10 Amazing Views in Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is justifiably famous for amazing views. From Glacier Point to Olmsted Point to Tunnel View, Yosemite provides visitors with stunning, jaw-dropping scenery on a grand scale. Though these landscapes are shared again and again, they always captivate the viewer – there is never a “meh” moment with the most famous views in Yosemite. But what about the not-so-famous views? Or perhaps you have wished you could have the view all to yourself? In the list below, you’ll find the famous, the lesser-known and even some private views of the sights of Yosemite.

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1.Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View
2. North Dome from Housekeeping Camp
3. Half Dome from Glacier Point (How to Visit in Winter)
4. Glacier Point from Curry Village
5. Half Dome from the Curry Village Ice Rink
6. Tenaya Lake from Tioga Road
7. Half Dome from The Ahwahnee hotel room
8. Yosemite Falls from The Mountain Room restaurant at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls
9. Half Dome from Olmsted Point
10.Yosemite Falls from rafting the Merced River

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Yosemite Waterfalls 101

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“A waterfall is water that has awakened… That awakening in the water seems to wake up something in us too.” – Shelton Johnson, National Park Service in Yosemite

Yosemite’s waterfalls are diverse and dramatic. They draw visitors to the park from around the world, and spring is the best time to witness their full power. Between March and May, the waterfalls reach their peak flow and put on a spectacular show. If you can’t marvel upon them in person today, build your excitement with a few Yosemite waterfall facts.

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Yosemite’s waterfalls are a force of…

AWE

  • The highest, the tallest…: Yosemite waterfalls claim some impressive records. At 1,612 feet tall, Ribbon Fall is the highest single drop of water in North America. The combined cascades of Yosemite Falls make it the tallest waterfall in North America and the 5th tallest in the world. This famous 2,425-feet-tall waterfall sends 135,000 gallons of water over its edge every minute during its peak season.
  • Horsetail Fall phenomenon: Under the right circumstances, a small waterfall pouring over El Capitan appears to catch fire during the sunset. Drawing photographers and visitors from around the world, the Horsetail Fall phenomenon only occurs in years with enough snow or rain for a waterfall to flow during mid- or late-February where the sun’s angle hits it perfectly. The earliest known photograph of the firefall was taken by Ansel Adams sometime in the 1930s, but it was black and white. The first known orange glow photograph was taken by Galen Rowell in 1973.

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NATURE

  • Two types of waterfall formation: There are two types of waterfalls in Yosemite Valley. In “hanging” waterfalls, the water appears to drop from the sky at the top of steep cliff faces. Bridalveil Fall (as well as Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Falls and Ribbon Fall) was formed when one side of the Sierra block rose faster than the other and the Merced River barreled down into Yosemite Valley, leaving Bridalveil Creek stranded far above the valley. The Ice Age and years of water wear have left Bridalveil Creek with an even steeper drop today. Vernal and Nevada Falls were formed differently. Glaciers from the High Sierra came down and trimmed away rock only in portions of the stairway. The tougher rocks were left behind and formed the Giant Staircase that Vernal and Nevada Falls now pour down.
  • Why some waterfalls dry up: Bridalveil Fall almost never goes dry, but Yosemite Falls only flows for part of each year. Yosemite Creek, which feeds Yosemite Falls, was almost entirely glaciated about 20,000 years ago and is now bare bedrock. During big storms, Yosemite Falls quickly swells and the water runs straight into the falls, but it doesn’t stick around for long. And since it’s largely fed by melted snow, its season typically ends when the snow is gone. Bridalveil Fall, on the other hand, has a smaller basin but has many meadows, lakes and patches of soil near the basin that contribute to a more constant flow regardless of rainfall.

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DESTRUCTION

  • Frazil ice: In winter, the mist coming off the waterfalls freezes into small crystals of frazil ice. This ice moves downstream in a slurry mixture that flows like lava. Frazil ice can become thick and act like cement, causing channels to clog up and changing the flow of the stream. Yosemite Creek at full force can flow up to 100 cubic feet per second, and when frazil ice is involved, buildings and foot bridges can be easily damaged or destroyed by the strong flow. Frazil ice has been observed in all of the valley waterfalls.
  • Danger: Sixteen water-related fatalities occurred in the park between 2002 and 2011. Waterfalls and rivers in the park draw visitors to their beauty but they can be extremely strong and unpredictable. Most fatalities occur when visitors leave the trail to take photos, wade in shallow water, attempt to cross streams or try to swim. The rocks around the rivers in Yosemite are not only water-polished but glacier-polished, so they’re especially slick.

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LORE

  • Poloti witches in Yosemite Falls: An old Ahwahneechee tale warned that the pool at the bottom of Yosemite Falls was inhabited by the spirits of Poloti witches. In the tale, a woman went to fetch a bucket of water from the creek. When she pulled it up, she found it full of snakes. Each time she scooped out water, she found more snakes. Eventually a sudden gust of wind blew her into the pool.
  • Pohono’s evil spirit: Another Native American myth tells of Pohono, an angry spirit who cursed Bridalveil Fall. Pohono is felt in the cold wind that blows around the waterfall. In the legend, a woman at the top of the fall went close to the edge to gather grass to weave a basket. Pohono placed a mossy rock near the fall to lure her near and then sent her down the falls. No one found the woman, and legend says Pohono imprisoned her spirit until she lured another victim down.

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Do you have a favorite Yosemite waterfall or story? Share with us in the comments!

Information gathered from Yosemite National Park’s Nature Notes, an interview with Greg Stock (NPS geologist), Oh Ranger, Domes, Cliffs and Waterfalls, The Waterfalls of Yosemite brochure by Steven Medley/Yosemite Association, and yosemite.ca.us.

5 Easy Ways to Enjoy Yosemite

Whether you are visiting Yosemite with small children, have specific mobility needs, or simply plan to take it easy on vacation, Yosemite can be enjoyed in many ways with little effort once you arrive. Below are five easy ways to enjoy the beauty of Yosemite National Park.

1. Mirror Lake: Easy One Mile Paved Walk

Location: Yosemite Valley
Access: Shuttle Bus Stop #17, paved road/bike path to beginning of hiking trails (road closed to private vehicles except those with disabled person parking placard), nearest parking at Curry Village, restroom (pit toilet),
Availability: Year-Round
Don’t Miss: The unique view of Half Dome from this vantage point!

2. Lower Yosemite Falls: Paved Path to Yosemite’s Largest Waterfall

Location: Yosemite Valley
Access: Shuttle Bus Stop #6, paved trail to Lower Yosemite Fall, nearest parking at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls or on Northside Drive, restrooms, picnic area
Availability: Year-Round, though Yosemite Falls runs dry in late summer, later refreshed by fall and winter rain/snow
Don’t Miss: The lunar rainbow during the full moon in April/May/June!

3. Glacier Point: Drive to Yosemite’s Most Famous Overlook

Location: Terminus of the Glacier Point Road
Access: Glacier Point Bus Tour, Stargazing Bus Tour, large parking lot with RV spaces, paved walkways lead to viewpoints and hiking trails (Four Mile Trail, Panorama Trail), restrooms (pit toilets), Glacier Point Gift Shop, Glacier Point Snack Stand
Availability: Spring through Fall when the Glacier Point Road is open
Don’t Miss: Hot dogs and ice cream at the snack stand and the Geology Hut with killer views of Nevada Fall!

4. The Ahwahnee: Walk, Bike or Drive to Lunch at a National Park Lodge

Location: Yosemite Valley
Access: Shuttle Bus Stop #3, parking lot, paved bike paths, hiking trail section of the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail
Availability: Year-Round
Don’t Miss: the Great Lounge, a meal in The Ahwahnee Dining Room, cocktails on The Ahwahnee Bar patio in summer, Chefs’ Holidays in January

5. Happy Isles: Ride the Bus to Yosemite’s Nature Center

Location: Yosemite Valley
Access: Shuttle Bus Stop #16, paved level walkways and boardwalks, Happy Isles Nature Center, Happy Isles Snack Stand, restrooms
Availability: Year-Round, though the Nature Center and Snack Stand are open summer only
Don’t Miss: The NOAA weather station, The Fen (pictured) and the interpretive sign marking the location of the 1996 Happy Isles Rockfall

Need a place to stay to enjoy all that outrageous Yosemite beauty? Make reservations for all Yosemite National Park lodging here: http://www.yosemitepark.com/lodging.aspx

Learn more about accessibility in Yosemite at the links below and download the park’s accessibility guide [873 kb PDF], which describes access to areas, facilities, and services for people with disabilities.

http://www.yosemitepark.com/accessibility.aspx

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/accessibility.htm

 

 

 

A New Yosemite Falls Webcam

View from the Yosemite Falls Webcam on May 14, 2012

What does Yosemite Falls look like right now? Now, you can find out in a few clicks by visiting the new webcam on the Yosemite Conservancy website. The view is taken from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, and shows Upper Yosemite Fall in all its glory. In this screen capture, taken this morning you can also see in the lower center part of the image, the top of a flowering dogwood tree, a favorite springtime subject for many Yosemite photographers.

Because it is fed with snow-melt from the previous winter, the amount of water in upper and lower Yosemite Falls changes dramatically depending on the temperature and how much snow is left at higher elevations. So, the view from this webcam will range from revealing thundering falls in the spring months, to barely a trickle in fall. In the winter, freezing temperatures leave a delicate tracery of ice along the edges of the fall.

You can also enjoy other webcam images from Yosemite on Yosemite Conservancy’s website, including views of El Capitan, Half Dome and the High Sierra beyond Half Dome. The Yosemite Conservancy is a non-profit organization that supports the park on many fronts including providing funding for important park projects, publications, webcams and a video series on the park called Yosemite Nature Notes.