Several waterfalls can be seen in Yosemite Valley, depending on the season. Generally, the best time of year to view Yosemite's waterfalls is spring to early summer, when snow-melt and run-off are at their peak. The two most visited are Bridalveil Fall, which is located at the entrance to Yosemite Valley on Highway 41 (which becomes Wawona Road in the park) and Yosemite Falls which is located in the valley near Yosemite Lodge. Vernal and Nevada Falls can be seen from Glacier Point or by hiking the Mist Trail from Stop 16 of the valley shuttle bus system.
Main points of interest include waterfalls, Half Dome, Mirror Lake, El Capitan, Glacier Point, Tuolomne Meadow, Wawona, Tunnel View, Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake, Hetch Hetchy and three groves of Giant Sequoias. Some attractions are seasonal.
Mariposa Grove near the park's south entrance on Highway 41 is closed for approximately two years for a renovation to preserve the life of the trees. While Mariposa Grove is closed, the very best place to see Giant Sequoias, including the largest tree in the world, is in Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park about 2.5 hours south of Oakhurst. In Yosemite, two other groves are Tuolumne Grove, near Crane Flat off Highway 120, and the Merced Grove, west of Crane Flat and also off Highway 120. These groves are smaller and require some hiking ability, as the first Giant Sequoias are a mile downhill from the trailhead - meaning there is a climb back up.
The most famous tunnel (drive-through) tree is located in the Mariposa Grove (currently closed), just up from the southern entrance to Yosemite. This tree fell during the heavy snow winter of 1968-1969. It is shown at right.
You are required to carry chains when entering the Sierra Nevada foothills and mountains from November 1st through April 1st. Dates can change depending on weather conditions. This is a California State Law and you could be fined and charged for any damage done should you have an accident. You must carry chains when entering an active chain control area. That means that when chain restrictions are in effect, visitors must be carrying chains in their vehicles to enter the park. Chains may be made mandatory on any mounttain road at any time when weather conditions dictate.
In general, fishing is poor in Yosemite Valley and much better in the high country, in Bass Lake and other surrounding lakes and streams in the Sierra National Forest. Many lakes in the forest are regularly stocked. Those 16 and older must have a valid fishing license, including in Yosemite National Park.
"Yosemite" is derived from a Southern Miwok word "Yehemite", which translates to "Some among them are killers," which is believed to be how Mariposa-area native peoples referred to the people who lived in Yosemite Valley. Many southern Miwok people in Yosemite intermarried with the Paiute people from the eastern Sierra. Traditionally, Paiute and Miwok were enemies. Thus, when Mariposa Indians referred to people in the Valley, they commented that some among them (the Paiute) were killers.
In Yosemite Valley during the winter, average daytime temperatures are 30-55 degrees and 20-35 degrees at night. In mountain areas, layering is the best approach to adapt to temperatures that can vary greatly from morning to evening.
We sincerely hope not. As thrilling as it is to see a bear, the ones that gravitate to populated areas of the park are endangered. The National Park Service works hard to keep our wild bears wild. However, there's an excellent chance of seeing lots of other wildlife: mule deer, coyotes, marmots, several species of squirrel and numerous birds such as Stellar's Blue Jay, Black Headed Grosbeaks and possibly various birds of prey.
There is so much to see and do throughout Madera County: California's Gateway to Yosemite. Bass Lake, the museums in Oakhurst, Coarsegold and Raymond, the Fossil Discovery Center in Chowchilla, the wineries of the Madera Wine Trail are all popular attractions. For more, visit our Attractions page.