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Want to Feel Inspired? Visit Yosemite National Park

Annie Gabillet

With giant redwood trees and dramatic granite cliffs bursting with waterfalls, Yosemite National Park is an extraordinarily beautiful place. Confronted with the massive scale of the natural wonders inside the park, everyday worries suddenly seem small. The peaceful yet majestic quality of Yosemite makes it a must-see for any nature lover or person wanting a vacation that leaves them feeling inspired.

Located 5 hours from Los Angeles and 3.5 hours from San Francisco, Yosemite consists of 1,200 square miles in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains. Of course, the vastness of the park can be overwhelming. So here is our breakdown of why you should add this crown jewel of California’s National Parks to your bucket list, which will help you narrow down what to do in Yosemite.

The Waterfalls and Rainbows Are Out of a Fairytale

Yosemite Falls is the tallest waterfall in North America (2,425 feet), but it’s not the only one in the park. If you visit in April, May, or June, you’ll see a ribbon of water tumbling down a giant granite peak around practically every corner.

While many falls slow to a trickle by summer, some flow all year, including Bridalveil Fall, Nevada Fall, and Vernal Fall. To get up close to the waterfalls — and rainbows — you can hike the six to eight hour strenuous Yosemite Falls trail. Or, try the moderately-difficult Mist Trail that will take you to Vernal Falls and get your doused in water in the spring when the waterfall is really gushing.

Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

If you’d rather not hike, take in the magical Tunnel View, where you can see Bridalveil Fall, as well as a clear shot of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and El Capitan. The viewpoint opened in 1933 and you can drive to it. Just be patient looking for a parking spot. 

Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

The Trees Are More than a Thousand Years Old

Yosemite contains two of the 30 largest trees in the world, located in the Mariposa Grove. President Abraham Lincoln protected the grove of giant redwoods in 1846, long before we even had a National Park concept. It was the first time in US history that land was set aside for preservation for future generations. In 2018, the grove was reopened after a major renovation project. In this portion of the park, about an hour from Yosemite Valley, you can wander among very big and very old trees. Be sure to find the Grizzly Giant, which is about 1,800 years old.

Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

You Can Bike, Hike, Or Just Relax

Biking is an efficient and fun way to take in the entire Yosemite Valley. You can rent a cruiser for $12 an hour at Half Down (Curry) Village or Yosemite Valley Lodge and cover the designated bike paths along the Valley floor in less than 2 hours, but why not take your time?

To get a more physical challenge, choose a day hike. It’s a good idea to chat with a National Park Ranger at the Visitor Center ahead of time. They can help you pick the best hike for your abilities and give you a trail map. If you want to backpack and stay overnight — or hike Half Dome — you’ll need a permit. So look into that before you arrive.

When you don’t feel like biking or hiking, you can wander the meadows or grab a drink at Yosemite Lodge. Or, enjoy a high-end meal at the Majestic (Ahwahnee) Hotel’s iconic dining room.

Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

There Are Accommodations For Every Type of Traveler

In Yosemite, you can camp, backpack, or stay in one of two of the parks iconic lodges or in rudimentary tent cabins. The National Park Service runs 13 campsites, while a private hospitality company runs the victorian-era Wawona (Big Trees) Lodge, as well as the luxurious and historic Ahwahnee (Majestic) Hotel located right in the heart of the Valley. All accommodations book up quickly, sometimes a year in advance, so plan ahead. There are pools located at many of the hotels and lodges, so be sure to pack your swimsuit

Airbnbs and vacation rentals are also available in Yosemite West, a private residential development inside the park’s gates and about 30 minutes from the Valley floor. It’s approximately the same distance from the Mariposa Grove.

Courtesy of Annie Gabillet

The Natural Beauty Will Help You Disconnect

With limited cell and data service you have no choice but to disconnect while you’re in Yosemite. The grand beauty, fresh air, and physical challenges will help clear your mind, almost like meditation. In today’s hectic world of so much information, it’s reassuring to know that there’s a place you can slow down.