If you could only visit one national park in your lifetime, we highly recommend you choose Yosemite. Why? We’re glad you asked.
Although in 1890 Yosemite National Park became the third U.S. land mass to earn that designation, President Lincoln put Yosemite under government protection in 1864, an action that became the inspiration for the national park system. Even before it became a national park, Yosemite drew a slew of rock climbers, who continue to enjoy the challenges of ascending El Capitan, Half Dome and other awesome rock formations. Wondrously, as the sun sets, the amazing rock formations of Half Dome and El Capitan seem to glow like fire.
The popular park, visited by millions of people from around the world each year, provides habitats for more than 400 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, including the rare red fox, which hadn’t been seen for over a century, and an estimated 300-500 black bears. More than 7,000 plant species also make Yosemite their home. In Mariposa Grove, you’ll find numerous magnificent, mammoth sequoia trees, which can live up to 3,000 years.
You have probably heard of the beautiful Yosemite Falls, which is actually three separate falls: Upper Yosemite Fall, North America’s tallest waterfall at 2,425 feet; Lower Yosemite Fall; and the middle cascades. In the spring and early weeks of summer, if the conditions are right, you can see stunning lunar rainbows (moonbows) in the waterfall’s mist.
The park also offers more than 800 miles of inviting hiking trails, including 14 miles around Half Dome. If you’re there at the right time of year, you may see fazil ice in one of Yosemite’s creeks. This occurs when the mist from the falls freezes overnight and turns a creek into a giant Slurpee. If you want to stay overnight at one of the High Sierra campsites in Yosemite, where tents, meals, water and bathroom facilities are provided, you must enter a lottery.
But if you’re lucky enough to ever visit Yosemite National Park, you’ve already won the lottery.