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Free Traveling Guides » States » California » High Sierras

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Yosemite National Park, California

yosemite valley

Yosemite National Park is one of the world's most dramatic geological spectacles. The Yosemite Valley, just seven miles long, is walled by near-vertical three thousand foot cliffs, streaked by tumbling waterfalls. At ground level, grassy meadows filled with oak, cedar and fir trees cover this park. You can visit any time of the year, even in winter when the waterfalls ice up and the trails are blocked by snow.

The three roads from the Central Valley end up in the center of the park's 1200 square miles, in the natural splendor of the Yosemite Valley. This is the busiest part of the park, with Yosemite Village being the hub. One of the most popular trails is the Mist Trail, which winds up so close to Vernal Falls that during the snowmelt period hikers are drenched by it. Vernal Falsl always has some water flowing over it, but the falls are at their most dramatic in the spring.

The more strenuous trail to Upper Yosemite Falls leads up along a steep path from behind the Camp 4 campground. This almost continuous ascent is tiring, but you are rewarded by fine views over the valley on the way up, and a chance to appreciate the power of the water as it crashes almost 1500 ft in a single cascade. A mile further, you reach the top of the falls, where there are more spectacular views and spots for a much deserved picnic. The two major cliffs visible from the valley are the 3600 ft El Capitan and Half Dome, the sheerest cliff in North America.

The most spectacular views of the Yosemite Valley are from Glacier Point, the top of a 3200 ft, almost vertical cliff. It's possible to get there on foot using the Four mile trail, but the less inclined can take the bus. The valley floor lies directly beneath the viewing point, and there are tremendous views across to Half Dome and the distant snowcapped peaks of the High Sierras.

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