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Overview

Yosemite National Park is located in the central Sierra Nevada Range of California. It ranges in elevation from 2000 feet above sea level to over 13,000 feet and includes spectacular alpine wilderness with glacially polished granite domes and slopes, groves of the massive and ancient giant sequoias, and Yosemite Valley, possibly the world’s best known example of a glacier-carved canyon.

Plan your adventure and explore

While the park is open 24/7, it is still important to plan your stay. This website is provided to help you do just that.

Vacation Planner

Plants / Animals within Yosemite National Park

Because of the wide range of different vegetation zones, Yosemite National Park has significant biological variety.

Plants

These zones are defined by climate, topography, moisture, and soils. There are at least five zones that you can witness exquisite plant life.

Foothill-Woodland Zone is the lowest elevation in the park and is found on the western boundary near El Portal. You can see chamise, ceanothus, manzanita, blue oak, interior live oak, and gray pine.

Lower Montane Forest begins near the 3000 foot elevation and experience hot summers and cold winters making the diversity of the tree species both beautiful and interesting to explore. Yosemite’s giant sequoia groves including the Mariposa, Merced, and the Tuolumne Groves are found within this vegetation zone.

Upper Montane Forest includes short summers and cold, wet winters. Red fir and lodgepole pine are typical of this forest. In June through August, the meadows are full of beautiful wildflowers.

Subalpine Forest is located at 8,000 feet. This zone can be seen from the Tuolumne Meadows area east to Tioga Passwhere where the cool climate helps to host western white pine, mountain hemlock, and lodgepole pine.

Alpine Zone is above 9,500 feet and can be distinguished by the lack of trees and limited vegetation. It can only be observed by hiking into the high elevations of the Yosemite wilderness. The alpine zone vegetation includes the showy mouthing monkeyflower.

Animals

You can expect to see many different animal species when you visit Yosemite. The park is home to more than 400 types of species, including animals, birds, reptiles, fish and amphibians.

Where ever you go you are bound to see fascinating animals in their natural habitats. Some animals of note:

The American Black Bear: There are between 300 and 500 black bears residing inside Yosemite. Contrary to their name most black bears have brown fur. If you see a bear while hiking, you are urged to give the bear space. They are rarely confrontational but are aggressive when they have cubs or are guarding food.

Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep: These animals are on the endangered species list and are usually found only in the highest terrain in the park. Usually you can only spot them with a pair of binoculars.

Mule deer: You have a high chance of spotting these beautiful creatures. You are discouraged from feeding them as they may become agitated and human food can be harmful to them.

Other animals you may catch a glimpse of are the elusive bobcats and coyotes. Both animals are shy and try to avoid humans. Rangers recommend taking some time to watch the meadows where many animals come to feed.

For more information, see Yosemite National Parks

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Stunning Geological Features

Yosemite was formed about 500 million years ago when the Sierra Nevada area lay beneath seawater.

Thick layers of sediment gathered on the sea floor. Simultaneously, molten rock welled up within the earth and cooled slowly beneath the layers of sediment to form granite. Even as Uplifts continued to form, water and glaciers carved the face of Yosemite.

Weathering and erosion are still at work today.

World Heritage Yosemite California-by Kevin Perez

Photo by Kevin Perez

Traces of human habitation in the valley go back to as long about 3,000 years. The Ahwahnechee or Awahnichi (″Yosemite Valley People″) from the Miwok tribe traditionally lived in the Yosemite Valley, which they called Ahwahne. They were known to their Northern Paiute neighbors as Wea Dukadu (“Acorn Eaters”).

After the arrival of Euro-American settlers following the California Gold Rush in 1849, individuals appealed to Congress and requested that the splendor of the region be preserved. In 1864, President Lincoln signed a bill granting protection of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias to California as a public trust. Yosemite was established as a National Park in 1890, largely due to the efforts of naturalist John Muir.

Additional tracts acquired over the years from U.S. Forest Service and private lands have increased the total acreage of the park to it’s present size of 747,956 acres, which is roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island.

 

Due to the huge variety in weather conditions in Yosemite Gold Country, we advise you to keep a sharp eye on the road conditions and weather conditions on your trip to Yosemite.

Visit Yosemite National Park Weather for the latest resources available.

 

Plan Your Stay

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