A place where Giant Sequoia trees meet lush meadows and rugged mountains, Yosemite National Park is one of California's most stunning sites. There are approximately 1,200 square miles of untouched wilderness within the park, and the land supports a diverse ecosystem that is home to more than 400 species of animals. From black bears to bobcats and lizards, there is almost always something to see while traveling through Yosemite. But it is not just the array of wildlife that brings in well over 4 million visitors each year; the major draw of this national park is its trees, some of which are more than 3,000 years old.
In 1902, the Yosemite Valley Railroad was constructed, and this standard-gauge railway made it easier for passengers to get through the surrounding counties in California and to the park boundary. Though this route closed in 1945, the novelty of traveling by train to Yosemite is one that remains today, thanks to Amtrak's trains. Because building railroads through national parks is not permitted, visitors take a motorcoach or mini-bus from the boundary to Yosemite Valley, the place where the adventure begins. While visiting the nation's second national park, the sites and activities are as bountiful as the blue skies and mountain views. Here are some of the most popular:
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
No trip to Yosemite is complete without seeing some of the earth's oldest - and tallest - trees. Reaching hundreds of feet into the air, the Sequoias are truly iconic. Two of the most well-known trees within the grove are the California Tunnel Tree and the Giant Grizzly.
Yosemite National Park is home to the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls. This massive waterfall flows from over 2,400 feet and produces approximately 2,400 gallons/second. Further, there are three drops in Yosemite Falls, making it a beautiful sight. Visiting the falls in the spring just after the snow melts is highly recommended.
Look out over Yosemite Valley, High Sierra and Half Dome from this point within Yosemite National Park. The lookout is easily accessible for all visitors, as it is set just a stone's throw from the parking lot. Sunrise and sunset tours make for particularly breathtaking displays. Further, the park also offers stargazer tours, for astronomy lovers.
Follow along the Tuolumne River, and pass through the valley and miles of meadows that make up this region. Tuolumne Meadows is a popular location for hiking, animal spotting and mountain viewing, amongst other activities. Further, there is a campground within the meadow, which allows visitors to take in the scenic beauty at all hours.
One of the oldest man-made sites within Yosemite, Wawona is home to several historic sites. Of course, one of the most well-known is the Wawona Hotel, though there is also a history center for further information about the park and the area. Those that enjoy exploring historic buildings have access to quite a few in Wawona, as well. This area is accessible all throughout the year.
Things to Do
From the lush greenery to the brilliant displays of color in the sky, Yosemite is a photographer's paradise. Make use of the park's photo walks to see essential sites at prime photography times.
Set out on your own, or join in with a group for a hike through Yosemite. Various destination hikes are available, and this allows participants to get the most of their time out in the great beyond. Full- and partial-day hikes provide even further options.
Still another way to see the beauty of Yellowstone is on two wheels. With over 12 miles of dedicated bike paths and plenty of bike-friendly roads on which to travel, the park is the perfect place to get some exercise while also sightseeing.