plan & explore
Yosemite National Park is one of the most spectacular places on Earth and is a nature-lover’s paradise. Yosemite offers a diverse landscape filled with rivers, glacial carved valleys, picturesque alpine meadows and peaks, several of the world’s highest and most spectacular waterfalls, and the world’s largest trees and tallest granite walls.
There is much to see in Yosemite, and for those willing to seek out the paths less traveled, some particularly amazing discoveries and experiences await. To truly appreciate what Yosemite has to offer, we recommend spending at least three days exploring the Park.
While the list of spectacular sites in Yosemite is endless, there are a few key areas that attract most visitors to the Park. These world-famous destinations are as dramatic and stunning as any on earth.
Yosemite Valley View Yosemite Valley is the showcase area of the Park and receives most of the visitors and traffic. Towering waterfalls leap into the Valley and the huge walls of Half Dome and El Capitan dominate the landscape. The Merced River, which starts in the High Country, spills over majestic Nevada and Vernal falls and flows through the Valley. Key attractions include Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, the Mist Trail, Mirror Lake and Bridal veil Fall, among others. Glacier Point, which offers a stunning overhead view of Yosemite Valley, is easily accessible from the Valley floor as well.
Tenaya Lake High Country Tour Tuolumne Meadows is the largest alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada, and its high country (8,600 feet) elevation provides access to the stunning alpine lakes, serene meadows and glaciated granite peaks and domes that Yosemite is famous for. High Country attractions not to be missed include Olmstead Point, which provides a panoramic view of the granite landscape, and Tenaya Lake, a picturesque alpine lake perfect for a picnic or afternoon swim.
Hetch Hetchy from the Dam Hetch Hetchy Valley is a smaller version of Yosemite Valley and was formed by erosion from glaciers and the Tuolumne River. In the early 20th century, a dam was built in Hetchy Hetchy turning the valley into a reservoir. Although stunning, Hetch Hetchy receives a small percentage of all Yosemite traffic, so it remains a peaceful, secret spot for those ‘in the know'. The entrance to the Hetch Hetchy Valley is just 7 miles down Evergreen Road. You’ll pass through our sister property, the Evergreen Lodge, just before the entrance. Hetch Hetchy is ideal for day hikes and wonderful memories that last a lifetime. In recent years, a movement has been under way to remove the dam and restore Hetch Hetchy to its original state.
Tuolumne Grove Giant Sequoia Tunnelare among the largest and oldest living things on earth. Yosemite is home to three groves of Giant Sequoias. The Mariposa Grove is the largest and is located on the southern end of Yosemite. The Tuolumne and Merced Groves are located on the western side of the Park. All three groves offer fantastic hiking and snowshoeing opportunities. The famous Grizzly Giant, found in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove, is over 200′ tall and has a base circumference of almost 100′. This massive tree is thought to be 2700 years old.
If you are driving into Yosemite Valley from the Monarch, you will enjoy an incredibly scenic drive that takes approximately 40 minutes. Once in the Valley you’ll be on the 7-mile loop road that takes everyone in and out of the Valley. During peak season the traffic in Yosemite Valley can be frustrating; it is easiest to get around if you park your car in the Day Use parking lot and ride the free Hybrid shuttle, walk, or ride a bike. We can also help you make the most of the sights with our guided tours and bike rentals.
The Hetch Hetchy Valley entrance to Yosemite is just 7 miles down Evergreen Road and is your gateway to a variety of splendid scenic day hikes. Although Yosemite is open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, the Hetch Hetchy entrance station is open only during daylight hours (approximately) and some roads are closed due to snow from around November through May or June. You can get current conditions directly from the National Park Service’s web site.
The Tuolumne Grove and Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias are just a short 15 – 20-minute drive into the Park and Tuolumne Meadows is just over an hour’s drive heading east on Highway 120. If you’re looking to explore Tuolumne Meadows and continue to the east to visit destinations such as Mammoth Lakes, Death Valley, or road trip on to Las Vegas, note that the Tioga Pass portion of Highway 120, east of Yosemite, is closed during the snowy winter months, usually early November through late May.
DID YOU KNOW
Yosemite is the nation’s third oldest national park and is a “Crown Jewel” of the National Park System Encompassing 1,170 square miles, Yosemite occupies an area the size of the state of Rhode Island. The first tourists visited Yosemite in 1855. It became a national park thirty-five years later in 1890.
The Park is open 365 days/year, 24 hours/day
The Park averages nearly 3.5 million visitors per year: about 2.8 million of those guests visit during the high season of April to OctoberThe Park is home to 37 species of native trees including the Giant Sequoia, considered the largest living thing on earth. Sequoias can live from 1,000 – 3,000 years. Three groves totaling 700 trees are located in the Park (Mariposa Grove, Tuolumne Grove, Merced Grove)
Five of the Yosemite Valley’s waterfalls are among the ten highest waterfalls on earth. Yosemite Falls, where Yosemite Creek falls a total of 2,425 feet in two separate steps, is the highest waterfall in North America and the second highest in the world.
Yosemite’s geological history has been evolving for 500 million years from an ocean floor to gentle, rolling hills to the formation of the steep Sierra Nevada mountain range with deep river canyons.
Yosemite’s first inhabitants were Native Americans who inhabited the region 10,000 years ago. The Gold Rush brought the first non-native settlers to the area around 1850.
The word “Yosemite” is derived from a Southern Miwok Indian word for “some among them are killers,” referring to the Mariposa Battalion who first entered the Valley in search of Yosemite Indians.
Yosemite was the first territory ever set aside by congress for public use and preservation. This was done in 1864 by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
WHAT TO BRING
There are a few essentials that make for a more enjoyable Yosemite getaway, and your needs will vary depending on how adventurous you would like to be when you’re here. Whenever you are on a road trip through the great outdoors it’s best to carry plenty of drinking water and snacks and keep your gas tank topped off for those long stretches of scenic roads.
The closest gasoline to The Monarch can be found .5 miles away to the right or left on Highway 140.
Park admission or your Park pass if you already have one. Visit the National Park Service site for the most current information on entrance fees and Park passes. You can even purchase your park pass online before you arrive here.
Carrying a map is a good idea since satellite navigations systems don’t always get it right. Layered warm clothing including wind/rain jacket. Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses.
Camera and binoculars. Looking forward to some hiking? You should also bring:
Small backpack with minimum 32 oz. water and snacks.
Proper footwear – tennis shoes or hiking boots preferred, and make sure you break them in before you hit the trail for a big hike.
If hiking to a stargazing vista off the property is on your list, remember your flashlight or headlamp.
In case you forget something, don’t worry. We’ve done our best to anticipate your needs with a variety of items available at our Gift Shop.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
The National Park Service website for Yosemite, www.nps.gov/yos, is a very thorough resource. In addition to a wealth of information about the Park and advice for planning your visit, this website is your go-to spot for the most current updates on changing conditions in the park.
If summiting Half Dome is on your wishlist, go here for the latest information on Half Dome permits and other helpful input.
YOSEMITE WEATHER & SEASONAL CONDITIONS
Yosemite is a remarkable place with picture-perfect weather nearly 9 months a year. Most days are bright and sunny with cool, comfortable (and, at times, crisp) evenings.
Thanks to the generosity of the Yosemite Conservancy and their donors, we can see El Capitan, Half Dome, the High Country, and Yosemite Falls in real time.