HomeBlogs Yosemite National Park In a high-country meadow two hikers crouch near the edge of a mirroring
lake and watch a pika as it harvests blades of grass for a nest deep
within a huge rock pile. When they resume walking, there is no other
person in sight for as far as they can see. And on this sparkling
summer's day, the view seems endless.
In the valley's crowded
mall, families stroll by, eating ice cream, dodging bicycles. People
pile in and out of buses. Shoppers hunt for souvenirs. Kids hang around a
pizza place. Rock climbers, coils of rope slung over their shoulders,
swap stories over beer on a patio. On a summer's day about 14,000 people
are in Yosemite Village.
Both the solitude of the alpine ridge
and the throngs of the valley are part of the experience when you visit
Yosemite National Park. "No temple made with human hands can compare
with Yosemite," wrote John Muir, whose crusading led to the creation of
the park. To this temple come 3.3 million visitors annually. And about
90 percent of them go to the valley, a mile-wide, 7-mile-long canyon cut
by a river, then widened and deepened by glacial action. Walled by
massive domes and soaring pinnacles, it covers about one percent of the
park. In summer, the concentration of autos brings traffic jams and air
Beyond the valley, some 800 miles of marked trails
offer hikers easy jaunts or grueling tests of endurance in the High
Sierra wilderness. Even the casual visitor can explore this solitude
without getting outfitted for a backpack expedition.
roughly the size of Rhode Island, is a United Nations World Heritage
site. Here, in five of the seven continental life zones, live the mule
deer and chipmunks of the valley and the marmots and pikas of the
heights; the brush rabbit and chaparral of the near desert; the dogwood
and warblers of mid-elevation forests; the red fir and Jeffrey pine of
mile-high forests; the dwarf willow and matted flowers of Yosemite's
From Merced (about 70 miles away): Follow Calif.
140 to the Arch Rock Entrance. Merced is one of the gateway communities
for the Yosemite regional bus service (www.yarts.com or 877-989-2787).
Also from the west: Take Calif. 120 to the Big Oak Flat Entrance.
the south, via Fresno: Calif. 41 takes you to the South Entrance. From
the northeast, via Lee Vining: Follow Calif. 120 to the Tioga Pass
Entrance (closed mid-November to late May, depending on weather).
stop at Merced; check with Amtrak about buses to Yosemite. Airports:
Fresno and Merced.
All-year park. Avoid holiday weekends. Expect filled
campgrounds from June through August and some crowding in late spring
and early fall. Be sure you have reserved accommodations before
attempting an overnight visit. You will find skiing and other winter
activities in the Badger Pass Ski Area from about Thanksgiving to
How to Visit
a visitor asked a Yosemite ranger what he would do if he had only a day
to visit the park, the ranger answered, "I'd weep." If you must zip
through this huge park in a day, begin with Yosemite Valley.
even a dawn-to-dusk, one-day visit hardly allows enough time for more
than a tour of the valley plus a look at one or two of the park's other
major areas, such as the vistas from Glacier Point (road closed in
winter beyond the ski area) and the sequoias of the Mariposa Grove.
an alternative take the High Sierra Tioga Road (closed in winter) to
explore the park's alpine country. Better still, stay long enough to get
beyond the crowds and discover the sense of seclusion this great park
can give you along one of its trails.