Yosemite National Park attracts millions of visitors each year. In the words of John Muir, Yosemite 'is surely the brightest and the best of all the Lord has built.'
Length: About 180 miles, plus side trips.
When to go: Popular year- round, but
note that Tioga Ro ad is closed in winter, as
is Glacier Point Road east of the Badger
Pass Ski Area.
Lodging: The Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village
(cabins), and Yosemite Lodge are in
Yosemite Valley. The Wawona Hotel is near
the Mariposa Grove.
Supplies: Food and fuel available at Crane
Flat, El Portal, Fish Camp, Lee Vining, Tioga
Lake, Tuolumne Meadows, and Wawona.
Words to the wise: Winter driving
can be hazardous.
Nearby attractions: Devils Postpile
National Monument, west of Mammoth
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
Visitor centers: Yosemite Valley,
Further information: Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389; tel. 209-
Near the eastern border of California,
in the heart of the Sierra
Nevada, lies the wondrous dominion
known as Yosemite. Beginning near
the park’s southwest corner, the
drive heads north to Yosemite Valley,
the most-visited section of the park,
where El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and
other famed attractions predominate. The route then winds northeast
across an expanse of subalpine wilderness —
replete with meadows, ponds,
and granite domes — before leaving
the park and descending steep slopes
to an eerily beautiful lake.
1. Yosemite National Park
Heading north from Oakhurst,
Rte. 41 meanders into the evergreen-scented Sierra National
Forest, a vast domain that abuts
Yosemite National. For a
unique way to sample the forest,
take the 45-minute ride on the
Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine
Railroad, which hauled timber
out of the woods beginning in
1899 but now restricts its load to
visitors. About seven miles north
of the railroad, the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park
beckons like the gates of Eden. First
declared a national park in 1890,
thanks in large part to the efforts of
John Muir, Yosemite attracts millions of visitors each year.
2. Mariposa Grove
Just beyond the park’s entrance, a
two-mile spur winds east to the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias.
No ordinary trees, these noble giants — among the largest of living
things — can grow more than 300
feet tall, with trunks that measure
up to 27 feet across. The venerable
Grizzly Giant is about 2,700 years
old. Another Goliath, the Wawona Tunnel Tree,
was made famous when, in 1881,
an opening was cut in its base to
allow stagecoaches and, in later years, cars to pass through — until
the tree toppled in 1969. A tram
tour and museum inform visitors about the magnificent trees.
Located in a broad, pleasant valley on the south fork of the Merced
River, the village of Wawona was once a favorite stop on the old
stagecoach route to Yosemite.
The era is recalled by the elegant 1870s-vintage Wawona
Hotel, while the Pioneer
Yosemite History Center re-creates the park’s early days
with a stagecoach ride, period buildings, a covered bridge,
and a variety of exhibits.
4. Badger Pass
Beyond Wawona the drive winds
north Chinquapin. Here Rte. 41 meets Glacier Point Road, a 16-mile spur that encompasses some of Yosemite’s most stunning vistas. In winter Badger Pass, the first stop along the way, attracts thousands of downhill and cross-country skiers. During the snow season Glacier Point Road is closed east
of Badger Pass, but in spring and summer the road descends to bloom-sprinkled meadows.
5. Taft Point
Following Glacier Point Road a
few miles to the east, the drive
reaches the trail to Taft Point.
After walking about a mile, hikers
arrive at the lofty rim that overlooks
Yosemite Valley. From an
isolated lookout they have a
breathtaking preview of three-tiered
Yosemite Falls, monumental
El Capitan, and many other
world-famous wonders that can be
viewed from a closer perspective
when the drive continues through
the valley below.
6. Sentinel Dome
Exceptional vistas await those
who walk the nearby one-mile
trail to Sentinel Dome, the last
leg of which takes hikers up the
curved side of this massive mound
of granite to its 8,122-foot summit.
In spring Sentinel Fall cascades down
cliffs to the west of the dome.