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Yosemite National Park Travel Guide

Videos, Photos, Hiking Trails, Tips, Yosemite History, Geology, Geography, Useful links, Tourist and Lodging information

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History and description of the Yosemite National Park, Location, Geography, Geology, Origins of the name "Yosemite", the Yosemite Valley, Main Visitor Center, Glacier Point, Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Tuolumne Grove, Yosemite Valley hikes and loops, Half Dome, El Capitan, the Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Sentinel Dome Hiking Trail, The Tuolumne Meadows, Ansel Adams, Hetch Hetchy Valley, the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest and Death Valley, Jamestown, Mariposa, Groveland, Central Valley, Hotels, Motels and Accommodation in Yosemite and the famous Ahwahnee Hotel.

Yosemite Giant Sequoias

Yosemite Four Seasons Videos

Yosemite Four Seasons Photos Slideshow










Yosemite Winter Tour Videos

Glacier Point Video

Yosemite Rock Climbing Video










Yosemite Wildlife Video

Mammoth Lakes Video Eastern Sierra

Bodie Gold Mining Town


Where is the Yosemite National Park?

The Yosemite National Park was created as a national park in October 1, 1890 to cover an area of 761,268 acres (3,080.74 km2) and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. The Yosemite is as big as Rhode Island and Delaware states combined! Over 5 million visitors travel to the Yosemite every year coming from all over the world. It takes approximately 4 hours to drive to the Yosemite Park from San Francisco, two hours from Fresno, approximately 6 hours from Los Angeles area, and 7 hours from Las Vegas when the Tioga Pass is open for traffic in summer. The geology of the Yosemite area itself is a natural wonder shaped by towering granite cliffs, giant domes, steep valleys, canyons, picturesque meadows, amazing waterfalls, and a unique flora and fauna.

Are you traveling to the Yosemite National park to visit and tour the wonders of the Yosemite? Looking for spending your vacation in the Yosemite National park with or without a tour guide? You came to the right place! Our Yosemite National park Travel Guide offers visitors and travelers to the Yosemite useful links and tourist information regarding the Yosemite Park, sights and attraction including, driving, hiking, visiting the Yosemite Giant Sequoias, the Yosemite valley, Half Dome loop, El Capitan, the Yosemite waterfalls and the three groves of Giant Sequoias. We just added a wide and spectacular selection of new videos and photos of the Yosemite National park natural wonder.

Yosemite-map-road Location and Geography: Where is the Yosemite National Park? The Yosemite National park is located in California Sierra Nevada about 410 miles North-East of Las Vegas, about 2012 miles south of Tahoe and 204 Miles East of San Francisco. The Yosemite National Park is a 1,188 square miles. The Park was recognized as a World Heritage and protected area site in 1984. The routes are windy, sometimes icy and climb up to almost 11000 highway in certain areas within the Yosemite eastern side. Don't drive to the Yosemite unless you know the roads. The one day trip is too short and requires 5 hour driving each regardless where you drive from! The park is huge and requires several days to explore it in-depth.

Driving and direction: The Yosemite National park has only four gates accessible by vehicles:

1-If you drive from the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada coming from Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes or Death Valley via State highway 395; you will need to get on highway 120 through Lee Vining heading West. However, this access is closed to traffic from November through July every year due to heavy snow. You may also get the news before the hit the road. This highway can also be closed occasionally due to fire and unpredictable snow storms.

2-If you drive from San Francisco, Sacramento or and from Central Valley, get on State highway 120 heading east to the Yosemite National Park. You drive on highway 580 then merge onto 120 in Manteca towards Oakdale and Groveland. From Groveland to the Yosemite valley, it may take you about one hour depending on traffic and road conditions.

3-If you drive from Central Valley coming from Merced, Clovis, Madera, Monterey or Los Angeles; you can take highway 140 to the Yosemite National Park via Mariposa and then El Portal, located about 30 minutes from the valley floor.

4-You may also choose to get to the Yosemite on highway 41 via Oakhurst and Fish camp. Please take into consideration that many Groves of Sequoias and highways are closed in winter due to heavy snow. Tires chains are often required in winter even for AWD/ 4X4 D.

Brief introduction of the Geology of the Yosemite: Most of Yosemite national park rocks are pure granitic rocks and granite domes, these rocks start forming their shapes almost about 210 to 80 million years ago ,but at that time, these geological activities took place about 6 miles below the surface of the earth. Over time, most of the overlying rock layers were uplifted along with the rest of the Sierra Nevada and was removed from the area by erosion. This exposed the granitic rock to much lower pressure, and it was also subjected to erosion in the forms of exfoliation and mass wasting. Then, 10 million years ago, vertical movement along the Sierra Mountains in California fault started to uplift the Sierra Nevada, this subsequent tilting of the Sierra increased the gradient of the western-flowing streams in the Yosemite , the streams consequently ran much faster and start cutting their ways through the mountains creating canyons and hanging valleys like the Yosemite valley, cascading waterfalls, domes and towering cliffs like Half Dome. This uplift of the Sierra Mountains has occurred once again about two to three million years ago during the ice age and glaciers that have shaped the Yosemite Valley and hanging cliffs. Thus, the Yosemite has changed from a V to a U shape in the course of this geological evolution. This unique and amazing glaciations landscape resulted from the interaction of the glaciers and the underlying rocks that shifted the Sierra Nevada and lifted the mountains up creating giant granite rocks and hanging valleys because of this vertical movement caused by earthquakes. Half Dome, El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, the Three Brothers, Clark Ranges, Glacier Point and in the Yosemite National Park actual shape are the result of this vertical uplift of the Sierra Mountains. No place on Earth provides such concentration of wonders in such limited area like the Yosemite Valley. Please note that the Yosemite valley is only 1% of the Yosemite National Park!

P.S.: By vertical movement, geologists mean the faults which were formerly inactive and have been reactivated by a single or multiple earthquakes uplifting of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Most of California faults including San Andreas Fault are nearly vertical.

Brief History of the origins of the name "Yosemite": The name "Yosemite" was first used in the 1850s by Dr. Bunnell, who suggested naming the place after its resident native population. Bunnell believed that early name derived from the Miwok name for grizzly bear, O-hoo-ma-te. More recently, historians have suggested that the word derives instead from "Yehemite" which means "some among them are killers" implying that frictions between Miwok and Mono Lake Paiute tribes were violent. But "killers" could possibly refer as well to the newcomers "Whiteman" and more particularly to the bloody Mariposa Battalion lead by John Savage. All the natives names have been in use for hundreds and even thousands of years, long time before the Spaniards lead by Columbus landed on the Island that would become the San Salvador! Columbus mistakenly thought that he has reached India and called the natives "Lucayan inhabitants of this territory" the "Indians"! What I am trying to say is the Yosemite name was already in use before we all got here. We don't have to be historians to figure this out thanks to the new digital world!

The real question: we all read biographies, library sources and articles from historians or journalists who state and confirm the origin of this or that name including the "Yosemite". But the real question is who owns the absolute truth when there is a conflict of sources of information like this one? Were these names have been already in use before our era and time? Where did historians and authors get their sources from knowing that many remote areas like the Yosemite Valley remained inaccessible and to "Whiteman"! For instance, one of the books I read about this topic is called "place names of the Sierra Nevada" by Peter Browning, state that some of the new explorers who have not even spent too much time in the area attributed names to certain areas without an objective knowledge or background of this or this or that place within the Sierra. As the author of this articles, I do believe that the origin of the name of the Yosemite belong only to the natives , who have probably perished with their secrets. Historians who are impartial agree that no" newcomer" or historian came to the new world to promote the natives' culture, tradition and tribal languages but rather to take over their territory and lands. I am a tour guide who has gone to the Yosemite hundreds of times in the last 12 years. I had geologists, biologists, historians and authors on my tours who believe to detain the "truth". I personally believe that the truth belongs to the natives and only to them. From my perspective as a tour guide, the Yosemite will always be associated with the natives and their primitive identity, just like a temple that must remain a secret place, to be visited, admired but never reveal its secret!

P.S.: This article has been written by one of our tour guides, it doesn't reflect our opinion or perspective regarding this controversial origin of the name of "Yosemite" or any other opinions he has expressed throughout this article.

Glacier-Point-photos-vidos     glacier-point

Glacier Point: This spectacular and breathtaking alpine overlook towers at an elevation of 7,214 ft. offering stupendous and sweeping panoramic views over rivers, spectacular waterfalls, picturesque meadows, peaks, hanging valleys, towering cliffs and granite domes. Glacier Point still witness President Roosevelt's meeting with John Muir in 1903, but also Ansel Adams who fell in love with Glacier Point and immortalized it in many famous photographs. The walk from the parking lot to the viewpoint is smooth and accessible to everybody. Admire the stunning geology and the high country as you walk along the trail. Wildlife like bears is often found at this high elevation in summer.

The Yosemite Valley is the main focus for all visitors from all over the world. The Yosemite Valley is home to a large concentration of amazing and spectacular natural wonders including waterfalls, hanging valleys, rivers, giant granite dome, towering cliffs and an interesting fauna and flora. The Yosemite Valley is basically limited to the Valley floor and divided into two banks by the Merced River. The valley floor is located on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains and accessible by vehicle from highway 120 (east-west), 140 (from El Portal and Mariposa) and from the south on highway 41 coming from Oakhurst and Merced or Fresno. The Yosemite Valley represents almost one percent only of the Yosemite national park. Most visitors, who choose the one day tour, get to see only 1 to 3 % of the Yosemite national park. However, the Yosemite Valley the "la crème de la crème" and home to the best natural wonder of the Sierra Mountains. The Yosemite valley floor is characterized by hanging valleys, granite cliffs, the Merced River that runs through it , canyons, waterfalls and a unique fauna and flora. A numerous hikes take visitors to spectacular waterfalls like Bridalveil falls, Yosemite three falls in one, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Ribbon falls .The Yosemite Valley is also shaped and dominated by giant towering cliffs and dome like Half Dome, Glacier Point rock (overlooking the valley from a higher elevation). In summer, Kayaking, canoeing and whitewater rafting are available and pleasant activities along the Merced river in the Valley and in south of El Portal area, located 30 minutes away from the valley. In winter, the park is very serene and inviting offering skiing opportunities and great opportunities for photographers and nature lovers.

Yosemite-park-twodayThe Yosemite Valley main Visitor Center and Museum: It is the largest Visitor Center in Yosemite National Park located in the heart of the valley floor, next to Ansel Adam's Gallery. The visitor center is a museum and a showcase of the geology and history of the Yosemite including an exhibit on the first inhabitants of the Yosemite called "the Ahwahneeche". The Valley visitor center is also a museum of natural history and about the Yosemite stunning geology. Rangers or volunteers are on hand to answer any questions you may have.

The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias is located at the southern end of the Yosemite national park. Mariposa Grove of Sequoias is not available on our one day tour due to the geography of the Yosemite Park. Only three groves of giant sequoias are found in Yosemite National Park, Mariposa is the largest Grove of Sequoias in the Yosemite where you will picture the largest and oldest sequoias in the whole Yosemite national park including the Grizzly Giant tree (almost 2700 years old!). In summer, rangers do not allow most visitors to drive up to the small and only parking lot located within the grove so visitors drive to Wawona, park their vehicles and wait for the shuttle to drive them to the grove or walk several miles each way to get to Mariposa grove of sequoias. Our tour guides, on the other hand, manage often to escort our clients all the way up to the parking lot in Mariposa Grove. In winter, the groves of sequoias within the Yosemite are closed, but we often manage to access to one of the three groves of sequoias within the Yosemite Park, depending on the level of snow on the ground and road conditions.


Walking: For visitors who may have mobility issues, we recommend signing up for our private tour so you can simply marvel at a number of giant sequoias without hiking or even walking, as we park our SUVs all the way up, in the heart of Mariposa Grove. In summer, rangers may block the access to this parking lot due to heavy traffic but we will do our very best to get you up to the parking lot.

yosemite-travel-guide     yosemite-travel-guide

The Big Trees Open Tram Self-Guided Tour:  It's a fascinating audio tour of Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias available in English, French, Spanish, Japanese and German. The tour saves visitors and hikers 4 to 5 hour hike and covers most of the sequoias in Mariposa Grove visible and hidden sequoias found away from the main entrance. This optional tram tour lasts about an hour and daily available in summer (first-come first-served basis) from 9:30 am to 5 pm. This optional tour is not included and the tram ticket prices range between $19 and $26 each.

Hiking Trails in Mariposa Grove: Visitors can choose one of the following loops:

Option # 1-The Grizzly Giant Loop: This one to two hour round trip loop, is a 2.2 miles (3.5 km) round trip hike from and back to the parking lot within Mariposa Grove. After 50 minutes hike, you will be rewarded by a stunning discovery of the famous Tunnel Tree and the majestic 2,700-year-old Grizzly Giant tree! The elevation is about 5,622 feet (1,708 meters) and the difficulty has been rated by our tour guides as 3 out of 10, which makes doable and accessible to most of visitors who can walk or hike. This popular hike is moderate and takes about one to two hours but climbs up steadily at the end. Please have hiking shoes and bring one bottle of water per person. For customers who are subject to elevation and motions sickness, please ensure you ask your doctor to provide you with the required medication so you enjoy your tour.

Highlights - What will you see on this loop? You will picture stunning giant sequoias including: The Fallen Monarch; massive fallen sequoias and much more including the Bachelor and three Graces are amazing redwoods (sequoias) that have been standing in the middle of nowhere for hundreds and thousands of years. The Grizzly Giant, a 2,700-year-old and massive Sequoias which is the highlight of this hike. The tree is more than 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter at the base, as large as a house standing atop of the hill and has survived fire, wind and snow storms. Next, you will marvel at the amazing California Tunnel Tree, the only living sequoia in Yosemite with a manmade tunnel where visitors can walk through it, puzzled and astonished how this old sequoia still standing despite the large whole that has been gouged through this ancient tree!The tunnel has been carved back in 1895 after the gold rush to allow stagecoaches driving through the tree to promote tourism and generate income for the unlucky gold miners! John Muir called the sequoias "the Queen of all conifers on Earth!".

Option#2: The Wawona Point Loop Trail: 6 miles (9.6 km) round-trip; 3 to 4 hours.

Option #3: The Outer Loop Trail: 6.9 miles (11 km) loop; 4 to 5 hours

Both above trails are more challenging as they last longer and take about 3 to 5 hours round trip or more. It's recommended for hikers who want to spend the day walking and hiking. However, we recommend the grizzly giant loop for customers who want to see the best and oldest trees without spending 5 hours hiking. In addition, the trip from San Francisco to Mariposa Grove of Sequoias takes about 6 hours or more.

The Tuolumne: There are 75 groves in the whole Western Sierra Nevada. Only three major groves of sequoias are found in the Yosemite: The Mariposa grove, Merced and the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. The Tuolumne grove itself contains a couple of dozen of young and old Giant Sequoias, including the Tunnel tree, the Fallen Sequoia and the majestic 2000 year old sequoias! The Tuolumne grove hiking trail is closed for all vehicles unlike Mariposa Grove. The Tuolumne grove is more serene and off the beaten path. However, this 2 mile round trip loop can be very crowded in summer. As you start hiking downhill, you can admire the coniferous wild forest home to White fir, Red fir, Noble fir , Douglas fir, Sugar Pines, Incense-Cedar and above all home to unique Sequoias you can reach after 45 minutes downhill hike. On the way back, the trail is more changeling but doable for everyone who can hike for a couple of hours. In spring, the Pacific Dogwoods bloom along the trail and offering white and pink flowers along the trail.

Tips to hikers: Carry enough water for fairy rigorous hike allowing almost a 2 hour hike ( 1 mile each way). Have hiking shoes, the return uphill is a fairy rigorous hike about 400 elevations so have enough water and a bug spray. There are public restrooms within the parking lot area but not in the Grove. No phone service in the grove either so ensure you don't hike alone. The hike in winter is a revelation but the trail is extremely icy, dangerous and the snow can be almost 80 inches (2 meters) high. Our tour guides are experts and know how to bypass these routes!

Hiking trails and loops with the Yosemite Valley and outlying area:

Bridalveil Fall is a 25 minutes round trip hike but watch out, it can be slippery and wet in spring and icy in winter. It's famous for the mist that wafts off the waterfalls when the breezes and wind blow forming a rainbow at the base of the falls in spring. This is a smooth and easy hike to a picturesque waterfall.

Lower Yosemite Fall: This 1 mile/1.6 km loop trail takes about 35 minutes roundtrip from the Yosemite Lodge by the falls to the Yosemite lower falls. This short and fair walk (but icy in winter) rewards visitors with spectacular views of the Yosemite three falls in one; the upper fall, the middle fall and the lower fall. This waterfall is often dry from late July or August through November.

MIROR-LAKE-PICTURE Mirror Lake Loop is a family oriented hike and fairly easy. You either choose the five-mile or the 2 mile loop on the paved trail that continue to Mirror Lake. The lake has little water much of the year, but in spring and early summer, it can grow in size. When water is calm, the lake offers beautiful reflections of surrounding rocks and cliffs in the water. This can be a good location to spot wildlife but above all a must for photographers.

NEVADA-FALLS Vernal and Nevada Falls trail is the most scenic hiking trail in the Yosemite but somehow challenging. This hiking trail will take you to the base of Vernal Falls, a 317 feet (97 m) waterfall located on upper Merced River, just downstream of Nevada fall. The waterfall runs all year long, although by the end of summer it is substantially reduced in volume and can split into multiple strands, rather than a single curtain of water. Our tour guide will start this 1.6 miles (2.6 km round-trip) hike from and back to Happy Isles, down in the valley floor. The trail climbs up and takes about an hour before you get to a wooden bridge where you can picture Vernal falls from half mile down. As the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail diverge, please follow our tour guide on Mist Trail up on a steep granite stairway of over 600 steps (if you decide to go all the way to the top). Prepare for slippery footing and a tremendous amount of waterfall spray in spring and early summer where a magnificent rainbow often can be seen at the base of Vernal falls. This portion of the trail is closed in winter due to risk of falling snow and rocks.

The Valley Floor Loop: The 6.5 miles (10.5 km) loop can be done in 3 hours or so. You can begin at Camp 4 where rock climbers meet to practice and warm up. The half-loop trail crosses the Merced River on El Capitan Bridge. Along the trail, enjoy views of Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, El Capitan, Three Brothers, Bridalveil Fall, and Yosemite Falls.

The Panorama Trail Loop: This 8.5 mile (13.7 km) loop is for professional hikers because it quite is challenging and very difficult, mostly in winter due to significant snow and icy trails. This trail offers incredible panoramic views of Yosemite Valley, Illilouette Fall, the Panorama Cliff, Nevada Fall, Half Dome and Glacier Point. Reservations are required in advance.

Yosemite Upper Falls Yosemite Upper FallsUpper Yosemite Fall: This 7.2 miles (11.6 km) round-trip is a challenging hiking trail that takes about 6 to 8 hours gaining 2,700 feet elevation.

Cook's Meadow Loop: This short 1 mile loop is a smooth hike that lasts 30 minutes. This hike offers visitors picturesque views of Half Dome and all the towering cliffs seen from the valley floor including Glacier Point, Sentinel Rock and Royal Arches. After you enjoy a guided tour to the Visitor Center, you can walk west along the bike path towards the lower Yosemite Fall. At shuttle stop #6, cross the street and follow the bike path, bearing left as the path forks. At Sentinel Bridge parking area, walk out onto the bridge to enjoy a classic view of Half Dome before returning to the parking area. Watch out for bears after spring and in summer but also for hungry coyotes.

Other optional activities in summer within the Yosemite Valley may be available including horseback riding, river rafting, canoeing or kayaking depending on your location and the Merced river level.

Did you know? In 2011, the water almost flooded and reach the top of certain bridges within the valley. In 1997 The Merced River flooded torrentially due to heavy, snow storms and heavy rain that hit California in January washing out much of Yosemite National Park's winter season. Flood damage has forced the park to close access to most of its peaks, waterfalls and forests at least until March, and some areas were off-limits even for longer period of time after spring. All of the popular Yosemite Valley is closed. Highways 120 and 140, two of the three roads through the area, are impassable because of mud slides and erosion. Large portions of the roads were gone as of mid-January, and could take until summer to fix. Flooding by the Merced River damaged the sewage system, and washed some employee housing downstream. Nearly 300 rooms and cabins at Yosemite Lodge will require repairs.

Sentinel Dome Hiking Trail: This 2.2 miles (3.5 km) round trip is an exciting loop that will take you to a magnificent rock towering at 8,100 feet (2,470 meters) high. A 1 to 2 hour hike to the top of Sentinel Dome to admire 360-degree-panorama, overlooking all the Yosemite Valley and outlying area. You will also picture the famous fallen Jeffrey pine that became an icon for photographers.

The Majestic Half Dome: Rising almost 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley floor and nearly 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is the symbol of the Yosemite, and became the iconic granite dome which was once printed on California quarter and stamps. Within the quarter, you can visualize John Muir, the Pioneer and father founder of the Sierra Club facing Half Dome and a California condor as well. To see condors, you better off with Big Sur than Yosemite these days.

half-dome-photos ROCK-CLIMBING Climbing up Half Dome: Despite the 1865 article stating that Half Dome may remain inaccessible for hikers and rock climbers, George Anderson has finally and for the first time reached the summit of Half Dome, back in 1875. Today, thousands of people reach the summit every year thanks to today's cable route but it remains steep and dangerous. Yosemite park rangers assist hundreds of people per day on the Half Dome trail, every summer.

Much of the hike to Half Dome is an adventure into wilderness, and, while there is nothing you can do to guarantee your safety, below you will find some tips to reduce the risk of any injury and ensure your safety so you enjoy your hike.

Trails: There are several full-day hikes that can take you up to the top of the imposing Half Dome. Although these are in no way relaxing or easy routes, they make manageable yet very challenging hikes throughout multiple trails and loops to the base of Half Dome. Once at the base of the dome, the trail converge in a final 400-foot ascent of the dome itself, which is aided by a path of metal cables suspended on small poles to make handrails (facing south). Although this is a strenuous route that takes about 12 hour total hike, it is not uncommon for more than 500 visitors to see this famous peak on an average summer day! The National Park Service emphasizes that this hike is not for the faint of heart, so make sure you are properly conditioned before you attempt this vertical ascension.

The latest news regarding Half Dome regulation and restrictions: The Half Dome Trail Stewardship Plan Environmental Assessment was released on Jan. 24,2012 pushed the park service to require onward permits to climb up and hike to the top of Half Dome. Reservations must be made at least seven days prior to the date of your hike to Half Dome. According to Yosemite park service, this maybe a temporary solution to address crowding and safety concerns resulting from death and injuries, occurred and increased in the last few years. A maximum of 400 hikers will be allowed (300 day hikers and 100 backpackers) each day on the Half Dome Trail beyond the subdome. Before the permit system was implemented in 2010, approximately 400 people used this trail on weekdays, while about an average of 800 people used this trail on weekends and holidays. But starting in 2012, permits will be required and distributed by lottery (starting early April). On each application, visitors and hikers can apply for up to six permits (for no more than six participants) and for up to seven dates. Yosemite park visitors with wilderness permits that include Half Dome as part of their route will also receive Half Dome permits upon request. (Wilderness permits are also subject to a quota system and fees).

el-capitanYosemite-Photos-Winter El Capitan: El Capitan is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, located on the north western side of Yosemite Valley. The granite monolith extends about 3,000 feet (900 m) from base to summit along its tallest face, and is one of the world's favorite challenges for rock climbers. The formation was named "El Capitan" by the Mariposa Battalion when it explored the valley in 1851. El Capitán ("the captain", "the chief") was taken to be a loose Spanish translation of the local Native American name for the cliff, variously transcribed as "To-to-kon oo-lah" or "To-tock-ah-noo-lah". It is unclear if the Native American name referred to a specific Tribal chief, or simply meant "the chief" or "rock chief.

Looming above the clouds dominating the Yosemite Valley, highway, rivers and meadows, El Capitan rises a commanding 7569 feet above the sea level, it's became landmark of the Yosemite national park and the Sierra Nevada. The giant dimensions of El Capitan make it one of the most majestic and largest massive piece of granite in the world! Its craggy peak and uneven top make El Capitan an imposing western border for the Yosemite Valley, beating its equally-famous counterpart Half Dome with nearly 1,000 more vertical feet. El Capitan is one of the most famous rock climbing destinations in the entire country, as its difficulty and beauty are both, according to many "El Cap" devotees, unparalleled. Because of its challenging facade and imposing vertical height, rock climbers come from around all the world to challenge their rock climbing abilities raising their own flags sometimes. There is a good watching point down the meadows to admire these courageous rock climbers but binoculars are recommended! Although it was once considered impossible to reach its soaring summit, many modern and well equipped climbers (with Spanish robber hiking shoes) now attempt and often succeed at their goal of conquering The Captain. This is far more impressive much more challenging than Half Dome which explains the number of casualties who paid the price for their strong passion.

El Capitan is divided into two main sections, the southwest side and the southeast side; where these two sections meet is called "The Nose," which is to this day the most famous of all climbing routes on the face of El Capitan. The first climb of The Nose in 1958 took a lengthy 47 days and used many climbing aids such as ropes, bolts and pitons. It was not until 1975 that someone completed the ascent of this preeminent giant rock in a single day! Unbelievable but true!

After this accomplishment, the rock climbing world became obsessed with El Capitan. In the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, the number of routes up the mountain burgeoned with a grand total of more than 70 routes now snaking up this majestic piece of Yosemite Valley, each still requiring the "expedition tactics." Although initially necessary, this method only created a challenge to other climbers looking to "free climb" the face. "Free climbing" involves ascending an entire rock face without the use of any climbing accessories such as pitons or ropes. This makes the ascent much harder but is also more fluid and not as technical as regular climbs. The first free climb ever was via the "West Face" route but it was not until 1993 that the formidable "The Nose" was finally conquered in four days by solo female climber Lynn Hill. She then completed the climb the following year in only one day, remaining the only person to free-climb this route for five more years.


Yosemite Falls is the highest measured waterfall in North America , located in Yosemite Valley Floor. Best time for the Yosemite falls is spring and early summer when the water flow is at its peak. The Yosemite falls are actually three falls in one totaling 2,425 feet (739 m) from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls passing by the Middle Falls . This is one of the highest waterfall in the world but dries up in late summer and early autumn. Most of the rain and water derive from the famous Tuolumne Meadows and the high country. The undocumented legends report that the Ahwahneechee people, first inhabitants of Yosemite Valley called the Yosemite waterfall "Cholock" and believed that the plunge pool at the base of the falls was inhabited by the spirits of several witches, called the Poloti.

The Yosemite Falls hiking trail is the only way you can catch a glimpse of these hidden falls , but the trail can be icy in winter due to heavy snow and slippery in summer because of the mist coming out of these majestic waterfalls. During the winter, an incredible cone of ice called "frazil ice" forms at the bottom of Yosemite Falls as ice attached to the cliff next to the Upper Falls breaks off and crashes dramatically to the bottom. This was first documented by naturalist John Muir when he compared it to the sound of reverberating thunder in his journals.

VERNAL-FALLSVernal Falls is a picturesque 250 and 300 feet waterfall, it does not break any height barriers, but it's very wide white curtain of water makes it a majestic destination for all visitors who are also good hikers. Vernal Falls is accessible via the Mist Trail, the path takes hikers directly through the mist created by the rushing falls. If it is a time of heavy runoff you could be completely drenched by the time you make it through! This is one of the shortest and most popular trails in the park and is of only moderate difficulty.

NEVADA-FALLS Nevada Falls forms the upper half of a two-part fall, with the lower half being the aforementioned Vernal Falls. This connection is sometimes referred to as the "giant staircase," because when viewed from lookouts like Glacier Point, the combination of both looks like an enormous staircase. To reach Nevada Falls, one must take an additional 2-mile hike directly uphill from the top of Vernal Falls, but once there you can attain a spectacular vista of the valley and the high country. This is a long and challenging hike somehow.

Bridalveil Fall is probably the most clear-cut example of a "hanging valley" fall among all Yosemite National Park's waterfalls. When the main Sherwin Age glacier that moved through Yosemite Valley existed, tributary glaciers joined into it from the higher sides of the valley, creating sloped, V-shaped wedges that now host many of Yosemite's waterfalls. They get their name because when the wind is blowing very hard, the falls' relatively lighter flow is blown dramatically sideways and its resulting mist appears must as a bride's veil. From the base of Bridalveil fall, you can also admire seasonal waterfalls like Ribbon fall on the western edge of El Capitan facing El Portal.

Did you know? What are the highest 6 waterfalls in the world? Does the Yosemite Falls rank number 6 as all sources and websites report?

The Highest 6 waterfalls in the world are:

1-Angel Falls, a 3,212 feet (979 m) tall located in Canaima National Park in Bolívar, in  Venezuela.
2-Tugela Falls, a 3,110 feet (948 m) in KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa.
3-Cataratas las Tres Hermanas, a 3,000 feet (914 m) in Ayacucho, in Peru.
4-Olo'upena Falls: a 2,953 feet (900 m) in Molokai, in Hawaii
5-Catarata Yumbilla: a 2,938 feet (896) in the Amazonas, in Peru's territories as well.
6-Balåifossen, a 2,788 feet (850 m) in Hordaland, in Norway.

The truth must be said, with 2,425 feet tall, the Yosemite Falls rank on the 20th position and not the 6th! However, the unique geology of the Yosemite valley makes this waterfall as one of the best waterfalls in the word thanks to the surrounding natural frame and ambiance.

The Tuolumne Meadows is a "postcard" of stunning natural wonders and a must-see! The Tuolumne Meadows lie in the Yosemite high country and accessible only in summer because of heavy snow in winter. The Tuolumne Meadows are home to gorgeous Alpine Lakes like Tenaya Lake, rivers including the Tuolumne River, waterfalls and impressive granites domes including Cathedral Range, Lembert Dome and Mount Dana where the best rock climbers meet.

Ansel Easton AdamsAnsel Easton Adams (1902 -1984) was a famous American photographer and environmentalist, born in San Francisco and lived in Carmel and Monterey most of the time. Ansel Adams signature photos were the original black-and-white photographs of the US Wild West especially of the Yosemite National Park. Adams's photographs are reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books, making his photographs widely distributed. Don't miss his gallery in the Yosemite valley, located next to the Yosemite main Visitor center.

Hetch Hetchy Valley or the second Yosemite Valley as John Muir called it in his journals. Hetch Hetchy is a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park, located on the Tuolumne River. In 1913/ 1920s, the controversial O'Shaughnessy Dam was built to supply San Francisco area with water. Thus, the Hetch Hetchy became a reservoir of water for San Francisco. The Tuolumne River fills the reservoir downstream from the Tuolumne meadows in particular. O'Shaughnessy reminds visitors of Hoover Dam located on the Stateline between Nevada and Arizona.

Groveland and Big Oak Flat area are located on State Route 120, 8 miles east of Don Pedro Lake and 60 minutes east of the Yosemite valley. Groveland is an old mining town that hosts an annual 49er Festival on the 3rd Saturday of September, sponsored by the Yosemite Chamber of Commerce. Groveland has always been an important stop on highway 120 (the old highway) to Yosemite but really grew in the early 1900s with the development of the Tuolumne River Hetch-Hetchy water project. Groveland is adjacent to the Stanislaus National Forest and is known for the historic Iron Door Saloon, the oldest in California (after this of Bolinas).

CentralValleyCentral Valley or the Great Valley is the largest agricultural valley in Northern America. It is home to California's most productive agricultural lands. The valley stretches approximately 452 miles (723 km) from northwest to southeast inland and parallel to the Pacific Ocean Coast Ranges. Its northern half is referred to as the Sacramento Valley, and its southern half as the San Joaquin Valley. Almost 7 to 8 million people live today in Central Valley. Sacramento Metropolitan Area is home to more than two millions. Some of the most famous counties and Metropolitan Areas are: Fresno Metropolitan Area, Stockton Metropolitan Area, Bakersfield Metropolitan Area , Modesto, Visalia home to endless orange blossoms (the gate to the Sequoias National Park and King Canyon park, Merced, Chico, Redding , Yuba and Turlock.

gold-mining-townJamestown in Sonora: As soon as you get to Jamestown, you will admire its old and traditional western architecture of the Gold Rush Era, rich of history. After the discovery of Gold in Coloma in 1848, miners quickly came to Jamestown and Sonora area to dig for gold along Woods Creek. The creek was filled with miners washing dirt that they dug out of the creek during the gold rush, seeking flakes or nuggets. Today, you can see and also experience how to dig for gold along this Creek.

Mariposa is Spanish for "butterfly", after the flocks of Monarchs butterflies seen overwintering there by early explorers and gold miners. The history of Mariposa is that the town was founded as a mining site 1849. The Southern Sierra Miwoks occupied Mariposa for centuries prior to immigrants from other regions. Don't miss to the 49ers old club of the Gold Rush Era in town.


Yosemite Hotels, Motels, Lodging and Accommodation


The Ahwahnee Hotel is the most famous hotel in the Yosemite national park. The hotel is an elegant lodge and restaurants located under the Royal Arches rocks in the Yosemite valley floor. The Ahwahnee Hotel was built from granite, concrete, stone, wood and glass, back in 1927. It is a premiere example of National Park Service rustic architecture, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. The Ahwahnee hotel was designed by the architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood (who also designed the Zion Lodge, Bryce Canyon Lodge, and Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge). The Ahwahnee has hosted several famous celebrities including Queen Elizabeth II, Charlie Chaplin, Walt Disney, Gertrude Stein, Lucille Ball, Ansel Adams, Will Rogers, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, the Shah of Iran and many other actors and celebrities. We were and still honored to escort celebrities to the Ahwahnee Hotel in the last decade on our Private and VIP Tours.

Useful links to other hotels, lodges, and motels within the Yosemite national park and outlying area:


This is a complete list of hotels, motels and lodges in Oakhurst and in the outlying area including contact information:

Best Western - Yosemite Gateway Inn

E-mail: / web site:

Chukchansi Gold Resort - Casino / web site:

Comfort Inn: Phone: 559-683-8282 web site:

Days Inn, Oakhurst

Phone: 559-642-2525 E-mail: web site:

Chateau De Sureau : Phone: 559-683-6800 E-mail:

web site:

Homestead Bed & Breakfast Phone: 559-683-0495 E-mail:

Hounds Tooth Inn Phone: 559-642-6600 web site:

Oakhurst Lodge - E-mail: Website:

Paradise Springs: Phone: 559-642-2613

The Pines Resort -Phone: 559-642-3121. Website:

The Queens Inn by the River Phone: 559-683-4354    • Fax: 559-658-5444

Shilo Inn- Phone: 559-683-3555 E-mail: web site:

Sierra Sky Ranch Resort : Phone: 559-683-8040 E-mail:

Tenaya Lodge : Phone: 559-683-6555 - E-mail: web site:

Yosemite Sierra Bed & Breakfast: Phone: 559-642-6105

Yosemite Skyway. Phone: 559-683-2812. E-mail:

Yosemite West Cottages - Bass Lake Vacation Rentals.


Eastern Sierra Nevada Natural Wonders


The Sierra Nevada is home to the world most amazing natural wonders including the Yosemite National Park and the Yosemite Giant Sequoias -the largest trees on Earth. Geologically, the Sierra Nevada is home to the US highest Peak out of Alaska called Mount Whitney (14,505 ft). The eastern Sierra Mountains is a paradise for nature lovers and photographer along California Route 395 –it's a 557-mile (896 km) route which traverses from Interstate 15 near the southern city limits of Hesperia, north to the Oregon state line in Modoc County near Goose Lake. The route clips into Nevada, serving the cities Carson City and Reno, before returning to California. Along this alpine route , visitors can admire Owens Valley, Mammoth Lakes and Mono Lake. The highway is used as an access for both the highest point in the contiguous United States, Mount Whitney, and the lowest point in North America, Death Valley. The corridor has been used since the California gold rush, and before numbering was known by several names including El Camino Sierra. This route is part of the California Freeway and Expressway System and is eligible for the Scenic Highway system.


On the way to the Eastern Sierra coming from the Yosemite , you can admire Tenaya Lake , located between the Yosemite Valley and Tioga Pass. Tenaya Lake is probably the most beautiful of all Yosemite's lakes. It's a mile long and bordered on three sides by spectacular granite peaks and domes, Jeffery pines, red and white fir trees among others confers and wild flowers. The lake offers gorgeous scenery thanks to its high elevation (8,150 feet).Tenaya Lake was created by the Tenaya branch of the Tuolumne Glacier as it passed through Tenaya Canyon. The outflow of the lake is Tenaya Creek, which runs through Tenaya Canyon into Yosemite Valley. Tenaya Lake is named after the Native American Chief "Tenaya". You will also enjoy driving through picturesque meadows called the Tuolumne Meadows and Tioga Lake located by Tioga Pass, the gate to and out of the Yosemite to reach U.S. Route 395. "Tioga" means "where it forks" in the Native Mohawk tribal language. This section of California State Highway 120 is closed from October through June due heavy snow ((9,943 ft. / 3,031 m.) Tioga Lake is a spectacular glacier-carved lake in the Inyo National Forest .Although, Tioga Lake is technically outside the borders of Yosemite, it's considered as a part of the park because of the lush topography. The breathtaking view of Tioga Lake and surrounding natural landscape contrast sharply with the unique geology of the Sierra Nevada desert, located few miles further east but on lower elevation where Mono Lake and Mammoth Lakes are found along US 395. Tioga Lake area itself is a popular destination for nature lovers, photographers, hikers and campers who want to avoid the crowded Yosemite Valley. Tioga Lake area is home to some wild animal including bears and flowers. You see a rich variety of conifers you don't see in the Yosemite Valley including fir and pine trees surrounding Tioga Lake. The weather is unpredictable, and the length of the seasons varies from year to year. The best time to visit is defiantly July, August and September.

Mammoth Lakes Scenic Loop Tour: The Mammoth scenic loop is a beautiful short drive through a forest of Jeffrey Pines and fir trees. Along the way you will pass the Inyo Craters-One of the last notable volcanic events in Mammoth-Mono area, that occurred 550 to 600 years ago. This resulted in Inyo Craters, just north of Mammoth off the Mammoth Scenic Loop. The explosion of the magma layers stayed well below the surface, heating rock and groundwater to a critical degree which resulted in a large, triple-barreled blast(eruption) forming all these spectacular lakes called " mammoth lakes" . Along this scenic Loop, you can admire June and Mammoth Lakes including Lake Mary, Twin Lakes, Lake Mamie, Lake George, Horseshoe Lake , Mirror Lake, Silver Lake Grant Lake, Gull Lake among other lakes.

Mono-LakeMono-LakeMono Lake is located is an oasis in the dry Great Basin and known for its millions of migratory birds population. Mono Lake is a geologically active area. The most striking aspect that amazes the visitors when arriving to Mono Lake is the unusual formation of its spooky Tufas (thick, rock-like calcium and carbonate deposit that have been formed by chemical precipitation from bodies of water, with a high dissolved calcium content).

hotspringHOT-SPRING-PHOTOSHOT-SPRING-HOT-CREEKHot Creek flows through the Long Valley of Caldera which is volcanically an active region of east-central California. This stretch of the creek, looking upstream to the southwest, has long been a popular recreational area thanks to the warm waters from its thermal springs. Capture the beautiful blue pools and impressive boiling fountains along Hot Creek in east-central California that provide enjoyment to visitors. The springs and boiling pools in the stream bed and along its banks change location, temperature, and flow rates frequently and unpredictably. The hot springs and "geysers" of Hot Creek are visible signs of dynamic geologic processes in this volcanic region, where underground heat drives thermal spring activity. The waters are very unique as the hot water bubbles up from the bottom of the creek, where the waters are heated by magma three miles below the surface. The first bathing area used to be at the bottom of the trail that leads down from the parking lot but this has been closed by rangers due to the high risk for burning due to the increasing temperature of this Hot Creek.

Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie is an authentic ghost town located between Lake Tahoe and Mono Lake in the in Mono County- eastern Sierra Nevada , in California. Bodie is located 35 miles north of Mammoth Lakes and 13 miles driving east on Hwy 270.
Bodie began as a Gold mining camp after the discovery of gold back in 1859 by W. S. Bodey . In 1876, a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore was discovered which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp to a boomtown in the Wild West where the population was tripled in a short amount of time. Bodie as all towns of the wild west has a Church, banks, a brass band, railroad, miner's and mechanic's unions, newspapers, sheriff department , jail and Saloons. Also, Bodie had a small Chinatown, with several hundred of Chinese residents at one point, and included a

bodigostBodie Ghost Town: An authentic Wild West ghost town. The town was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and became a State Park in 1962.
The town still witness its rich past history of this authentic ghost town of Gold Rush Era. Visit the deserted streets of a town that once had a population of nearly 10,000 people. Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods. Bodie is open all year, but the long road that leads to it is usually closed in the winter due to heavy snowfall, so the most comfortable time to visit Bodie is during the summer.

laketourDevils Postpile and Rainbow falls Devils Postpile National Monument is a masterpiece of Mother Nature architecture. Devils Postpile Monument is a revelation for visitors when they approach it to wonder at the mother nature's fallen " naturally sculptured" columns lying fragmented on the talus slope below, in an organized and striking way. A hike to the top of the Devils Postpile reveals its beauty. Understand and admire the effect of the ice age that polished and sculptured these basalt columns. These amazing columns are exposed in a perfect symmetric tiled floor and exhibit parallel striations where the glacier dragged rocks across these rock forming these spectacular natural columns.

Yosemite-Park-PhotosRAINBOW-FALLSRainbow falls:. Take hike to Rainbow Falls from Mammoth Lakes through the Red Meadow area for an easy, 1.5 mile walk. As you approach Rainbow Falls, you will hear the roar of the falls and the refreshing mists inviting you to stay awhile and enjoy a picnic lunch from one of the overlooks along the falls. Be sure to bring your camera and a bug spray. When the sun is highest, it's the best time to capture the rainbows in the mist. Two miles downstream from Devils Postpile National Park, the San Joaquin scenic River tumbles over an abrupt 102-foot drop, creating an amazing multi-color rainbows into this mist.
The Devils Postpile monument and Rainbow Falls are located 10 miles west of Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort's located on Hwy. 203. A mandatory shuttle bus is required during the busy summer months and is available at the Mammoth Mountain Main Lodge area for $ 7 per person.

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest

BRISTLECONE-PINE-TREEBRISTLECONE-PINE-TREE The Ancient Bristlecone Pines, are the oldest trees on earth. These ancient trees' survival and longevity proved biologists and environmentalists wrong! Who could believe that any tree would survive such extreme and severe weather conditions in the White Mountains that tower above 11.00 ft high? In 1953, these Ancient Bristlecone Pines were discovered growing up on the ridges of the White Mountains, situated in the eastern Sierra Nevada where conditions are most extreme! Despite the high elevation, poor soil, harsh landscape, 100 miles wind blowing from all directions, ice crystals, heavy snow storms and precipitations, these mysterious trees managed to survive where nothing else can survive! Thanks to the resistance of their dense and extremely solid wood, these trees remain intact even longtime after they die!

Did you know that these super old trees live for more than 45 centuries and only grow for about 45 days in a year? Yes indeed, and the rest of the time of the year they are dormant!

Alabama Hills –Alabama Hillsis the Mecca of over 400 motion pictures and considered as a living museum of legendary movies and classic heroes. Situated at the foothills of Mount Whitney, Alabama Hills dramatic location made it the perfect setting for over 400 motion pictures since 1920. We can't name them all but here are some of the most famous movies: Gary Cooper: in "Lives of a Bengal Lancer", "Springfield Rifle" and "Adventures of Marco Polo" . John Wayne in many movies including "The Man From Utah", "Westward Ho" , "King of the Pecos", "I Cover the War", "Blue Steel", "The New Frontier", "North to Alaska", "The Oregon Trail", "Somewhere In Sonora", "Three Faces West", "The Three Godfathers". But also "Joe Kidd" with Clint Eastwood, "How the West Was Won" with James Stewart, "Prince of Players" with Richard Burton, "The Rawhide Years" with Tony Curtis, "Rhythm on the Range" with Bing Crosby, "Savage Dawn" with George Kennedy, "Nevada Smith" with Steve McQueen, "The Ox-Bow Incident" with Henry Fonda, "High Sierra" with Humphrey Bogart, " The Great Race with Tony Curtis", "The Long, Long Trailer" with Lucille Ball, "The Man from Music Mountain" with Roy Rogers, "Along the Great Divide" with Kirk Douglas, "Bad Day at Black Rock" with Spencer Tracy, "Maverick" with Mel Gibson, "The Postman" with Kevin Costner, "Perfect" with John Travolta, "Kalifornia" with Brad Pit, "G.I. Jane" with Demi Moore, "Gone in 60 Seconds" with Nicolas Cage, "The Shadow" with Alec Baldwin, and "the Terminal Velocity" with Charlie Sheen.

death-valley-national-parkDeath Valley: Located near the border of California and Nevada, in the Great Basin, east of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Death Valley is the lowest, driest and hottest valley in North America where lies the Furnace Greek, the hottest spot in Death Valley. Death Valley National Park is the second lowest point on earth after the Dead Sea. Death Valley constitutes much of Death Valley National Park and is the principal feature of the Mojave and Colorado Deserts Biosphere Reserve. Don't miss Furnace Greek museum of natural history.