If there is ever a place that touches your soul, then Yosemite National Park (the shiny diamond) certainly will. And I guarantee you; it will capture your heart as well! Although California might be more known for its surfers and cliff carved coastlines, this part of California is extraordinarily special. As you arrive near the park the scenic landscape will take your breath away. The Sierra-Nevada mountain region is dominated by the granite that also crests along the west edge of Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon.
The impressive granite boulders and glaciers are a result of interaction and activity with molten rock material by uplift and tilt. The natural beauty here is displayed at every direction you look. You will find incredible earthly diversity in various sections of the park. Not only can you take in the challenge of scrambling and climbing on boulders, but you can tip toe through the land of giants. The giant sequoia trees that is.
Now one of Yosemite’s neighbors, The Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias, will provide a new perspective and make you realize how small we all truly are in the world. These giants can live up to 3000 years! Another interesting feature of this land of trees is the Fallen Monarch. Located on the main trail, the notable detail about this tree is the famous 1899 photo of the U.S. Cavalry standing on top of the tree while sitting on top of their horses.
More highlights in this part of Yosemite include Bachelor and Three Graces, The Grizzly Giant, and Clothespin Tree. One of the more unique and historical stops in this park is the Mariposa Museum. I thoroughly enjoyed browsing through history in this 1930s cabin. It is built on the same site of which Galen Clark built a small cabin in 1861. Together with John Muir, Galen Clark played a critical role the preservation of Yosemite.
My visits to Yosemite include one in 2009, a casual exploring to learn the history, geology, and adventure options. Another visit to the park was my epic hiking challenge to climb to the top of Half Dome. This experience is one of the most thrilling, grueling, and rewarding than I’ve ever had. After three months of physical preparation and training, I began the arduous trek through the Mist Trail encountering a very wet Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls.
Half Dome is probably one of the most iconic hiking trails in the world. However, if you are looking for additional hiking adventures without the risks of Half Dome, then here are more incredible trails that offer hiking both easy to moderate and physically challenging.
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Easy to Moderate hiking trails are listed below.
- Hetchy Etchy Trail
- Glacier Point Road
- Tuolumne Meadow
- Mirror Lake Trail is approximately 5.3 miles and a very pleasant trek in Yosemite Valley.
More challenging hikes include the following.
- Clouds Rest Hike consists of 12.6 miles of pure beauty and challenge. It has one of the best viewpoints in Yosemite.
- Four Mile Trail offers views of Yosemite Valley and Glacier Point.
- Yosemite Fall Trail has a distance of 6.0 miles and 1903 elevation climb.
- The Mist Trail
- Yosemite Valley Trail
- Panorama Trail is known as one of the most difficult hikes in Yosemite but at the same time offers a vast amount of stunning landscape.
More unforgettable Yosemite highlights
- Bridalveil Falls
- Vernal and Nevada Falls
- Glacier Point
- Horsetail Falls
- Sentinel Dome
- Artist Point Tip: Wander onto the Pohono Trail during the golden hour of the sun and you will find stunning warm orange hues over the entire valley.
Now the hiking adventures are not the only things to do in Yosemite. The points of interest and other outdoor activities list are long here in this park. From rock climbing to camping and kayaking in Tenaya Lake; Yosemite will captivate you in many different ways.
As one of the nation’s first national parks, Yosemite gained yet even more recognition recently when the award winning documentary titled “Free Solo” came out into movie theaters. The film synopsis entails an avid rock climber; Alex Honnold, who actually climbed the world renowned El Capitan free of ropes or chains in less than 4 hours. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this movie! El Cap is one of the most recognized features of this park.
Yosemite National Park has recently implemented a reservation system to visit the park to help alleviate traffic and improve visitors' experience. There are several lodging options within the park as well as nearby towns. Mariposa is the closest town, however, staying in Oakhurst worked well for our visit to the park.
I have visited over 25 national and state parks around the U.S. and Yosemite is one of my absolute favorites. It’s difficult to actually explain what a visit to Yosemite can do to you. I like to call it heaven on earth. The hike to Half Dome is the most incredible hiking experiences and amazing challenge in my life. And it was extra special doing it at the age of 50.
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