Yosemite National Park is a vast wilderness of nearly 1,200 square miles that is open 24 hours a day all year long. It has large open valleys, high granite peaks, and numerous waterfalls. I visited during the winter months when much of the park’s roads are closed and land inaccessible; there was still lots to see and to do. I was able to do and photograph what follows with just a day and half at the park.
Explore the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
After driving from San Fransisco I arrived in the afternoon. With the Yosemite Valley a full hour’s drive away I didn’t want to spend that much more time riding in a vehicle. However, the Mariposa Grove Museum was a short 5 mile drive from my lodging and I opted to spend the remainder of the afternoon wandering through the giant sequoia trees.
The grove has 2 of the 30 biggest giant sequoias in the world, and the Grizzly Giant is estimated to be over 2,000 years old. The trail map, and trail markers in the grove are poorly done and very confusing, I never knew if I was on the correct trail. Luckily all the various trails seemed to lead uphill, which meant I’d eventually find what I was searching for – The Fallen Tunnel Tree. Photographed above; it’s huge!
I enjoyed a beautiful sunset from inside Mariposa Grove as I hiked back to the parking lot and exited the park for the evening.
Driving Through Wawona Tunnel
A new day breaks and it’s time to head for the Yosemite Valley, but first I passed through the longest highway tunnel in California. At over 4,000 feet long it’s sure to stir up some nerves for those who suffer from a fear of tunnels.
Taking In the Iconic Tunnel View
Upon exiting the Wawona highway tunnel there’s a parking lot to stop and take in the expansive landscape of Yosemite Valley. From this overlook you can see the famous El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls.
The Yosemite Valley’s top attractions and parking lots might be full of visitors, but if you strap on your hiking shoes there are endless trails to take you away from the crowds. Within minutes you can find yourself alone with nature to soak up all it’s magnificence.
Yosemite resident and famous Instagrammer Trevor Lee demonstrates alternative methods to tree climbing while we rest our feet and have a snack in an open meadow.
No visit to the park is complete without viewing the highest waterfall in North America (6th in the world). If you want a close up or to get a little wet Lower Yosemite Falls awaits, but be warned – so do herds of people.
Reflections in the Water
Stop along the Merced River while driving through the valley. If the water is calm you’ll catch an incredibly detailed reflection of the cliffs above. This one is El Capitan.
Yosemite is a magnet for rock climbers. Stand at the base of El Capitan, one of the most arduous climbs in the world, and look up. It’s hard to imagine how anyone conquers the 3,000 foot granite stone wall towering above.
Yosemite has numerous waterfalls throughout the park. Many are easy to spot from the open valley floor. There are long and strenuous hikes to the tops of them if you have the time and desire – you’ll be rewarded with stunning views.
Yosemite’s trees glow in the sun. You have to take a moment to enjoy the sights and smells of the vast forest while visiting. There are ponderosa pines, cedars, black oaks and sequoias throughout the valley.
Head back over to Tunnel View as sun begins its journey to the horizon. You’ll be rewarded with intense colors as the light beams down at a perfect angle on the granite cliffs in the distance.
Follow Highway 41 towards the South exit. You’ll climb in elevation and as the sun sets you’ll be rewarded with dramatic views and the silhouettes of the valleys in the distance.