As someone who visits Yosemite every year, let me tell you, there are MANY of those iconic sights. Yosemite Valley! El Capitan! Half Dome! The list could go on for hours.
Here, in no particular order, are my top five picks for places the President should see during his stay.
The glacially-carved Yosemite Valley isn’t one of the Wonders of the World, but it might as well be. The valley runs 8 miles long and is lined on both sides by steep granite cliffs. It also offers access to many of the most iconic features of the park: Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, and more. The valley can get super crowded in summer, but it is widely regarded as the centerpiece of the park.
Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park, drops a total of 2,425 feet. The waterfall actually comprises three sections: the Upper Falls, which is among one of the 20 tallest waterfalls in the world, the Middle Cascades; and the Lower Falls. The waterfall empties into Yosemite Creek, which eventually joins the Merced River.
The monolith sits like a sentinel at the entrance to Yosemite Valley. The name for this 3,000-foot vertical rock formation means “The Chief” in Spanish. Rock climbers and BASE jumpers consider summitting this face a serious challenge. For those of us who’d rather admire it from the ground, it’s fun to look for climbers up above (when they’re really high up, they look like ants).
Crowning the eastern end of Yosemite Valley is Half Dome, a 4,700-foot-tall granite rock formation that appears to be a dome of rock, sliced in half. The dome is accessible by hiking trail only—an arduous 8.2 miles from the Valley floor to the base of the dome itself. Hikers must obtain permits to climb a cable ladder to the top of the dome; a one-of-a-kind experience not for those who suffer from vertigo.
One of the most family-friendly accommodations near Yosemite National Park, Evergreen Lodge is a rustic lodge just outside the Hetch-Hetchy entrance. A swimming pool, multiple playgrounds, and a zipline are among the kid-oriented attractions here; there’s also an on-site restaurant. Hotel owners were expected to open another property, Rush Creek Lodge, later this summer.
Hetch Hetchy Reservoir
Located on the western site of the park, Hetch Hetchy reservoir actually provides most of the drinking water for San Francisco. The reservoir was created in 1923, when the federal government built the O’Shaughnessy Dam on the Tuolumne River. Today the reservoir is accessible by hiking trail; after crossing the dam and going through a tunnel, the trail passes by two breathtaking waterfalls.
What are your favorite sights in Yosemite National Park?
In more than 20 years as a professional journalist, Matt Villano has had articles published in outlets including TIME, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, Sunset, Coastal Living, and Entrepreneur, to name a few. He currently blogs about family travel at WanderingPod.com, and occasionally covers family travel for Family Fun and Scholastic Parent & Child magazines. Villano also wrote the family travel blog for Parenting magazine, and an adventure travel blog for SeeAmerica.com (a one-time website of Brand USA). In addition to travel, Villano’s areas of expertise are business, technology and gambling. When he’s not working at his stand-up desk, Villano is chasing after his three daughters, both of whom are future New York Yankees fans. His favorite destination on Earth is his (adopted) hometown of Healdsburg, California. No. 2 on the list: Vancouver Island, British Columbia (specifically Tofino). For more about Villano, visit Whalehead.com.