Yosemite National Park in California's Sierra Nevade Mountains is one of the most breath-taking of America's National Parks and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Four million visitors make their way to the country's third-oldest national park every year and soak up the sights of the skyscraping giant sequoias, the emerald-green Yosemite Valley, the waterfalls and gemstone lakes of the high country's subalpine wilderness. But there are so many amazing sites to visit within the park, and impossible to tick them all off at once, but here is a list of the top things to discover while exploring these beautiful natural wonders.
For stunning views without the effort, Glacier Point is where you can cheat the climb by driving up to the Parking lot and finding the entire Yosemite Valley spread out before you. From Yosemite Falls to Half Dome, as well as the distant peaks that ring Tuolumne Meadows. At the tip of the point is Overhanging Rock, a huge granite slab protruding from the cliff edge like an outstretched tongue, defying gravity and once providing a scenic stage for many handstands, high kicks and other wacky stunts on the rock but unfortunately now the precipice is off-limits.
Yosemite Valley is the main attraction in the park for the majority of visitors, and to enter the valley from the west you pass through the famous Tunnel View entrance. The valley is surrounded by high granite summits such as Half Dome and El Capitan, all within a dense pine forest and the Merced River that flows through the valley. You will also find the big attraction of the Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America and especially in the spring when the water flow is at its peak.
Wawona Basin / Mariposa Grove
In the Wawona Basin you will find the chunky high-rise sequoias of Mariposa Grove, the largest grove of giant sequoias in the park, which is home to approximately 500 mature trees spread over 250 acres. Walking trails wind through the grove and you can discover some of the most iconic trees including the Fallen Monarch, Grizzly Giant and the walk-through California Tunnel Tree which amazingly continues to survive, even though its hearts was hacked out back in 1895.
Stretching nearly 3 miles from Pothole Dome in the west to Lembert Dome in the east, Tuolumn meadow is beautiful, especially at sunset when the light is golden and reflecting upon the sides of distant peaks. Blanketed in snow for most of the year, the meadow explodes into life in summer, when the wildflowers, taking full advantage of the short growing season, fill the grassy expanse with colour.
Yosemite supports more than 400 species of animals, with approximately 40 species are considered endangered species in California. There are 90 different mammal species in the park, and visitors can observe safely the animals behaviors in their natural habitats. If you are lucky you may spot one of the 500 Black Bears that live in Yosemite or maybe a golden eagle, mountain lion, fox or deer.