Yosemite National Park is an American national treasure that contains approximately 1,169 square miles of unspoiled natural beauty for people to explore because 95% of the park is designated wilderness. The western park entrance is only 12.4 miles from Lee Vining along Tioga Road (Highway 120), which connects with Highway 395, and the road becomes a marvelous scenic drive leading over the Tioga Pass and through Tuolumne Meadows. In 1984 the park was designated as a World Heritage Site and it is famous worldwide for its huge groves of Giant Sequoia trees, its mountainous cliffs such as the famous 3,300-foot tall El Capitan, raging waterfalls, crystal clear streams and lakes for fishing. In 2016 more than five million people visited Yosemite National Park.
During the spring, summer and fall seasons, the most popular activities include touring and sightseeing, bicycling, boating and rafting, fishing, hiking and backpacking. Some of the most spectacular sights are the magnificent waterfalls that rage with thunderous power during April, May, and June each year when the winter’s snowfall is melting in the mountains. Bridalveil Fall is the first large waterfall seen by millions of visitors annually who enter the park through the Wawona Tunnel. Plummeting 2,425 feet into Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America but Ribbon Falls contains the greatest single vertical drop with its water falling 1,612 feet without any interruption. There are also hundreds of smaller waterfalls throughout the park.
During the summer, rafting on the Merced River through Yosemite Valley can be very exciting. You can rent a raft or bring your own raft. The most popular starting point is at Stoneman Bridge near Half Dome Village with an exit at the Sentinel Beach picnic area. Kayaking on Tenaya Lake is another popular activity. The park contains more than 12 miles of paved bicycle paths and bike rentals are available. Swimming pools are located in Curry Village and Yosemite Lodge.
During the winter season from mid-December through March, downhill skiing and snowboarding is available at the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area. Skiing equipment, snowboards and snowshoes can be rented at Yosemite Hospitality, which also offers ski lessons, snowboard lessons and snow tubing. People can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing through most areas of the park and backcountry ski huts are open for use. At Half Dome Village there’s a large outdoor ice skating rink with a spectacular view of El Capitan that’s open from mid-November through mid-March.
Although the park’s lakes, streams and reservoirs are open throughout the year, the fishing season really begins near the end of April and continues until mid-November. Almost all of Yosemite National Park is a heaven for hikers and backpackers because there are more than 800 miles of hiking trails through some of the most beautiful scenery in California, ranging in difficulty from easy to grueling. Overnight hiking trips require a wilderness permit that can be obtained in advance from the park’s wilderness permit reservation office. Other activities offered by the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, and Delaware North at Yosemite include photography and art classes, mule and horseback rides, stargazing programs, rock climbing classes, nature walks and guided tours. Park rangers encourage visitors to use the free shuttle bus system that operates all year round in Yosemite Valley because parking spaces can be difficult to find.
Peter Cross is an accomplished creative writer who has produced hundreds of articles for many different clients since 2006 when he retired from his consulting business.