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Yosemite National Park - Map, Pictures, Lodging
Yosemite National Park and Yosemite Valley are world famous for impressive cliffs, waterfalls and rock formations—the result of millions of years of glacial activity.
A Yosemite day tour from San Francisco is a popular way for San Francisco visitors to see Yosemite Valley since the park is only about a three and a half hour drive away.
Refer to my Yosemite National Park Map to help locate and identify the following points of interest most of which can be viewed either from Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point or Tioga Road:
Probably the most recognized symbol of Yosemite, this huge domed granite mountain rises over 4,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and is 8,800 feet high.
Glacial activity trimmed the northwest side of Half Dome leaving a 2,200 foot cliff with the steepest vertical grade in the US. Thought unclimbable for many years, there are now several known routes up the face of Half Dome. Hiking up the southwest side is a much easier way to reach the top of Half Dome.
A hike to the summit of Half Dome can be accomplished in one or two days. From the valley floor you climb past both Nevada and Vernal Falls to Little Yosemite Valley. Camp here or do the complete route in one long 10-14 hour day. Although the climb is steep it is crowded on summer weekends so crowded that permits will be required on weekends in 2010–11 for Half Dome's top half. The National Park Service has produced an excellent video that you should watch if you are contemplating this very difficult hike.
A 3,000 foot high block of granite on the Northern side of Yosemite Valley is known as El Capitan. The vertical face of "El Cap" is a favorite of experienced rock climbers with dozens of named (and difficult) climbing routes. Hikers can get to the top via a trail that begins at Yosemite Falls.
El Capitan (like Half Dome) was considered impossible to climb until a combination of improved skills, expansion bolts, pitons and rope and a 47 day effort led to the first success in 1958. By 1970 the first free climb was completed.
Horse Tail Fall — Natural Yosemite Firefall
This shout, by a ranger leading the nightly campfire program at Camp Curry, signaled the event everyone had been waiting for. Glowing embers—all that was left of a large fir bark fire—were carefully raked over the edge of the cliff at Glacier Point, 3,000 feet above, to form what looked like a waterfall of fire.
The Yosemite Firefall tradition, which began as early as 1872, ended in 1968 but in recent years visitors to the valley have discovered a natural phenomenon that some are calling a natural Yosemite Firefall.
For a few days in late February the final rays of the setting sun illuminate the wispy flow of almost invisible Horse Tail Fall, a seasonal waterfall just east of El Capitan, such that it resembles liquid fire illuminating the surrounding cliff.
Cathedral Rocks and Spires
Higher, Middle, and Lower Cathedral Rocks and directly adjacent Higher and Lower Cathedral Spires on the opposite side of the valley from El Capitan, form the canyon through which Bridalveil Creek flows.
These cliffs, buttresses and pinnacles are also popular rock climbing locations with Middle Cathedral Rock being the most popular.
The Three Brothers
Just East of El Capitan, the Three Brothers rock formation includes Eagle Peak, Middle Brother and Lower Brother.
The Three Brothers are said to be named for the three sons of Tenaya, the last chief of the Ahwahneechee tribe of Native American Indians.
This granite peak overlooks Yosemite Valley from a location between Cathedral Rocks and Half Dome on the Southern side of the valley opposite Yosemite Falls.
There are three difficult climbing routes up Sentinel Rock. Those who attempt the climb need to beware of the dangerous descent.
Often the first water fall visitors to Yosemite Valley see, Bridalveil Falls drops 620 feet from a U-shaped hanging valley. Once just a stream flowing down a valley until glacial activity carved away Yosemite Valley leaving this 'valley that falls off a cliff.'
Bridalveil Falls flows all year transforming from a thunderous torrent in the spring to a light swaying flow later in the season.
An easy one half mile hike on a paved trail will take you to the base of this waterfall. This photo is from the parking area next to it, but Bridalveil is visible from many locations in the valley and from a distance as you enter the park.
Yosemite Falls is actually three separate falls, Upper Yosemite Fall (1,430 ft.), Middle Cascades (675 ft.) and Lower Yosemite Fall (320 ft.). The total 2,425 foot drop makes Yosemite Falls the highest in North American and fifth tallest waterfall in the world.
All three sections of Yosemite Falls can be seen from Glacier Point.
Frequently dried up by August, Lower Yosemite Fall is still the most visited landmark in Yosemite because of its easy accessibility. A hike to Upper Yosemite Fall, by contrast, is a strenuous, all-day endeavor.