Yosemite National Park: History | Weather | Things To Do
“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”— Ansel Adams
Yosemite is a land where history was made. Yosemite National Park is an American national park located in the western Sierra Nevada of Central California and was established in 1890. Yosemite National Park has been a national treasure for over 125 years. One of California’s most formidable natural landscapes, Yosemite National Park features nearly 1,200 square miles of sheer awe: towering waterfalls, millennia-old Sequoia trees, striking, daunting cliff faces and some of the most unique rock formations in the United States. Yosemite has been formed by glacial activity over millions of years and small glaciers still exist. Yosemite boasts some of the best views, hiking trails, and family vacation opportunities in the country. It draws around four million visitors annually. Yosemite National Park in beautiful Mariposa County welcomes you to experience this majestic park in all four seasons.
Human habitation in the Sierra Nevada region of California reaches back 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. In the mid-19th century, a band of Native Americans called the Ahwahnechee lived in Yosemite Valley. The California Gold Rush greatly increased the number of non-indigenous people in the region. Tensions between Native Americans and white settlers heightened into the Mariposa War. As part of this conflict, settler James Savage led the Mariposa Battalion into Yosemite Valley in 1851, in pursuit of Ahwaneechees led by Chief Tenaya. Conditions in Yosemite Valley were made more hospitable to people and access to the park was improved in the late 19th century. Naturalist John Muir and others became more frightened about the excessive exploitation of the area. Their efforts helped establish Yosemite National Park in 1890. Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were added to the national park in 1906.
Yosemite National Park Weather
The climate in the Yosemite National Park varies mainly with altitude and experiences significant differences in temperature between night and day. In general, however, winter is cold, while summer is the sunniest and driest season. • Summer – It lasts from June till September. Weather is typically warm to hot. Rainfall is at it’s minimal but does occur in the form of thunderstorms. Summer is the most popular time of year to visit the park. At an average temperature of 22.1 °C, July is the hottest month of the year. • Fall – Fall is peak season for trout fishing and Leonid meteor showers. It usually takes place by mid-October or mid-November. The weather tends to be quite variable. It can be hot, cold, dry, rainy, or snowy. • Winter – Winter is a beautiful season in Yosemite. It generally lasts from December until March. Weather is usually snowy and cold, but sunny and mild days do occur. In winter, there is much more rainfall in Yosemite Valley than in summer. Most precipitation falls in January, with an average of 153 mm. In January, the average temperature is 3.3 °C. It is the lowest average temperature of the whole year. • Spring – It begins in April and continues through May. Spring weather in Yosemite is typically mild. Weather is variable with warm sunny days and occasional winter storms. You can experience blooming wildflowers and running waterfalls during the spring months. Interesting facts about Yosemite National Park • Yosemite officially became the United States third national park in 1890. • There are more than 400 species of animals living in Yosemite, 90 of which are different mammal species. • Even though the park is open year-round, almost 75% of all Yosemite tourists visit the park between May and October. • Yosemite is considered the birthplace of rock climbing for sport. • Yosemite’s granite rock formations glow like fire at sunset. • There are special camping areas called High Sierra campsites that provide meals, clean water, bathroom access, and canvas tents. • It is believed that a glacier is responsible for producing the shape of Yosemite Valley. • Yosemite National Park is home to the tallest waterfall in North America – Yosemite Falls. It has a 2,425-foot drop! • Yosemite is the only national park to bid to host the Winter Olympics. • Yosemite is one of the few places in the U.S. where you can see a rainbow at night. • Out of California’s 7,000 plant species, 20% of those can be found within Yosemite National Park. • There are over 800 miles of trails to explore for hikers. • There are 300 black bears inside the park, but this number could be as high as 500. • In 1984, Yosemite was selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. • Elevation in the park ranges from 2,000 to over 13,000 feet.
Top Attractions & Things to Do in Yosemite National Park
It is no wonder that Yosemite has been called the “temple to nature” in John Muir’s own words, Tucked into the mountains of California, Yosemite National Park is renowned for its granite cliffs and waterfalls. Half Dome and El Capitan are two of the formations made famous by photographer Ansel Adams. From Yosemite fishing, hiking, gold panning, arts & culture to spas, shopping and more, you can do anything in Yosemite National Park and surrounding areas. You will be astounded with the countless Yosemite attractions to see and the things to do in Yosemite National Park in Mariposa County.
Yosemite Falls – Yosemite is home to countless waterfalls. Waterfalls are found throughout the park, some extremely impressive. When the snow melts from mountain peaks brings icy waters rushing downstream into Yosemite Valley, great waterfalls spring to life. At a height of more than 2,425 ft. Yosemite Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in North America. Known for its colorful rainbow in the spring, it’s one of the icons of Yosemite and has been featured in the work of famed photographers and countless calendars and books. It flows approximately November through July, with peak flow in May. Spring is the best time to experience Yosemite’s waterfalls. You can see Yosemite Falls from numerous places around Yosemite Valley, especially around Yosemite Village and Yosemite Valley Lodge. Yosemite Falls is made up of three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 feet), the middle cascades (675 feet), and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 feet). It’s also possible to hike to the top of Yosemite Falls as a strenuous, 8-hour hike but worth it for amazing views of the falls. Another outstanding perspective can be had from the picnic site at the Swing Bridge.
Half Dome – Half Dome is a world-renowned 8,800-foot landmark in Yosemite. Yosemite has more domes than any other place on the planet. Half Dome is one of Yosemite’s most famous sites and particularly well-known in the climbing world for being one of the first “big climbs.” One of the West’s most photographed landmarks Half Dome inspires awe from every angle. The domes were formed about 65 million years ago when the molten igneous rock solidified into granite deep within the Earth and was pushed up under pressure to the surface. The granite was shaped into domes as the uplifted, curved layers of rock cleaved off. The best time to visit is the early season when the waterfalls are at their fullest from snowmelt. Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a great challenge to many hikers.
El Capitan – El Capitan is Yosemite’s Splendor featured in Log Home Living magazine. One of the most famous sights in Yosemite National Park, the granite monolith El Capitan rises almost 3,000 feet vertically from Yosemite Valley! El Capitan’s iconic granite walls dominate the west end of Yosemite Valley. It is 2.5 times as tall as the Empire State Building, or more than 3 times as high as the tip of the Eiffel Tower. It is a favorite challenge among expert rock climbers. This famous Yosemite attraction is best seen from the roads in western Yosemite Valley, including Tunnel View, Bridalveil Fall area, and El Capitan Meadow. It is a beacon for visitors, a muse for photographers and one of the world’s ultimate challenges for climbers.
Wawona Tunnel View – At the western entrance to Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View is a must-do stop, no matter which direction you approach the park from. The most classic view of Yosemite Valley is from Tunnel View. It’s an incredible sight at any time of day. From its vantage point, travelers get an eyeful of the majestic Yosemite Valley, complete with views of famous park sites, such as Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Fall. The vista from Tunnel View is one of Yosemite’s most iconic scenes, made famous by an Ansel Adams photograph. Bounded by massive timbered walls, its 34-foot-high ceilings are dotted with dozens of wrought iron chandeliers. Tunnel View Outlook has no set hours and there is no admission fee. The overlook, which was first built in 1993, was renovated in 2008. It attracts between 5,000 and 7,000 visitors a day during the tourist high season. Travelers can find Tunnel Views at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel off of Wawona Road. The best time to see Tunnel Views are early spring and winter when the beautiful granite domes are draped in snow and mist.
Glacier Point – Glacier Point is considered one of the best and most comprehensive lookouts in Yosemite. Visitors regularly describe Glacier Point’s sweeping, panoramic vistas as “breathtaking,” calling it a truly can’t-miss spot in the park. Glacier Point not only commands panoramic views of the valley but brings visitors eye level with the park’s iconic Half Dome as well. This is one of the most incredible views in Yosemite National Park and is an absolute must-see sight. The drive from Yosemite Village to Glacier Point takes about an hour. Glacier Point is accessible by foot, car or bus during the long warm-weather season and by cross-country skiing in winter. The best time to visit is early spring or fall before the road closes for the season. Activities at Glacier Point include bird watching, hiking, stargazing and skiing and snowboarding at Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area. Not far from Glacier Point, Washburn Point is an equally spectacular lookout with incredible views over Vernal Fall.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias – The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Trees, near Yosemite’s south entrance, contains about 500 mature giant sequoia trees, perhaps the largest living things on Earth, and the oldest Yosemite giant sequoia may exceed 3,000 years in age. Star sequoia specimens include the Washington tree, the grove’s largest, and the California Tunnel Tree, which was cut in the 1800s to allow horse-drawn carriages to pass through. Another must-visit tree is the Bachelor and Three Graces. This beautiful cluster is a very popular spot for photos. Experience the wonder of the inspiring Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias with trees stretching 300 feet high by walking the moderate-rated Grizzly Giant Loop Trail. It’s a two-mile loop that takes 1.5-2 hours and circles the edge of the grove. Toppled giants like the Fallen Monarch are notable as well. Open-air trams offer engaging tours of Mariposa Grove, and visitors can hop on and off the tram to walk around the mammoth trees.
Yosemite Museum and Indian Village – The Yosemite Museum was completed in 1925, designed by architect Herbert Maier. A short walk from the valley visitor center, the Yosemite Museum is a must-see stop, especially for history buffs or anyone interested in the arts. You can learn all about the first peoples of the valley at the Yosemite Museum and Indian Village. The museum displays artifacts, and docents are on hand to give demonstrations and answer questions. The museum is best known for its displays of Native American basketry and needlework. The museum building is now over 80 years old. The museum is open daily year-round; exhibition schedules vary. Out behind the building are some bark-covered dwellings, built in the traditional style used by the Miwok people, who once lived in the area, as well as their later, Euro-American-style buildings. The museum is free and conveniently located in Yosemite Village.
Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Road – Tuolumne Meadows is a large, open subalpine meadow graced by the winding Tuolumne River and surrounded by majestic peaks and domes. The region around Yosemite features landscapes of great diversity, including the high plateau of Tuolumne Meadows. Located around an hour’s drive northeast of Yosemite Valley, Tuolomne’s flat basin is surrounded by steep granite rock formations and domes. The stunning alpine scenery along Tioga Road, Highway 120, running in an east-west direction through Yosemite, is a wonderful place for summer hiking and camping. Wildflowers bloom in the open meadows, and pristine lakes reflect the mountain peaks. Near Tuolumne Meadows, you can hike to Lembert Dome and walk up the swooping back-side of the dome. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. An ideal destination for family vacations, Tuolumne Meadows is a favorite spot for camping, fishing, and swimming in the Tuolumne River.
The Mist Trail – The Mist Trail is one of the park’s most popular trails. What makes The Mist Trail so unique is not its sites – Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. Yosemite’s most popular path, Mist Trail, deserves every bit of attention it gets. This spectacular, rainbow-streaked trail skirts 317-foot Vernal Fall and 594-foot Nevada Fall and extend to Little Yosemite Valley. To get to the top of the falls, hikers must climb a 600-step granite staircase that snakes right up alongside the hundreds-foot-tall plunge, taking visitors close enough to where mist from the falls sprays out onto the trail. Many travelers say the Mist Trail is one of the best hikes they have ever taken. Hikers can reach the top of Nevada Fall by continuing 1.3 miles along the Mist Trail. If you’re hiking it during peak season, and especially during a peak season weekend, you’ll get the best experience starting early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
Skydive Yosemite – The only skydiving center with amazing views of Yosemite National Park. It is located at the Mariposa-Yosemite Airport. Such a great setup, everyone is super friendly! Skydive Yosemite is perfect. The staff is amazing and they help the jumpers focus on the unbelievable experience of free-fall in a supportive and encouraging environment. Skydive Yosemite now provides 3 options for tandem skydiving: 10,000 ft, 12,000 ft, and 14,000 ft.
Yosemite National Park is internationally known for its spectacular waterfalls, soaring monoliths (El Capitan and Half Dome might ring a bell), and overall stunning landscape, but there’s more to this California park’s history than its naturally picturesque views.