Updated: May 21, 2015

Yosemite National Park

Located in central eastern California, Yosemite was established as a national park in 1890. Carved by glaciers, the park is a natural wonder, filled with soaring granite cliffs, roaring rivers and waterfalls, huge trees like the giant sequoias, lush meadows, and abundant wildlife, including deer and bears. Pictures of Yosemite Valley are famous for the scenic vistas of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan, bringing tourist from around the globe to visit this natural wonder.



Getting to Yosemite

Yosemite is located 195 miles east of San Francisco, in the Sierra mountains - it takes about 4-5 hours to get there with traffic and winding mountain roads. From the Los Angeles area, you are looking at just over 300 miles and about 6 hours driving time. Four roads grant access to the park. From the west, highway 120 leads you into the park (Big Oak Flat Entrance) and continues eastward through Tuolumne Meadows, eventually exiting out Tioga Pass (Tioga Pass entrance) towards Mono Lake. A little further south route 140 follows the Merced River (through the Arch Rock entrance) and takes you directly into Yosemite Valley. At the southern end, highway 41 takes you out to Wawona. Most visitors approach from either the south or west, so 120 and 41 are the main routes into the park. Like all national parks, Yosemite charges an entrance fee. The entrance fee to Yosemite is $20 per vehicle and is valid for 7 days. Alternatively, if you visit a lot of national parks, look into a $50 Golden Eagle Pass which gives you unlimited access to the park system for 1 year after purchased. Driving through the valley itself is via one-way roads. Halfway into the valley you'll come to a split in the road - right leads you to Curry Village, left takes you to the park headquarters, Yosemite Village, Ahwahnee Hotel, etc. which sits by itself at the end of the road to the east. You have to backtrack west to get to Yosemite Lodge.

Yosemite Vacation Planning - Yosemite Weather and Temperatures - Yosemite Maps

Yosemite is popular year round, but the bulk of tourist come during the summer months. Winter months are cold and snow often blankets the valley. Average summer temperatures in the valley are in the mid 80's, with lows in the 50s. Thunder showers are common in the late afternoon in the summer months. During the fall, average temps fall to 55/35, and in the winter 52/28. The higher country near Tuolumne meadows is even colder and less hospitable in winter months, with Tioga Road and Pass closed due to the large volume of snow that falls there after November. The road to Glacier Point is also normally closed in the winter, while access to the Badger Pass ski area is plowed during the winter months. Spring time is a popular time to visit, when runoff from melting snow powers the waterfalls that dump into Yosemite Valley.

A full map of Yosemite Park is available from the National Park Service here. For a map of Yosemite Valley, click here. Both maps are in PDF format. If you want to use an online mapping site to view your own map, use their zip code (95389) as the address for your map.

Yosemite National Park Lodging - Yosemite Hotels

If you are looking to stay in a hotel in Yosemite, there is only one - the Ahwahnee Lodge. There are both camping and cabin style accomodations available in Yosemite Valley. You can book and reserve Yosemite lodging online at YosemitePark.com. It is run by DNC Parks, the official concessionaire of Yosemite. Built in 1927, the Ahwahnee lodge is a masterpiece in location and construction - it reminds one of a scene from the Lord of the Rings in is dramatic look and setting. Rooms here are fairly small, but the lodge is luxuriously appointed, and expensive. It has 123 rooms and cottages which are often booked well in advance - book early for your vacation. The Great Lounge is a must see, with its complimentary afternoon tea and cookies and its roaring fires on cool evenings. How much does it cost to stay at the Ahwahnee? Standard rooms are $394 as of the 2006/2007 season. The Yosemite Lodge is another hotel/motel lodging option in the park, located near Yosemite Falls. They offer Wi-Fi access for guests at a cost of $9.95 per day. They have 226 lodge rooms (no A/C) that run about $170 during the main season, and $120 in the off season. Curry Village is a more rustic option, containing tent cabins for the adventurous type. How rustic are these tent cabins? Each one is assigned its own bear locker, where you can store food items and other smelly things like shampoo, toothpaste, etc. This has a reputation as a large, noisy, sometimes rowdy camp setting, and with over 600 cabins, you can see why. The tent cabins run about $75 per night, while the actual cabins are $90-$100.

You can also camp in Yosemite. There are 13 campgrounds, half of which take reservations. The car camping site in the valley require a reservation year round, same with half of Tuolumne Meadows campground. Summer months even the first come first served sites are booked up quickly, so planning ahead is essential -- arriving mid-week gives you a much better chance of getting a camp site if you don't have a reservation. You can reserve Yosemite camp sites online at: http://reservations.nps.gov/. There is a 2 vehicle and 6 person limit per campsite, with proper bear storage required.

Yosemite Hiking and Sight Seeing - What to Do

Yosemite Valley is great for hiking, walking along meadows and streams, biking, climbing, horse back riding, fishing, and even rafting in the summer. Some popular hikes include the Lower Yosemite Falls trail which is paved and easy enough for children. It takes you to the base of the lower falls. A more strenuous hike is the Upper Falls trail, which is a strenuous uphill hike that takes you to the top of the valley cliffs. Do not play in or around the river, as people slip in and are carried 1000 feet down over the falls each year, and yes, they die. Other waterfalls include Vernal Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Nevada Fall, Ribbon Fall, and Horsetail Falls. Views from the Valley floor abound, letting you soak in the famous granite faces of El Capitan and Half Dome. A drive to Glacier Point will reward you with a birds eye view from the cliffs above the south side of the valley, while a drive out to the Mariposa Grove will inspire you as you walk among the trunks of 2000 year old giant sequoia trees. Tuoloumne Meadows give you access to high alpine meadows surround by rocky peaks. The Tuolumne River runs right by the campground, while the road out to Tioga Pass is very scenic. If you want to see what almost happened to Yosemite, take a detour out to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. This big body of water used to be a magnificent valley just like Yosemite until it was dammed, and it now serves as the water source for almost 2 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area.