Yosemite National Park

August 31, 2018

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park, in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, is a breathtaking destination with its cascading waterfalls, vast wilderness and challenging rock climbs. Whether you opt for a day trip or settle in to see the sights, there is so much to love about Yosemite.

Making our way into Yosemite National Park, felt as though I was driving into an Ansel Adams photograph, the only exception being it was full colour in the middle of summer, and I could feel the natural beauty at every turn. The surroundings are absolutely breathtaking and the most picturesque landscapes I have ever seen.

half dome
Half Dome

Ansel Adams, a well known player in the preservation and conservation of wilderness areas and national parks in the United States, chose to capture Yosemite in black and white and has become renowned for his work, largely because of his ability to combine an appreciation of the landscape’s aesthetic beauty while displaying great technical skill.

Feeling inspired by Ansel’s body of work, it’s no surprise I kept my camera close at all times, eager to capture the incredible sights of Yosemite.

My now-fiancé and I had been holidaying in California and wanted to see the sites of northern Cali, so we arranged a multi-day road trip. Starting in San Francisco, we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, along the ocean, then through the giant sequoia trees to finally end up in Napa Valley/St Helena. Next stop was Sonoma to visit the quaint and historical vineyards and enjoy a wide variety of local wines, each with their own characteristics thanks to San Fran’s unique micro-climates. 

Knowing we had a four-hour drive ahead to reach Yosemite National Park, we left Sonoma early one morning, and during our road trip, we happened upon a huge wind farm; a beautiful juxtaposition against the rolling hills and blue sky. 

While driving to Yosemite, it’s easy to get caught up in the surroundings, but as the roads are windy, make sure you’re paying close attention; in some areas it felt like we were going to drive off the side!

Upon arriving at Yosemite, we parked in the first spot we found, which happened to be opposite the Yosemite Chapel; built in 1879, it is Yosemite’s oldest building. This part of the national park is called the Sentinel Meadow/Cook’s Meadow Loop and it offers the most breathtaking views of Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite Chapel
Yosemite Chapel

On the day of our trip, there was added excitement as former US president Barack Obama was flying in with his family and other government officials, to give a speech on the National Park Service. Although we didn’t get to see him, we were able to snap a pic of his helicopter overhead!

Obama Yosemite

First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is nearly 1200 square miles, which is why many people choose to stay for a few days and camp. We would have loved to camp, and it will be something we look into next time, but you need to book your site a year in advance. It is so busy, some families re-book as they check out.

If you are planning to stay overnight or want to do an extended hike, you will require a permit, likewise if you want to climb the cliff faces, you need a permit and an application. There are plenty of park rangers around, so if you have any questions about what you’re allowed to do, or want to know more about the area, they are a wealth of information.

We spent a full day at the national park, which was enough for us to explore and get a sense of the place. Day visitors don’t require any permits and are allowed to stay until the park closes at sunset – which allows you to see the changing colours of the rocks as the daylight changes. It is absolutely phenomenal and we often found ourselves just standing in silence, admiring the beauty of nature. Yosemite National Park is truly spectacular.

There is plenty to see and do at Yosemite National Park; the Tunnel View is Yosemite’s most famous vista. It is where you can see El Capitan, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Sentinel Dome and one of the most prominent waterfalls, Bridalveil Fall.

El Capitan
El Capitan

The top 3 sites would be:

• The two granite monoliths, Half Dome and El Capitan. As you look up at the face of El Capitan you may be lucky enough to see climbers scaling the 3000 foot walls. Some hikers are easier to spot than others because they have big blue water barrels strapped to their backs, it is all they need to survive!

• Yosemite Falls stands 728 meters high (2425 ft) and is North America’s tallest waterfall.

• Big Oak Flat Road, aka Hwy 120, brings you through the Gold Rush town of Groveland, CA 9532 which is historical in its own right and has a few timeless places to visit that offer plenty of old world charm.

My top tips for planning a trip to Yosemite National Park:

• Take a great camera

• Utilise the shuttles, you will learn a lot and it makes getting around the park so easy

• Pack comfortable footwear, water, snacks, a camera and a sense of adventure. My fiancé and I both love learning about where we are and who doesn’t love an interesting fact!

Cover image: Tristan and Ellen in Sentinel/Cook’s Meadow Loop with Yosemite Falls

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