Yosemite National Park (California) – from A to Z, Map, Photos, FAQ

Yosemite National Park - mountains view
Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is famous for its granite cliffs, spectacular waterfalls, and gigantic sequoia trees. Yosemite Park is located in central California, just 150 east of San Francisco in the wild and beautiful high Sierras. www.travelrows.com

Yosemite National Park on the map and its reviews:

Yosemite National Park was established in 1890 and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984. Within the park’s 1,200 square miles are thousands of lakes, two federally designated wild and scenic rivers, 350 miles of roads, and 800 miles of hiking trails.

While Yosemite National Park is known mostly for the beautiful scenery, it is also a place rich in biodiversity. Elevations range from 2,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet which represents the major life zones.

Yosemite was made famous by naturalist John Muir and photographer Ansel Adams, and is one of the most popular and well known national parks in the world. Every year, more than 3.5 million people visit Yosemite to experience the granite mountains, meadows filled with wildflowers, and the cascading waterfalls.

The primary landmarks include El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Bridalveil Falls. Most of the visitors spend time within Yosemite Valley, which can make for crowded roads and trails in the summer. Fortunately, Yosemite Park has an efficient shuttle bus service and well-placed footpaths and bike trails that makes it possible for you to avoid too much crowding.

Because the mountains are made of granite and its location in California, Yosemite is also world renown as a rock climber’s mecca. In fact Yosemite has nurtured and challenged the likes of Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, Lynn Hill, Rick Ridgeway and other legendary climbers.

Waterfall enthusiasts will also find plenty of cascading torrents of water in the park ranging from 2,425 foot Yosemite Falls to small hidden rivulets in remote canyons and basins. Inside Yosemite’s 1,200 square miles, visitors can find deep glaciated valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoia trees, vast wilderness areas, and enough hiking and trekking adventure to last a lifetime.


Rocks and Mountains in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National ParkYosemite has a simple geologic history compared to many other mountain parks. Most all of the rock that you see in Yosemite is part of the Sierra Nevada Batholith, a large body of magma that intruded, crystallized, and lay buried as granitic material beneath a thick layer of metamorphic rock.

Geologists have estimated that the batholith was about six miles below the surface and it took about 100 million years for it to form. Inside Yosemite, dozens of plutons of different ages and composition were emplaced. Most of the rock in Yosemite was thrust up between 80 and 120 million years ago. Some were intruded between 150 and 210 million years ago.

The entire Yosemite region rose and has been extensively eroded. Overtime, almost all of the overlying metamorphic rock was eroded away and the batholithic granite remained. The latest period of uplifting occurred around 10 million years ago which created the Sierra Nevada range, which has a distinct westward tilt, steep east face, and gentle western slopes.

With the increase of the gradient the erosive power of the westward flowing rivers and streams increased. The Merced River cut a narrow canyon over 3,000 feet deep. By the time of the Pleistocene ice age, the top of the Sierra Nevada had reached elevations of 14,000 feet.

Yosemite bears the mark of at least four major periods of glaciation. The most recent period ended around 10,000 years ago. The earliest period of glaciation was about one million years before that.

Alpine glaciers formed along the Sierra Nevada range and joined into larger glaciers as they moved down slope. The ice in Yosemite might have been 4,000 feet thick during the peak of the glaciation. The power of the glaciers and boulders widened the valleys, deepened the floors, and made the walls steep. Almost anywhere you look in Yosemite Park you will see the effects of glaciation.

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

One of the world’s best known glacially carved canyon is Yosemite Valley which is framed by El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Falls. The Yosemite Valley is geologically very young at around 30,000 years.

About 50 million years ago, the Yosemite Valley was a wide trough with the Merced River meandering among rolling hills of hardwood forests. As the Sierra Mountains rose and tilted westward, the Merced accelerated and dug deeply, creating a narrow canyon that is 3,000 feet deep.

Then, about one million years ago, a series of Pleistocene glaciers covered the land, sometimes filling the valley. The ice cut the narrow, zig-zagging canyon into a straighter, broader, and deeper canyon. The bottom of the trough filled with glacial rock and sediment. The last valley glacier melted around 10,000 years ago. This resulted in a moraine that dammed the Merced River and created a shallow lake. The lake eventually filled in to form marshy bottoms and meadows

Hiking and Climbing

Yosemite’s granite monoliths represent the world’s greatest rock climbing area. Besides historic glacial activity, rock fall events have shaped many of the spectacular features along Yosemite Valley’s grand walls, including Royal Arches, North Dome, and Half Dome. Giant talus slopes that rise from the valley walls accumulate debris with each rock slide event.

Yosemite offers rock climbers sustained crack climbs of the Merced River Canyon and Tuolumne Meadows domes to multi-day technical aid climbs on the famous walls of the valley like El Capitan.

For those that are not quite ready for the big walls, Yosemite Valley also boasts some of the best bouldering in the west and the sport continues to grow in popularity in Yosemite national Park. Because of the park’s popularity, human waste management, litter, and backcountry camping permits all must be researched before your climb in the park.


Yosemite is full of cold clear mountain trout streams and beautiful jewel lakes. One of the most popular fishing activities in the park is fly fishing the Tuolumne River. The Tuolumne has it’s beginning in Tuolumne Meadow qt an elevation of approximately 8600 ft. and it is the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. The Tuolumne River is hidden within the tall grasses and rainbow trout, brook trout, and brown trout inhabit this section of the river. With the brown trout growing up to approximately 14 inches dry fly fishing is the best technique and most fun method. Remember that visitors 16 and older need a valid California fishing license to fish in Yosemite.


Wildlife in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park provides habitat for more than 400 species of vertebrates including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The high diversity of wildlife species is the result of diverse habitats in Yosemite that are largely still intact. The park’s rich and varied habitats range from thick foothill chaparral to conifer forests to unique alpine rock habitats.

Yosemite National Park is also home to a healthy population of black bears. It is not uncommon to observe a bear in a developed campground. For that reason, managers work to protect the American black bear in Yosemite National Park so that it can continue its healthy existence for future generations of visitors to see. The challenge: The species, by its nature, can easily be corrupted by detrimental human behaviors, such as approaching too closely or poor food storage practices in campgrounds.

Mountain lions, also known as cougars or pumas roam Yosemite’s vast mountains and valleys. These important stalk-ambush predators, native to the Americas and California, are a natural part of the Yosemite landscape. Because mountain lions are shy, solitary creatures, they elude visitors and are typically unconcerned by human presence even in close proximity. If you see on consider yourself very fortunate.


There are several wonderful lodging opportunities in and adjacent to Yosemite Park. Yosemite National Park hotels range from the rustic tent cabins at Curry Village to the AAA Four-diamond Ahwahnee Hotel.

Ahwahnee Hotel

Ahwahnee Hotel is Yosemite National Parks’ premiere AAA Four-diamond rustic hotel. The Ahwanhee was completed in 1927 to attract the affluent and influential travelers to Yosemite National Park. The Ahwahnee Hotel was visited by U.S. Presidents, royalty, and dignitaries. The Ahwahnee is famous for its unique design, massive stone fireplaces, and exquisite dining.

The Tenaya Lodge

The Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite sits amid the gorgeous landscape of Yosemite National Park. Tenaya Lodge is a beautiful mountain resort that provides you with a relaxing atmosphere after your fun-filled adventures in Yosemite National Park. Tenaya Lodge is located just two miles from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park and 55 miles north of Fresno International Airport.

Wawona Hotel

Wawona Hotel is a national historic landmark and rests on beautiful meadows and beside cold and clear mountain streams. The tranquility of this Victorian-style lodge in Yosemite makes it a favorite of visitors who prefer a relaxed environment and the gracious charm of day.

Yosemite Lodge

Yosemite Lodge is the closest property to Yosemite Falls and is an idyllic spot for families, group retreats and visitors seeking the comforts of a rustic hotel after an exciting day exploring, hiking and climbing in the park’s wilderness.

All the other articles about Yosemite National Park on our website:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time to visit the park?

Fall is the best time to visit Yosemite National Park. It is not that hot and less people.

What are “must see” scenic roads in the park?

Tioga Road is the one that must be visited when driving through. Most of the roads are scenic though.

How many days should I plan for visiting the park?

The weekend – is the best. Though, if you make a good plan, you can go through the park in one day.

Are there bears in the park?

Yes, there are but nobody of travelers was seriously hurt so far.

Is bear spray allowed in the park?

No, it is NOT

What is the best itinerary for the Yosemite National Park?

There are different itinerary options depending on the amount of days you are planning to spend there. Contact us for help with planning a custom itinerary for you or check out ready itineraries on our website

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