The Yosemite Valley as seen from the park’s southern entrance. PN Photo/Mitchell Doub
by Mitchell Doub, Reporter
Published Originally Nov. 19, 2020
While many of us wouldn’t dare to travel by airplane right now, a cross country road trip is not out of the question, especially if the destination is the great outdoors. Pine Needle reporter Mitchell Doub starts his series, “15 Places You Should Go,” with a look at Northern California.
Have you ever seen a place so beautiful that it takes your breath away? A place that left you speechless as you took in its majesty and were just glad to be alive, at that time, at that place? That place, for me, is Yosemite National Park.
Located in northeastern California, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite (pronounce Yo-Semmity) is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. Sheer rock faces, thousand-foot snow fed waterfalls, a wildflower filled meadow split by a crystal clear river: these are the images Yosemite leaves in the minds of four million visitors each year.
If avoiding crowds is your main objective, late May, early June, late August or any time in September may be your best bet. The waterfalls are one of the main attractions, so the May/June timeframe may be a good choice because melting snow will have the falls running wild. If possible, try to spend your nights in the park. There are hundreds of campsites, tent cabins (with or without baths) and park run hotels.
Yosemite became a national park on Oct. 1, 1890. It was the original inspiration for our national park system, having been formally protected with a land grant by Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864. That was the first time the U.S. government had protected land simply for its beauty.
You can marvel at 200 foot tall sequoias in the Mariposa Grove and splash in 50 degree mountain cooled streams on hikes that range from easy to difficult. You can rock climb, bird watch, fish for mountain trout, picnic every day or simply marvel at the results of a massive glacier slowly plowing its way through a rocky mountain range. What was a river is now a beautiful waterfall, the 2,425 foot tall Yosemite Falls, one of the Earth’s tallest waterfalls.
The whole place is like heaven on Earth.
Jane Haladay, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of American Indian Studies at UNCP, agrees. “The sheer size of that park is stunning—the grandeur, the vastness of natural landscapes, and diversity is overwhelming, in a good way,” says Haladay.
“Woodlands, camping, a beautiful natural lodge, all the way down to pitching your tent,” adds Haladay.
Now for the bonus: Before or after enjoying Yosemite, venture south and also visit Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. Kings Canyon is almost as beautiful as Yosemite but on a smaller scale. The big advantage: the crowds, or rather, lack thereof. My family and I drove right in during the middle of July, found a parking spot and started hiking
At Sequoia National Park the massive trees are simply awe inspiring. The largest trees in the world reside here, led by “General Sherman,” widely regarded as the largest living thing on earth by volume. You almost fall over backward as you crane your neck to look up in an attempt to see the tree’s canopy. Many of these giants were alive when Jesus was born, and some sprouted when the Egyptians were still building pyramids.
When you feel comfortable traveling by air again, you can either fly into the San Francisco or San Jose airport, and while you are in the area, spend a few days in the city of San Francisco, where you will want to do the following:
– Ride a trolley car.
– Take a boat ride to Alcatraz Island and tour the prison that help the likes of Al Capone and Robert Stroud (the “Birdman”).
– Drive down Lombard Street, “the crookedest street in the world.”
– Shop and eat in Chinatown.
Scott Hicks, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of English, Theatre & Foreign Languages, is a San Francisco fan.
“My family and I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco several years ago. What we liked most was the wonderful food, from dinner in Chinatown, to gelato, to the wonderful bakeries,” says Hick.
“We loved the walkability of the city and the beautiful parks, such as Golden Gate Park and Chrissy Field,” adds Hicks.
After the city, if you want to see woodlands again, drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and head north to Muir Woods, where you can compare the redwoods to the sequoias you left behind. Enjoy!