Discover the incredible highlights, history, geology & nature of Yosemite National Park with this entertaining, educational, point-by-point Waypoint Tour - your personal tour guide for Yosemite travel adventure.
Yosemite National Park Tour
2 Bridalveil Fall
3 El Capitan & Bridalveil View
4 Sentinel Rock & Four-Mile Trail
5 Sentinel Bridge & Cooks Meadow
6 Yosemite Village
7 Yosemite Falls
8 Curry Village
9 Stoneman Meadow & Royal Arches
10 Happy Isles & Waterfalls
11 Ahwahnee Lodge
12 Tunnel View
13 Glacier Point
16 Mariposa Grove
17 Tuolumne Grove
18 Olmsted Point & Tenaya Lake
19 Tuolumne Meadows
20 Tioga Pass & Lakes
The rugged geography of Yosemite Valley kept it secret and isolated for many years. Only in 1851, when early miners and settlers felt their livelihood threatened by Indians, and vice versa, did white man intrude upon the valley.
To some, Yosemite is a place to check off their list - sights to be seen or mountaineering routes to scale; for others, Yosemite is a destination of solitude, peace, and escape. With the large number of people visiting the valley each year, how do you avoid the crowds at peak times and find the true beauty of Yosemite?
Change. Change your timing and your focus. You can stay on the beaten paths, but travel them early or late in the day, or find the trails less traveled. While others are looking up, cameras clicking to capture the familiar falls and formations, change your focus to find what they are missing - the fragile ferns at your feet, the black and white crystals peppering the rocks, or the ripple in the stream.
John Muir instructed: "Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves."
Tioga Pass & Lakes
At 9,941 feet, Tioga Pass is the highest automobile pass in California. The road was originally built to service the Benettville Silver Mine. Unfortunately, the Sheepherder Lode, the rich silver vein they were mining for, was never found. Today, however, the road leads many tourists to find treasures of a different kind, such as the beautiful sparkling lakes and the wildlife that abounds around them.
From Mono Lake, a remnant of the inland sea which captured the runoff of the ancient glaciers, to Tioga, Ellery, Tenaya, Siesta, and countless other tarn and kettle lakes between, the blue sparkling waters ripple with mountain breezes and wash away one’s cares.
John Muir counted “… a grand total of 111 lakes whose waters come to sing at Yosemite. So glorious is the background of the great valley, so harmonious its relations to its widespreading fountains.”
Tarn lakes form in the rock bowls called cirques carved at the head of a glacier. Kettle lakes form where large chunks of ice cleaved off the ice flow and then melted, leaving large holes in the glacial sediment which fill with water. The several small lakes near the Tioga Pass entrance are good examples of kettle lakes.
When the glacial lakes are strung in a line down a glaciated valley, they are also known as Pater Noster lakes for their resemblance to the beads of a rosary. Glacial moraines often act as dams, trapping a lake behind them, such as shown by Siesta Lake. As the lake fills with sediment, flat-bottomed valleys are formed, sometimes leaving a small lake, like Mirror Lake in Yosemite Valley, as a reminder of its grand glacial predecessor.
Abundant wildlife thrives around and within the lakes. The brine shrimp and alkali flies of salty Mono Lake attract large numbers of migratory birds and year-round waterfowl which perch upon the tufa towers. The tufa towers formed when calcium deposits from underwater springs were exposed as the salty inland lake, a sister to the Great Salt Lake of Utah, evaporated. Its high salt content is the result of no outlet so all the minerals which flow into it become highly concentrated and saturate the water.
The fresh waters of the upland glacial lakes attract birds, mammals, and man. The lakes, once cloudy with glacial flour, now are frequently crystal clear, showing the multihued stones on the lake bottoms and mirroring the landscape.
From May to September almost no rain falls in the high country, except for an occasional thunder-storm, so man and animals are dependent upon the water in the lakes, rivers and streams which comes from the winter snow melt. Early morning and evening are good times for photography because the low angle of the sun increases the reflections and wildlife often come to drink.
According to Muir, “And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it seems above all others the Range of Light.”
May you take with you memories of Yosemite’s beauty, the cascading falls, magnificent meadows, rippling rivers and lakes, dancing blooms, verdant wildlife and proud promontories and may they last a lifetime and be shared with generations to come.