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What is Yosemite National Park?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Yosemite National Park is a 761,268-acre (3,080 square kilometer) wilderness area located in the eastern region of central California. It is one of the most visited sites in the National Park System in the United States, attracting millions of visitors annually. As with other parks, there is a fee for entering Yosemite and additional fees are charged for lodging. Annual passes that grant unlimited entry to the park are available for purchase for people who are likely to use the park on a regular basis.

This site has an important place in American history. Although it is not the first wilderness area designated for protection, it is among the earliest. Conservation advocates like John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt pushed for the protection of Yosemite and other natural areas to ensure that they would be available for the enjoyment of future generations. The robust National Parks System in the United States owes much to the efforts of early environmentalists, along with photographers like Ansel Adams, who documented the park so people who couldn't visit could still enjoy it.

In 1984, Yosemite National Park was designated a World Heritage Site, in recognition of the site's unusual natural beauty and geologic history. Yosemite has some very famous sites, including Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Mirror Lake. The unusual and distinctive rock formations are the result of repeated glaciation of the park and are of scientific interest, as well as being intriguing to look at. Visitors to Yosemite National Park can hike along numerous well-established trails, as well as go rock climbing, horseback riding, and even golfing in the park.

Ecologically, this area of California is very special. It is one of the largest uninterrupted blocks of habitat in the state, providing a home for thousands of plant and animal species. Several species are rare enough to be confined primarily to Yosemite. Protection of the park is very important for these vulnerable organisms that would otherwise have nowhere to go. There are also some historic sites at Yosemite National Park, including the Ahwahnee and Wawona Hotel. Visitors can stay in these accommodations, in addition to taking advantage of other lodges and camping grounds available for visitors.

People interested in visiting Yosemite National Park should be aware that the park is quite isolated. Several hours of driving are needed to reach it from any major airport, along roads that are sometimes dangerous during winter months. Making reservations is strongly recommended to ensure that space will be available.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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