Nothing screams adventure as much as art created with inspiration from nature. Yosemite has for a long time been a place of inspiration for artists and a paradise for nature lovers. The beauty of Yosemite could easily be seen from the black and white photographs taken by Ansel Adams in the 1920s and beauty stunning from a black and white photograph could easily be ten folds better in person. Yosemite is a heaven for adventure seekers like campers, hikers and climbers alike. It offers the most challenging hiking trails with rewarding scenery, the best rocks for climbing, some of the best campsites and the best rivers for open water swimming among other activities.
- Yosemite falls
- Half Dome
- El Capitan
- Yosemite Museum
- Wawona Hotel
Enter Yosemite travelling on highway 140 passing through the Merced River Canyon where there are a lot of activities on the water like rafting and open water swimming. Be sure to get an overview of the Valley Floor which will motivate you to explore the valley wholeheartedly. After settling in, begin your adventure at the majestic Yosemite Falls.
This is one of the highlights of Yosemite-valley with waters pounding rocks at the base of the cliff. The falls are so high that you begin to see them over treetops before you even get there, they look different from every angle becoming more fascinating with each and every angle. You can drive through the valley.
This will take less time and energy but the currency you will use to pay for that is the scenery you miss while driving so I suggest hiking instead. Hiking allows you to appreciate all the beauty of the valley. Walk to the base of the falls for a mesmerising feeling of cool mist falling all over you. The falls can also be seen from the swing bridge but that does not match the feeling associated with seeing it up close.
There are bus shuttles that transverse the valley floor for easy get around, you hop on one of these once you feel tired to continue walking and reserve the energy for the next big thing. Make your next stop at the Mirror lake from where you can catch an undisturbed view of the Half Dome.
The Half Dome is one of the famous features of Yosemite which pops into everyone’s mind when you mention Yosemite-valley. The giant rock looks different from every angle but the view you will get from Mirror lake is among the best. The rock is enormous, don’t be fooled by how it looks smaller from the valley. You are sure to appreciate the size of the rock once you try to climb it, the reason why many elite climbers are drawn here from all parts of the world is that this giant granite rock offers a whole new set of challenges.
The Half Dome can also be seen from the Tunnel View in a distance, another place you can view it from is the Glacier Point. From the Glacier Point, you can appreciate the size of the Half Dome as it is seen to rise above other mountains, and from here you will understand why it was called the Half Dome. If you are daring enough you can climb the rock for what is considered the best hike in Yosemite, I have no experience of this hike so I cannot say how interesting the trail is but it is worth a try.
From the Half Dome continue to another giant popular among climbers, El Capitan. This humongous rock is in the northern side of the valley with a height of almost a kilometre at 915 metres. El Capitan is the captain of all the rocks you can climb in Yosemite as it is 1,000 feet higher than the face of the Half Dome. The documentary film, Free Solo, brought fame to El Capitan as climber Alex Honnold climbed it without ropes becoming the first person to do so in June of 2017. The climb took almost 4 hours as the life of the climber hung in the balance.
From the Tunnel View Look-out, you will see El Capitan as a massive cliff on the left side of the valley standing higher than everything else. With its sheer size, El Capitan can be seen from almost anywhere in the valley but the best place to appreciate its beauty and take the best pictures of it is the El Capitan Meadow on the North Drive through the valley. Most tour guides take a break in the meadow and you can take advantage of this time to ask the rangers all the questions you might have about El Capitan. You can go up to its walls and touch it from the El Capitan picnic area. Be sure to have a picnic packed as you are sure to enjoy it in the El Capitan picnic area surrounded by beautiful scenery and the wonders of nature.
From El Capitan head back to the village where you can continue to explore the Yosemite Museum. The museum was designed by renowned architect Herbert Maier and completed in 1925. His proposed design was modified so the building would easily blend with the scenery of the national park in what is known as Rustic Style. The rustic style resembles ancient buildings produced by craftsmen with limited tools, this type of architecture sympathises with the natural surroundings and blends in sending a message that nature is well preserved.
The museum is built to be fireproof as the collection it holds is too valuable. It is among the first museums to have been constructed in a national park. In the museum, you will find all the information about the history of the area and its native people. The best way to tour the museum is to view the events chronologically beginning with the formation of the valley. The museum is open for exploration all year round and those with limited time can get a sneak peek of the valley here without actually having to travel the distance.
Make a reservation with the Wawona Hotel which is a historic landmark as it is the oldest structure still standing in the park. The hotel was built with Late Victorian architecture by the Washburn brothers in 1876. Its main purpose was built to serve tourists visiting the Mariposa Grove. The hotel then added more rooms in 1916 to service the increasing number of tourists the area was receiving and today has 104 guestrooms.
The rooms are furnished with antiques, period pieces and vintage elements to take you on a roller-coaster trip to the 19th century. When coming to the hotel be sure to be prepared for a full detachment from the modern lifestyle as you explore the natural beauty of Yosemite, the hotel has no telephones nor televisions in the guest rooms to complete that trip to the past century. You might have heard of the hotel as Big Trees Lodge as it used this name from 2015 to 2019 but today you search it as Wawona hotel.
The hotel offers free parking for its guests as a kind gesture. You can dine here at the hotel with a restaurant serving some of the best dishes coupled with matured wine for the best dining experience. Relax in the hotel’s outdoor pool with a glass of champagne to entertain your taste buds. Though the hotel embraces the past ruling out gadgets like TVs it does have Wi-Fi which is free for the use of its guests.
- Tunnel View
- Glacier Point
- Vernal Fall
- Bridalveil Fall
- Tioga road
- Upper Pines campsite
- Ansel Adams Gallery
- Cosy Bear Cottages
Wake up early morning and have some breakfast courtesy of the hotel before resuming the adventure in the valley waiting to be explored. Begin by tickling your imagination from the Tunnel View which is arguably the best viewing point in the valley. From the Vista, you can see stretching to El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls and the Half Dome. The walls are mostly in shadow in the early morning but the view is still mesmerising. As you enter the valley from Wawona road you are met by the parking area beyond the tunnel. Enter the tunnel as you continue to the Glacier Point.
Glacier point changes your perspective of the valley to a more sophisticated one, here you can appreciate the beauty of the valley from more than two kilometres above sea-level. Most of the time exploring the valley you will be looking up to the beauty as you appreciate it from above but here you get to look down on all the beauty of the valley, not only the valley but other sites beyond as well. You will never get better in all of Yosemite and maybe the United States as a whole. From the Glacier Point head to the Washburn Point from where you can get a breathtaking view of the Vernal fall.
Hike to the base of the Vernal Fall if you are determined to feel that cool mist expel the heat from your body as it hits your face. If you are not so interested in continuing to the base of the fall you can enjoy a picnic lunch at the top overlooking the fall. After your lunch break continue to the Nevada fall where you will catch the best views of the Liberty Cap
Another view not to be missed is that of the classic Bridalveil Fall on the southern side of the valley. Take the easy hiking trail to the base of the waterfall where you can feel the mist hit your face with a loud sound in the background of the water as it crashes on the boulders below.
Viewing from the Tioga road is best when travelling in a small car rather than a bus as you might want to make more stops than most people might be interested in. The highlight of the road is Tioga Pass on the east entrance of the park which has an elevation of over 3 kilometres. Be sure to have a camera with you as there is a need to capture the view from Olmsted Point. Hike the Lembert Dome near Tuolumne Meadow.
Upper Pines campsite
For those determined to experience the park during the day and the night pack a picnic dinner which you can enjoy at sunset among the trees. The park has some of the best camping grounds to choose from. You can pitch your tent in the Upper Pines where you will sleep surrounded by beautiful scenery. If you happen not to have a tent worry not as they are rentable at the village. You can also find a perfect campground outside the park, this is especially a good idea if you own an RV.
Ansel Adams Gallery
If you are not a fan of camping you can head back to the village where you can discover the Ansel Adams Gallery. Ansel Adams was a photographer taking pictures of the most beautiful scenes in nature. His photography went beyond Yosemite but his legacy is closely related to the park.
He is among the people who brought fame to the park through his black and white photographs of major attractions like the Half Dome, Yosemite Valley and Jeffrey Pine. A stop at this gallery will inspire you to create your own masterpieces from the beauties you come across. The shop sells some of Ansel Adams original photos, replicas, posters and books which will always remind you of the beauty you met in Yosemite.
Cosy Bear Cottages
After all these the sun is sure to have set and you will be so tired so it is best to rest and travel at first light the following morning. Book a room at the Cozy Bear Cottages, which will cost you nothing less than $150 which is very much worth it considering the service offered here. The hotel offers free parking to accommodate guest cars.
Its rooms feature amenities like flat-screen TVs, telephones, radios, refrigerators, coffee makers, microwaves and stovetops. The rooms are also soundproof so neighbours don’t disturb each other with noise. The bathrooms feature bathtubs and or showers, complimentary toiletries and hair dryers for your convenience. An outdoor dining area is a great place to enjoy your last dinner of the trip surrounded by beautiful scenery. The wakeup service will make sure that you are not late for your flight.