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About Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is best known for the towering cliffs and waterfalls located in Yosemite Valley, which encompasses less than one percent of the park area. The valley is spectacular in all seasons and is the most visited part of the park. The valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias were set aside by President Lincoln as a protected state reserve in 1864. In 1890 a much larger park was established to protect the surrounding mountains, forests, and meadows.

Today, this 1,189-square-mile park (an area the size of Rhode Island) covers elevations from 2,100 feet at its western boundary to 13,114 feet at the summit of its highest peak, Mt. Lyell. This elevation variance accommodates a great diversity of flora, fauna, and unique geologic features. You can find a wide variety of landscapes and intriguing locales to explore. Two of the planet's highest waterfalls leap off the rim of the cliffs 3,000 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley. Towering giant sequoias grow in three groves within its boundaries and the park is a haven for rare animals, such as the Mount Lyell salamander, the Yosemite toad, and the great gray owl. Read about the park through the eyes of Yosemite Naturalist.

Spring in Full Bloom

Late March and early April are perfect for visiting wildflower fields in Merced Canyon at the park boundary, where western redbud blooms. May and June are the months to witness the flowering of Pacific dogwoods at mid-elevations and wildflowers and waterfalls in Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valleys. The Glacier Point Road usually opens in late May, allowing for exploration of the area and visits to Sentinel Dome and Glacier Point.

Lovely Summer Spots Away from the Crowds

Despite its large number of summer visitors, there are dozens of lovely spots where you can avoid the crowds and find peace. During the summer, Yosemite Naturalists arranges itineraries to explore the valley in early morning and evening to avoid crowds and to visit less crowded areas during midday. Summer is great for explorations of Inyo National Forest and Mono Lake at the park's eastern boundary.

Autumn Colors & Quiet Adventures

Early autumn offers quiet adventures in the high country and beautiful fall colors. Experience lovely fall walks in and along Yosemite Valley, Wawona, the Sequoia groves, and the trails along the Glacier Point Road. It is a wonderful time to visit the high country before snow closes the Tioga Road for the winter and to view migrating birds as they travel down and across the Sierra Nevada range.

Winter Solitude & Beauty

December, January, and February are off-season for the park. During this time, it can feel like you have the park to yourself. By late December you can usually cross country ski or snowshoe at Badger Pass or Crane Flat. You can also hike on trails in Yosemite Valley, Wawona, or Hetch Hetchy. As late February rolls around, view amazing wildflower displays in lower Merced Canyon. Year-round resident birds and winter visitors can be seen in many park locations throughout the winter.