Yosemite Outdoors

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Yosemite Outdoors
Within Yosemite’s vast wilderness are mountain peaks, granite monoliths, rivers and streams, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. There are abundant options for exploration, recreation, and adventure.
Photo by Keri Oberly/age fotostock
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    Classic Rock Climbing
    Yosemite’s giant rock walls of El Capitan and Half Dome are two of the most coveted and difficult routes for climbing in the world. The granite rock and vertical relief is enough to lure experienced climbers to embark on multi-night climbs. Classic bouldering routes like Midnight Lightning can be found in the valley, and a number of multi-pitch routes like West Crack and the Regular Route ascend the domes in Tuolumne. Although there are many climbing options, few are beginner level, but there are some climbing schools and experienced guides are available for hire.
    Photo by Keri Oberly/age fotostock
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    Yosemite Waterfalls
    A trip to Yosemite is not complete without getting close to at least one of the waterfalls. Spring, when the snow melt is at its peak, is the best time to go. A short and leisurely footpath leads to a viewpoint at the base of Lower Yosemite Falls, but more adventurous hikers will want to continue on the trail and up to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls. Popular for its views, the Mist Trail is the signature waterfall route in Yosemite. Hikers get wet from the spray of Vernal and Nevada Falls as they climb up the stair steps. Sentinel Falls, Bridalveil Falls, and a host of other waterfalls can be seen from roadside viewpoints throughout the park.
    Photo courtesy of Kenny Karst/DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Much of Yosemite National Park is designated wilderness, which means it’s free of development and ideal for backpacking. The 210-mile John Muir Trail starts in the Yosemite Valley and travels through Tuolumne Meadows and up Lyell Canyon before it exits the park and continues on to Mount Whitney. The long-distance Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the California-Mexico border to the Washington-Canada border, overlaps with the Muir Trail, but continues on through the Northern Yosemite region. Many backpackers hike these through-trails in shorter sections within the park. With five locations in Yosemite, the High Sierra Camp huts are another option for overnight backcountry travel. Permits and proper food storage are required.
    Photo by Justin Bailie/age fotostock
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    Day Hikes
    With more than 800 miles of trails in Yosemite National Park there are numerous options for hiking at various lengths and levels of difficulty. Each of the major regions in the park has trailheads and posted signs, though it is best to carry a map. For scenic views, the point-to-point Panorama Trail is hard to beat. The trail departs from Glacier Point and descends more than eight miles to Happy Isles. The out-and-back Glen Aulin Trail from Tuolumne Meadows leads hikers to White Cascade. For a longer day, hikers can continue on to the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne before turning back.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Yosemite National Park has several rivers that are ideal for fly-fishing. The smaller streams in the High Country are home to brown, rainbow, and golden trout. The Tuolumne River is a fantastic backcountry fishing location for those willing to walk a little to get to the best holes. Below the meadow, the water cascades over a granite riverbed into giant pools for casting. The meandering oxbows of the Lyell Fork are located to the south of Tuolumne Meadows. The openness is ideal for back-casting and picnicking along the river. The Merced River flows through Yosemite Valley and can be a great place for fishing when the flows are just right. A California fishing license is required.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    Rafting and Kayaking
    The Merced is a designated National Wild and Scenic River, and one of the best ways to experience the watershed is by floating in a raft or kayak when the water is calm. In the hot summer months, rafting is a great way to cool off and enjoy the scenery—just sit back and relax on the river. Depending on the water levels and temperature of the water, rafting is permitted between Stoneman Bridge (near Half Dome Village, formerly Curry Village) and Sentinel Beach Picnic Area, and on the South Fork of the Merced River below Swinging Bridge in Wawona. Bring your own watercraft; rentals are available at a few locations in the park.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Get Close to Nature
    There’s no better way for adventurers to experience Yosemite’s great outdoors than by pitching a tent and sleeping under the stars. Build a campfire and barbecue at night; wake up to the sunrise and sip a cup of coffee by a creek. There are 13 campgrounds located around the park, each offering different levels of amenities. Camp 4 in the valley is most popular among climbers and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its contribution to the development of rock climbing. Along with Upper Pines, Wawona, and Hodgdon Meadow campgrounds, Camp 4 is open year-round. Nine campgrounds accommodate RVs. Group camps and horse sites are also available.
    Photo by Galyna Andrushko/age fotostock
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    Classic Mountain Summits
    The high points in Yosemite aren’t just for rock climbers. A few mountain summits are accessible by trails and while the routes can be strenuous, the skill required is much less than climbing a big wall. At the top of every Yosemite peak-bagger’s list is Half Dome. You’ll have to plan ahead before you hike to the base to climb up the cables—a permit is required. Less famous than Half Dome, but just as spectacular, is the Cloud’s Rest walk along the arête, a thin ridge overlooking Tenaya Creek. The polished dome of Mount Watkins is another great summit. The ascent is an easy cross-country hike from Olmsted Point, and an unobstructed view from the summit opens out onto Yosemite Valley.
    Photo by Michael Just/age fotostock
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    Winter Adventures
    The winter season in Yosemite National Park offers a bevy of outdoor adventures. In the valley, views of snow-capped peaks and meadows make for gorgeous photos. In the higher elevations of the park, winter trails are marked for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with the National Park Service offering ranger-led snowshoe tours. Try the outdoor ice-skating rink at Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) in Yosemite Valley—check to see when the season begins. Those looking for a taste of classic Yosemite can cross-country ski to the Ostrander Hut (built in 1941) for an overnight, or try downhill skiing and snowboarding at Northern California's original ski resort, Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, which opened as Badger Pass in 1935.
    Photo courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc.
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    Yosemite Stargazing
    One of the best parts about being in a wilderness area is the absence of city lights at night. Yosemite’s open meadows and unobstructed views at high elevation are great for stargazing. Amateur astronomers should head up to a scenic lookout with telescope and star chart, or join an interpretive naturalist bus tour and enjoy an astronomy program under the stars. Astronomy walks and talks are scheduled regularly during peak tourist seasons in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, and Wawona. Also check out the guided moonlight bike rides or snowshoe tours. If you’re lucky enough you might catch a moonbow (a lunar rainbow) when the moon and the mist from one of the waterfalls line up just right.
    Photo by Jamie Pham/age fotostock