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Blog 5 Destinations that are Classic Yosemite
12/16/2022Hiking, Photography, Seasons, Tours, Waterfalls, Wildlife |   

5 Destinations that are Classic Yosemite

Covering over 1,200 square miles & featuring deep granite valleys, grand meadows, impossibly high peaks, and massive looming trees, it’s no wonder why Yosemite is so popular. Here’s a taste of what is quintessential Yosemite with five of the iconic destinations within its boundaries.

Could you visit New York and not at least take one picture of the Empire State Building? Half Dome is THE iconic landmark of Yosemite that all first-timers need to see. There are many ways to experience it with views from many points towards the eastern end of Yosemite Valley, such as Sentinel Bridge (with accompanying reflections provided by the Merced River), and the Ahwahnee Meadow and Stoneman Meadows.  Want to get closer? A two-mile hike to Mirror Lake yields some unique views of Tis-sa-ack (the Ahwahnechee name for Half Dome) as it towers over the seasonal pond as well as Ahwiyah Point, North Dome, and Mt. Watkins. For those in serious athletic shape and with an adventurous spirit, hike the fourteen-mile trail to the top of the nearly 5,000-foot granite formation, which includes traversing the last steep 400 feet up the backside of the dome with the aid of metal cables first installed in back in 1919. 

Two quick notes.  The cables go up in the spring and are taken down each fall. Permits are required to ascend both the subdome steps and Half Dome cables.   

Right after the large granite walls of Yosemite Valley, the next main attraction that tops everyone’s mind is the Sequoias. There are three groves of Giant Sequoias within the park and the largest and most well-known (and honestly the easiest to get to) is the Mariposa Grove. Home to 500 mature examples of Sequoiadendron giganteum including the massive 209-foot-tall Grizzly Giant (it's not just tall - it's massive with a volume of 34,005 cubic feet, and an estimated weight of around 2 million pounds!), you can get up close and personal to the cathedral-like forest. Enjoy one of its many trails, including the most challenging & rewarding, the Mariposa Grove Trail.   

Like anything popular, there’s usually a reason for it. Falls? Check. Two of them actually: 317-foot Vernal Fall and 594-foot Nevada Fall. Moderate Distance? Check. This trail features around 1.2 miles and approximately 1,000 feet of gain to Vernal Fall & another 1.5 miles and 1,000 vertical feet to Nevada Fall. It's the perfect option to experience the wonder of Yosemite up close and personal.

For those that wonder how this glorious valley was formed… well, it’s because of nature’s handiwork: a great combination of geological uplift, erosion and finally and most dramatically, glacial carving.  Massive moving sheets of ice carved much of Yosemite's landscape through not just one, but three glacial periods stretching over close to 3 million years. And thus, the name of one of the the most dramatic views of the valley fits so well. Located on the east end of the south wall of Yosemite ValleyGlacier Point sits 3,200 feet above popular Curry Village. From this vantage point, you can take in the eastern end of this awe-inspiring valley and see the finished product of the glaciers carving and reshaping the massive stretches of granitic rock.

Dropping a total of 2,425 feet from its peak to the base of the lower fall, Yosemite Falls are truly spectacular especially in the late spring (May) when snowmelt is at its peak. Normally flowing from November through July, it’s the king of the waterfalls within the park. Its massive volume of water can be heard roaring all across the valley as it comes crashing down to the valley floor. Most visible from Yosemite Village, you can take a mile loop stroll to the base of them. And just like Half Dome, there is a strenuous hiking option available for those that want to reach the top.

This is merely a drop in the buck of what is quintessential Yosemite. From Tuolumne Meadows in the High Sierra to El Capitan & Tunnel View, the number of things to see can’t be fit into a week, let alone a day!


Like what you see? Save this pin to your travel planning board to give you an easy way to find your way back here!  Also check out our other itineraries as well as blog posts for more ideas and pins!

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
Visit Yosemite - Madera County
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