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Sightseeing in California's Scenic Yosemite National Park

California is a state full of natural wonders, including many state and national parks. See interesting sites in San Francisco and beyond.

Looking down on Yosemite Valley.

Looking down on Yosemite Valley.

Exploring Yosemite

Several years ago, a friend and I spent several days hiking and exploring in California's Yosemite National Park. I took many pictures, and many of them will be shown in this post about our experiences while there.

Many people might be aware of Yosemite Valley because of its impressive beauty due to sheer cliffs, rock formations, and cascading waterfalls. Others might know of the love that John Muir had for this locale. He was a devoted environmentalist and conservationist. He explained how geologic events helped create this most beautiful place, and through his efforts, in 1890, Yosemite became a national park.

Yosemite View Lodge

Before my friend coming over here from Germany, I had spent much time planning this vacation trip. We planned to utilize my car, driving it from Houston, Texas to California and back, all the while stopping at our national park destinations, plus other points of interest along the way.

Reservations were made well in advance after discussing and agreeing upon the prices and conveniences we both wanted. For this particular portion of the trip, we stayed at the Yosemite View Lodge. We were extremely pleased with the accommodations, and I would happily stay there again.

Yosemite View Lodge sits adjacent to the Merced River, which flows through Yosemite National Park. On the first floor facing the river, we had a large patio furnished with wicker chairs and tables, and we could see and hear the roar of the boisterous Merced River both outside and inside our comfortable room. The owners had spent the money to have the river illuminated at night, which added to the visual beauty of staying there.

A fireplace inside our room provided ambiance and also warmth. We were there in the spring when the melting snow provides the grandest show of waterfall volume in Yosemite National Park.

That particular year not too long after we had left the park, the Merced not only overflowed its banks, but the park had to be temporarily closed to tourists. Having gone whitewater rafting several times in my life, I would not have wanted any part of entering that wild and raging river that year at that particular time. Of course, the daredevils would probably have loved it!

Each day we would enter Yosemite National Park from here to view different areas and do some hiking.

Geology of Yosemite Valley

People thought that naturalist John Muir was crazy when he first proposed that much of Yosemite Valley came into existence by glacial activity. But over time, most have come to agree with that theory accounting for the distinctive widening out of the valley floor that river action alone could not explain.

Starting below ground, the granite features comprising much of Yosemite had crystallized from a hot molten state. Over millions of years, the seas retreated, and Teutonic movements deep within the earth caused the Sierra Nevada range to rise.

The Merced River played a vital part in this evolving story. Carving into the tilting walled canyon, a gorge over three thousand feet deep and carrying away debris as every river does on its march eventually back to the oceans, the Merced River was doing its part to create this landscape.

Usually, this type of action forms a V-shaped canyon. So how did the U-shaped canyon come into being? Ancient glaciers that had formed and slowly moved down through parts of what would eventually be called Yosemite scoured the V-shaped canyon, widening it as the ice transported both small and large boulders in its path.

Not much in the way of a slow-moving glacier can stand up to the terrific force of its creeping passage. Think of glacial action moving through rocks as compared to a bulldozer moving through banks of earth. Where the bulldozer has gone, areas become flattened. Chunks of dirt from the banks not well cemented into place might fall into this cleared path after the bulldozer has passed.

This example is much like what the glaciers would have done when moving through Yosemite. They took areas of rock, leaving behind sheer cliffs and what would become hanging valleys where waterfalls now tumble into rivers that were once on or near the same level. Boulders and rocks are strewn in places falling off from the higher mounts above them, just as those clumps of the earth would have fallen off after that bulldozer had plowed through their midst.

What is now the Yosemite Valley floor was once covered by a lake. It eventually disappeared, leaving the flat base, which now supports meadows, trees, and other foliage.

Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places on earth due to its past geologic history. Of course, nature is never static but ever-changing. The rivers, waterfalls, climate changes, and movements deep within the earth will continue to shape and modify Yosemite National Park long into the future.

Wildlife in Yosemite National Park

There are 400 species of animals that could potentially be sighted and found within the bounds of Yosemite. Part of this is due to the topographic variety seen within the park that can support many birds and animals.

We spotted the mule deer, as one can readily see from my picture that I took of them. They are the only type of deer found in Yosemite.

Sixty-five species of birds are there, including the spotted owl and brightly colored Steller's Jay.

While hiking one day, we and others saw a cougar poking its head around a large boulder not twenty feet from the path in which we were traversing! Had another hiker not quietly pointed it out, we would have missed seeing it.

Hiking to Bridalveil Falls

The starting point is from a parking lot area only about one-quarter of a mile from the falls. It is a 1/2 mile round trip that takes only about twenty minutes and is considered an easy hike. Unless one wishes to get wet, some rain gear is handy, as the mist from the cascading water of the Bridalveil Falls pounding onto the rocks beneath it is quite substantial.

It was a bit foggy the day my friend and I saw it. The water was tumbling over the rocks and passing as a turbulent stream through the forest. When we reached the viewing point, we could see why the waterfall was so named. It seems to come over the face of the rocks at the top in a fairly regular pattern, widening as it nears the bottom much as many bridal veils do as they float down the back of the bride's dress, forming a billowing train at the bottom.

Bridalveil Fall spills over from what is called a "hanging" valley. This valley is above the floor of Yosemite below it. That happened when the glaciers made their way through this locale millions of years earlier, sheering away the rock base that once was contiguous with the valley.

Hiking To Vernal Falls

This hike is strenuous, and one climbs about 1,000 feet gaining in elevation as one travels this trail to Vernal Fall.

One has access to this hiking trail by using one of the shuttle services within the Yosemite National Park. Shuttles are provided within the park to ease congestion, and one is encouraged to use these services, which run on a timely schedule to get to different areas within the national park.

One disembarks at the Happy Isles Shuttle Stop # 16 to take this trail to see Vernal Fall. This trail is also called the Mist Trail or John Muir Trail. It is a three-mile round trip and generally takes anywhere from two to four hours, depending upon how quickly one wishes to traverse the terrain.

As you can tell from some of these attached photos, both my friend and I took time to enjoy the grand vistas as well as the smaller intimate details such as mosses and lichen growing on rocks and trees.

At times we had to use our umbrellas due to light rain. Most of the time, we had partial protection under the canopy of tall trees. Joining our fellow hikers, we enjoyed the twists and turns, scrambling over some rocks at times, and finally making it to the end of the trail to see the downpour of Vernal Fall. We could hear the Vernal Fall long before we saw it. It was a most rewarding and pleasurable hike.

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake and Meadow is enjoyable as an easy one-mile level hike leads one there.

The lake is gradually silting up, and it will eventually disappear, just as did Yosemite Lake that once covered the valley floor. Mirror Lake eventually will become just additional meadowland.

Shuttle Stop # 17 takes one to this area within the park.

Valley Floor

The flat valley floor of Yosemite Valley provides one with breathtaking views. As spring turns into summer, the waterfalls become less dramatic as the snow packs from the upper elevations have melted. So if you wish to see sights such as the ones pictured here, be sure and visit Yosemite National Park in the springtime of the year.

Springtime flowers in bloom also add to this already stunning palate of comeliness. The flowering dogwoods added a splash of color to the house utilized for park personnel and pictured below.

Even if one was handicapped and could not enjoy the many hiking opportunities within Yosemite National Park, I have to admit that just driving through this magnificent valley and the other roads within the park would leave you with excellent images.

This site is a photographer's dream location. Amateur and professional photographers alike can hardly escape this paradise without some noteworthy images.

Fly Fishing in Yosemite

While we were walking through a meadow and alongside a river one day, we became mesmerized by the ballet-like actions of a fly fisherman in action.

I remembered the film I had seen years earlier titled A River Runs Through It. It was the first time that I fully realized the beauty that this casting of a fishing line entails. It seemed like such a fun way to spend a portion of a day, especially surrounded by the spectacular scenery with which we were all surrounded.

Other Hikes

There is the Lower Yosemite Fall which is an easy 1/2 mile round trip hike. The Upper Yosemite Fall Trail Columbia Rock is a strenuous 2 mile round trip with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. If one wishes to hike to the top of Yosemite Falls, prepare for an elevation gain of 2,700 feet and a roundtrip of 7.2 miles. To get to see the Nevada Fall, one must plan to hike 7 miles round trip in a strenuous 1,900-foot elevation gain.

For more moderate hiking, walk the Valley Floor Loop, which is 13 miles for the entire loop or 6.5 miles for half of it. Glacier Point Four Mile Trail will have you walking 4.8 miles one way in a very strenuous hike with an elevation gain of 3,200 feet. For the most strenuous hike of all with an elevation gain of 4,800 feet and 17 miles round trip, you might want to consider the Half Dome.

Beautiful Scenery

Around every bend of a path or every curve in the road is another spectacular scene that is enjoyable to view in Yosemite National Park, which the next photos show.

According to Wikipedia, there are 800 miles of hiking trails and 350 miles of roads within the park. So there is something to please almost any visitor. It varies from the casual observer looking out of the car window to the experienced and willing hiker who wants to take more time to explore the depths of the park away from the roadsides.

For more information about many other specifics, including prices, be sure to click on the links provided at the bottom of this page.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2021:

Hi Denise,

It sounds like you have a long family history of visiting this spectacular national park. Thanks for elaborating on some of that history. You certainly lived in a gorgeous part of California!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on February 27, 2021:

We used to go in the 60s every weekend in the summer, back when they had the fire falls after dusk. You could hear the singing of the Lost Indian Maiden from the Camp and then they shoved embers of burnt wood, bark, and pinecones down the side of Sugar Loaf. It was incredible to see and looked like the falls were on fire. They stopped doing that in 68 because someone suggested it wasn't in keeping with nature. We lived in Merced and it was an easy 40-minute drive up to the park and no admission fees in those days. My dad loved it. Great tribute to the wonders of this park.



Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2021:

Hi Misbah,

I hope you get the chance to visit the spectacular Yosemite National Park someday. You will be rewarded with great beauty and memories to last a lifetime. I appreciate your comment.

Misbah Sheikh from The World of Rebels. on February 27, 2021:

Yosemite is really very beautiful place, Peggy

I would love to visit this place

Very magnificent, very impressive place

Thanks for sharing


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2021:

Hi Jack,

It is fun writing about magnificent national parks like this one. I would go back there happily and get to spend more time there. I hope that you also get to spend time there if you have not already done so.

Jack on February 27, 2021:

WOW. What a magnificent national treasure. Thanks for writing about it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 27, 2021:

Hi MG,

Yosemite is an amazingly beautiful place! I hope you get a chance to visit it someday. I have always loved spending time in our national parks.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on February 26, 2021:

Another interesting article with lovely pictures. You created a fine picture of the National Park.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 26, 2021:

Hi Sandra,

It truly was a fabulous trip! The views in Yosemite are breathtakingly beautiful. One could spend endless days there doing the various hikes, etc. We loved every moment of what we got to see and do. Thanks for your comment.

Sandra on February 26, 2021:

The grandeur of the American West never ceases to amaze me. Your pictures and prose really bring home the trip you and your foreign friend enjoyed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on May 30, 2016:

Hi Robert,

So glad you enjoyed this hub regarding Yosemite National Park. It is a beauty! The "purple mountain majesty" really does show up in that first photo. :)

Robert Sacchi on May 29, 2016:

Great Hub. Fantastic pictures. That picture of the beginning explains the line "Purple mountain's majesty" .

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 19, 2016:

Hi Audrey,

You are so fortunate that you got to visit the beautiful Yosemite National Park often when you lived so close to it. I would have done the same! Thanks for the share.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on April 18, 2016:

Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite places in both winter and spring. Lived a short 4 hours drive for many years and visited often.

You've captured the magnificence of mother nature's finest with both words and photos. Thanks Peggy and will share.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on April 11, 2016:

Hi Susie,

Glad I could take you on a virtual tour of Yosemite. It is truly a spectacular place.

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on April 11, 2016:

Yosemite National Park would be on my list of places to see if I were to visit California but I have no plans to do that. I love living vicariously through other people and you take me on some great tours, Pegs. - Shared.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 16, 2013:

Hello Guitar Wizard,

I just listened to your YouTube video and your winter photos of Yosemite were beautiful and aptly matched the mood of the beautiful Cello Solo. Thanks for leaving this comment. I shared your video on Google + and also left a comment. I added your video to this hub. Thanks for your comment and the link.

Mark Edward Fitchett from Long Beach on February 16, 2013:

Love the picures! You are really good at this. I went to Yosemite for the first time ever a couple of years ago in the winter and took some amateur photos. I decided to do a collage with with a cello solo I composed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 02, 2012:

Hello Suhail and my dog,

Like you...I absolutely love visiting national parks and Yosemite is a beauty. Am sure that you will truly enjoy it. Nice that you have plans to visit it in 2014 and I appreciate your comment.

Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent from Mississauga, ON on November 02, 2012:

Yosemite is on my dream travel list and I will be there in 2014. I am more of a hiker than a tourist and therefore, national parks are a great place for me to explore and observe nature.

Thanks for providing so much information about this park.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 25, 2012:

Hi Charlu,

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on this hub regarding Yosemite National Park. It is SO beautiful and certainly a photographer's paradise. I can see why John Muir fell in love with this area and spent so much time there even before it became a national park. Glad that you liked all of these photos! My friend and I had a fabulous time there! :)

Charlu from Florida on March 25, 2012:

I agree with paradise and dohn in that I envy you and this is probably my favorite hub of yours. The Park in itself is incredible but your hub and breathtaking pictures take it to spectacular. All the ups and thank you

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 10, 2011:

Hello Walter Stuart,

It is obvious that you also love Yosemite National Park for all the many reasons you listed not the least of which is the photography aspect. I certainly kept snapping pictures on our hikes. Such a gorgeous area! Thanks for your comment and I apologize for another late response. This was also discovered in the spam folder for some odd reason so I did not see your comment until I was simply checking this hub today for any needed maintenance.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 10, 2011:

Hello alisha4321,

Sorry for the late response. This went into the spam folder and went unnoticed until today. Your descriptions of Yosemite National Park are so apt. Thanks for your comment.

Walter Stuart on November 22, 2010:

Yosemite National Park is internationally known for beautiful waterfalls, clear streams, biological diversity, marvellous granite cliffs, the huge sequio groves. This park has a number of plants like chaparral/oak woodland, lower montane, upper montane, subalpine and alpine and animals such as Bighorn sheep, bobcat, gray fox, mountain beaver, mountain lion, black bear and bat. The beautiful tunnel View is the first view of the Valley!

I simply love this place for its lovely scenery and great views for photography!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 08, 2010:

Hi ParadiseForever,

Since you had to cross much of the world to get to Yosemite National Park and Death Valley National Park and other places, it is wonderful that you got to see these places even if your time was a bit shorter. I agree with you that Yosemite has such grandeur and leaves a lasting impression. Thanks for the visit and comment.

ParadiseForever from Chennai, India. on October 07, 2010:

Hi Peggy,

I really envy you. You had a spring vacation and visited ten National Parks and scenic places. First I started reading your Death Valley hub. Then, this Yosemite hub. Now my next job is to read your 17-mile drive hub. Even though I also had an opportunity to visit these places recently, it was a very short trip.

As you rightly said, Yosemite is a paradise on earth. Driving through this magnificent valley will definitely leave memorable images in ones mind. WOW! what a great writing about Yosemite? Excellent eye-catching photos taken from different places/angles. I really enjoyed Yosemite here once again. Keep writing.

xunlei on December 11, 2009:

I will keep you posted!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 05, 2009:

Hello successfulblogger,

If you visit Yosemite National Park and do some hiking, please come back and let me know which were your favorite hikes within the park. It would be interesting to compare. Thanks!

successfulblogger from Los Angeles,Ca on December 04, 2009:

Terrific hub, I hope to make it up there soon.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 04, 2009:

Hi dohn,

What a glowing compliment coming from you! Thanks! I DO believe that you liked these pictures of our hiking in Yosemite National Park. It is truly breathtaking scenery.

Yes...I have more up my sleeve...more to come from California and elsewhere. :-)

Thanks again for this comment.

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on December 03, 2009:

This is by far, my favorite hub from you (although I do hope that more will follow). You've certainly sold me on wanting to go now. You have such a great eye in all aspects. I really liked you stone pictograph as your talent is obvious. My father got to see Yellowstone years ago, yet never took us kids (I guess we didn't behave well enough :P ) But I will go, mark my words! I've been wanting to for a long time now.

I'm in awe of this hub :D

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 02, 2009:

Hello LoveEarthAlways,

So happy to have shown you pictures of the hiking my friend and I got to enjoy in Yosemite National Park. When you go depending upon the time you have, you might be able to take in some of the other hikes. If so...please write about your experiences and take pictures. Such a beautiful sure others will be interested as well. Thanks!

LoveEarthAlways from Burlington, Vermont, USA on December 02, 2009:

Wow, what an awesome chapter! I want to revisit this before we go out to Yosemite.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 01, 2009:

Hello loveroflife,

Very happy to hear that you also liked the pictures of Yosemite. And thanks for noticing my lithograph. It was a joy to create and reminds me of Yosemite National Park every time I look at it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 01, 2009:

Hi Pete,

Yes, glaciers have carved out many a different landscape. They did a great job in creating the beauty we get to enjoy today in Yosemite National Park. Glad you like my pictures. They are my favorite type of souvenir when I travel. Thanks for the comment.

loveroflife on December 01, 2009:

Your pictures of Yosemite are impressive and the stone lithograph shows great detail.

Pete Maida on December 01, 2009:

Glaciers have been a majot contributor to our present landscape. You always have such beautiful pictures.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Hello TheBestHomes,

So happy to hear that you are enjoying these pictures that I took in Yosemite National Park. Thanks for leaving a comment.

TheBestHomes on November 30, 2009:

Awsome work. Nice pictures.I have watched them several times. Really eyesoothing views!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Hi agusfanani,

Thank you so much for visiting my Yosemite National Park hub and thank you in addition for the compliments on my lithograph. It is a joy to create art and nice when people appreciate it.

agusfanani from Indonesia on November 30, 2009:

What a great journey you made ! I could hardly have comments checking out those beautiful pictures and the lithograph is another one that shows your talent. Thank you for sharing Peggy W.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Hi Betty,

One could almost point and shoot in any direction and get great pictures in Yosemite National Park. But thanks for the compliment and comment.

Betty Reid from Texas on November 30, 2009:

Great photos! No wonder you wanted to share them!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Hi Ethel,

Yes, visiting Yosemite National Park "in the flesh" is better than seeing it via pictures. At least this gave you an idea of some of the sights you would be able to enjoy if you would ever come to this part of California. Keep in mind, we did not see it all in the several days we spent there. I'd also enjoy going back and hike some of the other areas within the park. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Greetings H P Roychoudhury,

Very happy to have shared this experience of visiting the portion of California that contains this gem of a national park...Yosemite...with you and others. Thank you for the nice comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Hi dahoglund,

If you visited Yosemite National Park in the 1950's or 1960's and don't quite remember were undoubtedly a child. I remember visiting the Blackhills with my parents in the 50's and while I have some memories of Mount Rushmore, etc, I would surely get more out of it if I were to revisit the same spots as an adult.

As to the camera and new technology...I am loving my new digital camera. Most of the pictures in these hubs were taken with a 35mm Canon camera that had film. Would hate to return to that method of not knowing if the picture was good or not until the film was developed after the trip had ended. Ha!

Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Hi shamelabboush,

Nice to hear that you liked viewing these pictures of California's Yosemite National Park. Just don't stop breathing for too long a period of time! :) Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Hi Hello, hello,

As you nicely said, Yosemite National Park is a paradise on earth. Thanks for the visit and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 30, 2009:

Hi Yangtze,

So happy you enjoyed the pictures of our hiking in Yosemite National Park. Thanks for the first comment.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on November 30, 2009:

I would love to visit Peggy. In the flesh it will be awesome

H P Roychoudhury from Guwahati, India on November 30, 2009:

It is far away from my country to visit but I should say I am lucky that I have enjoyed the natural beauty of the Valley and Yosemite National Park by going through this hub which is so nicely written and enriched with beautiful photographs. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the valley.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on November 30, 2009:

Truthfully I cannot recall if I was ever in that park or not. I went to California twice in the 1950's and 60's and don't recall what all we saw. I was at an age where everything was new and overwhelming. Your pictures are great. I used to be into photography but got away from it when I developed cataracts. I am attempting to renew my interest although technology has changed.

shamelabboush on November 30, 2009:

Yosemite is like a dream to me. Whewnever I imagine this wonderful nature, I stop breathing. I really wish I can go there someday! Who knows?

Glad to read and check your hubs again Peggy :)

Hello, hello, from London, UK on November 30, 2009:

Thank you for showing this paradise. Nature really created paradise there. Thank you again for your hub.

Yangtze on November 30, 2009:

So beautiful pictures and scenes!

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