On a summer’s day, as many as 14,000 travelers congregate in the mile-wide, seven-mile-long valley, strolling along the boardwalks over the meadows, rafting down the Merced River and biking on the paved paths. Yosemite National Park is consistently one of the top five most visited parks in the National Park Service system and without a doubt can get crowded, especially on those busy summer days. But in spite of all of the other adventurers exploring the area, it’s well worth a visit to Yosemite Valley in California’s Yosemite National Park for an
amazing experience. The Ahwahnee Hotel alone delivers luxury and rustic charm, even to visitors who only stroll its hallways and grounds. The views of the famous granite monoliths called Half Dome and El Capitan are unmatched from the valley floor, and visitors savvy enough to explore the park in mid-week during the shoulder seasons will likely find Yosemite Valley to be transcendent.
Of course, Yosemite Valley delivers but a sliver of Yosemite National Park’s abundant charms. The park, after all, is comprised of 747,956 acres, a stunning array of scenic wild beauty about which renowned naturalist John Muir said, “No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite.” And Muir said of Yosemite’s famous high country, “Up there lies a new heaven and a new earth.”Visitors need not be gung-ho hikers to explore the 800 miles of trails that wend through the park, nor must they be avid anglers to pursue the rainbow and brown trout that swim in the miles of streams and hundreds of lakes within park boundaries. If, however, visitors happen to be these things …
Every tourist who visits Yosemite will quickly become an enthusiastic photographer. The park is, of course, where Ansel Adams crafted his most famous work, and visitors who remember to bring extrabatteries and memory chips can attempt to replicate some of the legendary photographer’s most iconic images.
Travelers with a “try-anything-once” mentality may want to take a rock-climbing class, since Yosemite is the most famous climbing area in the world, the location where the sport’s biggest stars inevitably test their skills against the countless boulders and sky-scraping granite walls. Of course, classes introduce novices to the basics before the newbies even leave terra firma.
With 13 campgrounds and a nearly unlimited number of places to pitch a backcountry tent, Yosemite appeals to a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. Since 90 percent of the 3.5 million visitors who enter the park annually explore Yosemite Valley, wise travelers park their vehicles in the day-use parking lot, then tour the valley on a free shuttle bus. Guided two-hour tram tours are available, and active visitors may want to explore the valley on bicycles. No matter their mode of transport, however, travelers should be certain to make time for Yosemite Falls, the highest falls in North America and the fifth highest in the world.
Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-0200, www.nps.gov/yose.