Yosmite National Park is just 165 miles from San Francisco, lies one of America’s greatest treasures. Yosemite National Park sits on the western slopes of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. It also occupies a special place in the nation’s soul.
Yosemite’s story began as the last ice age ended, when the glaciers of the region’s high country scoured. And sculptured the valley below. Overseen by the National Park Service and covering almost 1200 square miles. Yosemite takes in five vegetation zones, from oak and chaparral forests, to inadequate elevated high nation.
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Of the 4,000,000 guests who come every year, most invest their time in Yosemite Valley, which is open all the year. At only 8 miles long and 1 mile wide. This valley packs in more jaw-dropping scenery than just about any other place on Earth.
As you enter the Yosemite Valley ring road from the west, it’s worth taking a short detour to Tunnel View and stand before a sweeping panorama that’s reduced generations of visitors to silence, and many to tears. To the right, there’s the ethereal mist of Bridalveil Fall, to the left, the sheer granite face of El Capitan, while in the background, the rising majesty of Half Dome beckons you deeper into the valley. From Tunnel View it’s just a short drive, and then an easy walk to the base of Bridalveil Fall. The fall reaches it’s peak in May, yet possess a magic all year round. If you’re looking for love, breathe deeply; the park’s original custodians, the Ahwahneechee, believe that inhaling the fall’s mists increases your chances of marriage.
The park’s ring road follows the banks of the Merced River, a national wild and scenic waterway, which shifts in character as it thunders and tumbles from the valley walls, before gently winding across the valley floor. Here, the river is lined with pine forests, rich meadows, and beaches. These are the places to pause, and let the park’s spirit wash over you.
These are the spots which roused President Teddy Roosevelt to state, “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”.
The Yosemite Valley ring street is spotted with trail takes that lead off into 800 miles of climbing trails. First cut almost 150 years ago, The Four Mile Trail climbs the valley’s southern wall to two of the park’s great outlooks. At Glacier Point, look down into the whole valley, and away into the faraway high country.
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A little further along, whatever breath you have left will be taken away by the views at Wash burn Point.In case you’re in a rush, you can likewise get to these viewpoints via car or visit transport by means of Glacier Point Road, which is open among May and November. Further along the ring road is the trailheadfor another of Yosemite’s signature hikes, The Mist Trail. This five-hour hike is for moderate to experience hikers, but repays every step with even more stunning vistas, and the spectacle of Vernal and Nevada Falls.
From March to October the park gets busy, so consider leaving your car at the village and exploring the valley on the free shuttle service. Or, enjoy the valley views from two wheels! Follow the twelve-miles of bike paths, which loops along the river and crosses dreamy meadows filled with wildflowers, taking in the valley’s star attractions along the way.
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The Mist Trail links up with the John Muir Trail, named after the grandfather of America’s National Park System. In his 1912 book, The Yosemite, the naturalist wrote, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike”. It was writings like this, which helped seed Yosemite into the consciousness of a nation. And led to its designation as one of America’s first national parks.
After crossing the river at the valley’s eastern end, the ring road turns west, towards Yosemite Village. At the Museum, explore the culture of the valley’s First Peoples. Then, at the Visitor Center, learn about the miners, ranchers, artists and entrepreneurs who followed. And don’t miss the Ansel Adams Gallery, dedicated to the photographer who’s timeless black and white images have inspired millions to see Yosemite for themselves.
For a huge number of years, the Ahwahneechee had towns all through this ripe valley floor, yet it was here at the base of Yosemite Falls, where their big boss lived in. The falls flow in three sections, which you can see in their entirety from vantage points all over the park. But nothing compares to taking the one-hour hike to feel the full force of the lower falls. Or spending the day climbing all the way to the upper falls.
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When it comes to climbing, El Capitan, a 3000-foot high granite monolith. It has become a rite of passage for climbers from all over the world. The first ascent, in 1958, took 47 days. From the comfort of El Capitan Meadow, sit back and watch modern climbers. Who have reduced that same climb to a couple of days, or sometimes, to a just few hours. As the ring road winds back towards the park entrance, stop at Valley View, for one long look back.
But there’s no need to feel heavy-hearted, because there’s so much more of Yosemite to discover, just up the road. To the north of Yosemite Valley, climbs one of the USA’s most scenic highways. Tioga Road is obstructed among October and May, however as the snow clears, the street reappears. Ascending into the tough Sierra Nevada high country. Pull over, and fill your lungs with cool alpine air at Olmsted Point.
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Refresh yourself by the pure waters of Tenaya Lake, named in honor of Yosemite’s last great chieftain. At that point follow the street further to Tuolumne Meadow, the conventional summer chasing grounds of the Ahwahneechee. Today, this sub-alpine meadow is the perfect place to stock up on serenity. Or to pick up one of the many trails that lead to further alpine adventures. One of the briefest, yet most remunerating trails prompts Lembert Dome, named after one of the parks soonest pilgrims.