Merced is your gateway to one of America’s most impressive National parks, Yosemite. From Merced to Yosemite is a rather easy route along historical Highway 140 that was established in 1926. Travelers were first brought into Yosemite by this route that brought them, along the Merced River Canyon, directly into the valley floor from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the area’s beautiful geology!
Yosemite National Park is world-famous for its giant sequoia trees, granite cliffs, and spectacular waterfalls. Yosemite Park is centrally located in California, just 150 miles east of San Francisco in the wild and beautiful high Sierras.
Yosemite National Park was established in 1890 and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984. Within the park’s 1,200 square miles are thousands of lakes, two federally designated wild and scenic rivers, 350 miles of roads, and 800 miles of hiking trails.
While Yosemite National Park is known mostly for the beautiful scenery, it is also a place rich in biodiversity. Elevations range from 2,000 feet to more than 13,000 feet which represents the major life zones.
Yosemite was made famous by naturalist John Muir and photographer Ansel Adams and is one of the most popular and well known national parks in the world. Every year, more than 3.5 million people visit Yosemite to experience the granite mountains, meadows filled with wildflowers, and the cascading waterfalls. It is truly one of the greatest attractions in the Merced area.
The primary landmarks include El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Bridalveil Falls. Most of the visitors spend time within Yosemite Valley, which can make for crowded roads and trails in the summer. Fortunately, Yosemite Park has an efficient shuttle bus service and well-placed footpaths and bike trails that make it possible for you to avoid too much crowding.
Because the mountains are made of granite and its location in California, Yosemite is also world renown as a rock climber’s mecca. In fact, Yosemite has nurtured and challenged the likes of Royal Robbins, Yvon Chouinard, Lynn Hill, Rick Ridgeway, and other legendary climbers.
Waterfall enthusiasts will also find plenty of cascading torrents of water in the park ranging from 2,425 foot Yosemite Falls to small hidden rivulets in remote canyons and basins. Inside Yosemite’s 1,200 square miles, visitors can find deep glaciated valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoia trees, vast wilderness areas, and enough hiking and trekking adventure to last a lifetime.
There are several wonderful lodging opportunities in and adjacent to Yosemite Park. Yosemite National Park hotels range from the rustic tent cabins at Curry Village to the AAA Four-diamond Ahwahnee Hotel. The fact of the matter is that Yosemite contributes considerably to the economic developments in the Merced region.
Hiking and Climbing in Yosemite
Yosemite’s granite monoliths represent the world’s greatest rock climbing area. Besides historic glacial activity, rock fall events have shaped many of the spectacular features along the grand walls of Yosemite Valley, including North Dome, Royal Arches, and Half Dome. Giant slopes rising from the walls of the valley walls are accumulating more debris with every rockslide event.
Yosemite offers rock climbers sustained crack climbs of the Merced River Canyon and Tuolumne Meadows domes to multi-day technical aid climbs on the famous walls of the valley like El Capitan.
For those that are not quite ready for the big walls, Yosemite Valley also boasts some of the best bouldering in the west and the sport continues to grow in popularity in Yosemite National Park. Because of the park’s popularity, human waste management, litter, and backcountry camping permits, all must be researched before your climb in the park.
Fishing in Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is full of cold clear mountain trout streams and beautiful jewel lakes. One of the most popular fishing activities in the park is fly fishing the Tuolumne River. The Tuolumne has it’s beginning in Tuolumne Meadow qt an elevation of approximately 8600 ft. and it is the largest sub-alpine meadow in the Sierra Nevada. The Tuolumne River is hidden within the tall grasses and rainbow trout, brown trout, and brook trout inhabit this part of the river. Remember that visitors 16 and older need a valid California fishing license to fish in Yosemite.
Wildlife of Yosemite
Yosemite National Park provides habitat for over 400 species of vertebrates such as amphibians, fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds. The park’s high diversity of species of wildlife is resulting from diverse habitats in Yosemite that are largely still intact. The park’s rich and varied habitats range from thick foothill chaparral to conifer forests to unique alpine rock habitats.
Yosemite National Park is also home to a healthy population of black bears. It is not uncommon to observe a bear in a developed campground. For that reason, managers are working hard to protect Yosemite’s American black bears so that the park may continue to offer a healthy environment for the bears so future visitor generations may enjoy the park to its fullest. The challenge is actually that the species, by nature, may be corrupted easily by human behavior such as bad food practices or approaching the bears too closely.
Mountain lions (also known as cougars or pumas) are also roaming Yosemite’s vast valleys and mountains. These stalk-ambush predators are native to California and the Americas and they form a natural part of the beautiful landscape of Yosemite. Mountain lions are solitary, shy creatures, and for that reason, they will elude the park’s visitors and are usually unconcerned when humans are even getting close. If you see on consider yourself very fortunate. In my next post, I’ll tell you a bit more about Yosemite Nation Park.