Discovering Northern California
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park: A Creation Story

Why all the fuss about Yosemite National Park? Imagine boarding a time machine with me, and traveling back many millions of years to a gentle little valley with a rounded bottom that was slowly created by the meandering stream that crisscrossed its floor.

This was maybe 50 million years ago, and the landscape was rolling hills covered with hardwood forests, and broad green trough-like valley.

Back then Yosemite Valley was just one of many small, beautiful mountain valleys. There was nothing really very special about it. But just look at her now!

Yosemite National Park: Land of Grandiose Granite and Monumental Monoliths

Yosemite Valley; FreestockPhotos.comYosemite Valley;

But then the forces of Nature got to work!

Over the next few million years,the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range was uplifted and tilted, increasing the steepness of streams and rivers and resulting in deep narrow canyons.

Fast forward again, and the earth has turned cold - snow and ice accumulate, forming glaciers.

During this period we'd be standing on a river of ice that's moving imperceptibly through the V-shaped channel forged previously by rivers and streams.

The ice is carving the valley wider, breaking off chunks of granite, wearing other chunks smooth, carrying what it can with it; forging a new look...

Jumping back to today's world, the ice is gone and we're looking down from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park to see what nature has wrought. A deep, beautiful U-shaped valley dotted with magnificent granite outcroppings with names like El Capitan and Half Dome.

The National Park was created on October 1, 1890 largely through the efforts of Century Magazine editor, Robert Underwood Johnson, and Scotsman and amateur naturalist, John Muir. Yosemite was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984.

Today, because of its majesty and beauty, Yosemite National Park
is visited by an estimated 3.5 million people per year, who come from every corner of the globe!

They come to stay in one of Yosemite's fine lodges; or for the experience of Yosemite camping; they come to hike its many trails; to climb its granite outcrops; to feel the spray of its waterfalls, and to ski its slopes.

Why do 3.5 Million People Vacation in Yosemite National Park Every Year?

Vernal Fall; FreestockPhotos.comVernal Fall;

After all, there are probably thousands of national parks all over the world - in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, Russia, all of the Americas! They each have their special features, otherwise people like you and I wouldn't have gone to the trouble of preserving them...

And each park has it's fans and its proponents - but is there anyone who wouldn't want to visit Yosemite National Park, given the opportunity? I don't think so!

Is it the drama of the landscape that makes this national park more unique than most?

Thundering cascading waterfalls free-falling thousands of feet juxtaposed against gargantuan granite monoliths...

A fertile womb-like valley that nurtures 3000 year old Giant Sequoias...

Pristine alpine meadows giving birth each year to multi-hued groups of wild flowers - who wouldn't be awestruck!

But it's more than just the drama. It's also the sense of peace you feel, sitting alongside the Merced River listening to the birds in the pines and watching in wonder as a doe and her twins emerge from the woods for a drink.

And it's the consciousness of your own mortality when you look down from your sling as you're climbing El Capitan.

It's being awakened before sunrise by squabbling Stellar's Jays after hearing the grumbly roar of a distant mountain lion during the night.

And it's hiking for an hour or two without seeing another soul (yes, believe it or not, it is possible! Follow this like to find out how.) while you imagine what it must have been like as a member of the Ahwahneechee tribe, living off the bountiful land.

It's also watching the park change through the seasons when you're lucky enough to live nearby!

As the snows melt in Spring, wildflowers fill the meadows and blooming Dogwoods line the roadside...

Soon the rivers, streams, and waterfalls are fast-flowing and spectacular!

Summer brings the vacationing hordes along with warm days and cool nights, camping under the stars and marshmallow s'mores, then bleeds into Autumn as the nights turn crispy and the leaves change to purples, oranges, yellows, and reds.

And given the chance, who could resist Yosemite in winter! Towering Redwoods with their flocking of white, pristine snow blankets covering the meadows, and more quiet than you've ever experienced!

Yosemite National Park is open year round and in fact, the best time to go is not necessarily in the summer as you might think.

That's when the throngs show up and take over the valley. Which is okay if you like crowds - lots of people do!

But if you really want to see Yosemite the way it's meant to be seen, visit in the late Fall when the colors are changing; or in the Winter, when there's ice on the river; or in the early Spring as the buds begin to paint a soft green haze on the branches...

For my insider secret on how to enjoy summer in Yosemite without the crowds, see my Yosemite High Country Lodges page.

Yosemite National Park:
Stay Inside the Park at Least Once

Whether you have only one chance in a lifetime to visit Yosemite, or you're lucky enough to visit frequently, to fully appreciate the magnitude of its majesty, you really must stay inside the park at least for a day or two of your visit.

After all, Yosemite does not shutter its windows and lock its doors when the sun goes down. There's so much that happens early in the morning or very late in the day and on into the evening that you have to be there to experience!

Wake up to the birdsong of dawn; discover how much more active wildlife wildlife is when the tourists leave; view the night sky sans city lights - brilliant!; take part in a Night Prowl or a Full Moon Snowshoe Walk; join park rangers for the Campfire Program, complete with roasting marshmallows; catch a falling star or a Moonbow; or enjoy some great Fireside Storytelling around the big fire in the Ahwahnee Great Lounge.

By hook or by crook, plan to spend at least a few days inside Yosemite so you can really experience the magnificence of this most sovereign of parks. You won't be sorry you did, I guarantee it!

For more about Yosemite National Park and all it has to offer, follow the links below for camping, lodging, things to do, livings with bears, insider secrets, and more.

For more about Northern California Camping and other things to see and do in NorCal, see the Related Pages in the Right-hand Column.

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