We entered Yosemite National Park at the Big Oak Flat Entrance by traveling on CA 120 west from Groveland, CA (about 20 miles).
Our plan for the day was to visit Yosemite Valley, but our first stop was at Bridalveil Fall, the first major fall we saw in the park (plus there were lots of cars and tour buses here). There is an easy (.3 mile) paved trail that leads to a bridge near the base of the 620' fall.
Bridalveil Fall flows year round but the mist was so strong on the bridge when we visited (spring) that I did not want to get my camera wet by taking photos there. There is a rushing stream below the fall (be careful to fall in!)
Our next stop along the Southern Road was at Swinging Bridge. The Merced River meanders through the valley here with huge granite cliffs (although they were shrouded in fog).
Yosemite Community Church services are held Wednesdays and Sundays at the Yosemite Chapel (1879). It is also a popular wedding venue for those who want to get married in a house of worship in a national park. So picturesque.
We parked in the lot by the chapel and followed the paved path through the meadow. This is the site of the Old Yellowstone Village, a thriving tourist center in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There were guest cottages, photo studios, a hotel, saloon and other traveler amenities. The Yosemite Chapel is the only building that remains; others were relocated to other areas in the park thereby restoring their meadow to its present natural beauty.
The Sentinel Bridge crosses the Merced River here and the path continues to the trailhead to Yosemite Falls.
Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America and the 5th tallest in the world (Salto Angel in Venezuela is almost 800' taller). Falls are measured in three segments: Upper Fall is 1,430' tall; Middle Cascades 675'; Lower Fall 320' for a total of 2,425'. The trail to the Lower Fall is an easy 30 minute walk on a paved trail. I loved the picturesque stone bridge over the creek. And it is always a treat to see local wildlife.
The very strenuous trail to the Upper Fall is 3.6 miles (no thanks). Because it was so foggy, we could not clearly see the upper portions of the falls. Fed entirely by melting snow, the falls usually run dry by the end of summer.
Sadie was able to walk on this trail with us and she was very excited to meet a local squirrel and a fellow tourist dog.
There is free shuttle service all around the Yosemite Valley area. During the busy summer months, it is by far the best way to get around here. Because we had Sadie with us, we drove to a parking lot closer to the Visitor Center. It was about a half-mile walk from the lot where we parked (Lot #1) to it.
Yosemite Valley became a protected wilderness in 1864 when President Lincoln signed a bill to set aside the land. Today it is a United Nations Heritage Site and is the size of Rhode Island. There is even a Federal Court and jail here for those arrested in the park. Several movies have been filmed here, too.
The Visitor Center has fantastic exhibits about the geology, flora, fauna, and human history of the park including those who were the early guardians of the wilderness. An expert naturalist and passionate advocate for the Sierra wilderness, John Muir, helped create Yosemite National Park and four other national parks.
Information about the roads and campgrounds that are open is displayed and park rangers are available to provide details on hiking trails and other things to do at Yosemite. There is also a gift shop, bookstore, and theatre in the complex. Two movies about Yosemite are shown on the half hour. We saw one and it was, as always in the national parks, excellent.
At the entrance of the Cultural Indian Museum is a cross section of a giant sequoia tree that was cut down in 1890. The first tag (near the center) documents the date as 923 AD.
The Indian Culture Museum has exhibits primarily of Native American artifacts of the Miwok and Paiute tribes. Several huge baskets are on display that took 3-4 years to make. They are amazing.
The buckskin dress and feather cape were used by Native Americans in ceremonial dances held at Yosemite by Miwok tribal members.
This 1912 Indian motorcycle was driven into Yosemite in 1914, but was stopped by a ranger because motorcycles were not permitted in the park at that time. The owner donated it to the park in 1965.
Native Americans, the Miwok and Mono Lake Pauite people, lived in Yosemite for at least 4,000 years. When the 1849 California Gold Rush brought thousands of miners to Sierra Nevada, conflicts resulted in the death of thousands of Native Americans. The last Indian Village was moved from Yosemite in the 1930s. We took a stroll around the Indian Village behind the museum.
This is a Miwok roundhouse where ceremonial and community gatherings are still held by local Native Americans several times a year.
Built of pine or cedar logs lashed together by grapevines and then covered with bark of the incense cedar tree, these were the sturdy homes of Miwok families. Two mule deer were foraging near the village when we visited.
After Europeans arrived in Yosemite, the Miwok emulated their building style with cabins such as this.
Be sure to stop in the Ansel Adams Gallery where eclectic gifts are sold. Many of his famous black-and-white photographs and books are displayed and available for purchase.
While driving throughout the park we have been fascinated by the beautiful Pacific dogwoods that are in bloom. Dogwoods are the state tree in North Carolina (where we both lived for years), but it is a different type with much smaller blossoms.
Our last stop for the day was to see El Capitan, the largest exposed granite monolith in the world rising over 3,000' from the Yosemite Valley floor (7,569' elevation). Because of the fog, not all of the massive rock formation is visible in the photos below.
The El Capitan Meadow is the best place to get a good view of it. The meadow is surrounded by other granite cliffs.
What a full day of exploring the wonderous beauty of Yosemite Valley! We will be returning to see more of this spectacular national park. Admission is $30/vehicle for a 7-day pass. Of course, our senior pass gets us in for free. There are so many places to visit, hike, and experience here. Go to their website for additional information about lodging, camping, and other details.