Quite possibly it is because of the 840 miles of scenic trails, the largest granite monolith in the world (El Capitan), or maybe to gander at the tallest and oldest trees on the planet.
Yosemite National Park is approximately the size of the state of Rhode Island, attracting over 3 million visitors a year. It has the highest waterfall in all of North America, Yosemite Falls, at 2425 feet.
The Indian tribe the Ahwahneechees called the valley “Ahwahnee,” which means, “the place of the gaping mouth.” According to tribal language, “Yosemite” was the word used to describe threatening people and translates into “among them are killers.”
Abraham Lincoln signed legislation (the Yosemite Grant) to conserve the park on June 30, 1864. It was the first park set aside by the U.S. government for preservation and protection.
Yosemite is open 365 days a year. A $20 entrance fee (per car) provides 7 consecutive days of visitation. If you arrive on foot, motorcycle, bicycle, or horseback, the entrance fee is $10 per person with the same 7 days of visitation. Active military is admitted free of charge. Entrance fees are scheduled to be waived on six days during 2015.
September is the driest season at Yosemite which usually means those waterfalls are nonexistent or reduced to a trickle. Late spring is the best time of year to visit Yosemite if you’re chasing waterfalls. Waterfalls in Yosemite Valley are the result of snowmelt in the spring at higher elevations.
Access to Yosemite’s high country (Tioga Pass in East Yosemite and Glacier Point in South Yosemite) is often limited in spring depending on the amount of winter snowfall. For a very brief period, Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite’s high country is a wonderland of wildflowers following the spring thaw.
There is five distinct area inside Yosemite National Park, each offers something unique. Giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove, the high country of Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows to Glacier Point. All offer views of one or more of Yosemite’s iconic domes. Glacier Point offers an eagle’s eye view of Yosemite Valley.
Hiking, well duh-
But there is also fishing, swimming, rafting, horseback riding, picnics, and star gazing.
Getting to El Capitan from Tamarack Flat is 17 miles round trip to the summit. From the Big Oak Flat Road, it’s 9.7 miles to the trailhead and 5.6 miles from the top of Upper Yosemite Falls Trail (9.2 miles from the Valley Floor via Upper Yosemite Falls Trail). Another option, pick a climbing route and enjoy the climb up this granite monolith.
See the stunning views of North Dome, Basket Dome, Clouds Rest, Quarter Domes, Half Dome, Sentinel Dome, Sentinel Rock, Mt. Starr King, Mt. Clark, and additional peaks. Take your time summiting this beast and enjoy the scenery.
BOOK PERMIT IN ADVANCE
This is a must do hike in Packed Perfectly’s opinion. Make sure to pack plenty of cliff bars and don’t forget that the park requires a permit to hike to Half Dome as there is a maximum of 300 people are allowed each day on the Half Dome Trail beyond the base of the Subdome.
Permits are distributed by lottery via Recreation.gov, with one preseason lottery with an application period in March and daily lotteries during the hiking season.
It can take around 12 hours or longer to hike to Half Dome. Leaving at sunrise is always a good idea. Note that if you haven’t reached the top by 3:30 pm, you’ll have to turn around. The famous part of the trail is the daring ascent up the cables which allow for a 400 feet vertical climb to the summit. Injuries and Death have happened here. If you are going to look down keep moving. If you are frozen in fear, have someone with you to pep talk you out of it.
What Key Items to Pack for Half Dome Flashlight/Headlamp
I love this trail! It is one of Yosemite’s oldest historic trails (built 1873 to 1877) where the Yosemite Falls Trail leads to the top of North Americas tallest waterfall, which rises 2,425 feet above the Valley floor. This trail starts near Camp 4, near Valley Loop Trail, and immediately begins its climb, switchback after switchback, through oak trees until you are granted views of Yosemite Valley and its many iconic landforms. Do not stray off of the maintained path, as you’ll find steep drops adjacent to the trail. The upper half of the trail is steep and rocky, but the journey is well worth what is waiting for you at the top.
When we started our accent on the lower falls the raging waters mist us until we started reaching higher elevations where the water was no longer a mist, but a torrential downpour. The tiny stone stairway we all walked up was crowded quite blissfully as it was full of people all feeling the same thing – blessed to be here, blessed to be refreshed by the water, and blessed to see the rainbow overlooking the valley bellow. This will always be my most memorable moment at Yosemite. I know you will have one of those, I am already excited for you, and I would love to hear it.
My personal favorite at Yosemite is the feeling of accomplishment you achieve from conquering Eagle Peak having, in my opinion, the best views of Yosemite’s rock features. You also get the added bonus of visiting two unforgettable world-class waterfalls along the way.
Doing this route in its entirety is a very steep, strenuous undertaking most suitable for backpackers with appropriate permits or extremely fit, fast hikers.
To begin this trip, start from near Camp 4 at the Yosemite Falls trailhead. Follow signs for the Yosemite Falls Trail and immediately begin to climb switchback after never-ending switchback.
Hotels and campgrounds fill up fast in Yosemite and prices can be steep. There are 13 campgrounds available, seven offer a reservation option. Not all campgrounds offer showers, but most have running water and flush toilets.
Make an advanced campground reservation here:
Visit www.recreation.gov (recommended)
We decided to rent a cabin in the woods a few miles away from the entrance of Yosemite. Packed Perfectly’s favorite is the cabins you find on glamping hub.com like this one above. Here is a link to all those enticing options.
All points of interest within Yosemite Valley (a 7-square mile area) are accessible via Hybrid Park Shuttles. The free shuttles run year round and also includes select points beyond Yosemite Valley. Bikes rentals are available spring through fall at shuttle stops 8, 13a, 14, 20 and 21. Bike reservations are highly recommended.
I had a very friendly squirrel hanging out with me while I was snacking on the waterfall. I want desperately to feed him, but it is never a good idea to feed the wildlife. They become too friendly with humans.
As you may be aware, many of our National Parks were severely impacted by the recent government shutdown and are still recovering from extensive damage.
We created a resource that guides readers through the many ways they can support the rehabilitation of our National Parks including the options to donate using stocks, retirement accounts, or even workplace matching programs.
We also provide a list of travel hacks on how to save on your next National Parks trip, including: