When I travel internationally and tell people I’m from California, I immediately get asked “What part of California?” They assume I live near the beach and run into celebrities frequently but I proudly say Fresno — which is usually accompanied by blank stares. If you’re not from California, the probability of you knowing where Fresno is, is quite slim — although it is the fifth largest city in California. To give people a reference of where Fresno is located geographically, I usually ask if they’ve heard of Yosemite National Park. Almost always I get a yes! Then we begin to talk about this wonderful park.
Chances are that you’ve heard of Yosemite National Park whether it was:
- Somewhere in the media
- You’re a traveler and this is on your bucket list
- You’ve traveled here already (lucky you!)
- You own a Mac and had OS X Yosemite installed at some point
- You’re a proud Central Valley resident or Fresnian (yep, right here!)
If you don’t fit any of the above and still don’t know what the heck Yosemite is, don’t worry! Let me introduce you to Yosemite and why this national park in Central California should be on your travel bucket list!
For starters, this national park is located in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California — extending over 1,180 sq miles. That’s huge right? Found within Yosemite are numerous lakes, rocks (I’m talking big ones), sequoia trees (also big) and unique wildlife to the region. It’s no wonder that millions of people visit each year. But I get it, that’s not enough to convince you. So keep reading and see below the top reasons why you should visit Yosemite National Park!
TLC said “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” but I disagree! My best outdoor adventures involve chasing waterfalls. Yosemite does not disappoint. If you want to see the best of waterfalls, the best time to go is during Spring because that’s when all the snow melts and you get huge waterfalls! These are the waterfalls I recommend.
As you make your way around Yosemite, you’ll likely see this waterfall from various viewpoints. Guess what? You can also hike to the top of the waterfall! It’s a day hike and quite strenuous but worth it! If you want to get to the waterfall, it’s about a 2 mile round trip hike BUT if you’re feeling adventurous and want to go to the top, it’ll be a little over 7 miles (round trip). Trust me, it’s worth it!
This waterfall is specifically located on the south side of Yosemite Valley and you can see views of it from the Four Mile trail head or as you’re making your way up to Yosemite Fall Trail.
You can’t miss this waterfall as you drive into Yosemite Valley. There are a few turnouts near Bridalveil Fall to view this waterfall and in case you want to snap a few great pictures!
One of my favorite waterfalls and hikes! Just like Yosemite Falls, you can hike to the best viewing point or you can hike to the top of the fall. The viewing point will take 1.6 miles round trip which is about 1 to 1.5 hours. To get to the top of Vernal Falls it will be 2.4 miles round trip and a total of 3 hours.
If you’re like me, you love a good hike when enjoying the outdoors. Although I must admit, I get tired pretty fast and complain the entire time but once I get to the final destination I don’t regret the sweat and tears (literally). The great thing is that you don’t have to be an expert hiker to enjoy the trails in Yosemite. There’s several trails for beginners and for those who love a good challenge. Based on your expert level, these are some of the hikes I recommend.
- Lower Yosemite Fall Trail: This trail is 1 mile long around the entire loop and 50 ft in elevation.
- Cook’s Meadow Loop: This is also 1 mile long around the entire loop but it is flat.
- Mirror Lake Loop: You can expect to hike for 2 miles to the lake and back and about 5 miles the entire loop. Elevation is 100 ft to the lake and 200 ft around the loop.
- Valley Loop Trail: This one is 6.5 miles for the half loop and 13 miles for the full loop but it is mostly flat!
- Half Dome: Many train for months to take on this popular trail. Also, not just anyone can jump on at any point. There’s a lottery system, meaning only a few hundred are selected each day to make their way through the trail and not all make it to the top. This hike is a total of 12 miles (round trip) and 4,800 ft in elevation.
- Snow Creek Trail: This one is a total of 9.4 miles for the round trip and 2,700 ft elevated.
- Four Mile Trail: Expect to hike for 4.8 miles one way and be 3,200 ft above elevation.
Considering Yosemite is large and filled with so much beauty, it’s hard to explore it in a day. That’s why camping is essential if you love the outdoors and want to truly explore Yosemite. Camping offers a great outdoor experience to get away from the madness of the city. By camping, you also get more time to take advantage of the hikes and waterfalls. You go at your own pace and who knows, you may spot some wildlife out there — just be safe. There are several campgrounds — 13 to be exact, which almost half operate under a reservation system, so plan ahead! You can go to the non-reservation campgrounds too but they do fill up fast. If you’re interested in camping and want to learn more about their reservation system you can click here.
There’s many outdoor activities that can be covered but in case you’re interested in any of the following activities, guess what…you can find them in Yosemite too!
- Skiing: The beauty of Yosemite is that it can be enjoyed all year round. During winter months, you can go skiing at Badger Pass. Just be sure to check Yosemite’s website for the latest information on winter conditions before making your way there as some roads get closed.
- Rock Climbing: Adrenaline junkie? Yosemite offers popular rock climbing summits such as Half Dome and El Capitan. Make sure to make your reservations ahead of time though as there’s usually a long waiting list for these. You can learn more here.
- Rafting: Oh yes! This is something I have yet to do but it is one of Yosemite’s popular water activities. You can find rafting services in Yosemite Valley.
- Bicycling: There’s rentals available in Yosemite Valley during Spring, Summer and Fall months. You can bike over 12 miles of bike paths comfortably while enjoying scenic views.
The best part that can be found in any of the above recommendations. It doesn’t matter if you’re hiking, camping or simply driving, you are guaranteed to see a great view! Yosemite does not disappoint when it comes to delivering fantastic views. If you’re a photographer looking to snap the great outdoors, this place is perfect. If you’re simply looking to get away from the city and want a change in pace, why not go to Yosemite? Your views of nature, waterfalls and wildlife will reset your mind. So what do you think? Will you be adding Yosemite National Park to your bucket list? Comment below. If you’ve already visited this national park, let me know what you love about it below.
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