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Your guide to Yosemite Valley
Welcome to Yosemite Valley
Things can get a bit confusing when it comes to place names here. Yosemite Valley is a town outside Yosemite National Park. It’s also the name of a place inside the park that is, well, maybe one of the prettiest places on Earth. And Yosemite Village is the name of the place inside the town of Yosemite Valley where (mostly) park employees live. Yosemite Village is a stopping point for those en route to the main event — the park — but you’d be wise to slow down and appreciate this little town. Construction began on the 46-acre village in 1918, led by preeminent landscape architect Charles Punchard Jr., who called for winding streets and rustic buildings made of granite, river stones, and logs, a style that would define the look of the entire national park system. The village is home to 68 historic buildings, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Yosemite Valley
Yosemite National Park is open year round, so deciding when to visit depends on what kind of experience you seek. Summer is warm to hot, and ideal for hiking. It’s also a high season when crowds and traffic are dense. Fall brings fewer crowds, a range of hot and cool weather, rain showers, and even snow. Snow blankets the park in winter, creating a hushed landscape with radically fewer visitors than summer. (Snow can also cause some roads in the park to close between November and early summer.) In spring the park creeps back to life, and the magnificent waterfalls roar with snow melt.
Top things to do in Yosemite Valley
Yosemite Village Post Office
Completed in 1925, the village’s historic post office was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, famed for his work in the rustic — or parkitecture — style. The post office’s wood and stone facade is home to 760 ornate brass post boxes where mostly park employees receive their mail. Stop in here and appreciate the craftsmanship before sending a letter to a pal that will bear the Yosemite postmark.
This graveyard dotted with granite and wooden markers is a kind of who's-who of Yosemite’s past. Here lie the bones of James Mason Hutchings, who led the first tourist party into the park in 1855, and Galen Clark, who arrived as a visitor the same year and decided to remain in the nearby mountains. Laborers, hotel operators, and homesteaders rest here, too. Wander among the graves and giant sequoia trees and ponder the lives and deaths this park has seen.
This small museum, opened in 1926, is one of the first museums established in the park system. It houses exhibits exploring the geology, natural history, and indigenous cultures of Yosemite. The museum also has a gallery with rotating displays of artworks inspired by the park.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is the weather in Yosemite Valley?
Yosemite Valley experiences a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Summer temperatures range from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C), while winter brings cooler weather with temperatures between 30°F to 50°F (-1°C to 10°C), along with occasional snowfall.
What are some of the best things to do in Yosemite Valley?
Hiking, rock climbing, and wildlife viewing are popular activities in Yosemite Valley. The valley also has worthwhile photography spots, especially during golden hours. When the season allows, you can go rafting on the Merced River, or stargaze under the dark skies, considering Yosemite's status as an International Dark Sky Park.
What is the best time of year to visit Yosemite Valley?
The most popular time to visit Yosemite Valley is during summer, from June to August, when the weather is most favorable. During this time, the Yosemite Facelift, an annual park-wide clean-up event, takes place. However, winter visits are also fascinating, especially for snow-based activities and the Yosemite Valley Firefall event in February.
What are the best places to stay in Yosemite Valley?
Yosemite Valley has numerous places to stay, from comfortable lodges to camping sites. The Yosemite Valley Lodge, The Ahwahnee, and Curry Village are frequently suggested options. For a closer encounter with nature, you can opt for campgrounds like Upper Pines, Lower Pines, and North Pines.
What are the best places to visit in Yosemite Valley?
Yosemite Valley is home to various natural attractions. You can explore Yosemite Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in North America, or marvel at the massive granite monolith of El Capitan. Don't miss the Tunnel View overlook, where you can capture the valley's grandeur. Mariposa Grove, with its ancient Giant Sequoias, is another intriguing spot.
What are some hiking trails in Yosemite Valley?
Explore the natural beauty of Yosemite Valley on its engaging trails. The Four Mile Trail, covering 4.8 miles (7.7 km), connects Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point. Alternatively, the Mist Trail, taking you to Vernal and Nevada Falls, covers 7 miles (11.3 km). For a challenging hike, the Half Dome trail stretches for 14.2 miles (22.9 km), revealing awe-inspiring panoramas.
What are some family activities to do in Yosemite Valley?
Families can participate in nature walks led by park rangers, go bird watching, or engage in Junior Ranger programs offered by the visitor centers. During winter, enjoy skiing at Badger Pass Ski Area or embark on a snowshoe walk. Don't forget to visit the Yosemite Museum to learn about the valley's rich cultural history.
What are some of the best day trip ideas in Yosemite Valley?
Day trip ideas include exploring the Tioga Pass, hiking in Mariposa Grove, or capturing the sunrise at Tunnel View. A drive along Glacier Point Road might also reveal breathtaking vistas. For a historical touch, consider a trip to the Ansel Adams Gallery, or the old mining town of Mariposa, just outside the park.