Just a day’s drive from Los Angeles, Las Vegas or San Francisco, Yosemite is an incredibly accessible national park that can, and definitely should, be incorporated on most California holiday itineraries. Located in the High Sierras the national park is known for its wide open spaces, dramatic granite monuments, spectacular waterfalls, and biological diversity and wilderness areas. Such is the beauty of the park that it inspired John Muir to pave the way for the National Park System.
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The Great Outdoors
Yosemite is, perhaps, the greatest place on earth to experience the Great Outdoors. Whether you like your adventures from the comfort of the car, stopping off at stunning vistas or a multiple day assault on one of the most challenging climbing routes on Earth – El Capitan – there’s something here for you. Trekking trails are clearly marked across the park and through the whole of Yosemite Valley with regular mileage markers which direct you to the nearest viewpoints.
Giant Sequoias and Mariposa Grove
Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most spectacular natural attractions in North America, this is typified by the awesome Mariposa Grove which is home to numerous Giant Sequoias and one of the world’s largest living things – the Grizzly Giant. As well as offering numerous excellent photo opportunities these trees will fill you with a sense of wonder as you walk around the gigantic trunks and past the uprooted bases along a well thought out boardwalk and hiking trail. You can even walk through the centre of one of these giants at the California Tunnel Tree.
A ski area during the winter, the mammoth lakes are a collection of crystal clear lakes in the North Eastern corner of Yosemite National Park surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks. The area is, as many places in Yosemite, perfect for hiking and kayaking and getting completely re-acquainted with nature away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
The jewel in Yosemite’s beautiful crown is undoubtedly the Valley. The best view through the valley is undoubtedly from Tunnel view. This popular stop looks directly down the valley, carpeted with pine trees, past the imposing rockface of El Capitan, which sits opposite Bridalveil falls and onto sentinel rock, half dome and clouds rest.
You certainly aren’t short of waterfalls in Yosemite. The highest fall in the park, Yosemite falls, tumbles an epic 2,435 feet and is a major attraction in the park. The best time to view the falls is in late spring when the flow of water reaches its peak. Vernal Fall, on the Merced River, which is downstream from Nevada fall and accessible via a gentle walking trail from Yosemite Valley. The most accessible fall is Bridalveil fall, this often windswept fall is the first port of call for those touring the valley. Finally, if you are lucky enough to be in the park in February during the right conditions you can see Horsetail Fall, illuminated by the setting sun it looks like fire is flowing down the rockface, emulating the manmande firefall that used to occur here.
This high alpine meadowland sits at roughly 2,500 metres above sea level towards the North Eastern Corner of Yosemite National Park on the way to (or from) the Tioga Pass. This area is awash with great hiking trails for all abilities and surrounded by high peaks of the Sierra Nevada which make for a stunning backdrop. The area is covered in snow from late September/early August until late May/June so the best time to visit is in late July to August when, if you’re lucky, you will be able to see blooming wildflowers.
One of the best known viewpoints in the park, Glacier Point is one of the best places to appreciate the epic proportions of Yosemite. Looking back through the valley you can see Tenaya Canyon, Half Dome, Vernal and Nevada Fall from a point which is on the edge of an almost-sheer 1,000 metre drop down to the Valley floor. Nearby Sentinel Dome has just as spectacular views and is much quieter and less built up than Glacier Point.
On the North side of the Yosemite Valley is an unmissable vertical monolithic face of granite. Famous in the climbing world, and attempted by only the most competent of climbers, El Capitan is a spectacular place to be completely awed and humbled and watch these intrepid adventurers make their ascent.
More About California
Currency: US Dollar
Vaccinations: Extra vaccinations are not required.
Main Airports: Los Angeles International Airport, also known as LAX, and San Francisco International Airport.
Visas: British Citizens require an ESTA, which you can apply for online.