The experience of Yosemite has been inspiring visitors for thousands of years. Long before Europeans explored the area, centuries before the United States decided to preserve the park for public use, native people lived on this land.
In the valleys that the glaciers carved from the mountains, the first people
filled their physical hunger on the rich game to be found here and fed their spiritual hunger with the breath taking wonders of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the scenic bounty of the area.
To enter this wilderness is to reawaken a serenity that has been lost in the modern world. Majestic granite cliffs set under wide expanses of star filled skies draw you into the universe above. Gushing waterfalls roaring down into the powerful rivers and soaring clusters of Giant Sequoia trees focusing your eyes and your spirit on the heavens add to the attractions for visitors to Yosemite National Park. A visit to Yosemite is a step back in time.
One of America's first designated national parks, Yosemite spreads across 1,200 square miles in the Sierra Nevada region of eastern California. An extraordinary 95 percent of Yosemite is "designated Wilderness," which means that Congress has protected it from potentially damaging development. Backpackers in the High Sierra may be walking through wilderness that has never been seen by any human being.
An estimated 3.5 million people visit the park each year to hike, backpack in the high country, experience the adventure of climbing El Capitan or just spend some quality time getting back to nature.
The closest regional airport to Yosemite is Fresno-Yosemite International, located about 1.5 hours from the park's South Entrance. Many visitors also fly into San Francisco International, Oakland International or San Jose International airports, all located about four hours from the park's Big Oak Flat Entrance.
Traveling by car, Yosemite National Park is located 195 miles (314 km) from San Francisco, CA; 176 miles (283 km) from Sacramento, CA; and 218 miles (351 km) from Reno, NV.
There are five park entrances: Hetch Hetchy, Big Oak Flat, Arch Rock, and South on the west side, and Tioga Pass on the east side. A vehicle pass, valid for seven days, costs $20; individual passes, also valid for seven days, cost $10. Frequent parkgoers can pick up a Yosemite Pass for $40, which is valid for one year.
Yosemite hotels, lodging and campgrounds
Lodging within Yosemite consists of one grand hotel, the Ahwahnee, located in the heart of the Yosemite Valley. A stop for lunch or a relaxing afternoon here is very highly recommended. Otherwise, Yosemite lodging accommodations range from unheated canvas tents to heated cabins. Campgrounds are located throughout the park in Yosemite Valley, one at Hodgdon Meadow, and one at Wawona. To make a campground reservation, call (800) 436-PARK (7275).
Eating facilities, stores, and lodging are available in Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and El Portal year round; and at Tuolumme Meadows and White Wolf during the summer season. Hikers in the back country are advised to stock up with plenty of food and supplies before heading out. There are no stores in the wilderness areas and you are not likely to encounter any other people if you run out!
Attractions in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Valley - Although Yosemite National Park spreads across more than 1,000 square miles, most visitors spend time in a small patch called Yosemite Valley. This part of the park, with its waterfalls, meadows and rock formations, is accessible by car year-round.
Mariposa Grove - The largest collection of Giant Sequoias in the park, Mariposa Grove contains about 500 massive trees, some of which are more than 3,000 years old. The forest is located near Yosemite's South Entrance, about an hour south of Yosemite Valley. A one-hour tram tour of the forest is available during the summertime.
Glacier Point - The best views of Yosemite Valley can be had from Glacier Point, an overlook about 30 miles from the valley.
Crane Flat - Sit back and enjoy the wildlife in this pleasant meadow area, located about 16 miles from Yosemite Valley. It is accessible by car year-round.
Yosemite in Pictures - Untraveled Road takes you on a virtual tour of Yosemite Falls and Valley, Tenaya Lake, El Capitan Valley and Merced River with more than 4000 photos capturing the beauty and serenity of this wilderness area.
The Yosemite Guide - This brochure, published several times a year, contains information about trip planning, activities, scheduled events, and hours of operations for different facilities and services.
Travel Yosemite - An informational website from Aramark, the contracted concession agent that provides lodging, dining and services within Yosemite National Park.
Yosemite Conservancy - The website of the Yosemite Association, a nonprofit membership organization that provides opportunities for people to learn about, enjoy and experience Yosemite National Park and the Sierra Nevada.
Indians of the Yosemite - An exceptionally complete history of the native American tribes living in the Yosemite area includes early pre-European dates as well as customs, religous beliefs, foods and other details of life before and after settlers and soldiers came to the land..