One of America’s most breathtaking national parks, from Yosemite Valley and its spectacularly famous sights to the backcountry High Sierra, visitors will find plenty to see and do from hiking to waterfalls and wildlife watching to stargazing and well beyond in Yosemite National Park.
Watch for Wildlife
Many visitors come to Yosemite hoping to catch a glimpse of its wealth of wildlife. The park is home to a wide range of species, including more than 80 mammals like mountain lion, mule deer, black bear and marmot, along with over 200 bird species such as bald eagles, great gray owls and the endangered peregrine falcon. The black bear is the largest of all the mammals in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and while you might think they’d have black fur, that isn’t necessarily true as it can range from golden blonde and light tan to cinnamon red, dark brown or jet black.
Get Out on the Trails
There are few sights and attractions in the park that you can actually drive to, and vehicles are discouraged here to prevent pollution and traffic. The best way to experience Yosemite is to get out on foot, exploring the over 800 miles of scenic trails. There are everything from short and sweet treks, like the half-mile roundtrip Bridalveil Falls hike that will take you to the 620-foot-tall waterfall, to the more challenging 12.7-mile Ostrander Lake Trail. Two of the best day hikes are arguably the Mist Trail which leads to Vernal Falls – if you hike three miles past the waterfall, you’ll leave the crowds behind and discover Nevada Falls, and the 5-mile Wapama Falls hike which passes a series of falls on the way to the base of Wapama.
Browse the Ansel Adams Gallery
The Ansel Adams Gallery makes a perfect spot to visit in between those outdoor adventures. It displays the work of the internationally-renowned photographer Ansel Adams who spent much of his life capturing the park on film, showcasing Yosemite’s striking beauty in black-and-white. Check out the impressive works, and perhaps buy a print, book or other item as a souvenir. If you’re into photography yourself, the gallery hosts photo tours too.
Raft or Tube the Merced River
If you visit during the warmer months of the year, you won’t want to miss the chance to cool off by rafting the Merced River. There are a number of options, including bringing your own, renting one or joining a guided excursion. Most trips begin at Stoneman Bridge and head three miles to the Sentinel Beach Picnic Area. If you’ve got an inner tube, both Cathedral and Sentinel beaches are good for launching, floating and splashing around in the water.
Due to the lack of light pollution, particularly in the high elevation areas away from the Valley, Yosemite is one of the top spots in the nation for stargazing and watching Perseid meteor showers. If you’re really into the stars, plan to stay at Tenaya Lodge. The property offers packages that include accommodation and guided stargazing.