Guide to Yosemite National Park

visiting yosemite national park
The Valley at Yosemite National Park is one of the most picturesque places in the world

The United States of America has many beautiful parks. One of the largest and best known is Yosemite National Park. Yosemite covers an area of nearly 762,000 acres (3000 square kilometers) and is known for its tall granite cliffs, waterfalls, crystal clear streams, thousands of lakes, and spectacular wilderness areas.

Yosemite was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, a designation reserved for the world’s most unique and treasured places.

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite is a four hour drive from San Francisco and six hours from Los Angeles. The park is roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island. The elevation of the park varies from just over 2,100 feet to over 13,000 feet.


The temperatures in the park range greatly. At lower elevations (below 5000 feet), the temperatures range from 46 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (8 to 32 degrees Celsius). Temperatures at the higher elevations (around 8000 feet and over) range from 25 to 53 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 to 12 degrees Celsius). Snow falls will stay on the ground from November to late March and can reach depths of 50 inches or more at the higher elevations.

Above 8000 feet, the dry summer temperatures are moderated by frequent thunderstorms. Snowstorms are to be expected, even during the summer months of June and July. Forest fires are a frequent occurrence due to lightning from the thunderstorms. Be prepared if venturing into the high country during this time of year.

Yosemite National Park is open all year, however due to large accumulations of snow many of the roads in the park close for the winter months. Downhill skiing is available in the Yosemite Valley at the Badger Pass Ski Area (the oldest downhill ski area in California). Many areas of the park allow cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Wilderness permits are required during the winter for those who wish to take overnight back country ski or snowshoeing trip.

el capitan at yosemite national park
El Capitan rock face is now one of the world’s best rock climbing destinations

Camping and Hiking

Yosemite National Park has over 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) of hiking trails available to visitors. All types of trails are available from short strolls to gruelling multiple day trips into the high country mountains. These trails provide views of the surrounding mountains made famous by the photographer Ansel Adams. The trails are also open for mountain biking and many of the rivers feature white water rafting.

There are many books available on the history of the park, and park rangers can provide much free information. Due to the large area that the park covers, visitors are encouraged to visit the park in sections rather than trying to see the whole area at once.

Visitors who wish to participate in a multiple day backpacking trip to the back country will require a wilderness permit. Backpackers are also advised that they are entering deep into the wilderness. Bears and other wild animals are prevalent and all equipment must be bear-proof to prevent the theft of your food or picnic baskets. Please familiar with the survival basics and first aid before venturing into the wilds.

The wildlife in Yosemite National Park varies greatly. It has everything from Giant Sequoia trees, pine, fir trees to oak trees. Alpine meadows are home to many animals including American Black Bears, Bobcats, Cougars, Mule Deer, Big Horn Sheep, and various snakes, owls and even lizards. There are over 250 species of animals found in Yosemite National Park.

Activities And Attractions

sequoia trees in yosemite national park
Tunnels were cut through the Giant Sequoia trees as tourist attractions. Yosemite is one of the last places on Earth where you can find these ancient trees

Each year, approximately 3.5 million people visit Yosemite National Park. Most people prefer to visit the Yosemite Valley region of the park.

The El Capitan rock face is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world. Rising more than 4000 feet, the El Capitan has many climbing routes along it’s granite face and is open year round.

Mount Lyell is the tallest point in the park (over 13,000 feet) and features the Lyell glacier on top. The glacier is one of the last remaining glaciers the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Yosemite also features groves of the Giant Sequoia tree. This tree grows taller and bigger than any other and is extremely long lived. These ancient trees are a “must see” while visiting the park.

Visiting Details

Yosemite Valley is open year round but much of the park is closed for the fall, winter, and spring seasons due to snow fall accumulations. Many visitors hike or take short walks on trails around the park. Other visitors drive or take bus tours to the high country for spectacular views from the trails above the Yosemite Valley.

The daily park entry fee is $20 per automobile. There is also a shuttle bus system that operates in the park valley. Visitors are encouraged to use this system as parking is nearly impossible to find due to the large amount of traffic that the park receives each year.

Visitors to Yosemite may also be interested in learning about the natural and cultural history of the park at the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the Yosemite Museum, and the Nature Center at Happy Isles. The park has two National Historic Landmarks: LeConte Memorial Lodge which is the park’s first visitor centre, and the world famous Ahwahnee Hotel. In 2003, Camp 4 in the park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information on Yosemite National Park including park fees, reservations, and operating hours please visit

Copyright 2019 Mike Wilson