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Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is not a drive-in park. The valley is astounding, granted, but most of the wonders—the granite towers, the glacial tarns and spangled meadows—are up in the High Sierra. That’s where the real show begins.  The sky scraping geological formations, lush meadows, flowing rivers and spectacular waterfalls are what make it a destination for travelers from around the world.  3 of the world’s 10 highest waterfalls, the largest piece of exposed granite (El Capitan) anywhere, and one of the world’s largest trees call Yosemite National Park home.  Climb a rock, eat a gourmet meal, hike to a half-mile-high waterfall, observe a sunset from a granite cliff, or walk through a meadow just past the forest;  all with in the span of a single mile.

Photo of Yosemite

INFORMATION: Contact Yosemite National Park, P.O. Box 577, Yosemite CA 95389 (p: 209 372 0200, www.nps.gov/yose).  Use the parks free shuttle bus to get to other points of interest within the park.  Shuttle bus stop #6 is an easy walk from the parking lot across from Yosemite Lodge.  It costs $20 per vehicle to enter the park.  Both back country camping and fishing require permits.  Backcountry permits, $5 in advance or free in person one day before departure. Permits and bear canisters (required) are available year-round at Hetch Hetchy Entrance Station and seasonally at staffed wilderness and visitor centers.

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CAMPING:  Campsite reservations are a really good idea from $5 per person per night (p: 877 444 6777; www.recreation.gov).  There are many campgrounds in Yosemite.  Some have flush toilets and drinking water but tend to be busier.  Off the beaten path are less crowded campgrounds, some offering pit-toilets.


Off the beaten path:

GAME PLAN: No single hike can stand in for all the glories of Yosemite’s backcountry, but a 27-mile loop in the lightly traveled northwest corner of the park comes close. The trek begins at Hetch Hetchy, a valley once dear to Muir but now partially submerged by a reservoir. To start, take the Wapama Trail east along the north shore. All that’s visible of the valley today is soaring granite to either side, punctuated by two waterfalls, Tueeulala and 1,300-foot Wapama (each will spritz you as you pass). Pitch camp 6.5 miles in at the edge of rushing Rancheria Creek. The next day, proceed through Tiltill Valley’s open meadows and switchback up into the high country to Lake Vernon, tucked in a tight-walled cirque. Plan on staying a day or two to scramble up nearby Mount Gibson (8,412 feet) and hike through Jack Main Canyon for views of shimmering backcountry tarns and streams. Finally, head southeast through lodgepole pines to a wildflower show at Beehive Meadow before zigzagging back down to Hetch Hetchy.

Photo of Yosemite

Photo of Yosemite

Photo of Yosemite