"Yosemite is Perhaps the Prettiest Park in the USA" Top 5 Page for this destination Yosemite National Park by atufft

Yosemite National Park Travel Guide: 1,520 reviews and 3,525 photos

Yosemite Valley is a remarkable place

First, Yosemite is pronounced Yo-sem-e-tee*, not Yohz-might* or any of a number of other silly misprounciations I've heard tourists use. The Yosemite Valley, the 7 sq. mile area most heavily trampled by tourists is at an elevation of only 4,000 ft, which means it will have a modest amount of snow in winter, and relatively warm and sunny summer days. This is the oldest Federally established national park in the United States, created by President Theodore Roosevelt who had been inspired by John Muir and others in the Sierra Club. The valley beauty speaks for itself though, as it is a remarkable glacier carved valley, where the valley walls average about 2,000 feet of essentially vertical and solid granite, and where the number of world-class waterfalls are many. There are numerous superlatives heaped on Yosemite Valley features--the highest falls in North America (Yosemite Falls), the largest single piece of granite in the world (El Capitan), and so on--but, the main reason to visit the park is it's sheer beauty and range of activities. This park is extremely popular though and accommodations difficult, so plan ahead. Options that include day trips to the park or staying outside the valley are not recommended as there is so much to do here.

Alpine Region of Yosemite

Most of the 1,189 square miles (3,081 km²) of Yosemite are visited by a hard few willing to hike. Indeed, backpackers will not want to stay long in Yosemite Valley, which is crowded and has a sort of theme park atmosphere to it. Rather, most backpackers head for the alpine region of Tuolumne Meadows, where there are excellent base camp facilities and a large number of trail heads. I have hiked out of Tuolumne Meadows many times since I was very young kid and have hiked on many trails. In the last couple of years, I have preferred hiking to Young Lakes because its slightly less glamous peaks and water reduces the backpacker traffic somewhat. Also, in one day, I can hike back to the top lake and appreciate true alpine solitude with a tourqouise colored lake. There are hundreds of trail options though, and those coming from abroad should consider carefully which trail to take at the time they check in at the ranger station. Fancy gear is not strictly necessary however, as the trails are well maintained and easy to keep a good footing. An inexpensive backpack and decent sport shoes will be sufficient for most hiking in Yosemite, but bear in mind that camp fires are no longer permited in the alpine regions, for air and water pollution reasons. Gathering dead wood to burn and leaving behind a campfire ring is illegal and a sure sign of a backpacker who is not GREEN. So, a light-weight propane burner is needed as part of the equipment. See my tips on good backpacking...

Yosemite Valley has all the bells and whistles...

In the past, Yosemite had a nightly fall of fire tossed off the edge of Glacier Point, while at Camp Curry a Miwok Indian song was sung. Also, there once was a small golf course behind the Awahnee Hotel, for those who could afford to stay there. At the Maripose Grove of Sequoias, the family drove the car along the roads and through the tunnel tree. Traditionally, my family would spend a week or so in one of the campgrounds along the Merced River, and I can recall a horrific night once as a child, lost in the dark wandering for hours among the many dimly light campsites in search of the family campsite. At that time, campgrounds were numbered, but now the number of campgrounds have been reduced and given meaningful names. Yosemite Valley is such a busy place that the arcade like perks have been eliminated in favor of many educational programs oriented to all ages. Maripose Grove can only be visited by foot or on the special tram, and the tunnel tree has since fallen over. I recommend checking out my tips for various activies that help one learn about the wonders of Yosemite.


Just back from a day trip of watching spectacular falls in Yosemite Valley. This is a fantastic year to visit for the volume of water flowing over the cliffs into the valley. Prepare yourself for a very crowded visit though, as Californians have taken notice of the rain and are likely to join you. See my new tips and images. Compare this late summer image of Yosemite Falls with the one just posted, for example.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Yosemite has some of the most dramatic landscapes in the nation
  • Cons:Expect to face crowds of tourists in Yosemite Valley
  • In a nutshell:Take the backpage and hit the trail
  • Last visit to Yosemite National Park: Jul 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (63)

Comments (24)

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Apr 7, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    One of these days I do really need to get to Yosemite.

    • glabah's Profile Photo
      Apr 7, 2013 at 9:18 PM

      I've been trying to avoid these types of places in summer due to the crowds.

    • atufft's Profile Photo
      Apr 7, 2013 at 10:59 PM

      Yosemite is always crowded, winter or summer, and "these types of places"? There is no place like Yosemite Valley, except for Hetch Hetchy Valley, and that was flooded to provide fresh water for San Francisco. I recommend a trip in early spring when the falls, many of them dependent on snow melt draining off granite slopes, are in full force. Three nights at $200- p/night for two at Yosemite Lodge, can give you 4 full days to explore. Bring boxes of breakfast cereal and provision for making coffee, then expect to fork out megabucks for mediocre food at the cafeteria or restaurants. Or, you can try to get a campsite...

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Apr 28, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    Lots of good information here, and I like the updated photos with spring water runoff.

  • riorich55's Profile Photo
    Apr 26, 2011 at 10:23 PM

    My wife and I saw Yosemite for the first time last October. A truly wonderful area. Would love to see it again during another season.

  • Jenniflower's Profile Photo
    Jun 16, 2009 at 8:17 AM

    Superb photos and very informative!!! We will be in Yosemite in August and cannot wait :) We are staying at Yosemite Lodge.

  • mircaskirca's Profile Photo
    Feb 25, 2009 at 11:00 PM

    Stunning landscapes of mountains, forests, waterfalls and lovely meadows! Hope to visit Yosemite NP some day. Excellent descriptions Alan!

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    Aug 15, 2008 at 10:32 AM

    Yosemite backcountry is magnificent. But the Sierra further south is pretty darned beautiful up high, too.

  • RafaelTheSecond's Profile Photo
    May 22, 2008 at 9:29 PM

    Unbelieveble beauty in this park, I do love the nature attrac tions of USA!

  • omidamini's Profile Photo
    May 19, 2008 at 5:30 AM

    Thanks for wonderful Yosemite National Park Page.

  • Tourtech's Profile Photo
    Jan 30, 2008 at 6:01 PM

    Happy birthday and safe travels from traveling Canadians!

  • DPando's Profile Photo
    Jan 22, 2008 at 12:22 PM

    great memories brings back to me !! waiting to build mine . such a great page


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