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Yosemite National Park

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite National Park

There are some sights and sites that words will never properly describe. Yosemite National Park is in that class. But that is about the only group it’s in because this magnificent natural wonder is otherwise in a class by itself.

True, there are dozens of National Parks, many of them heavily forested and offering mountains and streams. There are thousands of other forests around the U.S. with lakes, rivers, and mountains galore. But Yosemite is unique.

For those who love backpacking, or just seeing some of the finest natural scenery on the planet, Tuolumne Meadows is one good example of Yosemite’s unique features. At 8,600 feet (2,620 m) it offers pure air, bright sunshine, and a chance to get away from the crowds that sometimes make this park a challenge.

For a hiking challenge that is equally uncrowded, the adventurous will want to investigate Cloud’s Rest. The trail is well named since the 14-mile journey offers a view that makes you feel you actually could touch the clouds hovering above.

Beginning at Tenaya Lake and ending at the edge of a huge granite outcropping, this one would be worth getting in shape to tackle. Looking down below, surrounded on three sides by the sky, you’ll feel much as the eagles soaring not far off a must. Views of Half-Dome and El Capitan are some of the best sights from here, but they’re far from the only stellar ones, either.

Though just that alone would make a trip here worthwhile, that is only the barest hint of what Yosemite National Park has to offer.

Mariposa Grove, for example, would compete well for attention with any of the park’s splendid areas. Here, visitors can find hundreds of giant sequoias that would awe even the most concrete-loving urbanites. Many of these trees are so distinctive they’ve earned their own names.

The Grizzly Giant is one of the best in an area where ‘amazing’ is the word that falls naturally from the lips of many visitors. At 30 feet in diameter and as tall as a 20-story building, its size is one reason. But the deal is clinched when viewers learn that this redwood is over 2,700 years old.

Other sequoia forests in Yosemite offer similar sights. Near Crane Flat lies the Merced Grove and the Tuolumne Grove. Mariposa is in the Wawona region, along the southern border of the park. They tend to be less crowded and so offer a quieter stroll, but one no less impressive.

The word ‘impressive’ also leaps to mind to anyone seeing some of the park’s majestic waterfalls. Yosemite Falls is perhaps the best known, but there are many others just as stunning, or nearly so. Bridal Veil, for example, is an easy 20-minute hike uphill from the center of the Yosemite Valley. At the top the views of Cathedral Rock and El Capitan are breathtaking.

Of course, nothing is quite so breathtaking as El Capitan itself. One of the most popular rock climbing adventures in the world, the 3,000-foot sheer face is not for the fainthearted. But you don’t have to climb it to love it. At a mile wide, you can just gaze and be transported.

But, then, much the same thing could be said about anything in Yosemite National Park.

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