Without a doubt, Yosemite is one of California’s landform crown jewels belonging to the nation. Covering 1,500 square miles, no visit is long enough to see it all, yet no visit is too brief to marvel at the scenic splendors it contains.
Our National Heritage
In 2015, commemorations mark 125 years since Yosemite was designated as the nation’s third national park, celebrating the natural beauty of the “gorge in the peak of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.” Originally granted to California by an Act of Congress signed by President Abraham Lincoln, the vision of our forefathers ensured preservation for future generations’ enjoyment.
Awestruck by 3,000-foot-high cliffs of solid granite carved out by ages of glaciers, Yosemite must have cast its spell all the way to the nation’s capital. Never before had the government put land aside to be protected for everyone’s use. That moment in 1864, inspired by the beauty of this place, is recognized as the very beginning of the innovative concept of a national park.
Vast high-elevation meadows, deep valleys cut by wild, scenic, ancient rivers, tall and tumbling waterfalls, dramatic cliffs, Giant Sequoias, wildlife in their natural habitat, majestic mountains under expansive skies are the signature of Yosemite. Throughout the seasons, any time of year brings its own flourishes to that page.
Yosemite is open 24 hour a day, 365 days a year. In winter, some higher elevation roads and hiking trails will close for the season, but others remain open for skiers and snowshoe hikers. Yosemite Valley and Wawona remain open all year. When snow melts, poppies bloom in the meadows. California’s state flower appears alongside other early wildflowers, water rushes under the pretty covered bridge and waterfalls are at their showiest in late May. Warm days and extended daylight hours in summer appeal to hikers and campers, and for this period only, Glacier Point is accessible even without snowshoes. Into autumn months, conditions are ideal for hiking to the groves of Giant Sequoias, seeing more of the park...and fewer people in it.
No cell phone coverage, perhaps, but the bears don’t mind. Almost 95 percent of Yosemite is Congressionally-designated wilderness, which earns collective admiration and requires our personal respect. The U.S. National Park Service explains that the correct way to go rock climbing, backpacking and horseback riding is to study the rules and safety regulations carefully. Tips for “leave no trace” behind conservation, food storage, trailhead maps, camping, fires, fishing, weather conditions and even handling a bear sighting is all critical information for those exploring the wilderness -- always with a permit. You’re guaranteed solitude, peace and quiet in return.
Did You Know?
- Yosemite’s Tuolumne Meadows is 942 miles from Mexico and 1,714 miles from Canada.
- With a 2,425-foot drop, Yosemite Falls is North America’s tallest waterfall. In years with light snowfall, it can run dry in late summer to early fall.
- For non-camper overnight stays, lodges and hotels accommodate guests, including The Ahwahnee Hotel, a historic property offering views of Half Dome, Glacier Point and Yosemite Falls.
- The iconic profile of Half Dome has been used for a US postage stamp, the California State Quarter, the California drivers license, Apple’s iOS wallpaper image, The North Face apparel company and the Sierra Club, founded by naturalist John Muir, grandfather of the national park system.