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  • Writer's pictureVien R. Guenther

Yosemite National Park – Sierra Nevada, Mariposa County, California

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Yosemite National Park, located in the Central Sierra Nevada in California, is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. Almost four million each year visit this park, reaching a high of five million in 2016. If you have been here, then you will understand why. The park’s nearly 1,200 square miles (or 759.620 acres) offer plenty of places to explore - valleys, meadows, giant sequoia trees, a vast wilderness and rich human history, not to mention spectacular mountains to view and climb. Yosemite is also home to some of the most impressive waterfalls – Sentinel Falls, Yosemite Falls, Ribbon Fall, Horsetail Fall, Bridal Veil Fall, Nevada Fall, Vernal Falls, Illilouette Fall, Wapama Falls, Chilnualna Falls, as well as impressive cliffs and rock formations.


Park Sign

Yosemite meaning, “killer” in Miwok language, has been home for native Americans for thousands of years, since Ice Age glaciers receded. The area was once called the Village of Ahwahneechee (“dwellers”) people, the largest Indian village in Yosemite Valley. Behind the Yosemite Museum is a reconstructed village of the Miwok people, which is still used today by members of the local American Indian community for ceremonies and special gatherings. The first European Americans to enter Yosemite Valley came in 1851. It was the beginning of tourism in the area and marked the end of life as they knew it in the valley for the Indian communities.

Painters and photographers, such as Albert Bierstadt, lobbied to establish the original Yosemite Grant in 1864. The images they provided for Congress and President Lincoln helped to approve its preservation, under the protection of the state of California. Finally, Yosemite was established as a National Park in 1890 after John Muir’s successful lobbying of Congress. It is believed that John Muir influenced President Theodore Roosevelt to expand the park’s federal protections, after spending time with him in the park in 1903. Later, in 1984, Yosemite was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


When we visited the park, visitors could drive freely into the pami valley of the park, but in later years traffic congestion became a problem during peak season such that shuttle buses were provided for free year-round. Starting in 2020, it now also requires advance reservations to access the park during peak seasons. What hasn't changed is that most visitors still confine their visit to the Yosemite Valley, concentrating on the park's most popular viewpoints.

TUNNEL VIEW – Located along Wawona Road is one of the most famous views in Yosemite Valley. It is the first viewpoint visitors see in the valley when approaching by this road. The view is impressive indeed, as you can see from the picture below. Imagine how many photos of this view have been taken over the years? You will never get tired of looking at it.

Tunnel View viewpoint

GLACIER POINT - is the most spectacular viewpoint in the park, with the view of Yosemite Valley below, the famous Half Dome and three waterfalls. This must be the busiest area of the park. Half Dome is Yosemite’s icon, rising nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor. People climb it, but there's a lottery to get tickets for that if you are planning to climb it. This limits the number of hikers that can do this hike each day since it has become over-crowded.

From Glacier Point, you will see Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls below. These are some of the best waterfalls in the park. We couldn't resist hiking to these falls the next day.

Vernal and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point

If you don't have vertigo, look down and you will see an impressive aerial view of the Yosemite Valley below. It's a long way down so utmost care is a must. This valley is the most popular area in the park and it means crowds are concentrated here.

The Yosemite Valley below

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