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Yosemite National Park
Gateway City: San Francisco
Climate: Yosemite has a Mediterranean climate. Most rainfall happens during the winter, and the other three seasons are dry; temperatures are consistently moderate throughout the year, getting slightly colder in the winter.
Number of visitors per year: Yosemite boasts 3.5 million visitors per year.
Yosemite was not the first National Park Service park, but its creation inspired the formation of the service. It was also seminal in the formation and early years of the Sierra Club. The Yosemite Valley, the most popular and accessible area of the park, was originally inhabited by the Ahwahneechee tribe of Native Americans. With the Gold Rush in the 19th Century came more travel through the valley. While pursuing members of the tribe, the Mariposa Battalion essentially “discovered” Yosemite. In the middle of the nineteenth century, it became apparent that commercial interests would quickly take over the valley if not stopped. Concerned citizens lobbied for protection of the area, and in 1864 a bill was signed by Abraham Lincoln creating the “Yosemite Grant”, which set aside park land for preservation. This was essentially the first time that this had been done by the US government. In 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill into law that gave local naturalists what they wanted – a unified Yosemite Park under federal protection.
Yosemite features sights and activities for both the casual day-tripper and the experienced back country camper. The Yosemite Valley sees the most tourist traffic with numerous sights, including Yosemite Falls and El Capitan. However Yosemite Valley only covers a very small portion of the Park – only seven square miles to be exact. Adventure and untouched beauty await the back country hiker who is willing to veer off of the beaten path on over 800 miles of trails. Thousands of rivers and lakes cut through striking granite cliffs and flow over a number of striking waterfalls. Yosemite was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984 by UNESCO in recognition of its stunning beauty. Yosemite is also the major watershed for the San Francisco area; San Francisco gets most of its drinking water from the watershed of Yosemite.
This rock formation features some of the best rock climbing in the world, and is an internationally renowned destination for the activity. It rises 3000 feet above the forest floor in a vertical face. The top may be reached by a hike next to Yosemite Falls, one of the more popular hikes in the park.
One of the most stunning waterfalls in the world, and one of the world’s tallest, Yosemite is easily accessible from the entrance to the park. Peak flow can be seen in May; since Yosemite Falls is fed from snowmelt, it all but dries up in the fall given the dry climate. The area that is known as the Upper Falls falls in a vertical stream for 1,430 feet. Along with the other sections, the total height of the Falls is 2425 feet. It is considered to be the sixth highest waterfall in the world, and the tallest in North America.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
The Mariposa Grove is a grove of 200 giant sequoia trees. It is the largest stand in Yosemite. The trees contained within it are also called Sierra Redwoods, and the Sierra Club gets its name from these very trees.
This outlook offers a panoramic view of Yosemite Valley from above. Just an hour from the entrance to Yosemite Valley, it is a short walk from the road to the fantastic lookout at Glacier Point.
This valley is a smaller version of Yosemite Valley, and is somewhat off of the beaten path. For the determined hiker, it offers panoramic views and peace and quiet from the touristy turmoil of Yosemite Valley. This is also the reservoir from which San Francisco draws most of its drinking water.
The Half Dome was considered inaccessible up until the first half of the twentieth century. Rising 8,836 feet from the floor of Yosemite Valley, it is now scaled by thousands of hikers per year via trails that begin at the bottom of the valley. Rock climbing is also done via many routes up the vertical face.
The black bears at Yosemite were once a tourist attraction; however, interactions between bears and humans were threatening to both species. Yosemite’s campgrounds are now bear-proofed rather than being bear-friendly, and rangers will run them off with rubber bullets when they see them.
Great Gray Owl
The miles of meadows lend themselves to be a perfect habitat for the Great Gray Owl.
Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep
One of the most protected animals in Yosemite, their population had to be reintroduced to an isolated area near Tioga Pass. They are the only species currently on the Endangered List in the Park.
Visitors to the back country of Yosemite are guaranteed to spot deer at least once on their journey. The coniferous forest areas are home to the mule deer and a host of other species.
This is the sole marsupial in the park.
The main activities at Yosemite are hiking, rock climbing, and camping. Biking is also popular, although mountain biking is not allowed in Yosemite. Bikes may be ridden on trails only. In the winter, cross country skiing is a big activity in Yosemite. Some of the roads leading to Yosemite are not cleared of snow in the winter, so winter visitors should take care to plan their trip carefully before arriving.
Conservation projects are run by the Yosemite Fund (http://www.yosemitefund.org/). They fall under six categories; trail access and repair, habitat restoration, visitor services and education, cultural and historic preservation, scientific research, and wildlife management. Some of the larger projects currently on the go are:
- Bicycle Bridge Replacement between Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Lodge
- Trail Rehabilitation of the 800+ miles of trails
- Tunnel View Overlook Restoration
- Songbird Population Decline Research
How to donate
To donate to the Yellowstone Fund, visit their website and click on the “donate now” button to donate securely online. Visit this link to donate: http://www.yosemitefund.org/