9 Reasons to Visit Yosemite National Park
Featured destinations: Yosemite
Published 06 June 2017
If you’ve ever googled Yosemite National Park or looked at pictures of it, you’ll know why you should go. Blessed with one of the globe’s most spectacular landscapes, Yosemite is simply stunning. It’s no wonder this World Heritage Site, found in northern California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, welcomed five million visitors in 2016, making it the USA’s third most visited national park after the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. Here are nine reasons why you should go too:
There are waterfalls aplenty
Yosemite National Park has a high number of waterfalls within its boundaries, many of which are strikingly tall or sheer-sided. If you want to see the cascades at their most impressive, come between April and June when the melting snows fill the rivers with water. Notable waterfalls to seek out include Yosemite Falls, the highest in North America at 739m, Ribbon Falls (491m) which has the highest single vertical drop, and Horsetail Fall (pictured), which is famous for its ‘firefall’, when February’s setting sun hits it at just the right angle to illuminate it in bright orange light, like lava.
It’s ideal for walking
If you like walking, you’ll be in your element in Yosemite. The park is criss-crossed by a large network of footpaths and hiking routes, with everything from a 10-minute stroll to multiday wilderness adventures on offer. Particular favourites include the Half Dome, 17 miles of waterfalls and forests that requires the help of cable wires for the final, super steep part, and the much easier hike to Glacier Point, just one mile of flat trails with fabulous views throughout.
You can spot wildlife
Not content with offering breath-taking scenery and world-class hikes, Yosemite is also home to a number of creatures that you can spot while you’re out exploring. Look out for over 90 mammal species, including bears, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats and skinks, plus 17 bat species as well as over 250 varieties of birds, including the California spotted owl.
It’s worth staying the night
Long after the day-trippers have gone home and the sun has sunk behind the mountains, Yosemite’s night skies come to life. With very little light pollution, millions of stars light up the inky darkness and a number of local tour companies offer stargazing tours so that you can learn more about them. So, grab your telescope, look up and look out for meteor showers, comets, plants and constellations little seen in busier parts of the planet.
You can ski
Not a lot of people know that you can ski in Yosemite National Park. Not only that, but the Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, previously known as the Badger Pass Ski Area, is the oldest ski area in California. Open from December to April for both downhill and cross-country skiing, with ski huts available for overnight ski trips, Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area is also one of just three ski areas with lifts found in a US national park. Never skied before? Fear not; lessons are available.
Summer activities abound
In summer all manner of activities are on offer in Yosemite. So if walking doesn’t take your fancy, why not explore the scenery with a rafting, biking or horse-riding trip? No experience is required. For the more adventurous, Yosemite has some of the most exciting rock climbing routes in the world or, if you don’t mind getting wet, you could try white water rafting or kayaking on the Merced River or Tenaya Lake. Or just jump in – wild swimming is permitted almost everywhere.
The views are amazing
I’ve mentioned the scenery already, I know, but it really is that spectacular and by far the number one reason to visit Yosemite. Even if you do nothing more than find a shady spot and look at the view, you can’t fail to see why visitors flock to this park. The most famous of the panoramas is Tunnel View, which gives a sweeping view of Yosemite Valley and Bridalveil Fall perfectly framed by pine trees and cliffs. Better yet, this view isn’t far from the road, so you don’t have to walk far, meaning it’s accessible for everyone.
The park is home to giant sequoia trees
You might not think that Yosemite’s flora would be as interesting as its fauna, but you’d be wrong. While the bears might steal the headlines, the park’s giant sequoia trees, towering elegantly from Mariposa Grove are quite a sight to behold. The most famous was the Tunnel Tree, which stood at 69 metres tall with a 27-metre circumference. A tunnel was cut through its base in 1881, allowing carriages and cars to pass, and later tourists to pose for many a photo. Sadly the tree fell in 1969 at an estimated age of 2,300 years.
Yosemite is a park for all seasons
Yosemite National Park is open all year round, rain or shine, or indeed snow. Come in spring for sunny days filled with wildflowers, summer for water sports and outdoor swimming, autumn for the glorious foliage colours and winter for skiing and snowshoeing. Summer is by far the most popular time to come, as all walking trails are open, while in winter parts of the park can close completely, although it’s delightfully free of crowds. Take your pick!
Visit Yosemite with one of Round the World Experts’ Yosemite National Park holidays.