Some people, myself included, tend to focus almost entirely on international destinations for our bucket lists when there are quite a few spectacular sights and nearly miraculous experiences so much closer to home. A case in point is Yosemite National Park located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains just 4 hours east of San Francisco. Wherever you live in the world, Yosemite deserves a place on your list!
Yosemite National Park was founded in 1890 making it one of the oldest national parks in the United States. The area was originally home to several Native American tribes including the Ahwahneechee who had lived in the valley for over 1000 years. The creation of Yosemite National Park is a long and winding story that involved many different people and organizations starting as early as the 1850’s. The California gold rush brought white settlers to the area and visitors, including artists like Albert Bierstadt were so taken by the breathtaking sight of the Yosemite Valley and El Capitan, Yosemite’s signature mountain, that they began to lobby for its conservation.
In 1864, President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant which protected the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias from development. The Sierra Club founded by John Muir played a major part in finally advancing the area toward National Park status in 1890. Today Yosemite is one of the most popular US parks receiving around 4 million visitors annually.
What makes Yosemite National Park so spectacular? The stunning, thickly treed valley is surrounded by towering cliffs including famous peaks and towers that are photographed repeatedly by millions. These include the most famous, El Capitan, also Half Dome which is popular with climbers, Tunnel View, a famous lookout point, Glacier Point a viewpoint high up near the peaks, and the plunging and glorious Yosemite Falls.
Other features that make Yosemite different from any other US national park include:
Geological Diversity: The park's geological diversity is not found at any other park and features granite cliffs, waterfalls, rivers, valleys, and meadows.
Biological Diversity: Yosemite is home to an impressive variety of plant and animal life, including some rare and endangered species.
Cultural Significance: The park has played an important role in Native American history. It also figures prominently in the United State’s conservation work and the history of recreation.
Accessibility: Yosemite is relatively easy to access, with roads, hiking trails, and shuttle buses that make it possible for visitors of all ages and abilities to explore the park.
Another reason to visit Yosemite is for the wildlife. Animal lovers will be delighted by the ability to see black bears, mule deer, mountain lions, Bobcats, bighorn sheep, gray and red foxes, and over 250 species of birds!
So if you’ve had the good fortune to travel halfway across the world to experience inspiring sunrises, breathtaking vistas, and other kinds of landscapes or wildlife habitats that make your heart beat fast, don’t you think it’s time you added Yosemite National Park to your bucket list?
One of our favorite eco-passionate operators offers a small group journey called, An Insider’s Journey Into Yosemite (trip details at link.) We also have a fantastic US operator who will create a fabulous custom visit to Yosemite for just your group or family. Accommodations for the summer and fall in particular fill up quickly so contact us today so we can help you plan this trip of a lifetime that is surprisingly close to home for many of us.