Yosemite National Park in California is one of the most majestic, and breathtaking valleys on Earth. It is more than a place to camp and hike; Yosemite is a special place to recharge, to be grateful that you are alive, and are spending time in its valley. There are no words to truly describe the magic of Yosemite, it is a place that you have to breathe in, walk through, and feel its energy.
Ansel Adams, one of Yosemite’s greatest photographers once said, “Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”
I have been to Yosemite twice, and both times were magical experiences. The first time I visited, we entered through the Highway 120, Groveland entrance, since we were road tripping through California. The second time, we came in from the east through Tioga Pass/ Lee Vining, because we were driving in from Nevada.
Both drives into the valley were very lengthy, but absolutely breathtaking. There is not a quick route into Yosemite because it is quite hidden, and I am grateful for that.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The beauty and creation of Yosemite National Park had not been overlooked, and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. With the criterion of: “Yosemite has exceptional natural beauty, including five of the world’s highest waterfalls, a combination of granite domes and walls, deeply incised valleys, three groves of giant sequoia, numerous alpine meadows, lakes and a diversity of life zones.”
Entering the Park
There are five entrances into the park, and each will give you tremendous views of the Yosemite valley. Each entrance has different attractions and view points, but whichever one you choose make sure that you are completely gassed up before entering the park. There are gas stations in the little towns before each entrance.
Please check Yosemite National Park’s website for current road closures before traveling.
The entrance fee into Yosemite National Park is $35 per vehicle (2021 price), and is good for seven days.
Reservation information: Fees & Passes – Yosemite National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
The drives into Yosemite offer some of the best scenic views in this country. The roads are two-lane passes that are cut into the mountains, and are winding. Depending on the time of year you visit, the landscapes can change due to the snow and foliage.
The drives through Yosemite are phenomenal, and will take time so do not rush. There are many views and outlooks with pullouts, and it may seem that you are pulling over every five minutes. Just when you thought you saw the best view yet, a few minutes later a lake or rockface makes an appearance. My advice is to, keep your camera ready, and be nimble to jump in and out of your car.
We had visited Yosemite in August, and the valley was green and lush. Although the river and waterfalls were not as plentiful due to the snow melt, which happens more in the Springtime. California is also in a drought, so depending on when you go the water sources to the rivers and falls may not be as full.
There are several styles of accomodations inside and outside of Yosemite. My advice is to always stay inside a national park, and I have heeded to my own advice in several of them. In my experience the amount of time saved, beats the amount of money you try to save, while staying at an outside location.
Yosemite has a variety of accomodations from camping, glamping, lodges to luxury stays. In the past we had done the Housekeeping Camp, which was great for the time. The concrete and canvas structures were already in place, and we did not have to set up our tent.
For more information and reservations ➡ Housekeeping Camp in Yosemite National Park CA | TravelYosemite.com
Now-a-days, I prefer The Awahnee, which is the luxury hotel on Yosemite’s valley floor. However you stay inside the park, it will be a magnificent visit and adventure- just enjoy!
For Yosemite National Park accommodation information- Lodging – Yosemite National Park (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)
Located near the South Entrance of Yosemite is Mariposa Grove. This is the largest grove of ancient sequoias that are in the park, and is home to over 500 mature giants. During much of the year a free shuttle is required for use between the Mariposa Grove Welcome Plaza, and the Mariposa Grove. Please check on current availability of the park’s shuttle system.
If you are driving in from the Yosemite Valley, the will drive take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The Mariposa Grove Welcoming Center, as well as the Wawona Visitor Center are worth a visit. At Wawona’s center, the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, has horse-drawn wagons and historic buildings of Yosemite’s past. The history center also explains how Yosemite was the inspiration for national parks across America, and throughout the world.
You can also walk through the Wawona Covered Bridge, which is one of only a dozen covered bridges in California. It dates back to 1857, but the bridge was not covered until 1979. The bridge was constructed by a trio of brothers who built the Wawona Hotel, and were from Vermont where covered bridges are very common.
Things to Do
There are many significant places and different ways to view Yosemite. How you experience the park will depend on your fitness level, interest, and time. You could possibly do Yosemite in a day, if you drove from the one end to the other. If you are not mobile, and prefer just a drive through this would be one spectacular ride.
If you plan on staying longer, there many activities to do including hikes and trails of all levels, shuttle tours (check availability), wildlife and bird watching, biking, and horse riding. Some of our favorite things to do were auto touring, hiking, and floating down the Merced River.
For more information, https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/things2do.htm
John Muir described Yosemite National Park the most perfectly, “By far the grandest of all the special temples of nature that I was permitted to see.”
Photo Journal of Yosemite National Park
Your feet will take you where your heart is …– Irish Proverb
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