If you are a newcomer to the United States, chances are that you have a list of places that you´d like to visit sometime during your time here. From the metropolitan cities of the east coast to the beaches of Florida, to the unique desert ecosystems of the south-west, there is so much to see in a country as vast and diverse as the United States. If you are looking for a place that offers outstanding scenery, diverse ecosystems, and a unique vibe, then Yosemite National Park is the place for you.
The epic landscape of Yosemite
Yosemite National Park is the nation´s second oldest national park (after Yellowstone) and has inspired thousands of people over the years. John Muir, one of America´s most renowned naturalists, worked tirelessly to protect the region and eventually make it a national park.
Located only a few hours from San Francisco, California, a vibrant, eclectic city with much to see and experience in itself, Yosemite is best known for its massive granite peaks such as Half Dome and “El Capitan.” These massive mountain walls of granite rock make Yosemite one of the most coveted spots for mountain climbers.
But even if you´re not into extreme sports, Yosemite offers attractions from all different levels of hiking trails to drives through high mountain passes, and great eating at the beautiful Yosemite Lodge.
What sets Yosemite apart from other National Parks
A unique aspect of Yosemite is that it encompasses several different types of natural ecosystems. The most visited part of the park is Yosemite Valley, home to the most well-known and appreciated mountains such as Half Dome. These granite cliffs were formed well over ten million years ago when the Sierra Nevada mountains were lifted into existence.
In the northern part of the park, the geography changes and you can find isolated Sequoia forests such as the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias. These massive trees are some of the largest in the world towering well over 100 feet.
Outside of Yosemite Valley, over 90% of the park is designated wilderness area. While the majority of the park is made up of coniferous forests, there are also over 200,000 acres of old growth forest. In the wilderness areas of the park, you have a great chance of finding some of the unique wildlife such as black bears, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and even the hard to spot gray wolf.
While most of the nation´s national parks only offer one type of landscape, Yosemite is unique in that you can experience several different types of environments and ecologies in one park. Even if you don´t enjoy hiking or outdoors activities, the road system throughout the park allows you to experience some of the most iconic views of the park.
At the eastern entrance to the park, a road goes through Tioga Pass, which is a 10,000-foot mountain pass. You can also take a quick drive up to Glacier Point which offers fantastic views of the Yosemite Valley and the surrounding mountains.
A few things not to miss
With so much to do in Yosemite, it can be hard to choose what to see during your time there. If you only have a few days, take the time to visit Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in the United States. If you can endure the semi-strenuous hike, there is a trail that will take you to the top. But even for people who aren´t avid hikers, there is a simple, paved trail that will take you to the Lower Falls.
You should also make it a priority to visit one of the groves of the giant Sequoia forests, such as the Mariposa Grove. The experience of walking amongst these giant trees offers a sense of solace that puts your life into greater perspective.
If you are looking for a place to relax and enjoy Yosemite´s fantastic weather, the Merced River is a slow, tranquil river that meanders throughout the valley. It offers several great spots for a picnic or bathing, and if you stay until the evening hours, you have a good chance of seeing some wildlife coming down to the river for a drink.
When to visit Yosemite
Yosemite National Park is unique in each and every season. While the summer time will bring the most visitors, you can visit virtually any time of the year, though in winter time much of the park is inaccessible because of snow.