Yosemite Valley...Climbing Granite to Walking Among Giants
“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.”
John Muir, conservationist
John Muir was right. Entering Yosemite Valley is like entering a temple. Spectacular granite formations line the walls as crystal clear streams and peaceful meadows carpet the floor. Add decorations of jaw-dropping waterfalls, ancient giant sequoias, and a few bears…you have the makings of Nature’s temple.
Powerful glaciers, molten rock from volcanic eruptions, and millions of years of erosion combined to create not just a great valley, but a showcase in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. First protected in 1864 with the Yosemite Grant Act, this grant marked the first California State Park. In 1906, this area became what we know today as Yosemite National park.
Now, 150 years later, this wonderland of geological formations and biological diversity, the park spans almost 1,2000 square miles.
Did you know more than three million visitors come each year? Some come for the more than 840 miles of hiking trails and some come to climb El Capitan, the world’s largest block of granite with its 3,300 foot rock face.
Half Dome, probably the most iconic site in all of Yosemite is another granite formation rising nearly 5,000 feet above the valley floor. You might think it’s a giant granite dome with the northwestern half missing. In reality, the unique shape is the result of more glacial action. If you’re an experienced hiker, take the opportunity to experience this up close and personal. The challenge lies at the end of the hike when you ascend the final 400 feet by cables. Yes…I said experienced hiker. Cables are strung each year and reservations are a must.
El Capitan, also a spectacular vertical rock, is another place experienced rock climbers are drawn to.
Like waterfalls? Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America, with snow runoff cascading down its 2,425 foot drop. Go in winter to see an ice cone at the very top. Bridalveil Falls, another beauty, is a 620 foot waterfall located near the entrance to Yosemite Valley.
Wander along the boardwalks and trails through the Meadows, where you might see more than lush grasses and brilliant wildflowers. Deer, foxes, bald eagles, chipmunks, pikas, and of course bears may appear on your walk.
Hike or take the tram through Mariposa Grove, home to about 500 mature giant sequoias. These largest living things on earth can live to be 3,000 years old.
For me, there are no better views than from Glacier Point. Wind your way to this overlook for the most commanding view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite’s high country. Of course, you can only make this drive from late May through October or November, depending on snow fall. If you like cross country skiing…you’re in luck. You can experience the same views after skiing for about 10 or 11 miles.
“Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.” Ansel Adams