If you've been thinking about taking a trip to one of the national parks, plan a trip to Yosemite National Park. Yosemite National Park, located in east central California, is a very popular place as evidenced by the fact that over 3.5 million people visit Yosemite each year.
To get to Yosemite if you're coming from San Francisco, it takes about three and a half hours to drive. If you're coming from Los Angeles, it takes about six hours to drive. Keep in mind, if you want to visit for the day and are driving, there is a fee of $20 per automobile to enter Yosemite. However, there is also a free shuttle bus system which operates all year if you prefer to just relax and enjoy the scenery without having to worry about driving. During the winter, many of the roads in Yosemite close because heavy snows make the roads impassable. However, Yosemite Valley is open throughout the year.
There is a lot to see in Yosemite. For instance, popular spots in Yosemite include El Capitan, which is a granite cliff that is one of the more popular rock climbing spots in the world. Sentinel Rock is 3,000 feet tall and Half Dome is 4,800 feet tall. You can visit Tuolumne Meadows, Dana Meadows, Cathedral Range, and the Kuna Crest.
There are also several groves of Giant Sequoia trees. For example, the Mariposa Grove has 200 trees; Tuolumne Grove has 25 trees; and Merced Grove has 20 trees. Sequoia trees are among the tallest trees in the world, and so being able to see the Sequoia groves at Yosemite is a special opportunity. In addition to the Sequoia trees, other types of vegetation in Yosemite include chaparral oak woodland, lower and upper montane, subalpine and alpine. There are also actually hundreds of waterfalls in Yosemite. However, the best-known waterfalls are the Yosemite Falls which happen to be the highest falls in North America, the Ribbon Falls which have a vertical drop of 1,612 feet, the Bridal Veil fall, and Wapama Falls.
For hiking enthusiasts, there are hundreds of miles of hiking trails that are available in Yosemite; these include everything from basic simple walking trails to extremely hilly or mountainous trails which require extreme hiking skill. If you want to just hike for a day, you can usually do that; however, if you want to take an overnight trip into the back country you will have to get a wilderness permit and will have to have bear-resistant food storage (so that wild bears will not be able to tear open your food containers and steal your food). For those who are skiing enthusiasts, downhill skiing can be done at Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite from the middle of December to early April. It is possible to do cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in Yosemite as well, although wilderness permits are required for overnight trips.
If you're interested in learning more about Yosemite before walking or riding through the park, there is the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the Yosemite Museum and the Nature Center at Happy Isles, all of which can give you an overview of the park. There is also the Ahwahnee Hotel in the park, where you can make reservations to stay overnight if you feel that you would like to extend your visit to the park for a few days. Whether you visit for one day, several days, or a week or more, visiting Yosemite can be one of the best travel experiences you've ever had.