Yosemite is one of the most well known national parks in the world. With over 3.7 million visitors every year, this California park is an incredibly popular nature destination in the United States. Yosemite National Park is known for its awe-inspiring granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and over 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking trails. Half Dome, a massive granite cliff jutting out of the earth, is one of the famous icons of the park, along with Cathedral Peak and El Capitan. Most of Yosemite’s iconic peaks, lakes, and waterfalls are located in the tourist-heavy 7 square mile (18 sq. km) area of Yosemite Valley, but the entire park actually encompasses an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 sq. km). Yosemite has the honor of being the first national park ever designated, thanks in large part to conservationists like John Muir and Galen Clark. These men and others worked hard to protect the park both for the impressive diversity of plants and animals that lived there, and also for the enjoyment of future generations. Today, the park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is a favorite destination for hikers, rock climbers, campers, and nature lovers of all kinds.
Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of California, the Ansel Adams Wilderness is a wilderness area encompassing 937 square kilometers (362 square miles or 231,533 acres). Within the Ansel Adams Wilderness are glaciated mountains including Mount Ritter, Banner Peak, and the Minarets, all of which are part of the Ritter Range. The wilderness area is also home to many lakes, including Shadow Lake, Thousand Island Lake, Lake Ediza, and Garnet Lake. A popular feature located in the Ansel Adams Wilderness is Devils Postpile National Monument, an unusually symmetrical formation of columnar basalt. Visitors to the wilderness area can enjoy 562 kilometers (349 miles) of hiking trails, opportunities for technical rock climbing on the Minarets, and cross-country skiing at Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain in the winter.
In Mono County, California, just Northeast of Yosemite National Park, lies a fascinating 760,000 year old saline lake. Mono Lake has no outlet to the ocean, and has become very salty and alkaline. The most notable feature of Mono Lake is it strange tufa formations, giving the lake an other worldly or moon-like quality. The tufa at Mono Lake are limestone formations that were once underwater but have slowly been exposed as the lake’s water evaporated. Tufa deposits are also found at Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia.
One of the most popular waterfalls in Yosemite National Park of California in the United States, Vernal fall measures 97 meters (317 feet) high. A hike along the Mist Trail to the fall takes visitors very close to the fall where they become shrouded in its mist. The hike to Vernal Fall is short at only 2.1 km (1.3 miles) long. At the top of the fall hikers enjoy a rest at the Emerald Pool, named for its deep green color, which is a small lake where some visitors choose to swim, though it is against the park rules and can be dangerous if care is not taken. Travelers who wish to visit Vernal Fall should make it a part of a greater trip to the awe-inspiring Yosemite National Park where many other spectacular natural sights can be enjoyed. Accommodation is plentiful at the park and includes hotels as well as campgrounds. There is a $20 fee to enter Yosemite National Park.
Beautiful Lake Tahoe lies in the Sierra Nevada mountain range along the border of California and Nevada in the United States. With 496 square kilometers (192 sq miles) of surface area and lovely mountain scenery, the lake is a major tourist destination year round. There are over 12 ski resorts at Lake Tahoe and visitors can find all manner of winter activities here including snowboarding, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, snow tubing, and more. Many water sports are also enjoyed here, such as swimming, boating, water skiing, and scuba diving. A large variety of accommodation can be found on the lake, from ritzy expensive resorts to backpacker style hostels.