One of California’s most formidable natural landscapes, Yosemite National Park features nearly 1,200 square miles of sheer awe: towering waterfalls, millennia-old sequoia trees, striking, daunting cliff faces and some of the most unique rock formations in the United States. But despite its enormous size, most of the tourist activity takes place within the 8-square-mile area of Yosemite Valley.
Here you’ll find the park’s most famous landmarks – Half Dome and El Capitan – as well as excellent hiking trails through the natural monuments.
Even inexperienced hikers can enjoy Yosemite: Guided tours and climbing lessons are available from local adventure outfitters (such as those featured on our list of the best California tours).
Just don’t expect to experience it by yourself. Like so many other American tourist destinations, crowds are the biggest obstacles to an enjoyable Yosemite vacation – approximately 4 million people visit each year. But if you go at the right time (and start your day a little earlier than usual), Mother Nature’s wonders will reveal themselves to you in a miraculous and serene way.