen from near the bottom of Bridalveil Fall.
  • Horsetail Fall (1,000 ft)
    flows in the winter and early spring. It is famous for appearing to be on fire when it reflects the orange glow of sunset in mid-February. It falls off of the east side of El Capitan and is best seen from just east of El Capitan.
  • Staircase Falls (1,300 ft)
    flows in spring, cascading down various ledges from near Glacier Point to Curry Village.

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Rock formations & Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley, about 3,000 feet deep and just a mile or two wide, is known for its landmark rock formations. The best place to appreciate this depth is Glacier Point (late May or early June through sometime in November) or at Tunnel View, on the Wawona Road (Highway 41).its deep valleys. Some of the more popular ones are:

  • Half Dome is perhaps the most recognized symbol of Yosemite. Rising over 4,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is one of the most sought-after landmarks in Yosemite. Some people even hike or rock climb to the top! Half Dome can be seen throughout eastern Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point.
  • El Capitan is a favorite for experienced rock climbers. Rising almost 3,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is the largest monolith of granite in the world. El Capitan is opposite Bridalveil Fall and is best seen at the far west end of Yosemite Valley at Bridalveil and El Capitan Meadows.
  • Cathedral Rocks and Spires form the eastern side of the canyon through which Bridalveil Creek flows. Some people think these rocks, just opposite of El Capitan, are even more impressive than El Capitan!
  • The Three Brothers are located just east of El Capitan. It is made up of Eagle Peak (the uppermost "brother"), and Middle and Lower Brothers. It is best viewed from Southside Drive or the Merced Rive just east of El Capitan.
  • Sentinel Rock, like a sentry, overlooks Yosemite Valley, along the opposite side of the Valley From Yosemite Falls.
  • Yosemite Point, prominently just out just east of Yosemite Falls. Those hiking to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall can continue on a half-mile to this spectacular viewpoint.
  • Glacier Point is perhaps the most famous viewpoint in Yosemite. It is most spectacularly seen from Curry Village...though the view from its top of world renowned. Glacier Point is accessible by car, or by hiking up either the Four-Mile or Panorama trails.

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Giant sequoias
Massive and ancient giant sequoias live in three groves in Yosemite National Park. The most easily accessible of these (spring through fall) is the Mariposa Grove near the park's South Entrance, off of the Wawona Road (Highway 41). Two smaller--and less visited--groves are the Tuolumne and Merced Groves near Crane Flat.
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Vistas
There are far more vistas in the park than we could ever list, but here are the top 15:

  • Glacier Point, some would say, is the most spectacular vista anywhere. Most people agree that its views of the high country and breathtaking views of Yosemite Valley, including Half Dome and three waterfalls, are the most spectacular in the park. Washburn Point, just south of Glacier Point has similar views, though the views of Vernal and Nevada Falls are a bit better. The road to Glacier Point is usually open late May to early June through sometime in November, though some people prefer to ski there in the winter.
  • Olmsted Point, along the Tioga Road, looks down on Yosemite Valley from the east--and from a very different angle. Though you might not immediately recognize Half Dome, it is one of the most prominent peaks you can see from Olmsted Point. The Tioga Road open to vehicles from late May or early June through sometime in November.
  • Tunnel View is one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley. From here you can see El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall rising from Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the background. This vista is at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel along the Wawona Road (Highway 41).
  • El Portal View, 2 miles up the Glacier Point/Badger Pass Road from Chinquapin (intersection with the Wawona Road). Look down the Merced River Canyon, below Yosemite Valley, and see the Coast Ranges (if visibility is good).
  • O'Shaugnessy Dam, at the west end of Hetch Hetchy Valley, provides a vista of the Valley's waterfalls, rock formations, and reservoir. The Hetch Hetchy Road is open all year, though it may close for periods during the winter.
  • The Cascades vista, along the El Portal Road (Highway 140), provides a great view of The Cascades waterfall, especially during spring when runoff is high.
  • As it approaches Yosemite Valley, turnouts along the Big Oak Flat Road (Highway 120) near the tunnels provide a great view of El Capitan and Half Dome, along with a glimpse of the Merced River far below.
  • Pothole Dome, at the west end of Tuolumne Meadows, along the Tioga Road, affords many visitor's first view of Tuolumne Meadows.
  • Similarly, the base of Lembert Dome, at the east end of Tuolumne Meadows, provides another great view of Tuolumne Meadows.
  • Yosemite Valley is full of vistas, including:
    • Bridalveil Meadow, which has views of both Bridalveil Fall and El Capitan. Located along one-way Southside Drive, it is best to stop here on your way into Yosemite Valley.
    • El Capitan Meadow, which provides a view straight up El Capitan. Located along one-way Northside Drive, it is best to stop here on your way out of Yosemite Valley.
    • Valley View, which looks up Yosemite Valley from alongside the Merced River. Located along one-way Northside Drive, it is best to stop here on your way out of Yosemite Valley. This popular vista is located just after Bridalveil Fall but immediately before Pohono Bridge.
    • The area around Sentinel Meadow and the Yosemite Chapel is a favorite place to stop to look at Yosemite Falls.
    • Sentinel Bridge is famous for its views of Half Dome and Yosemite Falls.
    • Yosemite Lodge and Lower Yosemite Fall provide a closer view of Yosemite Falls. A short walk takes you right to the bottom.

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Wildlife
Yosemite is home to a variety of animals, though they're not always easy to find. Find a quiet spot during early morning or early evening and you may catch a glimpse of wildlife in action.

  • Bears are hard to find in Yosemite, though you'll most often see them in forests and meadows along roads and trails. They tend to avoid people, so you are not likely to see them in developed areas.
  • Deer are most often seen in Yosemite, especially in meadows early in the morning and in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Coyotes, like bears, are typically shy and avoid people. The most likely spot to see a coyote is trotting through a meadow.
  • Birds are also best seen in meadows, along the Merced or Tuolumne Rivesr, and in forests adjacent to meadows.

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Wildflowers
When wildflowers are blooming it is usually easy to find spectacular variety along the side of the road and in meadows. They typically start blooming in May at the lower elevations, moving up to the higher elevations in June or July.
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Museums, historic buildings, and cemeteries
Yosemite National Park is rich in cultural history. Visit some of these locations and learn about Yosemite's past.

Yosemite Valley

  • The Yosemite Museum, next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, has displays that interpret the cultural history of Yosemite's native Miwok and Paiute people from 1850 to the present. Demonstrations of basket-weaving, beadwork, and/or traditional games are presented. The reconstructed Indian Village of Ahwahnee behind the museum is always open. The art gallery is open in summer and often exhibits pieces from the Yosemite Museum collection.
  • The Nature Center at Happy Isles is a family-oriented nature center that features natural history exhibits (with an emphasis on wildlife), interactive displays, and a bookstore geared to nature-exploring families. Nearby are short trails focusing on the area's four different
    environments: forest, river, talus, and fen.You can also see substantial evidence of the huge 1996 rockfall from the Glacier Point cliff far above the Nature Center. The Center is a short walk from the Happy Isles shuttle bus stop, and is open late May through September.
  • The LeConte Memorial Lodge, Yosemite's first public visitor center and a National Historic Landmark, is operated by the Sierra Club from May through September and features a children's corner, library, and a variety of environmental education and evening programs.
  • The historic Yosemite Cemetery is located across the street and just west of the Yosemite Museum. People buried here include Native Americans, casual park visitors, and people who played important roles in the development of what is now Yosemite National Park. A Guide to the Yosemite Cemetery is available at the Valley Visitor Center.
  • The Ansel Adams Gallery offers work of Ansel Adams, contemporary photographers and other fine artists. In addition, a wide selection of handcrafts, books, gifts, and photography supplies is available. The Gallery, formerly known as Best's Studio, has been operating in the park since 1902.
  • The Ahwahnee, a famous hotel and National Historic Landmark, is popular even for those not staying there. Completed in 1927, It was built in a rustic style with American Indian motif. Historic paintings of Yosemite, stunning stained-glass windows, and woven tapestries grace the walls. The Great Lounge and Dining Room are architectual examples of rustic elegance.

Tuolumne Meadows

  • Parsons Memorial Lodge and Soda Springs is a good place to discover the natural and human history of Tuolumne Meadows and hike to the place where John Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson conceived the idea of establishing Yosemite National Park.This area is an easy 1-mile (30 minute) walk from Lembert Dome parking area or from the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center. (Open late June through early September.)

Wawona & Mariposa Grove

  • Visit the Pioneer Yosemite History Center to see horse-drawn wagons, walk across a covered bridge, and visit historic buildings out of Yosemite's past. A visit to the Center will explain how Yosemite was the inspiration for national parks across America and throughout the world. The Center is always open, and explanatory signs and brochures are available.
  • The diminutive Wawona Cemetery is in a lesser known, tucked-away corner of Wawona. Ask at the Wawona Information Station for location.
  • Mariposa Grove Museum offers giant sequoia displays, books, maps, and information. The museum is accessibly only by foot or by going on the 1-hour tram tour of the Grove. (Open May through September.)

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Lakes & rivers
Very few lakes are easily accessible in Yosemite National Park. Tenaya Lake is one of the easiest to get to (when the Tioga Road is open, late May or early June through sometime in November) and is quite popular for picnicking, swimming, and canoeing. Mirror Lake (in Yosemite Valley) is famous for its reflections of Half Dome when the water level is high enough (in spring). Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, created by damming the Tuolumne River, is another lake that's easy to get to.

Rivers flow through Wawona, Yosemite Valley, and Tuolumne Meadows and numerous seasonal creeks flow in places throughout the park. Take a look at the park map for details.
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Sunset & sunrise
Sunset is a beautiful time in Yosemite. Enjoy the sunset itself or the effects of the alpenglow on rock formations at:

  • Glacier Point, Washburn Point (on the Glacier Point Road just before Glacier Point), or Sentinel Dome.
  • El Portal View (2 miles up the Glacier Point/Badger Pass Road).
  • Olmsted Point (along the Tioga Road).
  • Sentinel Bridge (in Yosemite Valley).
  • Tunnel View (along the Wawona Road).

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Full moon
When the moon is full, Yosemite Valley is bright even during the night. The effect can be particularly interesting when the Valley floor is covered with snow. During summer, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite operates a ranger-led moonlight tour in an open-air tram. Many people enjoy walking around in the bright moonlight or visiting Glacier Point or one of the other overlooks. During the winter, the full-moonlight illuminates the often-snow-covered Valley walls. In spring, you might be lucky enough to see a lunar rainbow as the full moon hits Lower Yosemite or Vernal Falls.
 

Stars
Far from city lights, Yosemite has a dark sky, kept bright by the countless stars visible. Some believe Glacier Point to be the premiere stargazing spot in Yosemite. During summer weekends, amateur astronomers often set up telescopes and share their knowledge.
 

Meadows
Meadows are many things to many people: to some, they are the most diverse parts of Yosemite's ecosystem--nearly all the wildlife living in Yosemite depends in whole or in part on the meadows, to others, meadows are places to view the surrounding landscapes. Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, and Wawona have some of the more popular meadows in the park, but you can find meadows throughout the middle and upper elevations of the park.

Wilderness
In 1984, Congress designated over 95% of Yosemite National Park as Wilderness. According the the 1964 Wilderness Act, Wilderness is "in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain." Yosemite Valley serves as a gateway to wilderness travelers, with the 211-mile John Muir Trail (which ends at Mount Whitney) originating from Happy Isles. There are over 800 miles of wilderness trails in Yosemite National Park.

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Information courtesy of National Park Service.

 

 


 

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