Yosemite National Park is one of the largest and oldest national parks in the US and is any landscape photographers dream destination. The park has an elevation range from 2,127 to 13,114 ft. Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness. The geology of the Yosemite area is characterized by granitic rocks and remnants of older rock. About 1 million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. The down slope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that is now the Yosemite Valley. As one enters Yosemite from the South Entrance the Tunnel View is the first major view point one will hit. It is such a mind blowing experience for the first timers. A beautiful Bridalveil waterfall with the most striking granite peaks of Yosemite, El Capitan, and the Half Dome are seen from this view point.
Tunnel View of Bridalveil and Half Dome
As one drives along the valley, the first view of the iconic waterfall can be seen to the left. The most famous Yosemite Waterfalls is a 3 tier falls with the upper falls, middle section and the lower falls. It totals up to 2,425 feet from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall. It is the highest measured waterfall in North America and the 6th highest in the world. The waterfall is a pure snow fed falls and it will be in full flow during the spring runoff with a very narrow window of March to May. It will slowly trickle down and dry out late summer until it is replenished by next year snow pack or occasional rains.
Yosemite Falls and Merced River
For the hikers and climbers, Yosemite provides ample opportunities to explore the wilderness with numerous trails with the most famous Mist trail that goes thru two major waterfalls – Vernal and Nevada, upto the Half Dome.
Vernal Falls from John Muir Trail
Apart from the beautiful waterfalls and the Merced River, the valley provides some amazing opportunity to view wild life including black bears, coyotes, foxes, deer and very rarely the amazing mountain lions.
The valley can become even more magical during the winter with lot of snow getting accumulated in the higher elevations of the park and occasionally to the valley as well. The winter though not a favorite time for most of the visitors, it provides a very quiet peaceful environment to enjoy the valley. The road to glacier point another favorite destination to view the whole valley will be closed for the winter and most of the spring until all the snow melts. When the road opens up for traffic by late May/ early June (Depending on the Snow Season) it provides amazing opportunity and an entirely different view of the valley.
Summing up, Yosemite offers something for everyone. One can just do a drive thru the valley enjoying the views or get down and do a small hike to some of the easily accessible waterfalls such as Bridal Veil, Lower Yosemite Falls or do longer, more strenuous hikes to reach the interior and to enjoy more pristine sceneries and waterfalls.