Yosemite is a large park with many distinct areas. Depending on what you’re looking to see, whether it be the granite behemoths El Capitan or Half Dome, or the peaceful seclusion of lakes surrounded by peaks and domes, there is surely something that will spark your interest. Although there are other great sights in Yosemite that are not listed, below are the four most commonly visited areas of the park:
Yosemite Valley: The Yosemite Valley is what most visitors think about when they think about Yosemite National Park. Big, granite legends such as Half Dome and El Capitan reside in the Valley. Stunning waterfalls, gigantic cliffs, and panoramic vistas are accessible year-round. Because of its infamous views and breathtaking scenery, this is the busiest area of the National Park. Highways 41, 140 and 120 all run into the Yosemite Valley.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias: Mariposa Grove is the largest concentration of giant sequoia trees in Yosemite, boasting over 500 looming sequoias. The history of the national parks is derived from Mariposa Grove, when Lincoln, in 1864 set it aside for public use and recreation. These towering giants are a unique look into the past and a fresh look into the future. Mariposa Grove is located at the very south entrance of the park, off Highway 41. There is a large parking lot and visitor center at the base of the hill, this is the only place to park. Shuttle buses take visitors up the hill to the grove every 15 minutes.
Hetch Hetchy: Tucked away in Yosemite’s northwest corner, Hetch Hetchy is a peaceful oasis that is great for visiting at all times of the year. It is at 3,900 feet elevation, so it’s hiking season is longer than most other areas of the park. In springtime, visitors are rewarded with roaring waterfalls and blooming wildflowers. And it’s not just impressive in the spring, year-round visitors will marvel at the hidden lakes, extraordinary mountaintops, and vast wilderness of Hetch Hetchy. The road to Hetch Hetchy is located just outside the park, near the Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, on Highway 120, it is approximately 38 miles from Yosemite Valley.
Tuolumne Meadows: Tuolumne Meadows is a vast, subalpine meadow, with the Tuolumne River meandering through, and marvelous peaks in the distance. Sprinkled with lakes, rivers, peaks and wildlife, Tuolumne Meadows one of the most majestic areas in Yosemite. Views of the Yosemite Valley from the north give a unique perspective. It is accessible from Tioga Road-- a 47-mile scenic drive from Crane Flat to Tioga Pass, and is closed November through May or June. For road closure information, click here.