Yosemite National Park, located about 180 miles southeast of Davis, receives over 3 million annual visitors who flock to the park for its immense waterfalls, steep cliffs, lush forests, and spectacular scenery. The park was one of the first Federally-protected reserves and was set aside in 1864 through an act by President Abraham Lincoln. Today, most of the park is protected through Federal "wilderness" designation and the park was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984.
As one of the most popular national parks, Yosemite is accessible through multiple forms of transit.
Yosemite is about 3.5 hours southeast of both Davis and the San Francisco Bay Area. While there are several ways to access the park, the most popular and direct is via Highway 120, which leaves I-5 near Manteca. Highways 41 and 140 also serve Yosemite Valley from the south and east, respectively, while Highway 120 crosses the park's high country en route to Mono Lake and Nevada.
Rental car services are also available at the Fresno-Yosemite Airport.
Amtrak and the Yosemite Area Regional Transit System (YARTS) offer service to Yosemite Valley and the surrounding cities on a year-round basis.
Yosemite Valley Shuttle
Yosemite Valley is now served by the Valley Shuttle, a hybrid fleet of busses that stop at most of Yosemite Valley's major lodgings, sights, and trailheads. Visitors are encouraged to park their cars and use the free shuttle to minimize automobile emissions and traffic on park roads.
Most visitors (90%, in fact) flock to Yosemite Valley to see glacier-carved valleys, polished cliffs, waterfalls, streams, meadows, forests, and wildlife. However, the park also includes several other areas that, because of their seasonal closure to automobile traffic, receive far less visitation yet contain some of the world's most unparalleled beauty.
Bridalveil Falls at dusk, September 2005 Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Valley's main attractions include Yosemite and Bridalveil Falls, several major lodging establishments (such as Curry Village, the Yosemite Lodge, and the Ahwahnee Hotel), sheer cliffs suitable for scaling, rafting on the Merced River, and trailheads to several major trails (Yosemite Falls Trail, Mist Trail, Mirror Lake Trail, Four-mile Trail, and others).
Yosemite valley is home to some of Yosemite's most popular and recognizable attractions. The immediately recognizable 'Half Dome' is located at the far east end of the valley and towers 4,737 feet above the valley floor. Glacier Point is situated just to the south of Half Dome and is considered one of the most popular viewpoints for looking out over the valley from an elevation of 7,214 feet. Yosemite Falls which is located more near the center of the valley drops a astonishing 2,425 feet making it the sixth tallest waterfall in the wold. And El Capitan which is a massive wall of granite, rising abruptly at almost a perfect 90-degree angle to the valley floor. El Capitan stretches almost 3,000 feet from base to summit and is a wildly popular recreational spot for rock climbers from all around the world.
High Country and Tuolumne Meadows
Yosemite's high country is home to Tuolumne Meadows, which bursts with wildflowers and lush grasses during the spring and summer seasons. Highway 120 crosses this area en route to Mono Lake and Nevada and is only open in the summer and fall. Other points of interest include Tenaya Lake, Tioga Pass, and the various domes that dot the landscape.
Half Dome from Glacier Point, September 2005 Glacier Point Road
Glacier Point Road, also open in the summer and fall, passes through the Badger Pass Ski Area en route to Taft Point and Glacier Point. Both viewpoints offer stunning views of Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Tenaya Canyon, and other landmarks.
The Hetch Hetchy area features the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, formed by O'Shaughnessy Dam in 1923, and the Tueeulala and Wapama Falls. O'Shaughnessy Dam was built on the Tuolumne River after the area received protection as a National Park and drowned what John Muir called Yosemite's "twin." The area provides access to various trails that traverse the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne. Today, there is talk of removing the dam to restore the valley. Hetch Hetchy can be reached via Evergreen Road, which leaves Highway 120 just west of the park's Big Oak Flat entrance.
Places to Stay
Yosemite is surrounded by dozens of hotels and motels that line the roads around the park. The Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, and Ahwahnee Hotels all offer lodging within the park. Campgrounds are also abundant in all areas of the park and camping is restricted to designated campgrounds. Sleeping in cars is restricted in most areas of the park.