Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park is one of the United States’ most breathtaking parks, showcasing California’s most magnificent natural wonders. Dozens of dramatic waterfalls, serene meadows, and lengthy hiking trails make almost every corner of this nearly 1,200-square mile park a truly unforgettable destination to California visitors and residents alike. Merging exquisite natural attractions with accommodations and activities for the whole family, Yosemite National Park is a unique oasis that gives the park’s more than 3.5 million visitors per year a chance to get an intimate and personal glimpse California’s rich historical and natural tradition.
Yosemite Park revolves around the bustling Yosemite Valley, the seven mile-long, half mile-wide center of park activities. Formed when large glaciers moved through the area 2 to 3 million years ago, the Yosemite Valley is a large, U-shaped basin that houses many of the park’s most famous sites, like the countless megalithic rock formations dotting the valley’s edges. The glacier that carved the dramatic peaks and valleys of the entire Sierra Nevada mountain range was especially kind to Yosemite Valley, bestowing upon it the natural glory and splendor featured throughout each and every corner of the valley’s astounding views. Half Dome’s signature vertical face, for instance, was probably created as this large, slow-moving glacier deposited tiny amounts of water into the cracks on the front of Half Dome’s once-spherical face. Those bits of water then froze as temperatures dropped, which caused them to increase in volume. This caused the rock to sheet off, carving the attraction’s signature sheer face.
However, Half Dome is not the only natural rock feature that hugs the tips of Yosemite’s cliffs. Yosemite National Park’s lush valley floor is framed on both sides by countless more dramatic vertical walls and granite rock features like El Capitan and Sentinel Rock, creating a spectacular backdrop for the park’s majestic waterfalls like Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls. But in addition to giving visitors spectacular vistas of these waterfalls, the Yosemite valley floor also serves as the starting point for many of the famous paths up the steep valley walls toward both the falls and the rock formations. That, in addition to the incomparable selection of meadows, bike paths, rock climbing, and any other conceivable outdoor activity you might wish to sample, makes Yosemite Valley and indeed the entirety of Yosemite National Park an unforgettably diverse vacation experience. In fact, one should think of the valley floor as merely a home base for the grandeur of Yosemite Park, providing a gateway through which and a starting point from which to explore Yosemite’s countless natural attractions.
Yosemite National Park’s immense size and diverse natural features provide for a large array of attractions and activities for the whole family. From hiking and biking to picnicking and bird-watching, Yosemite Park is full of unforgettable natural activities and has something for every level of outdoorsman, adventurous or not. The park houses an endless collection of native California flora and fauna, which make for an exciting observational adventure in one of the last truly unspoiled pieces of the wondrous California wilderness. Yosemite is home to countless pine trees – mostly of the Ponderosa and Sugar varieties – that are only one remarkable feature of the park’s breathtaking plant life. Because of this abundance of natural splendor, many visitors enjoy simply taking in the spectacular vistas tucked all around the valley and the surrounding areas of Yosemite Park. Countless hiking trails snake up the majestic cliffs to either side of Yosemite Valley, twisting and turning past miles of incredible views and the park’s renowned waterfalls. Short drives bring visitors to spectacular lookouts like Glacier Point and the Tunnel View, which gives the small crowd that usually assembles there (especially at sunset!) an unparalleled view of the heart of Yosemite Park.
Although the valley may be the most bustling area of Yosemite National Park, there are many ways to seek out a more unique experience while visiting. The Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees, located about one hour to the south of the main Yosemite Valley area, is the largest grove of these striking trees in the entire park. These trees are a unique species called sequoiadendron giganteum and are a must-see for any park visitor – the chance to see these trees is a truly rare experience! They easily dominate the landscape with their immense, sturdy trunks and soaring height. Be sure to take a priceless photo standing at the base of one of these gentle giants!