The majestic sights of Yosemite delight and inspire visitors of all generations. Take a quick tour of some of our most amazing natural features, and the plants and animals that make the park their home. Our most-popular Yosemite attractions include:
Waterfalls are a Yosemite hallmark, drawing visitors from around the globe year after year. Because many of Yosemite’s waterfalls are fed by snowmelt, the amount of water rushing over each waterfall can vary widely throughout the year. In addition to those below, numerous other falls can be seen during the spring run-off or after a heavy rainstorm.
Yosemite Falls (Upper, 1,430 ft.; Middle, 675 ft.; Lower, 320 ft.) is one of the tallest in North America and fifth highest in the world with a total drop of 2,425 feet.
Bridalveil Fall (620 ft.) called "Pohono" or "spirit of the puffing wind" by the Ahwahneechee Indians. The wind often blows the falls sideways giving it the appearance of a "bride's veil".
Ribbon Fall (1,612 ft.), which flows off a cliff on the west side of El Capitan, is the tallest single fall in North America.
Illilouette Fall (370 ft.) is visible from below on the John Muir Trail. From Washburn Point, just before you get to Glacier Point, there's a more spectacular view of its brink and stony gorge.
Vernal Fall (317 ft.) and Nevada Fall (594 ft.) are visible from the Mist Trail. and rewards hikers with a refreshing, rainbow-filled shower on hot spring days.
Horsetail Fall (1000 ft) is a seasonal waterfall flowing off the eastern cliffs of El Capitan. This Yosemite waterfall’s location affords a spectacular effect intermittently during the last two weeks of February. During this time, it is backlit by the sun causing it to glow orange as though it were on fire.
Waterfalls Outside Yosemite Valley-
Chilnualna Falls (300 ft), a long series of cascades culminating in a large drop, all located about 4.1 trail miles from Wawona, in Southern Yosemite.
Waterwheel Falls (700 ft) gets its name from its ridged 50-55 degree incline causing the water to strike the ridges and loop back – creating the “Waterwheels” Best seen during spring run-off. Located downriver from Tuolumne Meadows.
Tueeulala Fall (1000 ft) and Wapama Falls (1700 ft), both located in Hetch Hetchy, accessible via Evergreen Road along Highway 120, a few miles from the main 120 entrance. While Tueeulala Fall does dry up by mid-summer, Wapama maintains a large flow all year long. Due to security for Hetch Hetchy, the road to the area closes at night. Check with the National Park Service for more info on the hours of operation for the road.
YOSEMITE MOUNTAINS & ROCK FORMATIONS
Yosemite Valley, approximately 3,000 feet deep and less than a mile wide, is known for its incredible rock formations, created from plutonic rock that cooled far below the earth’s surface. Some of the most famous formations are:
Half Dome (8,842 ft.) among the most recognized natural features in Yosemite, its western face is a sheer cliff of Plutonic granite - the youngest in Yosemite.
Sentinel Rock (7,038 ft.) on the south side of Yosemite Valley, named for its likeness to a watchtower.
El Capitan (7,569 ft.) towering 3,593 ft. from the valley floor, rock climbers from around the world come to challenge their abilities on its granite face giving visitors an excellent opportunity to view this unique sport.
Mt. Lyell (13,114 ft.) the tallest peak in the park, its steep slopes are home to the largest active glacier in Yosemite, the Lyell Glacier, which is about 1/4-mile-square.
Mt. Dana (13,053 ft.) and Mt. Gibbs (12,764 ft.) flanking Tioga Pass in Tuolumne Meadows.
Matterhorn Peak (12,264 ft.) is one of a series of peaks that make up the spectacular Sawtooth Ridge on the northeastern border of the park.
Glacier Point (7,214 ft) providing an eagle's view of the valley floor 3,214 feet below from this perch on the rim of Yosemite Valley.
In addition to its breathtaking scenery, Yosemite is home to a great and diverse wildlife population. Some formerly endangered or eradicated species like the peregrine falcon, golden eagle and bighorn sheep are once again flourishing under the watchful eye of the National Park Service. With a keen eye, you may be lucky enough to spot some of these beautiful creatures.
Black Bears – This incredibly intelligent animal is called “black bear” but can also be brown, blonde, cinnamon, or even white. Please visit our “Bear Awareness” page [[Hyperlink “Bear Awareness”]] for more information on protecting our Bears.
Mule Deer – One of the easiest animals to find in Yosemite, these deer are also called “Black-Tailed Deer”. They can be found in places throughout the park, but generally near open meadows.
Coyotes – Nothing beats hearing the yapping of a coyote among the walls of Yosemite Valley. Coyotes are commonly mistaken for wolves in Yosemite, but ecologically speaking wolves have never existed here.
California Ground Squirrel – The most prolific summertime squirrel, their scruffy grey/white mottled fur distinguishes them from their cousins. They hibernate in the winter.
Western Grey Squirrel – The most commonly spotted squirrel in the winter. Grey Squirrels easily have the bushiest tails in Yosemite.
Mountain Lions – These magnificent creatures are rarely seen by humans because they are very secretive. They offer an important role in controlling deer, raccoon, and squirrel populations.
Marmots – With a talent for sunbathing, these large golden brown members of the rodent family are spotted usually from Olmstead Point to Tuolumne Meadows and up to the top of the highest mountain peaks in Yosemite.
Visiting in the Summer-
(June through September)
See lots of the park...and other visitors
Areas to visit: All areas of the park are usually accessible by car by late May or early June, although services along the Tioga Road often open a bit later in June
Climate: Warm to hot, with occasional rain (usually as afternoon thundershowers, especially at the higher elevations).
Yosemite Valley & Wawona (4,000 ft / 1,200 m): 87°F (31°C) / 51°F (10°C)
Rivers & Waterfalls: Most of the water flowing in Yosemite comes from snowmelt in the high country, so runoff decreases during the dry summer. Peak runoff typically occurs in May or June, with some waterfalls (including Yosemite Falls) often only a trickle or completely dry by August. Other waterfalls, including Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil, run all year, however their flow can be very low by late summer.
San Francisco/Bay area
Distance: 195 mi / 314 km
Take I-580 east to I-205 east to Highway 120 east (Manteca) or Highway 140 east (Merced) into Yosemite National Park.