It’s not just the name of Apple’s latest OS X version; it’s a magnificent natural playground for man and wildlife. Welcome to Yosemite, the United States’ first national park.
Cradled in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite covers over 3,000 square kilometres and receives 4 million visitors every year. It’s still easy to see what the pioneers had to go through to get here. The terrain and weather can be harsh and beautiful at the same time. Deer and birds can be often be seen all around this splendid getaway for nature lovers.
WHAT TO SEE
Yosemite Valley has some of the most famous granite faces such as Half Dome (above) and El Capitan. The panorama of the valley from Glacier Point is particularly impressive. One of the valley’s renowned viewpoints is Tunnel View (below). Yosemite is also famous for its waterfalls, such as Lower Yosemite Falls (seasonal) and Bridalveil Falls.
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is the largest of its kind. These ancient trees, including the Grizzly Giant (above) are among the biggest trees in the world.
WHAT TO DO
Take the Grand Tour, which covers the highlights of Yosemite Valley. During the climbing season, go up Half Dome or learn rock climbing.
Other recommendations: Tioga Road for a scenic drive, Tuolomne Meadows and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir for hikes.
For photography enthusiasts, a visit to the Ansel Adams Gallery, run by the photographer’s family, is a must.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodations within the park are limited and should be booked well in advance. Yosemite Lodge offers mid-range rooms and dining facilities. The tents and cabins at Curry Village (below) are ideal for groups looking for a rustic experience. The Ahwahnee Hotel is best for a romantic overnight in a historic building. The Wawona Hotel further out is excellent for some peace and quiet in a cozy heritage setting.
Options outside Yosemite require a good drive out of the park but these may be the best options during peak periods.
HIghways 120 and 140 make for scenic drives coming from the Bay Area.
Free shuttles run in a loop around the park at regular intervals. These are the best options in the high season as parking is limited.
BEFORE YOU GO
- Download the Yosemite Guide, which has updated information on programs, closures and attractions.
- Bring drinking water, especially on hikes.
- Stay away from wildlife. Never leave food inside vehicles to prevent bear attacks.
- Warnings for forest fires are updated at regular intervals.
View more photos of Yosemite in this slideshow.