The Best Sightseeing Opportunities in Yosemite National Park

by on December 8, 2011

Yosemite National Park

A view from the valley floor of Yosemite. Photo by Sebastian Bergmann, filed under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0

Find Unmatched Scenic Sightseeing in Yosemite

snow at Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park after snowfall. Photo by Fovea Centralis on flickr, filed under Creative Commons No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

Yosemite National Park contains some of the greatest sightseeing opportunities available in the United States. Yosemite was a centerpiece and main arguing point for bringing about the National Park Service, and the conservation of the lands all over the country. Well known for its giant granite cliffs, Giant Seqouia groves, and beautiful mountain terrain, Yosemite is very accessible between the months of May-September.

The roads in Yosemite were designed to lead from one gigantic panoramic scene to another. Below, you’ll find some of the most popular park attractions, like the iconic Half Dome, the tranquil Tuolumne Meadows, and the massive Giant Sequoia groves.

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley is the main attraction of Yosemite National Park. Grand views of the valley can be seen from the “tunnel view” scenic pullover. While the park is busy all year when weather permits, it can be especially busy during the summer months, when tourists flock to the park to camp and stay in cabins. From the floor of Yosemite Valley, magnificent views of the surrounding granite cliffs like El Capitan and Half Dome can be seen. At ground level, the valley is comprised of meadows, forests, waterfalls, and the Merced River.

Though only a small percentage of the park lies within the valley, it is the most visited area of the park by far. The valley area can experience heavy traffic in the summer months, and entrance to the park may be limited. If possible, plan your trip during less busy times, and avoid weekends.

The setup of Yosemite’s roads make it easy to see much of the park within a day or two by car. The park is about a 3 hour drive east of San Francisco, and 2 hours from Sacramento, the nearest city. The park is fairly large, and it’s recommended to stay a number of days to enjoy the hiking and sightseeing opportunities. Plan on staying within the park or outside in one of the nearby towns like Mariposa, Fish Camp, Bass Lake, or Ahwahnee.

Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Falls by MiguelVieira, filed under Creative Commons 2.0 Share Alike.

Yosemite Falls

Waterfalls are one of the biggest attractions within the park. Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls are two of the best known. The falls are a height of 1430 feet from the top of the falls to the bottom. The thundering Upper Falls can be heard throughout much of the valley area of the park, and seen from much of the valley as well. Lower Yosemite Falls can be easily accessed near Yosemite Lodge. The falls are most active and loud during the spring months right after snow melt, and can even sometimes flood the valley. During the end of the summer, the falls can dry up almost to nothing. Since this is one of the busiest areas of the park, allow yourself time to see them and anticipate crowds during peak times. There are only so many parking lots here, so planning a short hike or a picnic is a great idea.

Bridalveil Falls

Photo of Bridal Veil Falls of Yosemite by glennwilliamspdx on Flickr, filed under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0

Bridalveil Falls is another watefall easily seen from the valley. The Wawona Tunnel view affords a great view of the falls from high above, but the falls can just as easily be seen close-up. A nearby parking lot to the falls will allow you to walk just a few hundred feet to the base of the crashing falls.

Yosemite Falls upper and lower

Photo by glennwilliamspdx on flickr, filed under Creative Commons 2.0 Share Alike.

From the spectacular Glacier Point view, you can view the Nevada Falls. These falls are very remote, and lead to the Vernal Falls. Both of these are fed by the constantly active Merced River. The Panorama Trail from Glacier Point also includes views of the breathtaking Illilouette Falls.

All of these falls are at their most active in the spring, just after the snow melt. The melt is so continuous, it is large enough to feed the entire Merced River which runs throughout Yosemite National Park.

El Capitan

El Capitan

Glacial actions sculpted the beautiful granite monolith of El Capitan, probably the 2nd most well known peak in Yosemite. El Capitan is a difficult challenge for hikers and climbers, since the peak has a near vertical face. The peak can be accessed along the trail next to Yosemite Falls. It is characterized for its massive appearance which dominates much of the Yosemite Valley skyline, forming part of the enclosure of the valley. The peak looks particularly stunning in the late afternoon, when the sun illuminates the granite face of the monolith in a variety of earth tone hues.
Half Dome Yosemite

Half Dome

Climbing nearly a mile above the Yosemite Valley floor is the famous granite peak of Half Dome. You might recognize it from the California State Quarter, and even as the basis of the logo for the company The North Face. The peak of Half Dome can be scaled via the intense cable hike from the valley floor. Along the way, you’ll be able to view Vernal Falls, and finally from the summit, a spectacular view of the High Sierras.

What appears to be a peak that’s been cut in half is actually an illusion. From many angles, Half Dome appears to be a shear break. However, when viewed from other angles, it becomes clear that Half Dome is intact, and does have a slight slope on the abrupt granite face.

Sentinel Rock

Opposite from Yosemite Falls in Yosemite Valley is Sentinel Rock. The rock has several jagged peaks, and can be seen easily from the valley floor of Yosemite.

Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows can be found in the eastern section of Yosemite National Park. After a gradual ascent to the meadow area driving along Tioga Road, you’ll find the beautiful granite and grass filled fields of Tuolumne Meadows. The area contains severeal winding streams with high peaks in the background, with large expanses of wide open grass. The granite can be seen peaking up all over the meadow and makes for one of the best photographic opportunities within the park.

Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows photo by Bala, filed under Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0

Because of the high elevation, the meadows remain cool all year long, even in the summer, so bring warmer clothing to this area.

Mariposa Grove

Mariposa Grove lies to the south of most of the attractions of Yosemite National Park. The grove has some of the largest and oldest trees in the world, all of which are Giant Sequoias. The most famous Giant Sequoia in the park is Grizzly Giant, the 25th largest tree in the world. It’s hard to describe the enormity of these trees unless standing right next to one. Many of the tree trunks are a couple of car lengths in diameter!

Dana Meadows

At the eastern entrance of Yosemite National Park lies Dana Meadows. This area is close to Tuolumne Meadows and the Tioga Pass entrance to the park. It can be seen from Tioga Road, and one of the park’s largest peaks, Mammoth Peak, is nearby. You can see an incredible shot of Mammoth Peak and Dana Meadows here, which shows how the snow remains in the park even in July.

The Giant Sequoias also have a unique trait of being resistant to decay. Many felled trees look much like they did standing, even ones that have been on the ground for hundreds of years.

Dana Meadows

At the eastern entrance of Yosemite National Park lies Dana Meadows. This area is close to Tuolumne Meadows and the Tioga Pass entrance to the park. It can be seen from Tioga Road, and one of the park’s largest peaks, Mammoth Peak, is nearby. You can see an incredible shot of Mammoth Peak and Dana Meadows here, which shows how the snow remains in the park even in July.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: