Welcome to Yosemite & the Sierra Nevada
With fierce granite mountains standing watch over high-altitude lakes, the Sierra Nevada is a formidable but exquisite topographic barrier enclosing magnificent natural landscapes and an adventurer’s wonderland.
Spanning 400 miles across central California, the Sierra Nevada encompasses dazzling mountain canyons and some of the highest peaks in the country. Trails lure visitors to verdant valleys of wildflowers and desolate, lightning-prone pinnacles. Bears tear open logs, marmots whistle in warning, and crickets and frogs harmonize to a nightly fever pitch. Spending time in the wilderness resets your brain. You step back, assess the situation with fresh eyes and put things into perspective. Maybe it has something to do with the timelessness of the landscape – the ancient glaciers or the glow of the lakes at dusk and dawn.
This region has a past both wide and deep. Glaciers, though receding, gnaw at granite shoulders as they have for millennia. Prehistoric forests loom within the parks and at inhospitable heights beyond them. The volcanic forces that moved these mountains to life still rumble underfoot and in simmering hot springs. Humans have left their mark as well. Trails show the routes taken by indigenous Californians – the Sierra Miwok, the Paiute and the Shoshone – who traded between the western foothills and the Eastern Sierra; grinding stones and ancient petroglyphs have endured. Pioneers abandoned mining camps to the elements, creating desolate ghost towns and the remains of forgotten railway lines.
For solitude and serenity, winter rules. Summer may be high season, but after you've seen snow in the Sierra, you might well question why. The peaks are some of the highest in the US, regularly rising above 11,000ft, occasionally bursting to 14,000ft, and are blanketed by snow for much of the year. Snow paints the trees and splatters the mountains, and your breath turns into moist, puffy clouds. There are full-moon snowshoeing and cross-country adventures, plus the chance to camp under giant sequoias. Go swooshing across the hushed backcountry, barrel down some powdery slopes, or just stay inside and warm your toes by a roaring wood fire.
Punctuated with fairy-tale spires, knobby domes and talus-encrusted mountaintops, the scenery in the national parks of Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon might just put a crick in your neck as you gaze at it all. A jaunt through Yosemite Valley is a ticker-tape parade of granite skyscrapers, with Half Dome taking a deep bow. Tempestuous Mt Whitney lords over the far-eastern reaches of Sequoia National Park. With wild rock formations, groves of the planet's largest trees, astonishing waterfalls, deep canyons, unimaginably vast swaths of granite, humbling peaks and a four-season dance card, Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon are no less than perfect.